The Turn Off the Blue Light poster campaign has been designed to challenge the Irish public’s perception of sex workers, to get away from the overly negative or positive images of sex work that are so often seen, and instead show a more balanced, realistic view.
Sex workers are frequently portrayed either as victims, sad, beaten, raped, abused, drug addicted women, or as ‘happy hookers’ with privileged lives making a fortune, despite the fact that both of these images are not typical of sex worker experiences in Ireland today.
The portrayal of sex workers as normal human beings is the one that the members of the TOBL Committee, all of whom are sex workers, related to most of all. We then asked other Irish sex workers what they thought of the representation, and the feedback we got was all very positive.
Many Irish sex workers live, what might be surprisingly to some, normal lives, are ordinary women, mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, who just happen to do an extraordinary job. Most male and transgender sex workers lead similarly ordinary lives. Sex work is a job like any other to most sex workers, one they choose to do of their own free will.
Sex workers are a considerable part of our society, not so different to others, part of the community, and it is time to accept that we think. Sex workers have the same human needs and happy and sad moments in life as any other person, and should be accepted and respected.
There is a huge amount of discrimination against sex workers in Ireland at present. There are so many misconceptions about sex work, so many wrong ideas, and these are fueling this discrimination.
On one hand there is the image of sex workers as abused women, pimped, trafficked, helpless and enslaved. This is an incredibly negative image of sex work and very unrealistic. This sort of imagery is used by anti-prostitution campaigners who want to shock and it works, people see these images and believe that sex workers are people who can be abused. This knocks the confidence of sex workers, encourages hate of the sex industry as a whole, and, most seriously, it sends out a message to people that sex workers are there to be abused.
On the flip side there is the ‘happy hooker’ imagery, painting sex work as a fabulous, glamorous way to make loads of money fast, and this is not the average experience of sex work either.
We are confident that our campaign is a fair portrayal of sex workers in Ireland today, and we hope our posters will encourage people to think again about how they see sex workers. We can’t think of another group of people in Ireland who are discriminated against as much as sex workers, and this is very wrong and unfair and we feel it is very important we start addressing this discrimination now.
The posters have initially been printed in A3 size and we encourage people to contact us requesting posters and help us get the message out there by placing them on public notice boards, in businesses (with permission), and anywhere else it is acceptable to put posters up. You can also download PDF versions of the posters: 01, 02, 03, 04.