Turn Off the Blue Light

by Natalie on May 16, 2011 · 8 comments

in Activism, Politics

A friend turned me on this Irish sex worker organization, Turn Off the Blue Light, and their great poster campaign. Prostitution is currently legal in Ireland, but an opposing campaign called Turn Off the Red Light has been picking up momentum in their push for criminalization—ya know, to “end sex trafficking.”

You’d think by now people would come up with a better way to end human trafficking, ideally in every industry where it occurs, than by declaring all commercial sex exploitative and illegal. Prostitution has been illegal nearly everywhere in the U.S. for decades, but it hasn’t stopped politicians, the media, and Demi Moore from being totally obsessed with sex trafficking as an ongoing major problem within our own country. Hopefully Ireland won’t follow suit in this misguided attempt to “help” people by driving their profession further underground.

Turn Off the Red Light spews out a lot of the same clichés we’ve seen on every other anti-sex work site, about how nearly everyone in the business is coerced and underage when they start and incapable of doing anything else with their lives. They say also that the work leads to “extreme isolation and a sense of shame;” interestingly though, their main tactic to combat this is to criminalize the industry.

Turn Off the Blue Light is a direct response to this, and the poster campaign gives a fuller, more intelligent view of the real women involved in Ireland’s commercial sex trade.

This may not do much to change the minds of people blindly obsessed with human trafficking, but the posters do show beautiful, positive and realistic images of people working consensually to make a living.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Joan Kelly May 16, 2011 at 5:12 pm

hold the motherfucking phone – I’m sorry that this is off topic to the post but my head seriously just ex-fucking-sploded – prostitution is legal while abortion is still illegal in fucking Ireland??

the FUCK kind of country are my people from? Seriously flabbergasted.

unless….nah, couldn’t be because men are happy to have access to our bodies while we’re denied full access to our own.


Wendy May 17, 2011 at 1:55 am

Just to clarify: the actual transaction is legal in Ireland, but most of the elements that go along with it are illegal, including soliciting (which is defined as buying or selling sex), “loitering” for the purposes of, living off the earnings of, or controlling/directing. Anyone engaged in prostitution is almost certainly breaking the law in one way or another.

One of the key players in the Turn Off the Red Light Campaign is Ruhama, a rescue organisation founded by two of the religious orders who used to run the Magdalene Laundries, in which prostitutes and other vulnerable women were imprisoned, worked like slaves, physically and sexually abused and sometimes simply disappeared. Ruhama were founded in 1989, the last Laundry closed in 1996.


Wendy May 17, 2011 at 3:21 am

Sorry, I should have said “soliciting is defined to apply to people who are buying or selling sex”, not to the buying or selling itself.


Joan Kelly May 18, 2011 at 10:53 am

ah, okay, thanks for clarifying Wendy. Although I still don’t really understand what the hell is up with Ireland.

Except those laundries? And any “rescue” organization associated with such things – super creepy and horrible.


jenna May 26, 2011 at 4:44 pm

i imagine that the US is far, far away from having any ad campaign like this one. and when sex worker advocacy does come to our country, it will be ‘blamed’ on ‘the gays.’


Midi Grrrl February 13, 2013 at 4:32 am

Irish feminist is woefully ignorant of sex work. I have no idea why organizations such as Irish Feminist Network consistently post links to Turn off the Red Light. It drives me nuts!

Magdalene Laundries are not from distant history. The last one closed in my home town in 1996, not that long ago, not really. A lot of the victorian-style ideologies around “fallen women” that led to the abuses in the laundries have not been examined and still exist, and organizations like Ruhama have not changed their colors. I almost expect a patronizing attitude from catholic orgas like them, but it really gets to me how much support the turn on the red light campaign has gotten from irish feminist organizations.


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