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HOUDINI Magazine

Angel Mars


The Anti-Sex Work Phenomenon

Book by Ryu Murakami, Film Adaptation by Nicholas Pesce

"You know what you have to do, right?"

Warning: This article contains spoilers of Piercing, topics of drug use, sexual violence against women, and triggering topics in general. Please proceed with caution.

The movie “Piercing” is about Reed, (portrayed by Christopher Abbott) who has endeavors in murder, torture and drugging of prostitutes.


Reed and Mona (portrayed by Laia Costa) are married, and have a newborn daughter. Reed stands over his newborn daughter with an icepick; as Reed slows his breathing, his newborn growls in a deep, distorted voice “You know what you have to do, right?“ Reed decides to spare her. Reed convinces his wife he’s going on a business trip out of town where he intends on getting a hotel room, and ordering a prostitute named Jackie (portrayed by Mia Wasikowska) to drug, torture and murder.

Once Reed goes to the upscale hotel, he unpacks his bag, revealing chloroform and his notebook. He then starts a test run of his sinister plan, which includes inducing sleep by using chloroform on himself while timing how long it takes to wake up. He then acts out the murder of Jackie, miming the choking, cutting and stabbing of his imaginary female company. In this scene you can hear bones breaking, blood spewing, and the sawing of flesh. He then writes down how long it took him to complete this sequence.

As Jackie arrives, you can see Reed in a split screen montage acting out what he will do to his victim. After an unsettling first encounter, Jackie hides herself in the bathroom, With Reed behind the door, relentlessly asking if she’s alright. Upon entry, Reed beholds Jackie stabbing herself repeatedly with a pair of scissors. He overpowers her, takes her to the bed and bandages her up. Jackie consciousness slips, and Reed decides to leave her there. As he exits the hallway into the elevator, Jackie is seen stumbling after him. Reed pushes Jackie back into his room, causing an altercation resulting in Jackie viciously biting Reed’s hand.

Reed decides to take Jackie to the hospital. On the taxi ride there, Jackie says to Reed that she’s “onto him“,as though she senses her planned demise. As the two are outside of the hospital, Jackie asks Reed to stay and wait for her. As he promises, she goes inside the hospital as Reed calls Mona for advice.

After Jackie comes out to see Reed waiting for her, Jackie thinks she can trust him and takes him back to her apartment. Jackie offers Reed dinner, but he appears reluctant and denies her. Jackie takes Reed to bed and tries seducing him. Jackie and Reed talk to each other about what their next move is. Jackie seductively says “I want you to wear my skin“. Reed gets up, digs through his bag, and grabs a rope and his ice pick. Jackie realizes what he’s about to do and suggests dinner saying “Can we eat first?“ Reed agrees.

As Reed and Jackie start eating, Reed starts to hallucinate demonic and graphic visions of past women he killed. Jackie then explains that she drugged the food she had given him. As Reed falls unconscious, he moans his wife's name, which sends Jackie into a rage, and she beats Reed over the head with a can opener. After a brief incapacitation he wakes up and immediately attempts to tie Jackie up. As he proceeds to binds her, he pulls out his ice pick, this motion causing him to pass out once again. She escapes from underneath Reed's unconscious body and searches through his belongings, finding his notebook and the details of the horrors he planned her to meet.

Reed wakes up the following morning to find himself bound and gagged on Jackie's sofa. She sits in front of her vanity, takes out a needle and pierces her nipple. Jackie climbs on top of Reed, readying Reed's ice pick, as she goes to stab him, he winces and Jackie takes the gag out of his mouth. Reed says “can we eat first?“ Let's talk about it.

Now, let's take a breather. Everyone calmed down? Great! You may be asking yourself - “Angel, how the hell is this one of your favorite movies?“ Well, reader, I’m going to be fully transparent… I’m not sure. I enjoyed the film, the suspense, the turns, the twists - everything. From the actors to the cinematography; genuinely a deviously interesting film.

How does this extend to reality?

Statistics have shown that sex work is more dangerous than oil rig work, Alaskan fishermen and even logging. The death rate of sex workers amounts to 204 per 100,000, and This is not including the attacks sex workers endure at least once a month (according to hg.org).

Piercing could just be a glimpse into the horrors suffered by sex workers. Calling a prostitute with intent to murder them is sadly not merely a plot of a fictional thriller story. In the US alone, just 15 years equates to 3,060 sex work related deaths.

The topic of decriminalizing sex work.

Before I continue; sex work IS real work; denying these workers legitimization of their labor and basic workspace protections is a direct issue of worker’s rights. Statistically there are significant decreases in police brutality, especially against marginalized sex workers in areas that sex work has been decriminalized.

Decriminalizing sex work would contribute to more overall safety for sex workers. In Kenya, 58% of sex workers reported forced sexual encounters. If sex work were decriminalized more people would feel confident and safe to go the police to report their sexual assaults, thus making crimes against sex workers more serious of an offense. Most sexual assaults in the sex work industry go unreported due to fear of mistreatment, losing custody, and losing employment. It is critical for any victim to have a place where their assault can be reported without endangering their livelihood. If decriminalization is implemented, there would be less fear among the sex work industry, both regarding assault itself as well as reporting crimes if they do occur.

Decriminalization of sex work results in increased access to health services. Sex workers will sometimes go without check-ups out of fear of mistreatment from doctors and staff. Since the government does not see sex work as a legitimate job, there is no employer-based health insurance, which means they cannot afford necessary care.

Marginalized groups, such as LGBTQIA+, immigrants, and people of color are more likely to hold a sex work position, giving such individuals a double-dose of marginalization. By decriminalizing sex work, part of this hardship can be eliminated, as one could no longer be pursued legally for participating in this profession.

How do we decriminalize sex work?

First and foremost, inform yourself about your local government and the laws they are currently implementing! Reading up on the decriminalization of sex work is important. Stay informed!

Sign local and online bills that will send messages, calls, texts, mail to your local government official.

Protest and protect. In 2023 there were several documented cases (via Tiktok, Facebook, Instagram) showing people outside of Planned Parenthood being attacked, mocked and harassed just for going using the service. Sign up to volunteer for Planned Parenthood to protect and defend threats against abortion.

Final thoughts.

Sex work is real work. Fighting to protect LGBTQIA+ individuals, people of color, immigrants, and fighting to end child trafficking is needed more than ever. We must stand together to fight back, respect and lift up individuals who have been the victim of unfair treatment in the sex work industry.

I myself have lost one of my dearest friends due to the mistreatment of sex workers. We must create a safe space for those who need it the most. Listed below will be links to bills you can sign and send to end the mistreatment of sex work.

Thank you for forwarding a better future.

Decriminalize Sex Work.


Planned Parenthood


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