The adoption of Swedish style legislation in NI, that will criminalise the clients of sex workers, (which, although not law yet, has been passed with the support of the majority of NI politicians) is a telling example of how sex workers are treated by many politicians. It would seem that evidence from sex workers is easily dismissed, perhaps even deliberately concealed, while the voices of sex workers, the very people whose lives will be disrupted and made more dangerous by punitive legislation, are both ignored and even treated with contempt. 

A very brave former sex worker, Gaye Dalton, has given permission for me to reblog her post explaining how evidence has been withheld or/and ignored by politicians anxious to use the Swedish model to not just to punish sex workers, but to actively seek to eradicate sex work in Northern Ireland. 

Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Further Provisions and Support for Victims) Bill:  Consideration Stage

Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Further Provisions and Support for Victims) Bill:  Consideration Stage (Continued)

I have just sent this email to Justice Ministers North and South. It is my fault, when things upset me I cannot look at them, and I did not check.

Those depositions were signed and checked with the Peace Commissioner, there is no chance of a missing page. The deposition for Stormont went straight into an envelope before I left.

I also sent a scan of another signed deposition by email to facilitate processing by admin staff. I can prove that had all four pages.

Apart from being blatantly corrupt and vindictive the publishing of a sworn deposition without specifying that it has been excerpted or edited may well be seriously illegal.

But what is MOST sinister are the contents of the page that was omitted…see for yourself. Whatever their reason for omitting that specific part let’s make it public and find out what happens.


Dear David Forde,

Finally trying to read through Monday’s debate…it’s not easy…legislation based on propaganda rather than proof is a terrifying revival of the rise of facism in the 20s and 30s.

What makes it much harder is that I have a close friend within 20 miles of Belfast who is currently being cornered towards a straight choice between sex work and suicide by blatant and brutal failing in the system to claims to support and protect her. What I find most horrifying about abolitionism is that it creates a fiction of traffickers and pimps to mask the real failings in the system that will go on forcing women to sell sex perhaps even more than ever before without court of appeal or redress. Punishing the consequences rather than the cause of deeply wounding personal nightmares.

But that is not what is so urgent. It occurs to me that I am the only person who submitted *any* evidence to the Justice Committee under oath and legal obligation to tell the truth with legal penalty for lying. I sent your office the same signed deposition (not a photocopy actual signatures) on about March 3 2014.

The Justice Committee devised their own informal penalty for telling the truth by publishing that deposition (which was otherwise ignored) my full private (and isolated) isolated rural name and address and both phone numbers on page 1289  of their reporthttp://archive.niassembly.gov.uk/justice/report/human-trafficking/Report-on-Human-Trafficking-Bill.pdf along with the name and landline of the elderly widowed peace commissioner involved. This would be an unjustifiable breach of my right to privacy under any circumstances, but I am a autistic recluse who is unable to even live near people, which is formally documented, and also 100% genuine (Not always the same thing but it is in my case).

To add insult to injury while including my name and address they omitted the last page of the deposition (I was actually too upset and frightened to notice that until today), a decision that may be, in and of itself unlawful, as they concealed the omission  and went straight to the sworn declaration, I will give you the text of the whole deposition now to save digging for it, and I am happy to send a scan or even a second hard copy. (Omitted text in bold italic):

———-being aged 18 years and upwards do solemnly and sincerely declare as follows :-

The only payment I have ever received for my work on the sex work issue since was a €30 – €40 phone credit as a thank you from a donor who is anonymous to me early in 2013  and an unsolicited £20 note from a Nun connected to Ruhama at their conference in 1994. I pay all my own expenses. This is important to me not only to show sex workers they are worth my time and effort but because payment compromises neutrality.

I sold sexual services on Waterloo and Burlington Roads in Dublin 4 between approximately June/July 1987 and March/April 1993.

Since moving from Connaught to Leinster in 1989 I worked there 5 or 6 nights a week (usually taking at least Monday off). I would usually arrive at about 9:30pm and work until at least 2:30am.

I spent most of my time on the streets either walking or in two places:

  • At the top of Waterloo Road by the corner of Wellington Lane
  • Near the corner of Burlington Road outside Dublin Institute of Advanced technology

In cold or wet weather I might also sit in my car either at the top of Waterloo Road, or on Burlington Road looking out on to Waterloo Road.

The sex workers and regular clients were a small community that could be compared to the regular clientele of a pub, we all knew each other, at least by sight and were very much aware of new people, unusual occurrences, or any form of crime or abuse.

Every woman I knew at that time worked independently, for herself, apart from two women who were in personal relationships that would have been abusive and coercive in any environment.  (I enabled one of these women to escape with her children.)

Anyone who seemed underage was prevented from working, sent home if possible and reported to Gardai. Many of the women had teenage children of their own and were not easy to fool in this respect, and this would be a very unusual occurrence.

Drug abuse was extremely rare and many women were actively involved in the “concerned parents” movement in their local communities.

At no time did I ever see, or hear of “Rachel Moran” author of “Paid For” and founder of “Space International” nor anyone resembling her, working in that area. In her book she claims to have worked near the corner of Wellington Lane from early evening until “the small hours”, which would have placed her within 15 yards of me for several hours most nights.

I have asked several people I retain some contact with, or could locate, from that time and nobody else can remember her, or anyone like her, not only there but in any form of sex work indoor or outdoor, at any of the times she claims to have worked, between 1991 and 1998.

Beyond this, in her book “Paid For” and online blog “theprostitutionexperience” she has described several people, but not one of them even resembles anyone I ever met or heard of.

Like any small community of people there was gossip. As a result we knew plenty about each other’s lives and were familiar with the known details of any abusive, awkward, or even interesting clients. She does not allude to anyone recognisable  to me at all.

At no time does she show any awareness of the terminology we used, nor even the material realities of our work.

She has also, at times, claimed to have been arrested for soliciting before 1993. Not only was this impossible, but also, one of the first things you would be told as a sex worker at that time is that you could not be arrested for soliciting. She did not even know that.

Rachel Moran is making money from her book and speaking engagements as well as seeking funding for “Space International”, aimed at exploiting any form of future criminalisation of sex work, and making significant input into Justice Committees both sides of the border through totally misrepresenting herself and that entire community and time. Meanwhile real sex workers are denied all safe access to self representation to refute through the callous exploitation of existing stigma (that not only threatens sex workers but also their children) and blatant stonewalling.

I understand that it is unlawful for a person to obtain financial advantage from deceit, but I am personally more concerned with the damage to vulnerable, voiceless people that Rachel Moran will do with her lies.  The idea of anyone so unscrupulous having any degree of control over sex workers’ lives in future, and particularly those who wish to leave sex work and are particularly vulnerable and unprotected, absolutely horrifies me.

Justine Reilly, her partner in “Space International” (all reference suddenly removed from website in past few weeks) was discovered to be a convicted pimp in February 2013, after initially, putting herself forward in the media as a helpless victim. I have never observed her to show any remorse towards the women she exploited, while at least one of these same women has been openly chastised by Ruhama for “disrespect” for alluding to her convictions.

During consultations in both North and South of Ireland genuine sex workers have been treated as animals who cannot think and speak for ourselves while dishonest persons such as these have been put forward as speaking for us. Genuine sex workers have been abused, intimidated and excluded while blatant lies are treated with the greatest courtesy and respect.

Real sex workers are informed that we suffer from many kinds of trauma but no note is taken at all of the far deeper trauma of being silenced and misrepresented in this way. Often by organisations in receipt of significant public funds on the pretext of supporting us.

I hated sex work and desperately wanted a way out but sex work was, literally, the only way I had to survive at the time and that would still be the case in a similar position now.  I have spent decades learning this truth from experience.

Those responsible for my reality deserve to be punished and eradicated from our society for the common good. They are as follows:

  • The abusive family I was issued with at birth
  • The social services who ground my childhood and young adulthood remorselessly between the wheels of their personal dysfunction and corrupt internal politics.
  • The NGOs who added insult to injury by distorting and exploiting my desperation to further their own agenda while offering me nothing but exploitation, misrepresentation, intimidation and revictimisation over the past 20 years.
  • Everyone who ever stood by and watched me suffer, in any context, without attempting to protect or help me.Similar factors are forcing women and girls into sex work all the time. They are the real criminals here and most of their victims meet far worse fates than having to use sex work to recover.

My clients as a sex worker gave me, not only survival, but a decent living, independence and self respect. I found that helpful and supportive and was thankful for it.

Sex work is never the problem, it is always part of the solution.

The Nordic Model serves as the indirect persecution of sex workers by striving to destroy the market their livelihoods depend upon made worse by openly acknowledging the fact that many have no realistic alternative means available. The Nordic Model is promoted, proposed and reinforced by a strategy of misrepresenting sex workers lives, motivation and needs while restricting all support and resources to those who comply with this misrepresentation and striving to penalise those who do not.

The Nordic Model is deemed politically desirable because it indirectly denies the true impact of austerity and  pays lip service to counterbalancing the elements of forced labour that are creeping into welfare provision.

The Nordic Model is popular with NGOs because it has the potential to maintain and increase their funding.

Once I truly believed that if anyone told people the truth about sex worker’s lives they would understand and feel remorse and, at least, leave us in peace, now I have seen, with my own eyes, that if anyone tries to tell the truth they are silenced, gagged, intimidated and shouted down while everything they have tried to say is pasted over with other people’s self serving and destructive lies.

The conduct of the “Turn Off the Red Light” campaign, and the resulting consultations, has left me finally incapable of faith in any aspect of the society in which I live.


I believe this is significant suppression of sworn evidence.

Yours faithfully

Gaye Dalton


See also:

Sworn Evidence Concealed By Justice Committee Stormont.

via Sworn Evidence Concealed By Justice Committee Stormont.

I am pleased to announce a new editorial team for Harlots Parlour. I have, as many readers know, been hoping to retire, or at least take a back seat for some time. My failing health and other business commitments means that I have less time to devote to developing Harlots, or engaging in as many activist events as I would like to. I have therefore decided to hand much, and eventually hopefully, all of the running of Harlots, into the hands of new editors.

After some discussion, the idea of creating an editorial collective was favoured, alongside creating a private email list where sex workers and allies can discuss ideas and share information and support. A handful of sex workers have already expressed an interest in being involved on this list and it is hoped that this number will grow.

Harlots from the very beginning was about creating a space for sex workers to share their experiences, where sex work, in its many diverse forms could be celebrated. Harlots is not just about happy hookers, but neither is it about sex workers who hate their work, their clients, or who endeavour to make sex work fit into their own narrow political narrative. There exists a space within sex worker activism for sex workers to create a safe space, where all sex workers and allies are made welcome and are allowed to express their ideas and enthusiasm for creating societies in which sex work is respected. With these ideals in mind I hope that everyone will welcome Olive ( follow on twitter @olivfetish and Madison ( follow on twitter @1womandisrobing ) as new editors of Harlots.

Olive studied Museology and Mortuary science, which makes her fascinating just for those subjects alone. She always had a fascination with fetishes and paraphilias and those interests led her into sex work. She has also managed a variety of adult stores and lives in the USA where alongside sex work she is involved in performance art, enjoys exploring cultural stereotypes, race, sexuality and researching the history of sex work.

Madison lives in Australia and works as a stripper in Melbourne. She blogs about her experiences in sex work at https://1womandisrobing.wordpress.com/ and is one of the famous King Street showgirls. She wrote this as an introduction:

When I first begun I wore a wig to attempt to create a persona for work and to hide my real image so that if anyone I knew came into the club I would be anonymous. After the wig flung off in a lap dance and because I was spending so much of my time cooling off backstage due to the sheer heat the wig created, I ditched it and started working as “myself”. My awkwardness slowly dissipated as I became more at ease with myself. This took quite a long time, but now I am one of King streets showgirls. I perform a strip show to hundreds of men weekend in weekend out. The choreographed routines come together on stage with bright lights, loud music, smoke, lots of smoke and water. 

As I have become more and more confident and content with myself and my work my view on others working in the sex industry has altered. I used to judge everyone about everything, but that horrible naive veil has been lifted and I now would love to be able to support others in the industry, help share their stories and also broaden people’s minds about what sex work entails.

I hope that you will support our new editors and perhaps join the new email list. To complete the editorial collective we really need an editor from the UK or Europe, India and Asia. A truly international collective of sex workers would be a celebration of greatness. And of course male, female and trans sex workers are equally respected at Harlots and all sex workers have a voice. You can contact any of the editors at Harlots by emailing dearharlot@googlemail.com and addressing your email to the particular editor you wish to contact. More changes will obviously take place over the coming months. It is all exciting and new. I wish Olive and Madison all the best of luck.

I would like to introduce a piece by Vikranth who works closely with sex workers and is busy writing a book on sex work and collecting money in order to create a film abut sex workers and their lives. Comments are welcome. I am sure Vikranth will be happy to reply.


Stigmas ever blazing, stereotypes flying high, the sex industry allows for an abundance of invigorating and often infuriating conversations. London, Paris, Amsterdam, Hamburg, they’ve all had their time to shine in the hot seat. With red light districts posing as a great attraction for tourists, it’s often easy to forget that the women behind the glass aren’t toys, regardless of how beautiful they may be. They’re human beings, with feelings like each and every one of us and like many of us, they’re working their way through life with bills to pay and bosses to be answered to. So yes, though it may seem only natural to stop and stare due to how outlawed such an occupation may seem, the reality of it is that there’s a legal aspect that allows for the women of the sex industry to carry on with their business- A business that never ceases to keep tourists’ eyes peered.

So why is it that so many feel the need to rebel against the occupation that sex workers choose and are all the things they say true? Unfortunately, as with all things in life, the road isn’t always smooth and the path isn’t always well paved. But to make an example of the minority is simply unacceptable. Those who argue against sex work often do so not because they see wrong in each and every inch or crevice, but because they simply don’t believe that sex work should be considered an occupation or because they or someone they love had been subjected to an unfortunate situation. In attempts to make the world see the sex industry the way they see it, they refrain from including the good, the appealing and instead expose the bad and the ugly- regardless of how slim the numbers may be.

In a country like Germany with its close to 400,000 sex workers (the largest number in countries that have deemed commercial sex legal), the cries to ban prostitution aren’t as loud and prevalent as they are in countries such as the United Kingdom. However, will these cries result in prostitution once again being marked illegal? Most probably not and with good reason. The government sees its profits in terms of taxes and lower unemployment rates with over 80,000 sex workers working in film, for an escorts agency or as independents in the United Kingdom and so the notion there leans more toward allowing sex workers to continue with their business. Additionally, for the many crying against prostitution, there are many more in support of free will and the freedom to choose commercial sex as an occupation.

For some women, the sex industry is solely a means to pay the bills. However, for others, the gain is so high that they’ve been able to take advantage of luxuries they would never imagine themselves having and thus, would never consider making an exit. On the other hand, there are the supporters of the sex industry and without demand, sex workers wouldn’t be able to supply. Tourists, lonely men, adventurous women and even couples seeking a bit of thrill find their comfort in the arms of a sex worker.

As a sex worker and activist I understand the politics involved within the discourse surrounding sex work. I understand that those opposed to sex work, those who wish to see sex work and sex workers disappear off the face of the earth, will use every underhand trick to make sure they get their abolitionist message heard. I understand that anti sex work groups have, not just funding, but centuries of stigma and prejudice toward sex work, available and at their disposal, to appropriate and use as they wish. I understand that all sex workers have in this unequal battle are their voices and the evidence of their lives and their work.

Having acknowledged all of this, the appropriation of our hard fought battle to be referenced as workers, by those who now claim to be “survivors of sex work” leaves an especially bad taste in my mouth. To claim to be a survivor of sex work, unless every worker, in any job, who has ever had bad experiences, is equally able to claim that status, is just underhand politicking .

I am not objecting to the appropriation of the term “sex worker,” because I doubt every story told by those claiming to have been sexually abused and raped while doing sex work. I offer unconditional support to anyone who has ever been forced, under any circumstance, to have sex against their will. I cling to, the perhaps naïve belief, that not everyone who now claims to be a sex work survivor, a “victim,” is a Somaly Mam, fabricating a status of “victim” for their own financial interests. I am not yet so disillusioned.


My problem with the appropriation of the term work, is that work, whither you like it, hate it, are indifferent to it, is work. It is what most people have to do to live. Selling sex, doing sex work, involves having sex. The job description is in the job title. Of course people doing sex work have widely differing experiences and the job itself is hugely diverse in the way it is sold and operates. Some who come under the umbrella of sex work, never have actual physical sex. Regardless of how, where, or the circumstances, sex work, like all work, requires a degree of agency and consent. To do a job, any job, for it to be called a job, recognised as work, requires the consent of that person. If you do not consent then it is slavery and when having sex, for whatever reason, including for commercial gain, if you do not consent, then it is rape.

Survivors of sex work therefore are not survivors of sex work, they are, or may be, survivors of all kinds of abuse, but not of sex as work. Any claim of being a survivor of sex work is purely for political gain. To survive something evokes sympathy, and sex work, because of the stigma and prejudice that surrounds it, has, especially for women, a deep societal and moral emotional engagement. The common argument that no woman would willing prostitute herself, engages an emotive response from an audience conditioned to prescribed roles for women within society, that prejudices opinion against female promiscuity and especially against prostitution. So called “survivors of sex work” know exactly how claiming to be survivors will play politically. They use the term deliberately knowing that it will undermine demands from sex workers to have their labour recognised. They know that their claims of being survivors will justify continued criminalisation of sex work because survivors by existing reafirms the prejudice that no good woman would choose prostitution. Claims to be survivors of sex work is therefore just dirty politicking, nothing more and nothing less.

I am pleased to introduce Steve who works as a gay male escort in Newcastle Upon Tyne. Steve was recently asked to review a new book on Male Sex Work which he published on his own very popular blog and which he kindly agreed to share with Harlots. Enjoy. 


Male Sex Work and Society

I was kindly asked by Harrington Park Press, in New York, to review an academic publication that is being released this week (on Tuesday 2nd September 2014).  They sent me a copy of the book, pre-release, in late July and it’s been my bedtime reading for a number of weeks.  I have written an honest and factual review which is independent and in no way influenced by the publisher or authors of the book.

male sex work and society
Within research and the current debate about sex work , there exists a gap in our knowledge and understanding of the male sex worker as a distinct group. The feminist ideology that dominates so much of the sex work discourse in the west, chooses to present sex work as being only about women selling sex to men. If and when acknowledged, male and indeed trans sex workers, are recognised only within this politically motivated narrative of female submission to dominant male sexual desire. The complex and varied experiences within the male sex work narrative have too often been reduced to a caricature of a feminised boy, to assimilate easily within this politicised perspective of sex work. The arrival of “Male Sex Work And Society” therefore is a welcome addition to a growing academic and political awakening to the male sex worker as being a distinctive subject with a history and culture deserving of recognition.
The book is a collection of research by noted academics and specialists in sexual health and LGBT studies. Despite being a substantial book, it is easily accessible and each chapter carries its own section of references. The topics are wide ranging, from a history of male sex work, the influence of culture on how male sex work is engaged, perceived and legislated to how sex workers and clients interact. Continents and countries are dealt with individually, giving a perspective on male sex work in the United States, Africa, Russia, Western Europe, China and so forth. Stigma, political and religious prejudice and their consequences are discussed.
The problems faced by male sex workers especially in parts of Africa and Russia, where a growing intolerance and violence toward the LGBT community has created an especially hostile environment, is engaged at length, in the book. Interviews with sex workers and their clients are included too, which gives an authenticity to the research which very often is missing within academic works. How sex workers feel about themselves, how they understand and relate to their work, their aspirations and fears are discussed and referenced extensively. Clients are also interviewed and it is interesting to note the cultural differences, but also the similarities.
A chapter on male sex work and male sexual identity in Latin America was especially fascinating. Research done by Victor Munichello, Tinashe Dune, Carlos Disogra and Rodrigo Marino in chapter 15, “Male Sex Work From A Latin American Perspective” discusses the influence of Catholicism and the family, in defining male sexual identity and how male sex workers accommodate and work within those boundaries. Another chapter on “Male Sex Work In China” by Travis S K Kong, in his research into the “Money Boy,” again reflects the influence of culture and politics on how male sex workers identify and work.
I especially enjoyed the fact that research concentrated on sex work as a business with reference being made to a variety of marketing strategies used by male sex workers. Inevitably awareness and reality of class within societies was also reflected within the sex work dichotomy, emphasising the influence that education and social background has helped in optimising earning potential.
The male sex worker in literature and in cinema has its own chapter and within a western context, the development of the male sex worker is referenced and traced within a context of a growing acceptance of sexual diversity within greater society. Sexual health is naturally discussed extensively, referencing the negative affects of politics and culture, of criminalisation, on accessing health services and for health specialists to monitor sexual health among sex workers.
The importance of accessing and educating sex workers to help stop the spread of HIV is discussed. Criminalisation of sex workers especially affects the sexual health and awareness of those sex workers with social disadvantages, be that addiction or lack of education, or who are migrant and who may not speak the host countrys language and are quite often illegal. Those sex workers are the most at risk of infection.
I concur with the general consensus in the book that sexual health and social support for male sex workers in general is secondary to that on offer for female sex workers. This point in conclusion brings me to my only criticism. As a more mature sex worker I noted little reference to older male sex workers, to the wide age age range that exists within male sex work. The emphasis in the book concurred with the common perception that male sex work is predominately young boys and men. From my perspective, advertising extensively throughout the UK and beyond, this is not the case. I also would have liked to have seen more references to men selling sex to women. This is an area of sex work which is beginning to be recognised and researched. I have a feeling that society may be in for a quite a surprise at the findings.
The book is available for purchase at Amazon UK and is published by Harrington Park Press.  I would personally like to thank the publishers of the book for recognising my own blog and contribution to the sex industry and for asking me for my unbiased opinion on it’s content.


These are just initial thoughts for a much longer piece. Comments are welcome. I have not put links in this piece but will in the next.


Male and trans sex workers often share the same clients as female sex workers and the same working spaces, yet our voices are almost silent. There is an undercurrent of prejudice toward male sex work, on both sides of a debate, which is primarily about human rights, about workers rights, about the role of subjective morality in denying rights to people who sell sex. Such prejudice should be unacceptable, but it exist.

Cultural perceptions of what sex work is and about who sells and who buys sex have framed sex work as being exclusively a womans issue. These assumptions have meant that research on male sex work, on how cultural attitudes affect how male sex work is bought and sold and tolerated, have been considered less important. A gap exists in our knowledge about sex work if we ignore the rich history that is male and trans sex work, work which has run parallel to female sex work, but which also has its on distinctive character and history.

Once, in ancient Rome, male sex workers had their own national holiday. Tragically, it was also in Rome, that men selling sex to men, experienced the full horror of a new Christian morality. By order of a Christian Emperor, male sex workers where dragged from their brothels and burned alive before a cheering mob. Christian intolerance of homosexuality, the assumptions of what maleness is within patriarchy, has for centuries negatively influenced a prevailing social attitude toward men who sell sex. Whilst female sex workers where grudgingly tolerated, considered a necessary social evil, male and trans sex workers were simply considered an abomination.

Today, in a more tolerant western society, the social and legal acceptance of homosexuality has allowed the commercial sex market to emerge where, especially men who sell sex to men, can advertise openly.

Male sex workers however are subject to the same legal restrictions as female sex workers. Laws that limit the freedom of sex workers to work together, to hire a third party to represent them, effectively to take measures to protect themselves or support each other, remain illegal in the UK. Similarly, the growing threat of what has become popularly referred to as the Swedish model, which criminalises the clients of sex workers, also does, or potentially will ( if it should ever become law) equally affect male sex workers.

A growing acknowledgment of human rights has encouraged the emergence of groups of sex workers, academics and other supporters, to advocate that sex work is work and that workers deserve rights. Both sex worker rights groups and anti sex work advocates, however have focused almost exclusively on sex work being a woman only issue. The voices of male and trans sex workers have been, if not ignored, then treated as second class and at best recognised in debates with a parting, almost throwaway acknowledgment of, “Oh yes and there are male sex workers, oh and some trans as well.” It is hardly surprising that these prejudices exist considering the historical context in which male sex work and male sexuality has been stigmatised within western culture. That stigma is often expressed to justify ignoring, sidelining, male and trans sex workers.

The two most common prejudices are :-

1) Male sex work carries less social stigma than female sex work and male sex workers are less affected by slut shaming.

That is a hard claim to call as definite.

For men selling sex to men, the gay community, whilst traditionally publicly liberal and containing elements that identified closely with the outsider, has equally harboured and expressed many of the same prejudices as the straight community. As the gay community becomes more accepted into mainstream society and increasingly conforms to the heteronormative hegemony of monogamous sex based around property and ownership, those prejudices against the sex worker within their community may increase, not decrease. Certainly in the battle for sex worker rights the gay community, has at best, been cautious in any expression of support. In general, male promiscuity is less problematic, in a society where maleness and masculinity is still defined by a man’s sexual libido, by his ability to bed many sexual partners. These attitudes however are reversed when a man, sells himself sexually. The selling of sex for men equates to being submissive. It makes him unmanly. A common depiction of a male sex worker within current debate and historically is of an effeminate man, as someone lacking masculine prowess, without agency.

This effeminisation of the male sex worker is a recurring and dismissive theme in anti sex work rhetoric. It is an image that confirms that strand of feminists thought, that now influences government policy, that equates all sex work as violence toward women and girls and therefore all sex workers, including feminised “boy” sex workers, as being victims of male sexual aggression. For trans sex workers, prejudice against trans people, within wider society is made more aggressive. Trans sex workers report more abuse and assaults from the public, the police and from criminals who target trans sex workers specifically to express their transphobic aggression and hatred. For male and trans sex workers the public prejudice shared by all sex workers, that they are transmitters of infection and disease, in effect means they are carriers of HIV.

2) Male and trans sex worker are too few in number to deserve a seat at the table.

Everything you read about the numbers of sex workers working is pure guess work. No one knows how many sex workers are street based, how many work indoors, how many are women, how many are trans, or how many are men.

The idea that you can even try and create a sex work policy, when you do not know the numbers within the community for which you are creating policy for, is derisable, yet this is exactly what happens. For the UK, the estimates for sex workers, range between 30,000 and 80,000 but it could be double that. The estimate for male and trans sex workers varies between five per cent and fifteen per cent of whatever that guessed total number is. At least one academic, I remember reading about, suggested that the number of male and trans sex workers in Europe was nearer a third of all current sex workers. The truth is, no one knows anything for definite. It is possible, cultural differences may play a part in the numbers of male or trans sex workers and their visibility, but it is all guess work.

The big problem is the lack of research. In Partial this problem is cultural. Aggressive sexual advertising aimed at the male consumer is something our society understands. The infamous red lights, the photographs of genitals, male and female, are images used by both female and male/trans sex workers to sell sex to men. Researchers, like the rest of society are familiar with these images and presume that this is the whole story, but is it?

The gigolo, a man who sells sex to women, is a culturally recognised figure, but unless he is advertising or operating in a similar manner to his gay or female counterparts, he remains mostly invisible. Does that mean that women do not purchase sex, or does it mean that the purchasing and selling of sex for a female market operates differently?

I have met women who have made arrangements with men, yes usually younger men, often less solvent than themselves. These women, buy those men presents, cars, clothes, and pay their rent etc in return for sex.

If anyone visits resorts in countries like Turkey, or parts of Africa for example, do they even notice the older women, especially from Europe, who have, share local boyfriends, often many years younger than themselves. They claim that they are in love, but it is a love affair where they pay all the bills and get sex and company in return. Cynically, feminists may argue that these women are being used. I would argue back that both the men and the women know what they are doing, they are buying and selling sex. They choose not to acknowledge it as prostitution because prostitution, culturally, is about women selling sex to men.

Popular prejudice and assumptions about what sex work is, about who buys and who sells sex has influenced sex work legislation for too long. What is needed is more evidence and more awareness of the diverse layers of commercial sex that exist within societies. Male sex work is a part of that missing evidence.

In ancient Japan red light areas, where sex workers, both male and female, sold sex, were once referred to as the “floating world” referencing the peculiar space in which they existed. Not quite part of society, not quite separate from society but I think in many respects all sex workers still exist in that special and precarious place. It seems that that special and precarious place remains more so for male and trans sex workers.



A post by UglyMugs.ie who you can follow on twitter @uglymugsie

The Canadian Government’s new sex work bill includes a provision banning the advertising of sexual services. Ireland did the same 20 years ago. The advertising of brothels and prostitution is prohibited in Ireland under Section 23 of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994.

In 1998 proceedings were brought against Mike Hogan, then publisher of the In Dublin magazine, for carrying adverts for ‘escort’ services. He pleaded guilty in 2000. The law and this case now act as a somewhat successfully deterrent against publishing blatant sex work advertisements to Irish publications.

What the law cannot do though is stop the advertising of sex work on websites located outside of Ireland. Irish sex workers can easily advertise and be found on an array of Irish adult websites, invariably operated by companies located outside of Irish jurisdiction to bypass the Irish law.

Ireland’s powerful anti sex work lobby have been furiously calling for such websites to be shut down for many years. The problem isn’t that the 1994 legislation didn’t cover websites. It did. The problem is that Ireland simply cannot enforce its law against advertising sex work across the rest of the world. It can only enforce it within its own jurisdiction.

Almost every trick in the book has been tried and failed. US diplomatic cables published in 2010 by WikiLeaks even reveal secret meetings took place between Irish nuns, police and US authorities in efforts to shut down one Irish escort website which was hosted in the US at the time. The folly of it was, even if the US had have been prepared to shut down a website that was legal in the US, the operators of it would have simply moved onto another jurisdiction the next day.

The Irish experience demonstrates what a Canadian law against the advertising of sexual services could possibly achieve if brought in and enforced to the fullest extent possible.

It could force sex workers to advertise more covertly in Canadian publications. It could lead to an increase in Internet advertising. It could force Canadian sex work websites to move outside of Canadian jurisdiction. It couldn’t stop advertising of sex work in Canada.

There are a few wacky ideas out there that Ireland hasn’t tried yet. If you put aside Western democratic values on freedom of speech and access to information, a country could in theory bring in laws forcing its ISPs to block or filter web content that could be sex for sale adverts. It would however be very difficult and expensive, easily circumvented by Internet users, and could only possibly be successful to the extent it could lead to sex workers being more discreet in their online advertising to avoid their ads being blocked.

The latest idea in Ireland is to go after people for viewing prostitution material as is already done in the case of persons viewing child abuse material. The Irish Justice Committee’s 2013 Report on the Review of the Legislation on Prostitution in Ireland states that ‘the accessing of web sites – whether located in the State or abroad – that advertise prostitution in the State should be treated in the same way as accessing sites that advertise or distribute child pornography.’

The proposed Canadian law to stop the advertising of sex work would be entirely ineffective.
It would fail to stop sex workers advertising. It could potentially have negative consequences for sex workers though, in terms of reducing choices, both in terms of where they can advertise and how clearly they can advertise what they do and do not offer.

Other potential negative consequences are a loss of revenue to Canada’s economy. The Spanish brought in and then repealed a ban on advertising prostitution in 2012, reportedly due to the loss of the advertising revenue to Spanish companies. Most seriously, anti-trafficking academics such as Mark Latonero and Danah Boyd, who both conducted research around US website Craigslist, which was pressured into stopping accepting adult adverts in 2010, have shown that pushing sex work advertising onto international websites, out of reach of the US authorities, harms law enforcement efforts to combat abuses such as trafficking.

20 years ago Irish legislators were doing something new, but Canada can’t say the same now. It is clear a law against the advertising of sexual services won’t stop sex workers advertising but will cause harm, so what is the point of it?


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