Myths and Facts

Prostitution – Busting the Myths

  • The vast majority of Irish men do not purchase sex.
  • They never have and they never will.
  • The tiny minority that do surround themselves with layers of lies, myths and excuses.

Prostitution - The Facts

There are an estimated 1,000 women in prostitution and they are practically in every city, town and village across the country.

The majority of women in prostitution in Ireland are migrant women coming from the poorest and most marginalised backgrounds.

Organised crime gangs control the bulk of the Irish sex trade. If you purchase sex you are lining the pockets of violent international criminal gangs who prey on the most vulnerable and marginalised young women and girls.

It’s time to bust the myths surrounding prostitution...


“Men who purchase sex are only looking for companionship.”


Most men who pay for sex are in relationships already. The majority of women in prostitution experience physical, sexual and psychological abuse – much of this is at the hands of men who pay to abuse them.


“Prostitution is the oldest profession in the world.”


Prostitution always has been, and always will be, nothing more than a degrading abuse of the poorest and most vulnerable women and girls.


“It is a job like any other.”


What other ‘job’ has mortality rates up to 40 times that of the most dangerous job? In what other ‘job’ do between 60-80% of people suffer violence or sexual abuse?


“Most women enter prostitution by choice.”


The majority of women in prostitution are migrants who have been trafficked and exploited.

  • Some women don’t mind it...

    The vast majority of those who sell sex are women and girls.

    A significant minority are first prostituted as children under the age of 18.

    There is a small minority of women who freely choose to sell sex, but the overwhelming majority do not.

    On any one day, it is estimated that there are at least 1,000-1,500 women involved in prostitution on the island of Ireland.

    A small proportion are Irish/Northern Irish, but most are migrant women.

    The women who come to the attention of support services originate from almost every continent on the globe, representing a wide variety of ages and ethnic backgrounds.

    Many have limited or no English and may have no friends or family support networks here.

  • It was just a laugh on a stag...

    Women and girls who sell sex report a wide range of negative consequences, including damage to their physical, sexual and emotional health, often as a result of abuse experienced at the hands of pimps, traffickers and sex buyers themselves.

    Women often report feeling trapped in prostitution – for the many who want to leave they face a number of sometimes insurmountable barriers, including debt, the risk of homelessness, addiction as a result of using substances to try and cope with the experience of selling sex, a criminal record and a lack of other viable alternatives for survival.

  • No one’s forcing them to stay on the game ...

    Many women operating in the market have been trafficked.

    These women tend to be very tightly controlled, often by debt bondage or psychological means (such as threats of violence to the woman, her children, her family, through the use of voodoo/juju etc.).

    Their traffickers move them regularly and in a planned fashion to brothels throughout the island of Ireland to maximise their profits, whilst at the same time preventing the women from finding their feet and potentially seeking help. Indeed, the highly managed and controlled nature of these movements indicate the extent to which organised crime networks are heavily involved in the trafficking of women and girls into and throughout the island.

    In addition to those who fit the official definition of a victim of trafficking, are those women and girls who may not meet all the criteria of a trafficked victim, but nevertheless have been pimped or coerced into prostitution.

    There are many similarities between this group and those who have been explicitly trafficked – both groups tend to share similar vulnerabilities and experiences of adversity, including childhood abuse, poverty, and violence experienced whilst in prostitution – which can make it almost impossible for buyers to know for sure whether or not the women they are purchasing have been trafficked or subject to some form of coercion or control.

  • Only sad, lonely and awkward guys buy sex...

    Let’s get one thing straight. Most men never buy sex.

    Amongst the small group of men who do buy sex in Ireland there is no ‘typical’ sex buyer.

    However, research has found that they are more likely than not to be in a relationship, they tend to be well educated, have incomes in the middle to high range and are employed in professional occupations. This shatters the stereotype of the sex buyer as a lonely or socially awkward single man.

    Buyers appear to view sex and the women who sell it as a commodity to be purchased with their disposable income, at their convenience. Buying sex in indoor locations (primarily brothels) on lunch breaks from the office and in the evenings after work is common.

    There is also some evidence to suggest that some men buy sex for the first time at quite a young age (under 21), often the result of peer pressure from friends or ‘initiation’ by older relatives.

    Research with sex buyers highlights the extent to which they normalise their behaviour, which includes the common assumption held by buyers that most men pay for sex. But this is simply not true, most men don’t buy sex and say that they have no intention of ever doing so in the future.

  • What if he’s single or he’s not getting it at home?

    There is no single answer to why men buy sex. The reasons can be complex.

    Most men who buy sex pay for high-risk practices (e.g. unprotected sex of various kinds).

    Some buyers see paying for sex as an expression of their masculinity and sexual prowess, in contrast to the ‘sexual availability’ of the women they are purchasing.

    Some express a desire to be able to dominate and control the woman they are purchasing.

    Others see it like any other transaction - as the consumption of a ‘commodity’ to fulfil their needs.

  • Most punters treat the girls well...

    A key, common characteristic is that many sex buyers, and particularly those that express no ambivalence about their behaviour, appear to hold very little regard for the women they purchase, no-matter what their circumstances.

    Research from a major London study shows that over half of sex buyers believe that the majority of women in prostitution have been ‘lured, tricked or trafficked’.

    A similar number believe that most women in prostitution are controlled by a pimp and many have observed that control.

    Furthermore, half the men in the study stated that they had bought sex from women whom they believed to be under the control of a pimp.

    This suggests that a significant proportion of men are aware of the exploitation of women that occurs in the sex trade.

    Even amongst those who are not, it is important to understand that buying sex in any circumstances fuels the growth of the trade, and in turn increases the number of women and girls who will become trapped or coerced into it.

  • The sex trade in Ireland is tiny...

    The sex trade is thriving on the island of Ireland and is not just confined to the major towns and cities.

    The internet and mobile phones have fueled the trade because it allows all involved to operate with greater anonymity and invisibility.

    The ability to operate under cover greatly advantages the sex traffickers and controllers.They can operate behind the scenes with near impunity while also reducing the risk of exposure for men who buy sex.

    The modern sex trade on both sides of the border is primarily located off-street, with fewer women in street‐based prostitution than ever before.

    It is predominantly operating out of apartment blocks and houses spread throughout the island.

    In addition to premises operating as brothels, some ‘massage services’ also act as a front for prostitution.

  • The women on escort sites are independent business women...

    A range of evidence links the trade to the activities of organised crime gangs.

    Women are advertised online as ‘independent escorts’ to give the illusion of their independence to sex buyers and the authorities.

    Those under the control of pimps/traffickers are moved frequently from premises to premises to avoid the attention of the police, to maintain the women’s extreme isolation and to provide a steady stream of ‘new girls’ to satisfy buyers’ demands.

    While crime gangs may manage the trade, it is fuelled by the buyers who choose to pay for sex.

  • The women must be making money. It’s not cheap...

    The majority of the Irish sex trade is highly organised and tightly controlled by a variety of criminal gangs who are profiting handsomely from the exploitation of women and girls.

    The bulk of prostitution on the island of Ireland is connected with organised criminality. It is also a lucrative, international trade with criminal gangs of numerous nationalities operating across both jurisdictions.

    There is ample evidence of Irish prostitution organisers collaborating with international recruiters and traffickers in the commercial sexual exploitation of primarily young migrant women, in multiple locations throughout the island of Ireland.