Fewer than 1 in 15 Irish men say they have purchased sex according to newest survey on prostitution in Ireland

PRESS RELEASE : MARCH 4 2020

A new tracker survey on public attitudes towards prostitution, carried out by Red C, indicates that only 6% of Irish men – fewer than one in 15 – say that they have purchased sex, but not regularly. A further 10% say that they have never purchased sex but have considered it. In contrast, 86% of people – 77% of men and 94% of women – say that they have never purchased sex nor will in the future.

The newest survey will be presented today (March 4th) at the launch of Prostitution – We Don’t Buy It, a bold, evidence-based campaign that exposes the truth about prostitution and sex trafficking.

While small, the new survey indicates a drop of 2% in the numbers of men who responded that they have purchased sex since a previous survey carried out in 2015, also by Red C (8% said they had purchased sex then). While the decrease could be within a margin of error, the organisations involved in We Don’t Buy It say it is significant that numbers seem to be flatlining.

The survey also shows that the vast majority of respondents (70%) know that purchasing sex is now a criminal offence in Ireland with over 64% agreeing that Gardaí need more resources to increase the number of arrests and prosecutions. Over half (53%) think that criminalising the purchase of sex is a good idea. These attitudes are highest for those aged over 55 and for females in general.

Under part IV of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017, it is no longer against the law to sell so called “sexual services” but it is a criminal offence to purchase sex in Ireland.

“We all know the jaded lies and the myths – like most women choose to be escorts, that lonely men are only looking for companionship with ‘the girlfriend experience’, or that prostitution is the oldest profession in the world,” said Barbara Condon, CEO of Ruhama, one of the organisations behind We Don’t Buy It. “But the truth is that prostitution always has been, and always will be, nothing more than the violent, degrading abuse of the poorest and most vulnerable women and girls. In what other ‘job’ do women regularly experience being spat at, strangled, punched, and raped, or to be seen as legitimate targets for misogyny and men’s violence?”

“The lies and the myths are the justifications that allow the continuation of a multi-million euro business that benefits criminal gangs and on-line pimping websites masquerading as businesses that are trading openly in human misery.”

She said that it was encouraging that the majority of Irish people don’t actually buy the myths. The new survey indicates that 68% of Irish people believe that women are drawn into prostitution as a result of difficult circumstances such as poverty or other vulnerabilities. Over three out of four people (77%) believe that women in prostitution experience violence or abuse and 70% believe that the people who benefit most from prostitution are criminal gangs. Only 8% believe that women freely choose prostitution.

The survey also indicates some slightly less empathetic attitudes amongst younger ages, in particular 18-34 year olds. This demographic is less likely to feel that women in prostitution do so as a last resort, for example, and are also less likely than the general population to believe that the people who benefit most from prostitution are criminal gangs.

Sean Cooke, CEO of the Men’s Development Network, said that this trend correlates with work that they do with men’s groups and international research that indicates a desensitising of attitudes with increased access to pornography and a glamorising of prostitution on-line particularly.

We Don’t Buy It, the campaign, is based on the testaments of women and girls in prostitution in Ireland. It is also based on international research that looks at the attitudes and social characteristics of men who buy sex.

There are an estimated 1,000 women in prostitution in Ireland. The majority are migrants who have been trafficked and exploited, a significant number as children under 18. They are moved around the country and advertised on-line, often without their knowledge. The majority of women in prostitution in Ireland experience physical, sexual and psychological abuse – much of this is at the hands of men who pay to abuse them.

A recent Irish report highlighted the need for increased exist supports for women in the Irish sex trade. Research has shown that up to 90% of women would like to get out of prostitution but can’t. They are tightly controlled by violence, by threats to their families, by inescapable debt bondage and a lack of viable alternatives and supports.

Research also shows that most men who pay for sex are in relationships already. They are most often middle aged, middle-class and well-educated. The weekday spikes in the purchase of sex in Ireland are at lunchtime and just after work when they are less likely to arise suspicion.


We don’t buy it is supported by a number of organisations working together to end prostitution and sex trafficking in Ireland including Ruhama, an NGO that works with women affected by prostitution and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation, SPACE International (Survivors of Prostitution Abuse Calling for Enlightenment), which was co-founded by Dublin survivor Rachel Moran, the Men’s Development Network (MDN) and the Sexual Violence Centre Cork.

We Don’t Buy It was first launched in 2015.

For more information contact: Edel Hackett, Tel: 087-2935207

Prostitution – We Don’t Buy It

  • 70% of Irish people understand that purchasing sex is a criminal offence.
  • 64% agree that Gardaí need more resources to increase the numbers of arrests and prosecutions for the purchase of sex.
  • 68% of people – 72% of women and 64% of men – believe that women are drawn into prostitution as a result of circumstances such as poverty or other vulnerabilities.
  • 8% believe that women freely chose prostitution. This is higher for men at 12%.
  • 77% believe that women in prostitution experience violence or abuse.
    86% of people – 77% of men and 94% of women – have never purchased sex nor will in the future.
  • 6% of men have purchased sex but not regularly.