STEREOTYPING, it could be said, removes the need to confront reality or to encounter others as they are – rather than as we wish to perceive them.
Perhaps one of the most distorted images is that of the female prostitute. Hollywood presented us with ‘Pretty Woman’, a story with a happy ending and a happy hooker who is rescued from her wayward employment by a rich and benevolent client.
The tabloid press, Hollywood, even popular fiction all love to tell us about the ‘tart with a heart’ or about women who see the light and give up earning huge sums for some more honest and respectable profession.
The reality is that there’s nothing cutesy-pie about working in the sex trade.
Many of the women are lured here from eastern Europe with a promise that they will earn lots of money to pay off debts or support family at home. Most seem not to know before they come that they will be offering sexual services rather than doing a regular job. Once they get here, they are threatened, coerced and beaten if they baulk at selling sex.
In many brothels, refusing to have sex without a condom or refusing anal sex is punished with a beating from the security man or a fine of €400. Many say they are terrified. All say they hate the work.
For some women, it is the only way they can escape grinding poverty. For more, selling sex is their escape from being beaten or, as one brothel keeper is known to do, scarred for life. Others sell their services to pay for their addiction. In the emergency section of the Novas initiative homeless service there are currently nine women, all of them Irish, eight of them working in the sex trade and three of them are pregnant.
There are many arguments about how the situation should be handled. Some argue for the creation of legal prostitution where the women have a greater degree of protection and support. Others argue for the criminalisation of buying sex.
While there is huge money to be made – and there are fortunes being amassed – from the sale of sex, women will continue being abused, beaten and exploited.
See our cetre page spread in this week’s print edition or oin our digital edition online at http://www.limerickpost.ie/digital/2013/2013-01-12/