Commercial sex, clients, and Christian morals: Paying for sex in Ireland

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Abstract

This article reports on the results of a study on men who pay for sex across Ireland. In presenting a detailed picture of the diverse group of sex workers’ clients, their motives and attitudes, we debunk the prevalent stereotypes about men who pay for sex, as continuously used in the public discourse about sex work on both sides of the Irish border: we show that the majority of clients do not fit the image of violent, careless misogynists. We argue that these debates about commercial sex as well as the experiences of those who pay for sex are shaped and nurtured by the specific local context, by conservative Christian morals and the dominant sex-negative culture across Ireland. Finally, we argue that the criminalization of paying for sex which came into effect in Northern Ireland in 2015 and is being discussed in the Republic of Ireland will likely not stop the majority of clients from paying for sex and thus fail to achieve its aim to reduce or abolish sex work.

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