A New Set of Moral Shackles

  • Alfie Gallagher with a piece that featured today on his own blog, Left From The West addressing regulation of the sex industry in Ireland.


  1. The industry should be legalised and sanitised. For the men and women involved it beats a marriage, and/or a 25yr mortgage.

    No doubt it would be mercilessly taxed if legalised.

  2. The sex industry should be designed to minimise harm to the prostitutes and clients but it is essential that this includes severe penalties for those who abuse and enslave people through trafficking or otherwise.

    I found the US State Department's "Trafficking in Persons Report" telling when it explained "Ireland is a destination, source, and transit country for women, men, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Foreign trafficking victims identified in Ireland are
    from Nigeria, Cameroon, the Philippines, Poland, Albania,
    Bulgaria, Brazil, Romania, Pakistan, and other countries in
    Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe. There has been an increase in identified Irish children subjected to sex trafficking within the country".

    Trafficking aside any harm done by a client to a prostitute or vice versa should have the context of the crime presumed to be an aggravating element albeit with the usual defences. I would argue this due to the likely vulnerability of the victim and a likely sexual motive.

    I was left unimpressed by Petra Östergren's website's page on the Critique of Swedish Prostitution policy by sexworkers. I found it self-contradictory and wasn't persuaded by much of the argument.

    I am wary of any organisation influenced by the Catholic Church campaigning on sexual matters after the reprehensible behaviour of the Church in the past but I found Ruhama's figure of 95% of prostitutes in Ireland as drug users as believable.

  3. What qualifications does one need to become a researcher?, I hope the church is involved in this ,after all they are our moral guardians,NOT!Good post Alfie a cara, the sex industry and its a mega industry needs regulated now,giving those women and men who work in it more control of their bodies and subsequently their health,as Larry says legalised and sanitised, this if regulated and registered should reduce people trafficking and the exploitation of the more vulnerable.some say that business is so good that had they another pair of legs they would open up in Derry!

  4. Marty

    They'd need a dole-ite rate in Derry, there's massive unemployment.

    They may also need to bring in an ugly-tax on punters if some of the SF big wigs availed of the services!

  5. Larry-

    Less of that talk about ugly-tax-

    You want to cost me a small fortune for a big favour-

  6. David Norris made a very important point in the Seanad yesterday:

    "The deliberate blurring of the boundaries between trafficking and sex workers is wrong."

    This is what Ruhama has been doing for years. Ironically, it is similar to how fundamentalist Christians conflate homosexuality and child abuse, an issue that I've also written about on my blog.

  7. Simon,

    What exactly is self-contradictory about Petra Östergren's arguments and research?

    I have come to question much of Ruhama's public pronouncements. Nevertheless, Ruhama does not claim that 95% of all sex workers are drug users; what it does say is that 95% of street prostitutes use hard drugs. However, a very large percentage of sex workers in Ireland work indoors as escorts and they use the internet to make contact with clients. Many of these women gave testimonies to the Oireachtas Committee on Justice in which they voiced their opposition to the Swedish model. Here is one of the submitted testimonies. I cannot imagine how anyone could claim that this woman is deluded and incapable of making a free choice.

    Personally, I do not think "prostitution" is an ugly word or an ugly concept. It can be, of course, if people do not respect each other. However, any professional service or private relationship will become ugly if respect is missing. Indeed, no one has ever given me a convincing explanation why labouring on a building site or a farmyard for 8-10 hours a day does not qualify as "selling your body", but that 30 minutes of sex work does.

  8. Nah Larry a cara quisling $inn £einds and cronies have their own private whore house ,its called the chicken ranch or as its better known Stormont,all kinds of kinky pervs infest the place,ask them and they,l tell you ,they get paid for fucking about..

  9. Alfie-

    "but that 30 minutes of sex work does "

    Its 75 euros for 10 minutes behind the red light doors in Amsterdam-and not a second more-the hookers/lookers would but manners into your bank balance if you took Viagra-it would cost a fortune to get 'it'sorted-

  10. Alfie- For example she says regarding the position that the two main pieces of Swedish legislation have had positive effects that "sexworkers are of a different view" as if they speak with one voice and do not see "positive effects". Soon after she says of one of the laws that "Some women interviewed express satisfaction with the effect this law has had on exploitative pimps since there have been relatively few of them in Sweden the last two decades." If that isn't a positive effect what is?

    Then of the other law she says "The effect of the is law mostly negative for the sexworker(sic)". If it's not entirely negative then perhaps there are some positives?

    Also she states "Another consequence is that the sexworkers are now more apprehensive about seeking help from the police when they have had problems with an abusive customer. They do not want to be forced to report the client." This is in reference to not wanting to report a client in case the client gets in trouble for "purchasing sexual services". A little paradoxical since why would they be worried about one charge (purchasing of sex based) when they were otherwise prepared to report them on another charge (abuse based).

    Again, "Women also report that another consequence of the law is lower prices on the streets since there are less customers and more competition". How is there more competition if "the number of sexworkers on the streets has decreased?"

    I am sure I misinterpreted something but nonetheless I have only given examples of the first half of the critique and I feel these sections explain why I remain unconvinced by much of the argument.

    I realised afterwards I failed to qualify the drug figure reference to "street" prostitutes but it was unintentional.

    Without accurate figures we will never know the true extent of damage workers in the sex industry face but I reiterate the need for laws to protect them and I believe some form of decriminalisation and non-intrusive oversight is the key.

  11. Thank you for a well balanced piece on prostitution and the current issues pertaining to it in Ireland and elsewhere. I also believe that harm reduction is crucial for all sex workers, regardless if they're in the street or indoors. And you are absolutely correct that there is a huge difference between human trafficking/slave trade and prostitution. The saddest part is how the two often end up connected, due to the hidden underworld sex industry around the world, most often run by organized crime syndicates.

    Sex workers are definitely not stupid or ignorant people and are often much more savvy than many people seem to think. I have known many of them and they are very wise. Don't forget that there are many male sex workers, as well, and they are no dummies, either.

    Thanks for an excellent piece!

  12. michaelhenry

    it gives me great reassurance to know that you invested time effort and money (expenses)to investigate the behind those curtains in Amsterdam. Just another in the long list of reasons I'd vote for you. A totally dedicated 'pubic' representative. At those prices I think the expoloited are actually the customers. Nearly as bad as a 25yr mortgage!


    I hear they are erecting red lights above the door of all SF ad-VICE centres.

  13. Simon,

    I don't know Petra Östergren personally, but she is a respected academic researcher and commentator. I'm sure she is well able to defend her work. Nevertheless, I do not see the points you have made as proof of inconsistency and unreliability in her work.

    Firstly, it ought to be said that the purpose of the article by Petra Östergren to which I referred was to reflect the opinions of the sex workers she has interviewed since 1996. Östergren says so at the outset and at no stage does she claim to speak with "one voice" for the sex workers of Sweden.

    With regards to your first alleged contradiction, Östergren's claim is not that there have been no positive effects of the law against procurement. It is that, overall, most of the sex workers she has interviewed find this law more a hindrance than a help. According to Östergren, this is because the law forces them to lie to their landlords and prohibits them from working in pairs. So where is the contradiction?

    Your second objection is a bit nasty really. Firstly, you throw in the sophomoric "sic" chestnut. Is there any problem with Östergren's grammar or spelling in that sentence? If so, please specify where. But more to the point, how is it self-contradictory to contend that while a piece of legislation may have positive aspects, its effect is mostly negative?

    That criticism aside, I think you are on firmer ground on the issue of reporting abusive clients. Indeed, it is perfectly legitimate to ask why a sex worker would be reluctant to report an abusive client so that he would be prosecuted for the purchase of sexual services. The only reason I can think of would be that a sex worker would probably be much more willing to testify in open court against someone being charged only with abuse, but not against someone being charged with purchasing sexual services as well. It is a fine point but from the testimonies I've read, sex workers are as protective of their clients confidentiality as journalists are of their sources.

    As for your final objection, I reiterate that Petra Östergren is merely documenting and analysing the opinions of sex workers in Sweden today. They tell her that they have felt deflationary pressure since the implentation of the "Swedish model" and they attribute this to an increase in the ratio of sex workers to clients. Since the Swedish model criminalises clients rather that sex workers, it is plausible if not probable that the number of clients has declined more than the number of sex workers. Thus, the explanation that sex workers have given to Östergren for the phenomenon of lower prices and increased competition is actually fairly reasonable.

    Look, Simon, you've always struck me as a decent chap, and, as always, I mean no personal offence despite the fact that I often find myself sounding like a bully. Let me just say that this is an issue I feel strongly about.

    I have spent most of my adult life feeling like an outcast or, to borrow a powerful metaphor from Tom Waits, a rain dog. When I read about the most reviled members of our society - be they drug users, sex workers, or those with mental health problems - I feel like someone is telling the story of my life back to me. When I write about them, I feel like I've finally found something worth fighting for.

  14. Alfie- I agree with most of your points and when I thought about it perhaps I was more worried about the challenge to this new law in Ireland than anything else. My main worry isn't the different research from Ruhama, Petra etc and the different messages that sometimes arise but that the government have got it wrong and that sexworkers are going to suffer.

    "Your second objection is a bit nasty really". As I was cutting and pasting following sentence "The effect of the is law mostly negative for the sexworker." I only put in (sic) to explain there was a typo nothing more and definitely nothing malicious.

    I can't remember any instance of you sounding like a bully, Alfie. I feel very strongly about this issue as well. Although my focus would be on trafficking as that is where you would find more harm. If people are consensual and don't seriously harm each other I wouldn't intervene except to protect their interests.

    Petra made some good points including on the need for a standard taxation system and an accompanying pension fund for sexworkers.

    Apologies if this is a little rambling as I only woke up 5 mins ago.

  15. Larry,

    a flawed character - it is what endears us to Michaelhenry!

    Those inside brothels are invariably more interesting than those who stand outside them with religious tracts and pointing fingers.

  16. Anthony and the hand in the trouser pocket playing pocket billiards of course a cara,

  17. yup Marty,

    we know the type

  18. Great piece Alfie, and plenty of interesting and reasoned commentary to go along with it including some of your own.

  19. Marty,

    this type of billiard player

  20. Simon,

    'As I was cutting and pasting following sentence "The effect of the is law mostly negative for the sexworker." I only put in (sic) to explain there was a typo nothing more and definitely nothing malicious.'

    Apologies, Simon. I didn't even spot the typo! I thought you were objecting to the use of "sexworker" in the singular rather than "sexworkers" in the plural. I see now that you were perfectly correct to use "sic" in this case. Mea culpa.

  21. Mackers

    As sure as John McGirr is not the messiah, Michaelhenry truly IS a naughty naughty boy.

  22. Following the publication of this article, I have been made aware of the following scurrilous video posted on YouTube by those compassionate journalists at the Sunday World.

    The two "journalists" in this video are targeting a woman who is not a native of this country and who does not have fluent English. They are using this video to try to bully and humiliate this woman just because she is a part-time sex worker who also seeks work as a cleaner and a nanny.

    I have been told that this video had been removed by YouTube moderators before, but those charming folks at the Sunday World have reposted it. Even by the bottom-feeding standards of the tabloid press, this marks a new low for Irish journalism. What makes it even more shocking is that the male journalist in the video, Eamon Dillon, is a past winner of the Ruhama Award in Journalism.

    Is this how Ruhama and the 'Turn Off The Red Light' campaign want sex workers to be treated in this country?

    It's time to take a stand. I have reported this video for bullying to YouTube moderators so that they will remove it. I urge all of you to do the same.