Saturday, 10 August 2013

How do you solve a problem like Ruhama ?


As hard as the recent battle in Scotland was against the anti's, it was manageable. Oh sure, we had the misrepresentation of statistics, the 'Nefarious' roadshow, the dogged determination of Abolition Scotland to convince us all of the existence of thousands of sex slaves in Scotland to name but a few, but we got there. Ireland on the other hand is a work of art when it comes to anti's antics, they are literally running amok.

At roughly the same time as the consultation on prostitution began, Ruhama wheeled out a 'survivor' of the 'horrors' of the sex trade, to speak in favour of the introduction of the Swedish model. Enter stage left - Rachel Moran. To my regular readers, Ruhama need no introduction, I've written about their background as the same nuns behind the Magdalene scandal, not to mention their extensive government funding here.

From the very beginning, I sat up when they introduced Moran. In many respects she's perfect to front their cause. She's young, she's very attractive but not quite well spoken enough as to arouse any disbelief. Her book, which I've read, is the classic tale of rising from the ashes of a car crash existence to putting herself through Uni to where she is today. All very admirable, but something was irking me and I needed to work out what that was.

Moran and I worked in Dublin at the same time, the early nineties. I worked in the same brothels, for the same escort agencies and had regular contact through the drop in clinic on Haddington road with the same women, she says she stood on street corners with. One of those women is now a prominent activist working alongside me and is prepared to swear an affidavit to the effect that she has never set eyes on Moran until her book launch. That's not to say that Moran is falsifying the fact that she worked on the street, but isn't it odd that they never met ?

The picture I've included for you above is of the first brothel I worked in, which sits just behind the main shopping thoroughfare of Grafton Street. It was run by Tom McDonnell, a notorious pimp who went on to serve time in Portlaoise prison and fell foul of the Criminal Assets Bureau. Now, you might think that my description of Tom as a notorious pimp means that I had a terrible time working there, not at all. Actually, Tom and I were rather begrudgingly fond of each other. In fact, when I wrote this piece on Back to brothels and spoke with fondness of the day I got sacked for the third time for laughing about his 'tubular drier', it was Tom I was talking about.

Each Christmas Tom threw a party, and we tried anything and everything to get out of it. It was referred to in our circles (affectionately) as 'The Hoor's Ball', and in spite of loud protestations, we were taken out for a full Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, followed by enough booze to float the Titanic. Writing this, I realise that I still miss the comeraderie of brothels. Yes, we bitched and we fought, but at the base of it there was an unbreakable bond between the women, it was us against the world. It was in Tom's that I learned of the 'tain't' (t'aint one or the other) - aka the perineum, that area of a man which is super sensitive and the best place to head if you want to end an appointment early because the take away has just arrived in the staff room. It was in Tom's where I held my head very low after I learned that a request for 'water sports' didn't in fact mean a day on a yacht and was more to do with a shower cubicle and lots of towels. Yes, the other women laughed, but it was good natured and the protective arm was always there, looking after me as a newbie.

As a sex worker in Ireland in the early nineties, I began to spread my wings, and 'touring' became the norm. I visited Limerick, Cork, Waterford, Kilkenny and Galway. At that time we all worked for the same lady, Marian, and although I can't say that she looked out for us as Tom did, she certainly never did us any wrong.

So I struggle, I really do, to see why Moran hasn't been more forthcoming in her 'memoirs'. I worked for them all. Tom, Marian, Karen, Alan and Raymond (the chuckle brothers), Melanie, Amanda. Those names will mean nothing to you, but to a sex worker who was in Dublin at that time, she should know exactly who I'm talking about. Why the secrecy ? Why the blanket claim that all of her experiences were so horrifying ? It simply doesn't add up. Moran says that in seven years of sex work she never met one client who showed her a shred of empathy or kindness. That's incredible. Because in all of my time there, I met some lovely guys. What, she never met the motorbike Garda we all christened 'Chips' ? He was a dude, and always gave us the heads up if there was going to a crackdown.

Turning to the language employed by Moran, it's here that I find the biggest discrepancies, it is literally like she is reading from a script. In a recent interview at a Waterford 'roadshow', she described some of the terminology used by the sex industry to 'sanitise' the whole transaction. Not a chance in hell are they her words, I'll wager anything on it. Similarly, the devil is in the detail and in her book, she repeatedly refers to 'domination'. The only issue I have with that is that back then, we never used that word, it was always 'discipline'. These might seem like minor discrepancies to you but to me it just added to the overall feeling of unease I had.

I was right. Having sat back and studied Moran for weeks, a very brave co-activist came forward and confirmed that Ruhama had approached her. She alleges (and I absolutely trust her word) that they offered her money to 'turn' and campaign for their side. In fact, they offered her a book deal and a tour too, exactly as Moran has now. She refused, because she has a conscience. So do I, and it is for this reason I can no longer stay quiet about the blatant lying that the anti's are doing. For people who purport to care about 'vulnerable women', it would seem that the truth can step aside to make room for continued funding.

It is an appalling situation and I will be doing everything in my power to access the working group which I understand is to convene following summer break. One final point. As I understand it, the anti's in Ireland have a habit (every pun intended) of collaberating with a Sunday newspaper which routinely outs sex workers and makes their lives unmanageable. I hold a letter from that newspaper, dating back to the early nineties, promising not to publish my details or make mention of my (and I quote) 'vice activities'. Pictorial evidence available. I wouldn't, if I were you.

LL xx



26 comments:

  1. LOADS of memories...I can confirm your descriptions of Tom and Marian as brutally fair as I knew them, Tom as a client...who ALWAYS expected to pay in full BTW, and an acquaintance, Marian just as an acquaintance (we never really got on).

    In fact I met Tom in my first couple of days. He brought me to his house, made me a cup of tea, and explained he ran brothels...innocent as I was I thought:
    "Oh F*CK...this is IT" and, being the thick bitch I am started explaining my objections, playing for time while I hoped some form of martial art would just "come to me" and get me out of there alive.

    Tome fetched the biscuits, gave me twice the money I had asked for and told me not to be so daft...he was definitely going to try and talk me into working for him, but if I didn't want to, FINE it was only a job offer...we could just do the business and part friends...

    It was like that...and, although Tom was, in many ways, a tiresome pretentious boor, the sex industry was peppered with stories of Tom turning up to shift furniture and help people move...arranging outings for the kids (no kidding), he took the role of everybody's big brother.

    The last time I saw him I was having really dangerous trouble with the organised crime (now deceased - so nobody picks up on that and gets confused sensationalising) that was trying to move in in preparation for criminalisation in '93.

    He came to me at work, asked me if I had time for a quick drink, explained to me ALL ABOUT his dental work, in detail (always a lyrical charmer was Tom) - then casually mentioned that he had heard I was having trouble and if there was anything he could do just to call him and he would find a way to sort it...he didn't expect anything in return, Tom never did, he saw it as his responsibility...

    Maybe the most pretentious thing about him was that he was kidding himself he was going to run a chain of brothels the way Cadbury's ran Bournville and it really, serious was NOT within his capability to do that.

    Marian, on the other hand, used to try and hijack every communion, confo, birthday and even a few weddings and organise them to death...she was WAY too controlling for me...her workers had to walk out and go in strike a couple of times to sort her out over promotions, working hours and d├ęcor/maintenance issues (it is truly AMAZING how much "wriggle room" there was in all that "coercion" and "evil pimping" - you would start to get the distinct idea it was real would so you would :o)). She got the shock of her life and caved in hours!

    As for "Chips" legend has it they based a drop dead gorgeous TV character who has an irresistibility to women no-one can understand...in real life I can tell you EXACTLY what that mysterious power was. Chips respected women, all women, and was consistently just very nice and helpful to them.

    But I never, once saw Rachel Moran, not anywhere, and literally NOTHING she says, rings true with me either. She has not describe ONE SINGLE REAL THING accurately.





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  2. Nocholas Kristoff does the same thing in Cambodia, and I assume other places. Met a sex worker In Phnom Penh who told us Somaly Mam had called her and asked her to arrange for sex workers to meet a Hollywood Star (Meg Ryan) but to get paid they had to tell her they were abused and had evil pimps... (they were independent street workers)
    Bits of these interviews ended up in his Half the Sky TV special...

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    1. Somaly Mam are a huge con, I wrote about them a while back, they claimed a child had her eye gouged out by a pimp, she actually had a tumour that was treated by surgery.Her parents were villified and feel unable to challenge them.

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  3. What's up, your funding threatened ? What a pity you're going to be exposed, when you've worked so hard to build up such a righteous presence.

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    1. I think we are probably just too low brow and ill educated for a person of such concise and refined self expression...

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  4. Fantastic read! Reminds me of Auckland in the 90s, when the inner city was really just a small handful of brothels, bars, and squats. Everyone knew everyone and everyone looked out for everyone.

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    1. That's the way it was in Dublin too, we all knew each other and it was a very small community.

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  5. Sobri, Any a brief summary of the situation now, better or worse?

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    1. James, the situation in Auckland was never particularly bad. As usual the external perceptions had little to do with the internal realities. People who have issues with sex work will tell lies. That seems to be an eternal truth.

      Stigma is still high in NZ, but other than that I think working conditions for employees and independents are pretty good. You'd have to ask someone who's still in the middle of it all. I haven't lived in NZ for 5+ years.

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  6. " Having sat back and studied Moran for weeks, a very brave co-activist came forward and confirmed that Ruhama had approached her. She alleges (and I absolutely trust her word) that they offered her money to 'turn' and campaign for their side. In fact, they offered her a book deal and a tour too, exactly as Moran has now. She refused, because she has a conscience. So do I, and it is for this reason I can no longer stay quiet about the blatant lying that the anti's are doing. For people who purport to care about 'vulnerable women', it would seem that the truth can step aside to make room for continued funding."

    Seems the antis arguments are so weak that they're willing take this women("Moran") and put in the line of fire for there cause. if so this speaks volume about them,ya?

    I do feel somewhat bad for this young woman "Moran" seems to have gotten caught up in something that seem out of her depth perhaps? I'm glad she came clean in the end.

    "For people who purport to care about 'vulnerable women', it would seem that the truth can step aside to make room for continued funding."

    It's never about the people Laura, it's always been about the ideology and the agenda with these type.
    sad but true.

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    1. Ideology, agenda, and most importantly funding. :(

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    2. Moran came clean? Can you please point me to where I can learn more about this? Thanks.

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    3. She hasn't, so far as I'm aware anyway.

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  7. I also worked for tom, i actually liked him and found him fair enough. I was in the place off mount st and met him for the first time when i was working on the street at the pepper cannister BTW is that scene still around that area and the square or all gone indoors ?
    I also rem chips on the bike he was lovely and would always warn about the vice squad coming down on a clampdowm.
    We had a minder in the parlour in the evenings a harmless enough man and have to say i felt safe there.. Often tom would come back from the pub well oiled with a load off takeaway food for us...you would hope that the bloody bell wouldnt ring in the middle of your supper ..ha

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    1. Hello ! Lovely to hear from you and thanks for your comment. If you can, please email me anonymously so we can chat away from prying eyes. ;-)

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  8. I would think that if you're not in the business consensually, then every man who touches you would seem to you to be a rapist, and every pimp or madam would seem like an enabler to rape. There can be no comparison between women who were forced and women who have freely chosen the life. If you viscerally experience the touch of your clients as rape, you will not need activist groups to tell you what to say.

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    1. If there is no consent then it is rape, simple as that, whether money changes hands or not. Rachel Moran is entitled to her view on her time in the sex trade as am I, it's just strange that our memories are so vastly different.

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  9. I noted RachelRMoran make this comment recently: "I answered phones in enough brothels 2 know the most common questions is always "What is the youngest girl you've got?"

    I've been in enough brothel waiting rooms as a customer and fitting 'phone lines to know that a genuine ex-prostitute would not make that claim. The most common question is something the receptionist would know, but the most common answer is: 'Today we have A,B,and C working..' with ages not mentioned, descriptions sometimes, but never ages.

    No clear if she's a fraud or forgetful, but if she can't get her recollections right on this, how could you trust the recollections in her book.

    Oh, I know how - there's lots of criminal activity described in her book, under-aged prostitution, coercion etc. So there should be a prosecution or two in there. Is there?

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    1. Good question. I see she's getting pretty angry on Twitter too about our supposed lack of acknowledgement that the vast majority of clients go for teenage girls. Complete and utter BS - it would not have been tolerated back then, most of the women I worked with were mothers themselves. Anyone underage would have been reported straight away, it's that simple. I guess when you embellish a story it must be difficult to stand over some of the more outlandish statements. Just saying. ;-)

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  10. This has made my Saturday ( admittedly a am a bit squiffy )

    RachelRMoran has pinned "I answered phones in enough brothels 2 know the most common questions is always "What is the youngest girl you've got?"" to the head of her twitter page. Clearly, she has decided that she didn't say this in haste or by accident, but she has deliberated and has chosen it as her headline.

    It's more implausible than the manager of the Off Licence saying their most common customer question is "What's the oldest wine you've got?" or the consultant at the plastic surgery clinic saying the most common enquiry is "What's the biggest implant you do?"

    Extreme enquiries are rare in all occupations. Claiming that illegal and extreme enquiries are the most common in prostitution is laughable bull-shine. Polished with a shammy leather.

    If you had no personal connection with her, this one tweet alone, nails her as a front - any number of current brothel receptionists could tell you that is NOT the most common question - and she has made it her headline announcement. The modern equiv of holding a placard on the river-side saying 'I made it up'.

    Lol on a Saturday night.

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    1. It's almost funny. I'm living for the day I get to debate her head to head, it will not be pretty. Enjoy your Sat night, I'm well jealous, up late catching up on uni work, bleurgh.

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  11. I'm still squiffy on Saturday night and Rachel R Moran still has "I answered phones in enough brothels 2 know the most common questions is always "What is the youngest girl you've got?"" as her chosen headline tweet.
    I've been to a couple of brothels this year, nothing to be proud about, or ashamed either for that matter, and am wondering right now why the older girls are by a slight margin busier and the harder ones to get bookings with.
    This is a parallel universe to the one of Rachel R Moran where the younger women should have the greater number of bookings.
    One of us is drunk right now and one of us is a fraud, but in the morning I shall be sober . . .lol
    Hope you're well on the way back from your injuries LL, v good blog.

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    1. Hi, thanks for your comment and well wishes too. I'm well on the way to recovery. xx

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