Fanny By Gaslight

I am happy to answer any questions in private or in the media on mechanima at gmail
Sworn Testimony

My Memoir of Sex Work in Dublin Between 1987 and 1993 (written and date locked in 2001)

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My experience as a sexworker between 1987 and 1993 was a huge chunk of my life, and particularly my interactive life.

It was also incredibly traumatic, because it amounted to being driven to live my worst fear.

I overcame that fear, I adapted. In the first days I used come from Galway for half the week and sleep in my car. It became highly organised and pretty sophisticated camping particularly when I bought a fawn Mirafiori (1778 EI) with seats that DID go back. I had a flask I would fill with coffee on Baggot St then I would drive to find a place to sleep. Sometimes the south wall (yes, it was safe then, how the world has changed), sometimes Howth, Portmarnock or Rush…there was also a campsite near Bray. I would sleep in my car and get a hot shower in the morning there.

I stuck to the coast because it was easier to take a dip in the sea and wash out my hair in the beach public toilets as long as the weather was ok. I preferred the northside because nobody cared if you sunbathed topless.  The winter got more complicated, but there were swimming pools…and where there is a will there is a way.

I was pretty much alone until I was taken under the thumb of a tiny slip of a woman. I taught her to drive, it’s something I am very proud of.

I always mention the few pimps I have known as being extensions of abusive relationships, and I always forget her guy. It wasn’t a situation anyone could take seriously.

He was a pleasant, well spoken foreign national with quite a good, white collar job, and two sex workers were at each other’s throats to keep him as a pimp.

You couldn’t make it up…one was the tiny slip of a woman who came from a lovely family yet was viciously manipulative and used everyone in range, often setting people against each other the other was a lady I did not really get to meet until years later who struck me as the type of person who should have more sense…and she agreed with me.

As for the man in the middle…well if ever a pimp needed to be rescued it was him. I don’t think “not pimping” was among his permitted options. It was completely insane. One of them bought herself a lavish diamond ring on his behalf, thanked him for it effusively and claimed they were engaged…the other managed to misappropriate it and claimed to be his REAL betrothed.

This was not because they had been “groomed”, it was because they were both, temporarily, off their heads. The only explanation I can offer is that, in their different ways, perhaps neither of them could stand to lose a contest and temporarily disregarded the value of the prize?

After that I got to know more of the women.

I preferred working the street because the clients did not expect you to make a meal of it or even pretend to be aroused. It really isn’t hard to sell sex…just think of it as a dental exam where the Dentist pays YOU in advance, and there is not risk of being told you need to spend 500 euros on a crown.

But I also preferred the other women who worked on the street. They were more down to earth than the massage parlour women who could be a bit pretentious. Some of the street women were very well bred and spoken indeed, a few were stunningly beautiful and on a warm summer evening it could look like a fashion parade.

Whether they came from Rathfarnham or Ballymun, the street workers in Dublin 4 had a lot of class and self respect, not one of them was ever as coarse, common and sly as Rachel Moran…and most of them would never see 30 again.

I am not idealising them. They could be as nasty and self serving as anyone else when it came to the wire, but they were no WORSE than anyone else either.

From September 1988 (possibly because I couldn’t face another winter in the car) I had a tiny little flat on Grosvenor Road to stay in…I wouldn’t work there, I cannot be comfortable in a space that has been invaded by too many people and my landlady was lovely…I would not have been able to bear her to find out I had been using her flat for “business”but it was a super little pied a terre.

Sex in a car is a very simple, coy affair. Best not to remove too many clothes, let the passenger seat back and get the deed done. The most unpleasant part is that there are some men who do not see any harm in resting their whole weight on your chest…this can feel as though you cannot breath and you learn to dread it. But most of my clients would not have had a clue what I look like naked…or vice versa.

The only element of “rape”is in the orgs like Ruhama who claim to offer you rescue and leave you selling sex for years while you do enough pointless “personal development courses”to suit them. For the women who do not want to get out of sex work this is condescending and invasive, for those who do it is simply cruel.

The best kept secret of the abolition lobby is that there are not really enough clients to go round the women who choose to sell sex. That is why they are so territorial, warning off new people and defending their “patches”. That has always horrified me and stood as a permanent wall between myself and the other women. But I do see their point, they have bills to pay and kids to feed, and every new sex worker makes that harder. As a result, depending on the area, the greatest danger in sex work can be the other women.

D4 did not devolve to actual violence until 1993 in the wake of criminalisation, then it was just fear on overdrive. It would have been dangerous for any outsider to ever try to work in Dublin 2 – even me – though I had an unusually good social relationship with some of the D2 women.

This is not an issue peculiar to street work. Indoor workers adopt strikingly similar behaviour patterns towards newcomers, though the violence is almost exclusively mental and emotional it can be even more devastating in the long run.

I doubt if this behaviour will seem strange to anyone who has ever worked in any exclusively female business.

There are male sex workers, but they have a totally separate culture and are substantially integrated into the mainstream gay community, unlike female sex workers who are under constant attack from it. The only exceptions are the male survival workers in the Phoenix Park who, like their female equivalents on Benburb St and in Stoneybatter, operate in a world that is too alien to me for me to comment upon, but I do understand that many of them are not even gay and my heart goes out to the for the desperation that must drive them.

Sometimes it was hard to get any money at all. One of the more locally controversial episodes was a night just before Christmas (1990 or 91 I think?) when it was freezing cold with snow and ice on the ground and no clients about at all. There weren’t a whole lot of taxis either. We gathered at the low wall in front of the library on the corner of Burlington Road, and somebody started singing carols…it wasn’t terribly late, only about midnight, and we weren’t anywhere near the houses, but the residents went ballistic…it seems the one thing they couldn’t handle was evidence that we were just normal, decent human beings.

These are some of my memories, from my past and my lived experience that are being set aside for the blatant and very specific lies of Rachel Moran. God alone knows what kind of damage that has done to me. It is gaslighting on the grand scale.

…and, because of my background and childhood conditioning gaslighting has a far worse effect on me than on most people.

People come out with variations on:
“I don’t see why you think your experience cancels out hers or vice versa”

It does, for the very simple reason that I was there and I know, first hand, that she was not. Even if she had found a way to do enough research to get it all fairly accurate to the facts AND still get published (the least likely bit, the facts do not suit Ruhama) Rachel Moran is not sitting next to me on the couch now, just as she was not standing 15 yards from me and working in D4 between 1991 and 1993.

From my perspective it is too big and blatant a lie to be finessed into some kind of combination of denial and compromise to stand down the cognitive dissonance. When her latest episode claimed there were 7 underage girls standing on her corner . (I stood at the top of Waterloo Road 5 or 6 nights in 7 opposite and facing Wellington Lane. I had a mobile phone, a grey housebrick from 1989 and a Micro-tac from 1990. I would not have hesistated to call the guards if I had seen a single underaged girl, let alone 7 of them, crammed like sardines. ) If you look to the right you will see a row of modern houses with porthole type windows. Either the first, or second was occupied by a very streetwise young poet who had a young guard from Donnybrook lodged as a paying guest. These were not indifferent people, the young guard was still haunted by a fatal car chase. The young poet noticed and cared about everything.

From my private emails (can’t have made much impact):

It is not *MY* fault that Rachel Moran is a fraud. I have lived several kinds of hell and always got up to fight for the reality of those stuck in them. I have never taken money, and as I was also in Duncoft 1972 I leave it to your imaginations how rich and famous I would be if I had been willing to abandon truth and play along with the lies that pay. I never will be.

The *REAL* woman who *REALLY* worked Rachel Moran’s *corner* called herself “Emma” because it was her favourite book (see how we all need basic literacy training?) . Swedish model legislation would have killed her before I could get her and her kids free and into hiding with the help of 3 clients. She was one of the two women I knew with an abusive partner draining her dry. He looked EXACTLY like Tom Cruise in “interview with a vampire” he was a junkie, and he had full blown AIDS. She was on the clock, she was pregnant and the baby wasn’t his.

It took months for her to get out the house with all 3 kids and not even a handbag. She couldn’t have survived hiding a little money and not having enough for his morphine sulfate LET ALONE crimalised clients…nobody knew where she vanished, and nobody knew that I knew, because it would be a simple matter for him to come looking for me with a hypodermic. She was a dark haired Dub and I have a feeling her disappearance is *WHY* Moran was told to claim she was there (despite having something more of a Wexford accent than a Dublin one to my mind).

One of the things you should have learned is that a lie has no wallpaper on the walls…there are no irrelevant detail..oh we don’t store every detail of everything, but if you asked me I could tell you Emma usually wore a black 80s type leather jacket, the day she got out was dull and overcast…when we drove across the country the sun threatened to break out, I could tell you the name of the town on the signpost I passed as I got a call from the client helping us about where to bring her. I can also tell you about the fatal car crash that hit the electric box at the top of Waterloo Road, the chestnut trees on Wellington road in May, and the artificial “electric sunrise” where birds start to sing at 2am as midsummer approaches.

Wellington Lane was the nightly route home of an eminent and quite lovely Professor of psychology from Trinity (he had a heart condition and the walk home was important). He had compassion and concern for everyone and there is no way that he would see one, let alone 7 under aged girls crowding that narrow pavement without doing something very quickly.

It was also the route habitually taken by the Gardai to avoid the traffic light at the top of Waterloo Road. To my knowledge, not one of them was blind. They could be a little more less than perfect than was strictly necessary at time, but they were nice, caring guys (very few Ban Gardai at that time), and things like underage sex tended to get their blood boiling rapidly.

To give you an example there was an intellectually disabled young woman in her 20s who kept turning up to sell sex at that time. The Gardai came and explained the situation to every single one of us, and between us we made sure she never sold sex (even though I think we all learned something important about intellectual disability from her enterprising spirit).

Moran mentions a pedophile brothel easily identified as a building that was eventually run as a private hotel by Peter McCormick and Audrey Campbell (nominal owners of Escort Ireland). Subtly pretty damning – for Rachel Moran because that building was derelict and burned out in 1990/91 was boarded up and under surveillance for many years because the fire gave indications of arson and a young rough sleeper died in it. It was not owned by McCormick and Campbell, or accessible to anyone, until long after (when Moran was well over 18).

I saw that fire with my own eyes…the burning man…and yet now we are supposed to accept that it never happened and the building was a pedophile brothel. I could have proved she was a liar beyond doubt if everyone in authority had not simple refused to acknowledge that I was saying anything, let alone listen.

So now we have a bizarre mythology that never happened passed off as “the raw truth about sex work in Ireland” and a time in my own life.  Ruhama always opposed finding proper childcare and jobs with real wages that would give any sex worker who got out a life independent of them, and now they have created a false witness to prove that sex workers only need their incomes destroying and rape counselling that will make them dependent indefinitely.

But this is a parable too, of the whole self serving cult of abolitionism that trots out “survivors” (many of whom have never sold sex at all) willing to recite any fiction required of them to order. Some of them are reprehensible people who would be doing something just as bad anyway, but I have to wonder how many of them are doing this simply because it is the only way out of sex work they have been allowed to have?

Or worse the only way to survive that they have left.

NB. In case you have ever wondered why I make no mention of an allegation that does the rounds that Moran tried to get money from a couple of American “cottage rescues” by impersonating a foreign national the reason is very simple, I have never believed that story to be true for the following reasons:

  1. A total stranger from the abolitionist lobby (later joined by another) approached me on facebook with this story some time ago offering me what purported to be “evidence”. Even after running it by a handful of people with a lot of relevant skills we still could not work out what there was supposed to be evidence of.
  2. I cannot, for the life of me see why anyone, however unscrupulous, would risk being caught out scamming a very few hundred dollars out of a couple of people when they were already raking in the big bucks from a greater deceit.
  3. I have since discovered that the person who brought me this story is generally considered to be as nutty as a fruitcake and is in the habit of emailing rather spiteful and malicious tales of conspiracy to a variety of people including, but not limited to, the one time Captain of the Starship Enterprise.

7 thoughts on “Fanny By Gaslight

  1. Thanks, there *IS* an old book I just added a link to…compiled from articles written for Themestream (Remember them?) in 2000 and 2001 (I lost the password so it’s been dated locked, typos and all since…there would also still be dead links to some articles on yahoo groups and usenet). It might seem very abolitionist (though it predates most of Melissa Farley) but ends with the conclusion that the only way to end survival sex work is to offer a real, viable way out (after getting ahead of it’s time and defining and dismissing the current notion of diversion and rescue as harmful rubbish). Then I was of the opinion that if people chose to sell sex they should fight for themselves, but that was before there was a corrupt, self serving abolitionist movement to send me postal.

    I don’t really want to hang my own life out to dry, but, 15 years on there is a LOT more I could tell about the other women, and the real Dublin street and sex industry culture, without exposing or scaring anyone. That’s history, and I would love to do that. :o)

  2. Thank you Gaye Dalton for your Mythbuster. I feel that Moran is enriching herself with her abolitionist stance. She though is definitely whoring as do so many in every way as capitalism commodifies everything and everyone, to be bought and sold. If legalization of prostitution has it’s problems it is due to the fact that some will find and exploit the profit of any situation under capitalism. Criminalizing anything in capitalism usually only serves to make it more profitable. Pimps probably suffer the most under legalization. 

    The jails are too full with too many things criminalized not to mention the criminal industrial system being the new Jim Crow here in the U.S. Despite the problems that exist in the countries where prostitution has been legalized I believe that legalization leads to less exploitation of minorities and the poor. The problem comes in the unwillingness to fix the abuses that arise with legalization due to the fact that it is in the interests of some not to fix them. The capitalist system itself is organized criminality and any reform will have loopholes for the profit of some. 

    Only the destruction of capitalism will end the exploitation of most for the sake of a few and although nothing probably will end the world’s oldest profession under a socialist system there would be less driven into it by poverty and less sick enough Johns interested in it.  

    I myself am an old man who considers paying for sex a personal humiliation and will never pay for sex. But than I have always lived a simple life with few possessions and have avoided all sorts of whoring and selling of myself. I have known real love with more than one woman and have little interest in the abomination of either prostitution or pornography. But I do believe that criminalizing either does more harm than good.

    The capitalist system cannot be reformed and almost everything in it is some form of prostitution.    

  3. Interesting. I accidentally knew a couple of prostitutes during two times and places when I was younger. Both were nice looking, not glamor girls, and I met both through a reputation as a handyman. Both offered trades, but I was already in a relationship. I merely donated the repair work. These were not sad or oppressed women, quite the opposite. I just regarded it as a dangerous but lucrative occupation, like a motorcycle messenger.

    Thanks for the honest reporting. Chris Hedges can be a prude, I think.

    • Thank you…from the first moment of video it was obvious which side he would be pushing WHATEVER.
      …er…I don’t suppose you get an irresistable urge to tile bathrooms ever these days?

      • Gaye Dalton, allow me to share my perspective in regards to the issue of Prostitution or better known today as “sex workers” that still remains a highly controversial topic not only in the west but through out the world. First of all, as we all know prostitution has been one of the oldest professions on earth, and sadly this has become a reality whether we like it or not. On personal level, I support regulating prostitution. It is a necessary evil in our societies and we have to come to terms with it. If we ban it altogether, however, as some are suggesting then in my humble opinion rape and violence towards girls and women will likely increase much more then now. Again I’m not in any way advocating Prostitution, but realistically speaking until our societal ills are all addressed this phenomenon will carry on. Do you agree?

        Sebouh Akharjalian
        From Lebanon

  4. Hi Sebouh,
    Really glad to have a different perspective here. I think you picked up a very important point sex work takes the strain of a huge amount of societal ills, some are universal, like poverty, and some are specific to different cultural types.

    In the liberated west sex work often takes the strain of isolation and alienation that can drive men to suicide (women tend to use casual sex for the same purpose, simply because it is easier to find a man to have casual sex with and they can be far less discerning than women). In more repressive societies I believe it does actually prevent rape and violence.

    OF COURSE that should not be reality, and sex workers are right to refuse to be defined as a release valve for rapists (a point they make VERY strongly, and often in India) but the fact remains that, as we stand today, in a repressive society, extremes of sexual frustration can lead a very small minority of dysfunctional men to rape and violence that would not otherwise occur.

    …and shouting “STOP IT AT ONCE” will not save a single victim.

    But I think sex work can also serve a far more important purpose in a repressive society as it becomes a kind of “no man’s land” where men and women can take the first tentative steps towards communicating as human beings. You do talk with your clients, and, over time, regular clients become much like friends. In a repressive society that is pretty much the only way a man can have a woman friend to exchange ideas with at all.

    There are those who will sneer at this but in about 6 months sex work in London and Paris I picked up quite an understanding of various Middle Eastern cultures, just in the nick of time for some that are dead now.

    I remember Syria when it was the respectable big brother in a gaberdine mac with a Samsonite briefcase looking over the ravages of your beautiful Lebanon and shaking it’s head sadly…now look what has happened.

    I would not type these lines with tears in my eyes if I hadn’t ever been a sex worker, and I think those tears are a very good thing.

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