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Sinner (Pt 2) | Hustlers Review

Updated: May 3

Welcome to Sinner (Pt 2)! If you didn’t catch last week’s post you can do so here. We have a lot to cover so let’s get into the discussion of the film! Full spoilers ahead and all that jazz.


Like I shared last week, I view movies as an art form similar to music in the sense that they can elicit strong emotions, and that very much happened for me in this film.

One instance that got me emotional (in a good way) was a scene in which Destiny (Constance Wu) was being interviewed by a reporter (Julia Styles) and the topic of prostitution came up. Now, up until this point, the girls had all only stripped for money, but after the financial crises took their clients away, the movie shows that times got harder. The men were fewer and farther between and had much higher demands in terms of what the girls would need to do in order to get paid.

Destiny indicates that in order to get paid from a client in one situation she agreed to perform a sexual act and be compensated $300. The reality was however that she received $60 for giving a client a blow job.

This is when the movie went from ‘fun stripper movie’ to fully delivering on its potential based on how it handled the scene. You can almost feel the judgement coming from the reporter - which, I believe, is very intentional.

“What is your number?” Destiny asked.

“Excuse me,” said the reporter. Destiny was asking what amount of money would be the point where the reporter would perform a sexual service.

“I don’t…” the reporter started, but Destiny cuts her off by asking what her parents did. The reporter tells of her background being upper middle class with parents who have good jobs and definitely have some financial wealth, and Destiny basically ends the interview.

The scene is done so well because the sound completely cuts as we see the action unfold helping to illustrate how much trauma is associated with this situation for Destiny. This scene was so powerful for me because I empathized with Destiny in that moment for a few reasons. The first of which is trauma associated with sex, but in order to unpack that trauma we’ll need to talk about sex generally and how our society views it.


I tried to workshop some ways to start this section with a lighthearted joke because I know it will be heavy for some, but they were mainly all dad joke puns. So buckle up, Buttercup ‘cause we’re about to talk about some tough realities of life regarding sexuality.

I feel like there is a lot of evidence that sex in our society is one of the most taboo thing on the spectrum of bad things. I mean, we are 100% cool with terrible bloody, realistic violence in our movies, but God forbid you show thrusting during a sex scene. That is porn and that has no place in ‘acceptable’ movies. This makes sense that we would rank sex as worse than violence because violence, again for the back of the room, deadly and harmful to others, and the sex is pleasurable, healthy and a pretty normal part of most peoples lives. Yes, I mean, that definitely makes sense.

Take a look at our schools where fear of our own sexuality is contributing to little to no sexual education for children that includes ways to protect themselves from diseases that can stay with them for the rest of their lives, or help ensure they don’t a life they aren’t ready to take care of.

Nope - we let the belief systems of a group of people influence our public education system radically which has been proven to impact our birth rates, unplanned pregnancies, and the transfer of sexual diseases.

In short, we are hurting ourselves because our fear and shame associated with this particular sin. We’d rather pretend it isn’t there than face it for what it is, again for the back row, a very healthy and normal part of many peoples lives.

That’s not a mistake - this situation calls for Viola and her disapproval twice.


This scene with Destiny and the reporter hits me so hard because I’ve had a lot of sex in my life. That actually isn’t uncommon for gay men at all. The very standard explanation for this fact is that men are just more sexual than women, but having lived through the experience myself, I think there are many other factors at play. Now that I am in a loving relationship where I’m accepted and celebrated for who I am by my my partner, myself and others I feel like my previous sexual experiences were definitely tied to a severe lack of validation. No matter the reasoning for any of us who are on this side of the “too much” sex line, it marks us in a society that does not celebrate sexuality.

Back to the scene, the tension and judgment that is coming from the reporter is so palpable because I believe this movie understands all those aspects of our how society views sexuality. That crimes are bad yes, but sexual crimes? Those are bad and sinful.

Now, my traditional upbringing and traditional status quo outlook as a Christian would be to look at this person - someone who sells their body for money - as a sinner. The unfortunate thing, as I’ve been outlining so far, is that I see myself in Destiny so much.

In previous posts, I’ve referenced how much I have hated and despised myself for being gay. How I’d fall asleep at night crying and praying that I would be ‘normal’ when I woke up. How my inner voice told me constantly that I was ‘marked,’ or ‘other,’ and that at any moment, someone might find out and ruin me. It’s because of that experience and mindset, that I feel like I can empathize with Destiny in this moment that she is in. I can feel her experience the perceived judgement and shame from the reporter in this scene. It honestly doesn’t matter whether it is coming from a place of judgement or not on the reporter’s side - as was addressed later - because in that moment it is all that Destiny can feel whether it is just perceived or actual judgement. I have walked through so much of my life feeling those feelings myself and I couldn’t help but feel for Destiny here.

The other big piece of this scene is the concept of wealth. Destiny calls out that due to the reporter’s background, her ‘number’ that she’d be willing to exchange a sexual service for money is much much higher - if definable at all. While Destiny’s, due to what seems like a modest upbringing and responsibility of taking care of her grandmother, is much lower.

Again, my heart breaks for Destiny in this scene because ‘there but for the grace of God go I’, as they say.


When I was in the final steps of leaving my first job, I sat down one night in a pretty desperate state to write down my thoughts and create a plan. I had finally gotten up the nerve to ask for a raise to go from low $40Ks to the $50Ks (or more if at all possible), but was told ‘no’ and the ultimate outcome of the conversation was that I would need to look for another job.

I was in a state of what I would consider absolute financial panic. I had well over $80,000 in student loan debt and had ran up an additional $12K in credit card debt while working for the nonprofit at a starting salary of $35K, no benefits. Yeah - I was an idiot that made terrible decisions for my financial health. I unfortunately learned that lesson at about the same time that I discovered that choosing my passion had left me vulnerable, and that the concept of ‘it will all work out as long as you work hard’ wasn’t really panning out.

It wasn’t panning out because even though I was working very hard, it was clear that everything would not work out at the rate things were going. I was easily putting in 50+ hours a week at the nonprofit and almost always loving most of that time. The problem though is that over time and through an impossible pursuit to receive self validation through career and philanthropic success due to a broken self-image from growing up gay in a conservative/religious environment, I developed an extremely unhealthy work life balance. Again, I always did this happily with the positive assumption that things would work out. But when they weren’t working out and I asked for the help in the form of a raise, I felt everything go out from under me. I realized I never had a safety net at all, and that I was very much on my own.

With all that in the background, I sat down to journal out my thoughts, take an updated tally of my debts and identify what I needed to do to get everything under control. I titled the section of the journal “Project Save Lance” and it still has all those totals, all the interest associated with each loan, and all the credit card charge amounts. It also has my action plan for not only switching day jobs, but picking up side hustles. I was bracing for the fact that my salary at the time would hurt my chances of making too much more even in a corporate role due to how that process works.

That’s actually something that the movie calls out by showing Destiny not being able to get a job in retail due to not having retail specific experience. “How am I supposed get experience in retail if I can’t get a job in retail?” Yeah - we have all felt that feeling, or been there in some way.

Now, as someone that was already used to working 50-70 hours a week regularly, I felt I could probably take on a few extra side jobs given that the corporate gig I was looking for would probably be 40 hours a week. How bad could that be right?

Many of the ideas I had listed out like spin instructor, Favor driver, volunteer coordinator all became side hustles of mine, but some, including one that we’ll just call “entertainer” for the purposes of this blog, did not. That’s why I empathize with Destiny in this scene. I’ve felt that helpless and out of control feeling that folks without wealth face in this country on a very regular basis.


Now that we’ve talked through the film’s understanding of sexuality and sex as a service, let’s examine what it is saying about those two topics.

In my opinion, we see exactly what the film thinks about these topics from their portrayal of Romona. She’s the club’s top earner and is extremely good at using her sexuality to provide for herself and her child. The ‘crazy’ thing is, she likes it.

She never exhibits shame in the fact that she strips for money, pays for her designer clothes in all cash, or even takes matters into her own hands by drugging some guys that probably deserved it in most cases, to make a living.

The film also unapologetically portrays Romona as a very human and empathetic character. From the moment she is introduced she is shown to go out of her way to take Destiny under her wing, has strong relationships with everyone at the strip club they work at, and is providing an excellent living for her daughter. In many ways, Ramona is more likable than Destiny who is supposed to be the audience’s entry character and protagonist of the film.

In one of Ramona