It's the world's oldest profession, but prostitution hasn't exactly been regarded as a noble profession — at least in the modern era.

That's not the case in Hulu's Harlots, premiering in March. Based in part on "Harris's List of Covent Garden Ladies" — a sort of Zagats guide for prostitutes that was published from 1757 to 1795 — Harlots is a story of female empowerment and ambition, told through the perspective of sex workers... Including Lydia Quigley (Lesley Manville) the "Lady Macbeth of brothel owners" and her rival Margaret Wells (Samantha Morton).

Though it's chock full of nudity — as much male as female, producers promise — and lots and lots of sex (naturally), the story isn't exploitative, it's liberating. Producers Debra Hayward, Alison Owen and Moira Buffini say the story is told from the "female gaze," and they took care to hire female directors and writers to make sure they stayed true to their mission statement.

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Set in 18th-century London, Harlots illuminates how sex was a form of currency that let woman advance in society and take ownership of their lives, at a time when they had no rights otherwise. Not only could husbands take all of a woman's money or property when she wed, but men were legally allowed to beat their wives too — a reflection of the systematic oppression that led some 1 in 5 women to engage in sex work at the time, according to the show's producers.

"Prostitution made it easier for a girl to rise," Lesley Manville said at the Television Critics Association winter tour Saturday. "It's a show about economics as much as it is about sex work."

Harlots premieres March 29 on Hulu.