Erotica, the body trade, sexual tourism - the perfect ingredients for the Red Light Zone, an explosive new television series that walks the thin line between documentary and voyeurism. In a ﬁve—page sex special, Channel 4’s STUART COSGROVE explores the world of red light zones, American crime writer JAMES ELLROY explains his obsession with sex and murder and French porn queen TABATHA CASH talks business.
5 The List 24 Feb-9 Mar I995
f you spend enough time in any city in the world. gradually an image of sex will
reveal itself in the darkness burning through the night in bright and
incandescent shades of red. Virtually every
city worthy of the name has a red light zone. an area set aside for the express purpose of selling sex — pornography. prostitution and peep shows — all manner oferotic shapes. contorted in leather and lace.
Soho. The Pigalle. The Reeperbahn. And Sunset Strip. Each name carries with it the promise of something sinful — a forbidden, subterranean world. beyond the reach of the ordinary day and one step ahead of the law. Red light zones are careless about the truth. They speak to us in neon and all-night noise. They are part of the city that gets nearest to our soul — the dark heart of desire, the bit we try to disguise. even from ourselves. They exist because they have to. And if they didn’t. we would simply invent them. like some essential.
The surface impression is simple. It is easy to describe the superficial appearance red light zones have imposed on our memories. A warren of small streets tucked away in a decaying part of town, punctuated with hookers, hustlers, pimps and theirjohns. Bodies spill out into the streets, out of doorways. out of dresses. Women transgress into men and back again — jostling, proffering, soliciting — as they drag you into the magnetic ﬁeld of sex.
The truth is something different. We
Re (I Iigh ts
experience cities not through their sameness but in their difference — recognising landmarks. marvelling at sights. sampling the local food — each new turning so different from the things back home. Throughout the world, red light zones show us what’s strange and different about the world’s cultures.
In the 19705 the red light zones of Leeds and Bradford imposed themselves on the national consciousness, as the Yorkshire Ripper brutally murdered women picked up on the streets of Manningham and Chapeltown. The resounding impressions were of the streets as dark, dismal and working class, a far remove from the neon playground of the imagination.
Glasgow’s red light zone - never a particularly theatrical place — has simply divested itself of the need to entertain. There are no lights, no strip joints, no peep shows, no Runyonesque rogues selling cheap shlt on the corners. It has eliminated pleasure and dispensed with burlesque.
The phenomenal growth of the post-war tourist industry has created the kind of unique economic and cultural conditions under which red light zones ﬂourish. In Thailand, an estimated 850,000 women work in the sex industries — almost the entire population of Glasgow indentured into selling their bodies.