#189 Sex Trade Survivor's Fight to Shut Down an Escort Website

April 02, 2023 FiLiA Episode 189
#189 Sex Trade Survivor's Fight to Shut Down an Escort Website
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#189 Sex Trade Survivor's Fight to Shut Down an Escort Website
Apr 02, 2023 Episode 189

"We all understand what unwanted sex is; another word for that is rape. We all understand that, but when there's money involved, people suddenly don't seem to make that connection of what unwanted sex is bad for you. But if you're getting paid for it, then suddenly it's okay."

When Mia Doring was in the sex trade, she convinced herself it was just a job. She described her former state of mind in her book: "I was seduced by temporarily feeling valued and further groomed by the culture surrounding it ; the constant messaging that my value lay in my sexual appeal to men. I called the punters ‘clients’ and charged for my time. There was no problem. I needed it to be okay. Why shouldn’t men pay me for sex? Why shouldn’t I sell it? It’ s my body. I can do what I want, as long as I don’ t tell anyone. And I’ m proud of myself for being tough enough to do this".

After she exited prostitution, her perspective changed. Many prostitution survivors undergo this change of mind, but it wasn't enough for Mia Doring, as she knew that the sex trade kept harming women. A year ago, she published her book, which tells the truth about the sex industry. Now she is fighting to shut down the largest prostitution site in her home country of Ireland.

This petition calls on the Justice Department of the Irish Government, Helen McEntee and Interim Justice Minister Simon Harris, to implement a plan for legislation which would block any website advertising sex for sale, specifically Escort Ireland.

#escortwebsite #prostituion #MiaDoring #AnyGirl #EscortIreland

Show Notes Transcript

"We all understand what unwanted sex is; another word for that is rape. We all understand that, but when there's money involved, people suddenly don't seem to make that connection of what unwanted sex is bad for you. But if you're getting paid for it, then suddenly it's okay."

When Mia Doring was in the sex trade, she convinced herself it was just a job. She described her former state of mind in her book: "I was seduced by temporarily feeling valued and further groomed by the culture surrounding it ; the constant messaging that my value lay in my sexual appeal to men. I called the punters ‘clients’ and charged for my time. There was no problem. I needed it to be okay. Why shouldn’t men pay me for sex? Why shouldn’t I sell it? It’ s my body. I can do what I want, as long as I don’ t tell anyone. And I’ m proud of myself for being tough enough to do this".

After she exited prostitution, her perspective changed. Many prostitution survivors undergo this change of mind, but it wasn't enough for Mia Doring, as she knew that the sex trade kept harming women. A year ago, she published her book, which tells the truth about the sex industry. Now she is fighting to shut down the largest prostitution site in her home country of Ireland.

This petition calls on the Justice Department of the Irish Government, Helen McEntee and Interim Justice Minister Simon Harris, to implement a plan for legislation which would block any website advertising sex for sale, specifically Escort Ireland.

#escortwebsite #prostituion #MiaDoring #AnyGirl #EscortIreland


Luba Fein from FiLiA in conversation with Mia Döring a sex trade survivor’s fight to shut down an escort website

Luba: Hello from FiLiA. Today I have Mia Döring with me. Mia is a sex trade survivor and an outspoken abolitionist activist from the Republic of Ireland.  Mia, thank you for accepting our invitation to the interview. Please tell our audience a little bit more about you. First of all, how did you get into abolitionist activism?

Mia: I got into it about 11 years ago in 2011. So I got out of the sex trade and I moved to Berlin. And while I was in Berlin, I had this like realisation that everything that happened to me was actually not okay. Like being removed from the situation because I wasn't involved in it very much. It wasn't my daily life. 

 But being out of the city where it all happened, having to be just with myself, made me have to kind of look at what has happened to me and I got into a relationship when I was in Berlin that also showed me myself in a different way, and I kind of started realising like I actually hate all those men and that sex trade is a really bad thing.

This was a growing awareness. It wasn't like poof suddenly I realised. It was a growing awareness of why I felt so resentful and why I kind of felt so insecure and so down in myself all the time. And I also realised that porn is really bad. That was, I started reading more about pornography and watching videos about porn and stuff.

I came across Shelly Lubben, who's now dead and her work, and I just realised, oh my God, I was trying to make the existence of pornography something okay to coexist with, and I don't have to. It was seeing somebody else say, you don't have to. And then I found Gail Dines and so on. And I think Berlin was when I really, I was always, I always called myself a feminist, but I really became a feminist then, like a radical feminist then. I just started educating myself more. 

 Then I came back to Dublin and I was back in Dublin, so I was back with the memories and the places and whatnot, and I was like, I cannot be here and not do anything about the sex trade. So that's when I started reaching out to journalists because there was a lot of articles going around at the time, I would say very biased articles, quoting certain factions of society.

And I was getting really frustrated reading these, calling it sex work and so on. And I was like, it isn't work. And I was like, oh, these people just don't understand. Of course now that was so naive. Now I know they do understand. but I was like, I just need to tell these journalists the truth. And it was a very dangerous psychological time for me because I was kind of reaching out to these random people, who knew well, what they were doing, you know? 

Then I came across this campaign called Turn Off the Red Light that had just started and connected with them. I was writing a blog called Secret Diary of a Dublin Call Girl. That was kind of my main work because that blew up. This was before I joined the campaign or anything.

That blog really blew up and it was quite frightening. It was anonymous, of course, and it was a place for me just to vent all my stuff into, and all my anger really. I had so much anger and really a place for me to explore my own thoughts and feelings on my own story and get my head around it, but have it be not just me on my own or me with a therapist or something, it was like have it be acknowledged by people and to realise the impact of it.

That people were like saying, I've changed my entire mind about the sex trade now. And people were shocked at certain things like review websites and stuff, people were shocked about that and they didn't know. So that was really the first thing I did when I came back to Dublin. 

I just had to find a place to be acknowledged I think, or have what happened to be, be acknowledged. And then I joined the campaign, but I was kind of involved, I was sort of involved in the campaign. I met Rachel Moran, my good friend, the author of Paid For via my blog, then I was just doing bits and bobs over the years to try and get the Nordic Model into the Ireland, which we did in 2017.

And yeah, that's how I got into it. 

Luba: One of your last projects was really significant for me, your book, Any Girl. I have read it recently and I couldn't put it down until I finished it. It was one of those books you cannot stop reading as a sex trade survivor and an abolitionist myself, I identify with every word there. 

I guess you didn't write that book mainly for people like me. So who is the target audience for this book, the real target audience, and what message did you want to convey to them? 

Mia: My main target audience I think is young women. I don’t know if it's a target audience, but that's who I'd like to read it. Young women like me when I was 25 in Berlin, realising I don't have to accept this as the status quo. I don't have to accept sex work is work, and I just have to accept that that's just tough for me that I had a shit experience, but like I just have to accept that this is an okay thing in the world and I just have to accept the pornography as an okay thing in the world.

I want young women to realise that they don't have to accept certain things, that they don't have to make things be okay for themselves. If they're not, they don't have to be involved in the sex trade or OnlyFans or whatever, just any young woman to realise I can say no to certain things.

I don't have to give in to be loved, to be liked, to belong, to have a sense of worth. I can resist certain very normalised thoughts and ideas we have in society, what it is to be a woman and what to expected of us, and what to expected of men. I can resist that. 

I want young women to be empowered by my book to feel like actually I have things to say and I'm allowed to say them, and I'm allowed to set the terms and conditions around how I go through the world, not our patriarchal system or what others think is expected of a woman.

I think that that's kind of the main thing. 

There's so many reasons and so many audiences for the book. The main thing would've been for me back then; I would've liked to have read a book like mine back then. Also, obviously I want people who have influenced in various countries to try and change the law just so that they're more aware of what is actually happening in the sex trade because most people have an idea about it and it comes from social media or it comes from films, or it comes from pop culture or comes from TV shows or whatever, that has nothing to do with the actual reality of the sex trade. So that's another reason I wrote it. That we could bring more awareness to the general public, but also people of influence who can make change happen in various countries as well. 

Luba: Now, in your answer, you have mentioned that you don't have to accept prostitution as work. You don't have to accept pornography as work. But what actually makes prostitution different from blue collar jobs? Some people think it's a matter of conditions. If we improve the conditions in prostitution or in pornography, it will become yet another decent blue colour job. Would you agree with that? 

Mia: No.

You can't make sex be a job because it's sex. And that's really all there is to it. Like, you can't make sex be a job because we're talking about sex. For me, that's the end of it, you know? It's part of who we are. Me making a coffee for someone as a barista or me doing whatever job, right, is not my soul.

Do you know what I mean? I'm not giving an organ to somebody to do a job. I don’t know how to explain this, because we're talking about sex, so it cannot be a job. It's like I write in the book, in my attempt to try and make this make sense, because for me it's so obvious. It's like thinking you can buy somebody's taste in music. It's like, well, I'm going to pay you to like this kind of music. like, or I'm going to pay you to like this kind of food, or I'm going to pay you to like whatever, taste in whatever we have. You can't do that. That's not something that can be bought and it's not something you can have conditions around. Like, I'm going to pay you to like this piece of music. And we're going to put conditions around that to make that be a normal job. 

I know this sounds mental, but this is kind of how it resonates for me. okay. I can Pretend I like this kind of music for this much money and then I get rated and reviewed online for how well I pretended I liked that piece of music.

It's as ridiculous as arguing that that is a job. Do you know what I mean? It's as ridiculous as that because we're talking about sexuality. It's sexuality, It's not a produce in the same way.

Luba: of course. you cannot make someone like music they don't like, or be physically attracted to someone that they're not attracted to.

But you won't be traumatised by pretending that you like some of the music. You will be traumatised by unwanted sex, by pretending that you like it. 

Mia: You'll be traumatised by that because it's unwanted sex and we all understand what unwanted sex is, another word for that is rape. We all understand that but when there's money involved, people suddenly don't seem to make that connection of what unwanted sex is bad for you. But if you're getting paid for it, then suddenly it's okay. Regardless of how much you’re getting paid the unwanted sex remains. Even if in your head you're going, which is what I did for four years, I was like, this is fine, I consented to that. Because I did, I consented to sex for this much money or that particular thing I don't really want to do for that much money. Cognitively in my head I'm saying, this is fine. It'll be over in an hour. I'll get some money. I'll do this with that money. This is all okay. It's worth it.

The body doesn't operate in the mind; it doesn't operate intellectually. It's the nervous system receives the unwanted sex. The body receives it and the body is the thing that gets traumatised. Our mind doesn't get traumatised. Our body gets traumatised, our nervous system gets traumatised, and that is what feeds into our mind then.

So no matter how we think about something, whether we're thinking sex work is work and this is my job and this is fine, the body is the thing that's getting traumatised, and that's where we live out our lives from, doesn't matter what we're thinking about it. It's like a woman in a relationship with an abusive man and. She's saying it's okay. He loves me really, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. She's getting traumatised anyway. Whether she's saying this is all okay, he's going to apologize and everything's going to be okay again. She's still getting traumatised. 

And we all understand that when it comes to domestic abuse, we understand that and we've got compassion for her. But when it comes to money, it's like something happens for us and we're like, well, you got compensated, so what's the problem? It's a job. It's a job you just didn't really like. No, it's a job that traumatised me and it was rape actually. 

Luba: You know that many people say that, I encounter them every day, people who claim that comparing prostitution to rape diminishes rape. But unfortunately there are enough women who have been through both and can compare.

 So what are your insight about this comparison? Because they say rape means you didn't have a chance to agree, in prostitution you have a chance to agree or disagree.  

Mia: So it's like it's not a legal rape in my situation. It's not a legal rape because I said, yeah, okay, I'll do that. That's fine. I consented. I gave my consent. But when we're talking about consent just means yes or no. It doesn't mean I gave my consent, I agreed, I acquiesced, I complied, or I didn't. It doesn't go into why we complied. So you can get raped and still say yes to sex because you didn't want to have us. It's not legal rape, but it's moral rape because the man knows you don't want to have sex, otherwise he wouldn't be paying you for sex. He knows that. He knows you don't actually want to have sex with him, so I don't buy into that thing of, it diminishes rape. It doesn't. I was raped when I was 16 and I'm far more, I mean, not that it matters, but I'm far more traumatised by what happened to me in the sex rate than, and when I was being abused than that rape. I'm not saying that means anything, but that's just how it is for me.

But I would say that I was willingly raped for four years in the sex trade. I offered myself up to be raped, not knowing that's what I was doing. Rape is unwanted sex, and that's what's happening in the sex trade. I'm not telling everybody in prostitution that they're all getting raped. I'm not. I wouldn't say that because you don't want to come down on someone and say, this is what's happening to. That's infantilising and it's patronising and actually it's just not helpful because they're just going to fight back against that. But that is what it is. I mean, taking out about how people feel about it, unwanted sex is rape, prostitution is unwanted sex, so it's rape. And the men know full well that the woman doesn't want to have sex with them. It's not like, it's not like they're deluded I don’t think.

Luba: This was a very important clarification because just like you said, you, you understand something very clearly about the psychology of prostitution, but, sometimes it's just so challenging to make it approachable to the general public.

Your book is very important because it talks a lot about the psychology of prostitution, about the issues that I think every survivor struggles with at some point of time, questions like, how did we get there? Why did we agree to it? Or maybe it was beneficial in some way and we deny it now. Why didn't we leave right away? 

I feel that the difficulty in understanding the psychology behind the mechanism of the sex trade causes some of the public to keep a distance from us.

 So let's talk briefly about the hidden means of soliciting and grooming that, bring women into the industry.

The public often says they didn't keep you there by force. Why did you choose it? Why didn't you leave? So what would you tell them?  

Mia: Well I can only speak to my own experience, but it's a very long story, but I'll try and keep it short. So after I was raped, the man came into my life and he groomed me via text messaging.

And I spent three years seeing him on and off every now and then. And it wasn't part of my daily life, it wasn't part of my weekly life even. It wasn't there enough for me to break away from. It was kind of in the background and it wasn't difficult to coexist with because the first time I met him, so he groomed me for about a year, then I met him and then when I was leaving his house, he gave me a hundred pounds and he said, this is pocket money. So money was never spoken about until this moment. So I was 17 years old and I took the money and I was thrilled. I was like £200. This is brilliant. I can buy stuff. It's great.

When you're 17, when you're £100 it's like a lot of money. It's like a million pounds. So I was delighted and in that moment, everything that had happened before that completely got glossed over. I was like, I'd been compensated for what had happened. The reason I was so attached to this man, attached is not the right word, the reason I was so sucked in, before I even met him was because my sexuality had been so broken by being raped, that this man giving me attention, felt good. It felt like this broken part of me was getting attention at last, even if it was really shady, not nice attention because he was very controlling, dominating, powerful. I'd have to text him back by a certain time, that kind of thing.

I knew it was sexual from the very beginning. He was interested in me having a school uniform and so on but none of that put me off because this part of me that was so broken and so unseen and unwitnessed, because nobody knew I'd been raped. This part of me was finally, this broken part of me, my broken sexuality was finally being acknowledged and seen and valued.

So when I met him, it was, I'm not even going to get into what happened. It was really weird. And then I was leaving and he gave me the money and then it was like, oh my God, this is how much I'm worth. This is how much my sexuality is worth. I'm important. You know, I was 17 and then I'd left, and then I continued seeing him. And then for three years, every now and then I'd meet him in hotel rooms around Dublin. And every time the money would be left for me, he used to make me wear of this like pornified school uniform and he'd leave it in the bathroom of the hotel room and the money would be on top of it. And, we carried on. We never spoke about money again. And it was £100 every time.

 So that is how money became the thing. If he hadn't paid me, I don’t what would've happened. I'd say I might have, but I got sick of him eventually and he wasn’t a nice person, obviously, I got sick of him and got away from him.

But it might have happened a lot earlier if the money hadn't been involved because I needed to feel like I had self-worth and I needed to feel like I was valued. And that's really was the hook for me. I didn't think about it. I was like, this is fine. And then eventually it just became a job. And he sent me to this old man friend of his in a hotel. I didn't know this man. I knew he was going to pay me a hundred pounds so this felt like a job. It felt like I was going to this place for this time, for this amount of money, this is now a job. So I did that. That was horrendous. He was so abusive. It was absolutely horrific. He beat me up with a belt. It was awful. And in that moment, I remember lying on the bed. He put me in this position and then he had a wank behind me. It was so degrading. And I think in that moment for me, something clicked in me that this is a job. That whole encounter was like, this is a job you can do, or this is a job now. This is just a job. 

And then another thing clicked in me in that I can actually endure this level of violence, and that was unfortunate that it wasn't what clicked to me, like, you don't have to endure this, but actually you have to, because my entire nervous system was always in freeze mode. So it was those like fight, flight or freeze. It's like our trauma responses and also fawn. Mine would be going between freeze and fawn. So floppy, passive, just waiting for the thing to be over or freeze and endure is my main thing. Freeze and endure. And that's always been where my body goes to with trauma, fight or flight, weren't accessible to me. So it goes freeze and fawn. Freeze is the closest to death. It's what happens when animals are attacked. They think they're going to die and they just freeze. And completely, they're not even conscious when the death happens to them. And then you've got fawn and then you've got fight or flight or where you're more activated, you're more-able to move. But for me, that was cut off and I was only able to freeze or fawn. So on that bed I totally froze and endured and waited for it to be over. 

The more something happens to us, the more, this is kind of garbled, I'm sorry, but the more something happens to us, the more the neural pathways for that behaviour are laid down.

So the more we're abused, and have to f endure something, the more we endure things. Does that make sense? 

Luba: Yeah, it makes perfect sense, what you described, I can relate to that. It is the societal grooming of young women to prostitution, which is like all the norms and practices and what is considered to be acceptable grooms you into being someone who is performing unwanted sex. Some sort of abuse benefit. Sometimes, beneficial, like some money, sometimes not really beneficial. 

It makes me to ask the question whether there is a clear border, clear line between trafficking and voluntary prostitution because many people would read your book and would say she wasn't prostituted at a gun point.

On the other hand, being prostitutes as a teenager, 17 years old is trafficking by definition in the Palermo Protocol of many legal frameworks of different countries.

 So do you think that border exists? Can you say who was trafficked and who was prostituted voluntarily or it is some sort of perception that can change over their life?

Mia: Trafficking is the moving of somebody. Sex trafficking for the moving of somebody around to exploit them and I wasn't sex trafficked, but prostitution exists on like a spectrum.

Anna, who wrote a book called Slave, she was sex trafficked. She was stolen off her street in London, brought to Ireland, brought to Galway, and then trafficked around Ireland for nine months before eventually escaping. She's the most black and white version of what trafficking is. Literally taken off a street and being beaten up and raped and whatnot. At one end. And then you have trafficking where somebody thinks they're getting a certain job and then they end up in prostitution, or they're paying somebody to bring them somewhere to get a job somewhere and then they end up that it's prostitution or they know it's prostitution, but then when they arrive in the country, the terms are totally changed and it's a different person's in charge and then they're being exploited, all the way down to me who voluntarily chose it.

But I don't see it really as voluntarily choosing anything because so much was happening at an unconscious level that was making me do this. People say it was a free choice, and I was like, it was a choice. I don't really know if any choice is free, because no choices exist in a vacuum. Choices are informed by so much. So yes, it was a choice. It's a choice I don't remember making, I don't remember anything about it. But yeah, it was a free choice. But I wouldn't say I was sex trafficked. No. because I wasn't sex trafficked.

Luba: Which means sometimes you can make the difference at the individual level, but you cannot make one clear definition that excludes anyone from definition of trafficking. 

Mia: The thing is that like everybody's being, no matter whether you're being sex trafficked or choosing it or whatever, the pull is the same.

So people are sex trafficked in to prostitution. And sometimes your arguments like, don't conflate sex trafficking and sex workers and this bullshit. 

Luba: You said some women have a the very precise definition of trafficking. Even, I have a friend who was kidnapped from Eastern Europe and trafficked to Israel to be force forcefully prostituted. This is clear cut case. In many cases there's a grey area. On one hand it was voluntary. In other hand, something illegal happened there, illegal under any law, like being a child. 

Anyway, I guess we should keep living with this sort of doubts and clearance about the definitions of prostitution and trafficking. 

Mia: Either way, it's like everybody's being exploited in one place regardless how they got there, and the men don't care. The men aren't going around and being like, oh no, that's definitely a brothel. I'm not going to go there. 

Luba: This is very important point of view that punters don't come and analyse or ask themselves. They even prefer the woman to be exploited.

But by the way, I wanted to ask you before, why did you call the book Any Girl

Mia: It's kind of like what you just said, like it could happen to anybody. What happened to me was a case of chance, I suppose, and really, really bad luck. And that can happen to anybody. Bad luck is a weird way to put male violence, but what I mean is like, it could happen to anybody. They could have been raped in that park. Anybody could have gotten involved with that man and many do.

 And as you said, you can't say what won't happen to my daughter because my daughter isn’t poor, you know, I'm protecting her. She's got a stable family. She's not in care. She's not addicted to drugs. But like none of those things applied to me either. And that's why I called it Any Girl, because nobody's immune to male violence and exploitation. Nobody, just like, nobody's immune to domestic abuse, to being an abusive partner. There's nothing about us that we have to change to avoid that as women.

Luba: Your and Rachel Moran’s struggle and the struggle of many other women, it led to a huge victory. Your country was the seventh in the world to adopt a law banning the purchase of prostitution. But by the way, mine was the eighth. 

So when it happened in Ireland in 2017, what were your expectations of the law? What did you think the law would change? 

Mia: Well, the law is the Nordic Model, the Equality Model, I think they're calling it now. It criminalises the purchase of sex. It decriminalises the sale of sex, brothel keeping remains a crime. So it means that the onus is now put on the exploiter instead of the victim.

And it doesn't matter who you are in the sex trade, you're not going to be criminalised for what you're doing, you're not going to be criminal or why you're doing it, you're not going to be criminalised. It makes the target of the situation of prostitution be the men who are the demand and who fund it and fuel it and are the reason it exists which is amazing to have. It's a really radical law.  

Luba: So what were your expectations? What will happen? And whether those expectations were met.

Mia: So the law is five, six years old now. My expectations were very high that it would end the sex trade in Ireland.

Expectations is probably the wrong word, aspirations or hopes, I suppose hopes would be that it would work or that it would not work, but that it would end the sex trade. But the men need to be prosecuted and they need to be arrested and they need to be sought. They need to be found by the police, which is difficult and it's difficult to prove that sex has been paid for. So there's still a training and stuff going on with the police and whatnot around that. 

I don't know if my expectations have been met, because I don't think we're going to end the sex trade in my lifetime anyway.

And I am also aware that laws take a while to integrate and to be enacted and to happen. And because prostitution is such a stigmatised thing, the ideas around prostitution is so wrong about what's actually happening. I don't really know much about this now, but the police are just human people who also have the ideas that the rest of society has around prostitution, but there may not be a will to go after the men because we've got such a forgiving attitude towards men in general, but also men who pay for sex. We've got such a forgiving attitude towards them.

My expectations were like sky high, so like it's too soon to kind of say, but prosecutions are happening. I met with a few members of the police a while ago who work in the prostitution unit, and there's three of them and they're just incredible people and they're so passionate and they really care about the women.

I think things are 100% changing. I just think it takes time. But I would like to see more men being arrested. 100%. I'd like to see that. And that the police are doing that. They're doing raids. Raids is the wrong word. They're doing welfare checks on the women. So I'm using the, the wrong language there completely, they're not raids, that's just what other people call them. They're doing welfare checks on the women and they do this texting thing where they text them and, and check in on them and so on. But I would like to see the men be arrested, I suppose I'd like it to be more of a priority, I guess.

I mean, I don't really know much about how it's being policed, to be honest with you. It's not my area. 

Luba: Are there any governmental law, societal or other forces in Ireland who oppose the law, trying to abolish it. 

Mia: Yes, there’s an organization called the Sex Workers of Ireland who would like decriminalisation of the sex trade. I don’t know if there's any other organisation in Ireland. Oh, Amnesty. Yeah, Amnesty Ireland. Amnesty International, I think unfortunately voted for it (decriminalisation). It was a very close vote. I was there that day, this was years ago, 2015, 16 or something, I can't remember. That's frustrating considering they're a human rights organisation, but I think that's it. Amnesty in Ireland, Amnesty Ireland and Sex Workers Alliance of Ireland. They would lobby for decriminalisation.

Luba: Who were the Sex Workers Alliance of Ireland? Are the people who are involved in the sex trade or just the people who support the sex trade? 

Mia: I don't really know what they do anymore. They had a director who is involved in the sex trade, who's now not their director anymore. I'm really not sure who they're made up of or what they do. They definitely have some people involved in the sex trade involved with them, but I'm not sure who they are. I really don't know. It seems to me like they're just a Twitter account at the moment. 

Luba: Imagine yourself debating them now, the decrim people, and they tell you we have to make everything legal to protect people in prostitution, police persecution of any party in the sex industry, including the punters and third partyers. And the stigma endangers them as well. So what would you tell them?

Mia: I don’t know if I would tell them anything. I don't really know if I would even talk to them because it's like, we're not looking for the same thing as in what's best for all women. Obviously legalising a harmful thing is not good for all women. That's obvious. I don't need to look up statistics. Legalising rape is bad for women, so let's not do that. that's the same thing, the same pre decriminalisation. So I don't know if I tell them anything. There's also probably very little point telling them anything because they wouldn't listen to me anyway. But I would tell them like, my aim is what's best for all women, not just women in the sex trade, that's our priority obviously, it's for all women, it's for the society. It's for the contribution we want to leave. It's the legacy we want to leave. It's the kind of world we want to have for our daughters. Is it a world where we say it's okay for men to pay their way inside a woman's body or not?

They're saying, oh, enabling this patriarchal structure is good for women. And I'm saying, well, obviously it's not, it's obviously not 

Luba: Okay. I agree with you, maybe we should not delve too deep into all the statistics. We should say, we should not legalise prostitution, just like rape, just like slavery, just like domestic violence. You can look at the reports.

Mia: They can look it over. I'm not going to start telling them stuff. Obviously decriminalisation and legalisation absolutely massively explode the sex trade, and that's not what I want. I don't want men to feel more entitled to go and pay for sex.

We're talking about two different things. They're saying paying for sex is fine, and I'm saying it's not fine. So obviously they're going to say, this is a better option, and I'm going to say it's not. 

Luba: Speaking of entitled men, the website, Escort Ireland I have heard that these days you are promoting the petition against the website, Escort Ireland, where those entitled men can choose a woman in prostitution, rate her performance, leave offensive comments.

So please tell our audience, what this site does and why you are against it. 

Mia: Escort Ireland is a prostitution site, and it's founded by a convicted pimp called Peter McCormick, who was an RUC officer in Northern Ireland. And his son is also a convicted pimp, Mark McCormick. And he started Escort Ireland in the nineties when prostitution became illegal to solicit for sex.

So it became illegal to advertise, so he wasn't able to advertise his brothels in the back of magazines anymore or in phone boxes or wherever. Yeah, it's a place where men go. They can look up the escort they want. They can look up the town or the city they're in and find the escorts that are there. They can look at the things that woman list off as things she'll do, or whoever's writing the advert because obviously we don't know.

And it says things like, she'll do anal or she'll do French kissing or oral without a condom or whatever. So there's a big long list of stuff or a very small list, whatever. And you can look at photos of her. He can look at her statistics or her breast size, whether she's got pubic hair or not, et cetera, et cetera, and her age, et cetera, her nationality or the one that's claimed to be. And he could read reviews that other men have written of their experience with this woman. And in these reviews, they, uh, give stars out of five for things like physical appearance, location, overall satisfaction, value for money and then they can put a thumbs up or thumbs down, or would repeat, or wouldn't repeat. And how long they were there for, whether there was 30 minutes, an hour, and how much they paid is all listed there. And then they can leave a review or they can leave a comment saying like, I had a great time with whoever. She's wonderful lads, , treat her well, this kind of comment. They could say whatever they want, they might say - She clearly didn't want to look at me. She kept her eyes closed the whole time. There was people knocking at the door. There were male voices in another room. When I got there, it wasn't the same woman who was on the phone. Suddenly she had no English. It wasn't the same girl as the one in the pictures.

Luba: And doesn't look or sound like clear signs of trafficking! 

Mia: Yes. Doesn't want to look me, didn't open her eyes once, didn't look at me, kept saying no, would only use her hand, kept pretending that I was inside her when really she was using her hand -  but then he went on anyway, this guy, this particular guy had sex with her anyway.

She kept saying things like, no extra. She would only have language for sex related terms. She had no English for anything else. She wanted me in and out within a few minutes, she kept saying, come now, come now, all signs that a woman does not, at the very best, is not happy in the situation. At worst, she's been forced there.

But the men don't care. They go ahead because they paid and then they leave their review afterwards.

Luba: In addition to the illegal nature of this website, can it cause any harm to the particular women mentioned on the site?  

Mia: Yes, it totally can. So their pimp or trafficker will be watching their reviews. The pimp or trafficker writes the thing for them, takes photos of them, puts them online. They might have several profiles for one particular woman to create a sense of a variety and choice or whatever for the men. And they write the ads and so on. And then if the woman is getting bad reviews or getting low stars or whatever, she's obviously beaten up or raped or things get worse for her. So it's really dangerous for the women involved. 

Luba: Does the site offer any positive value to women in prostitution? Like the option to advertise themselves or filter punters? 

Mia: well, it depends on the woman who's being advertised. If she's there like I was, then of course I could filter punters. But like filtering punters is like, you have no idea really, because a man just rings you up. And then he says, are you working now? Or where are you based? And then you say, yeah, I'm not working today, I'm working tomorrow, whatever. And then you arrange to see him and then you hope you get a sort of a good vibe on the phone. That's kind of how it works. The only good thing, about Escort Ireland is that they have a private message board for women. I think they still do, they might not, I don't know, where it's just for advertisers, but the issue is that the pimps who run the site are fully aware they could read all of this stuff. So that's not good for the women. The women need to have their own separate space where they can talk to each other about punters are about whatever.

But yeah, filtering or screening punters, like that certainly wasn't a thing when I was involved. I don’t know what that would even would be. Maybe things are different now because of smartphones and stuff, but like you still don’t know who's going to be behind the door when you go to a hotel room or how many men are going to be there if they'll be the same guy who rang you, you just don’t know. You have no idea. 

Luba: Just, maybe a naive question, why it is so difficult to take down the site that in the law in Ireland prohibits the advertising of sexual services?  Why do we need to battle and with international support when it can just be taken down?

Mia:  Yeah. No, it's not as complicated as that. It's not as easy as that maybe. So I met the Justice Minister in May, specifically about this website, and she said they'll just pop back up again. But the first thing to say is that this website works outside the jurisdiction, they're in Spain, I think they might be in London again now, they move around. They were in Spain the last time I checked. So they operate outside the jurisdiction. So Irish laws don't govern that website then, because they're in Spain. So it needs to be an international thing. 

Luba: But, they can block the access to the site.

Mia: Well, that's what I want to happen. I want them to work with internet providers to block access to that website. Just the way that has been done and can be done. She did say that popup and their internet is computer geniuses. 

So internet geniuses, you know what I mean? So they could replicate that website in a day and have it up again with no difference happening. And I understand that, I know it's complicated, but we just need to start something. And the Justice Minister has committed to action on this website so that's great, but we just need to hold them accountable to taking some action or doing something about it because it's just left on the back burner. And as long as that website is there, that website holds a monopoly over the whole of the sex trade in Ireland. So if that's gone, the sex trade would crumble and it would come back again. They'd find another way to come back up again. But then we could just block that one. Do you know, it would be like whack-a-Mole. We need to find a way to interrupt their activity, this website with everything we can. So if it's getting the internet service providers to block the websites and they pop back up again, and then we block that one, like any way to interrupt their activity. 

Luba: So what can we do as FiLiA for this petition against this website? 

Mia: So we needed to get attention, we needed to advertise it or share it as much as we possibly can to get as much international attention as possible so that we can show the Irish government, like, this is a thing and people support this, and you're not allowed to let this be on the back burner.

Luba: Thank you. We will surely do it. So before we finish any message for our listeners? 

Mia: I think one of the things that I'm thinking about a lot is how we can amplify survivors, so buy their books, buy my book, buy Rachel's book, buy Hannah's book, Slave. Buy the book for other people. I like to do that because, people might be like, oh yeah, I'll get that book, and then they never do. So I just buy the book for people.

To treat survivors as equals, what you said earlier about like, the public can be kind of like separate from survivors of the sex trade. And I've noticed that in my own life, people in my own life, it's like, it's too dark or it brings up something for them that they're like, I don't want to be associated with that. And I embody that for them, you know, in a way, even though they might love me and like me and all the rest of it. 

So, yeah. I'm kind of going on a tangent here, but sometimes the organization, I'm not talking about FiLiA, just mean in general, in my work, you kind of get treated as a survivor, so they’re like, ‘tell us your story’ and that's all your role is.

Whereas I am so much more than just my story and it's replicating the objectification of survivors if we're just our story in how we engage with those organisations, we're like, it's infantilising. 

So if anybody's listening who works in an organisation, I would like always invite people to just check in on how are we organising with survivors of the sex trades and how does that sit with the sex trade survivor?

Because in all my years of campaigning, nobody ever asked me ‘How are we getting on?’ ‘How are we doing with how we work with you?’ For example, nobody ever even said to me, are you okay for expenses? These are all well-funded people working in their jobs with a well-funded campaign. And I was there taking days off work to go to meetings and stuff, days off my crappy pay job. And nobody ever said to me, are you okay for expenses? How can we resource you to do this work? It was just kind of expected of me to show up to these things or expected of me to tell my story without being resourced. And that's something really important I think, for anybody working with sex trade survivors, to remember that, make it be a collaboration and make it be a relationship rather than a ‘Oh, we'll get her to come in and do that’ because that has been kind of my experience, which has been pretty gross to be honest.

And what else I'd say to anybody listening? Buy the books by survivors, don't be afraid of going into the dark places and amplify survivor voices as much as they can. 

Luba: That’s what I’m trying to do. So thank you so much for this enriching conversation. Hope to meet you someday maybe at a FiLiA conference.

So all the best with the petition and there we will distribute it as much as we can. 

Mia: Thanks Luba. Bye.