A website advertising escorts in Cork is offering recommendations of where to entertain them and has highlighted some of Leeside’s most attractive tourist spots.
The website, which is operated from outside of Ireland, has been accused by one charity of promoting the purchase of sex in the country when it remains illegal.
A representative from Ruhuma said that she was shocked at how the services of escorts are being marketed as “almost family-friendly”.
The website, which offers advice on ways to pass the time with an escort gives a nod to tourist hotspots unconnected with the site with taglines such as “Get wild with a lively Cork City escort at the Fota Wildlife Park”.
The English Market also gets a mention for its “tantalising smells” and “homegrown produce”.
Many other locations in Cork are also mentioned.
Neasa Ní Fheinneadha from Ruhuma, a charity working with women affected by prostitution and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation, said that such language and marketing is normalising the purchase of sex.
Buying sex in Ireland became an offence in 2017.
Street prostitution has reduced considerably in the last number of years with the majority of exploitation taking place online. Ní Fheinneadha spoke of how many of the women they work with — who were exploited for sex — had no idea how they were being advertised online.
“When it comes to what is actually on the ad, the women won’t have a clue,” she said of the website.
“The fact that they don’t know what’s written about them leaves them in a very precarious situation. The buyer might be speaking to someone who is fluent in English. However, when he meets the woman in reality she may not have a word of English. This is very much organised crime because you have someone handling calls and organising accommodation who in actual fact is a different person to the one they are meeting with.”
She described the dangers this presents to those affected.
“This is very dangerous as the call handler will often tell them what is on offer without the woman’s knowledge,” she said.
“This means that they will consent on the woman’s behalf to things like intercourse without a condom or anal sex. If a man turns up and is expecting either of these things it’s very difficult to assert a boundary. The woman may be on her own or in a very vulnerable position. In these situations, she may even conform to what the person wants for fear of what might happen if she doesn’t.”
She urged people to acknowledge the sinister nature of online escort sites.
“From our work, we are seeing situations where the woman might have been trafficked, coerced or put under some level of pressure. Out of the 369 women we saw last year, 136 were trafficked, which is a significantly high number when compared to the states.
“As long as there are people willing to pay for sex there are people who will be groomed and coerced into the sex trade. Sites are highlighting the demand that’s there which creates that trade and adds to it.”