RTE’s new reality TV show, Connected, kicks off tonight but before the programme has even screened RTE have been forced to defend the inclusion of a sex worker in the show.
Kate McGrew is one of six women who spent 10 months filming their daily lives on camera and viewers will watch their trials and tribulations over the course of 20 episodes.
Kate, aka Lady Grew, is originally from Ohio but has lived in Cork for six years where she has worked as a performance artist, stripper, and part-time sex worker.
Yesterday RTE released a statement defending Kate’s inclusion in response to questions from certain quarters of the press.
The fact they had to defend her inclusion in the show is mind-boggling.
Like it or not, the sex industry is booming in Ireland and yet it still remains a taboo subject. Discussion ignites strong reaction due to the fact that sex trafficking is an intrinsic aspect of the industry.
However, it is not the only aspect, and is not Kate McGrew's experience.
Speaking to the Sunday Independent yesterday, she said she sees it as "an aspect of my feminism" and that there's a hesitancy in talking about sex work as "empowering" but that's really not the point - "because of course for some women it isn't".
"We need less stigma, more support and more humanising of these women [who work in the sex industry]. It should be seen as legitimate work."
She added, "This work isn't for everybody. If people feel like they are doing it because they have no choice that doesn't mean sex work is bad.
"It's because of issues like poverty or trafficking or direct provision, for example - they are the problem, not the sex work."
RTE stated that they did not choose Kate because of her escort work, but that it emerged during filming that it was one aspect of her life.
Even if they had chosen her because of her escort work, what is the problem with representing a woman from the sex industry?
It’s admirable that the programme makers have endeavoured to assemble a diverse group of women representing different aspects of Irish society.
Their experiences of homelessness, financial problems, abusive relationships, prostitution etc are all uncomfortable issues, but ones women nationwide will either relate to, or be informed about, to some degree.
Is it more damaging to broadcast Kate's experience than it would be to bury our heads in the sand and pretend it's not happening? That's precisely the approach that has exacerbated issues ranging from child sexual abuse to political corruption in this country.
Not once during the interview do either of us mention the "p" word. It just doesn't seem appropriate. Certainly, we talk about stigma, discrimination and the 'Nordic Model', but where sex for money is concerned - what we would call prostitution - Kate McGrew is adamant that it's a fair pay back for years of capitalist patriarchy.