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UglyMugs and SafeIQ Complete First Ever Survey of Indoor Irish Sex Workers

Oaxa Koate’s Avatar Article by Oaxa Koate Blog Slixa Under Cover

The thoughtful advice and opinions of the author of this article are meant to be informative and entertaining and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Slixa.

"Commenting on the research, UglyMugs.ie said, "There has never been any independent research into indoor sex work in Ireland. Instead of asking sex workers about their lives, we ask anti-prostitution campaigners. As our initial research here has shown, the Irish public are being grossly misled. Proper independent research must now be carried out now to establish the reality of indoor sex work in Ireland, so sensible legislation can be put in place."

-From the UglyMugs website

Nearly two hundred Irish escorts (labeled in this survey as indoor workers) were surveyed and the findings by UglyMugs sharply contrast the "facts" currently at hand in regard to sex workers and the sex trades in Ireland. From race, age, and education level to experiences with crime and why sex workers did or did not report crimes to law enforcement, Crime and Abuse (warning: PDF!) is eye opening, to say the least.  

Some key findings in the 2013 Victimisation Survey were:

  • 25-34 is the largest age group of escorts currently working. The largest specified age group for entry to sex work was 18-24. None of the participants reported entering sex work aged under 16 years old.
  • The leading countries of birth of participants were Romania (25.7%), United Kingdom (15.6%), Ireland (12.6%), Brazil(12%) and Hungary (7.2%).
  • Participants were highly educated, 74.9% having completed third level education.

UglyMugs have been extremely transparent with their findings from the survey, including not only how many workers took the survey, but how the survey was conducted and even how many surveyed skipped each question. More than a simply interesting survey, UglyMugs put together a very intelligent survey, easily getting to the heart of matters without confusing or overwhelming those who took the survey or will read its results.

Amazingly, nearly every answer and result in the survey dierctly contradicts what we have all heard regarding people who work in the trades. Not only contrasting the anti-sex work rhetoric purporting that the majority or all sex workers are victims of sex trafficking, but the survey is also eye opening in regard to the types of people who work in this industry: not all are women, not all are white, and even a respondent above fifty years of age took the survey.

One very important portion of the survey is the section workers answered regarding whether they work alone and, if so, why they choose independent work rather than grouped or brothel-style employment. Over 50% of respondents answered that they work independently and UglyMugs includes a footnote to clarify for non workers regarding Ireland's brothel laws, criminalising workers who work in groups. Interestingly (and frighteningly enough), there may be a correlation between the 54% who answered regarding working alone and the between 60- and 70% who answered that they had been victims of crime and abuse, most of that abuse by clients or potential clients who desired unsafe encounters.

As an outsider reading about Ireland's sex trade laws, it is shocking to find out workers are criminalised for working in groups. From Prostitution in The Republic of Ireland on Wikipedia:

"Prostitution itself is not an offence under Irish law. However, the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act of 1993 prohibits soliciting or importuning another person in a street or public place for the purpose of prostitution (this offence applies to prostitute and client). It also prohibits loitering for the purpose of prostitution, organizing prostitution by controlling or directing the activities of a person in prostitution, coercing one to practice prostitution for gain, living on earnings of the prostitution of another person, and keeping a brothel or other premises for the purpose of prostitution. Advertising brothels and prostitution is prohibited by the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act of 1994."

While there was one question in the survey regarding prospective solutions regarding crime and violence against workers in Ireland, this reader was hoping for in-depth questions and clarifications regarding exactly what could be done to assist workers in cementing safer working conditions and the hopeful changing of the laws in the republic. While there were nine choices and a multiple choice option in the question of what could be done to make working conditions safer and help in the event of an attack or assault, there were no recommendations for implementation of services or directives which could be used to bring safety into actuality. However, it is understood this survey was given for information rather than problem solving initiatives or information. 

Fifty-three pages long, including small graphic representation of each answer given, clarifying notes where needed, synopses of answers, explanations of reasoning for questions, and recommendations for peer to peer help networks and other closing thoughts at the end of the survey findings, UglyMugs 2013 Victimisation Survey is available for download as a pdf on their website and at prweb

"Ugly Mugs is a scheme that aims to improve the safety of sex workers in Ireland and reduce crimes committed against them, by bringing sex workers together to share information about potential dangers." (source) Created by SafeIQ and currently available in Ireland, UK, Sweden, and Norway, UM can be accessed on computer, tablet or smartphone on the web, or through their newest offering, an Android app for Ireland users.


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