Consent is vital for any sexual relationship, whether online or in-person, whether transactional or not. The leaking and distribution of sexual images which have been reported recently breaches the consent and trust of those involved.
Misogyny, rape culture and consent are at the heart of this, issues sex workers are all too familiar with. We have seen an effort by people who wish to eradicate sex work to separate those whose Only Fans images have been leaked and those who have had their private images released by former partners but we expect everyone to stand together to oppose slut shaming and hatred of women’s sexuality in all its forms. Sex workers are constantly excluded from the consent conversation in Ireland but we are in the middle of this scandal. We are not outside of this, anyone who sells sexual services including nudes is doing sex work.
Sex workers have learned not to turn to the laws and Gardai to keep us safe. The criminal justice system fails sex workers every day. The sex work laws which were brought in with great fanfare were supposed to keep us safe but have led to a 92% increase in violence against us. Sex workers are now less likely to report to Gardai when they are victims of a crime than they were 3 years ago.
Sex workers’ images and stories are regularly taken without consent by media outlets and organisations who fight to end our means of survival without providing alternatives. We understand all too well how stigma and fear of being outed as a sex worker can affect you, and we know that being outed is many people’s worst fear. We know people have had the knowledge of their sexual services used against them in custody battles, housing and employment.
People have reached out to our organisation because they want sex worker-friendly, peer-led support. Earlier this year we were refused funding from the Department of Justice. We can only afford to pay our outreach staff for 1 day per week, we cannot run a 24-hour hotline. Lack of support from the top down in Ireland means that we cannot provide the support we want to but we will do our best to see that those who contact us are supported.
Ireland needs decent, non-stigmatising sex education, consent education and an overhaul of how women are viewed in society. We cannot rely on the criminal justice system alone to do this. Sex worker’s trust in Gardaí in Ireland is at an all-time low. Dara Quigley’s images were leaked by a Garda, in case you needed reminding. Marginalised people such as the undocumented cannot and will not turn to the very Gardaí who deport them for help. We cannot leave them behind.
To that end we are having an online support meeting for anyone who sells images for money that has been affected by this incident online on Tuesday 1st December.