Foreign sex workers operating in Ireland say that there is a distinctive market here for "domination" from male customers. Many of the sex workers offer a service that they do not find to be as much in demand in other countries, they say. Prostitutes who provide the service are not otherwise involved in what might be termed dominatrix-type activities.
They say there are two distinct areas of interest in Bondage and Discipline, Sadism and Masochism (BDSM). There is the 'sex industry BDSM', which may or may not include sex, and the 'scene BDSM' where people who enjoy dressing in bondage clothing meet at clubs or pubs for evenings in each other's company. The 'scene BDSM' does not involve sex, sex industry workers say.
One woman in her forties who has been involved in the sex industry in Ireland said the market for BDSM has been in decline since the collapse of the economy. During the boom, she said, there was a market for sado-masochistic sex and "domination" from well-off men and occasionally from couples.
Asked about the market for BDSM in the Irish sex industry now, she said: "I have a feeling it has taken a bigger hit in one sense than the sex industry, as a 'bit of auld kink' was a luxury that well-heeled people and couples took on board with the Louboutins and a second high-performance car. That dropped off drastically in recession, but in another sense, the drive to submit can be almost irresistible. And people cannot function without release at some point."
Some sex workers offer sado-masochistic services but there is a relatively small market for professional sex workers, another female sex worker said. She too said that domination is a frequently sought service by Irish men. She said she has found that the demand for this is less common elsewhere.
Both said that men and women with a predilection for "dressing up" mostly find an outlet in scenes where they meet in particular venues once or twice a month, mainly to dress in BDSM-style clothing. The main point of the "scene BDSM", she said, is that "both sides convince themselves they are superior to each other, etc and so forth".
Outside the consensual group dressing-up scene, sex workers say the "dominatrix" or "pro-domme" professional scene is relatively limited. One said that women who chose to offer such services were often the type who had tried it in their personal lives and sought to supplement their incomes by offering such services on a part-time basis.
"Within the sex industry, there are sex workers who have learnt some of the skills and treat it a bit more rationally, and make sex additionally available," she said. She added that most professional sex workers regard it as "too ritualistic".
Within the professional sex worker scene, there has been a general decline in line with the economic collapse. The only sector that seems to be growing is for transsexual and transvestite prostitution. Last week more than 10 per cent of prostitutes offering their services on the main escort websites were TV (transvestite) or TS (transsexual) and they were mostly charging double the amount of money charged by female prostitutes. They also charged more than homosexual male prostitutes.
A transvestite "escort" who spoke to the Sunday Independent said increasing numbers of married men in professional jobs are becoming clients.
Some 40 TVs and TSs were sex working in Dublin last week and 20 others in Cork, Galway, Limerick and Belfast. One transvestite, a 20-year-old gay Polish man has told the Sunday Independent that some of his client "friends" are married with families.
According to a female sex worker, there is some resentment among prostitutes that the transsexuals and transvestites are taking business from them and, in most cases, charging almost double the amount that they charge. Some of the top-earning transsexuals are charging €200 for a half-hour session.
The transvestite sex worker says that while he is not proud of being a prostitute, he enjoys his work and regards it as "theatre", but on a personal basis.
He said: "Men who are coming to me are open-minded about sex. Some are married with children, families. If they are straight there is nothing wrong with that.
"I started out as a masseur. I never dressed as a lady before. There are people now who are transsexual and they are working for a (sex change) operation. I am not like that. TVs do not have boobs. I was doing just massage for a few months then I decided to try to dress up like a lady.
"I am doing this for one and a half years. I am just 20 and good looking. It was my choice, it was what I chose. I like the lifestyle. I cannot say I am proud to be an escort but it is interesting to me to share my passion. My clients, they are my friends.
"My clients are aged from 20 to 60 but most are between 25 and 45. I prefer to work with Irish people. It is hard to explain but in Poland or Russia I think the best people stay and others leave. It is the same in Ireland. I think the best people, the strongest people, stay in Ireland," he said.
He said he travels around Ireland, working in Dublin, Cork, Belfast, Galway and Waterford. "I am a gypsy. I work in apartments and hotels. Once I stayed in a hotel for a month. All the staff, every cleaner knew me, knew my name because I was living there for weeks at a time."
Like other sex workers here, he said he is opposed to further criminalisation of prostitution arising from a campaign run by religious and feminist groups seeking to introduce new laws making it an offence for a man to pay for sex. His preference, he said, is for decriminalisation and the regulation of sex work as occurs in Germany and other European countries.