“You don’t know who I am in Limerick. I will finish you “The man spat angrily in Barbara Babeurre’s face as she tried to push him out the door, trying not to inhale the stench of his armpits.
Seconds earlier, her friend, another sex worker, ran out of her room asking for help after the client got angry, screamed, and tossed anything he could reach after she asked him, right before sex to take a shower.
“I thought he was going to beat me up,” said Ms. Babeurre.
“I told him I would call the guards if he refused to leave and he said, ‘What about you? You work together, what you do is illegal. It’s a brothel. ‘
“I was shocked. This is the first time that someone has told me that.”
Mrs. Babeurre eventually forced the man out of the apartment the two women had rented in Limerick, but they were deeply shaken by the incident.
The hazard is currently an occupational hazard when selling sex in Ireland.
The day before the attack, eight men arrived with a customer who had booked to see Ms. Babeurre, but luckily her screening system allowed her to see the gang before granting them access to the apartment.
“You would have raped me,” she said.
“In December, my friend was raped and beaten up by two men in her hotel room on a knife appointment when she could not open the already empty safe. That was at a four-star hotel in Ballsbridge.
“A few years ago in Cork, a vendor was raped, tied up with television cables, beaten up and left for dead in the bathtub where they almost drowned her.
“There was a gang that turned against such sex workers, raping them and robbing them. One person would book an appointment and then let more men into the room.”
Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI), a peer-run service for anyone selling sex, estimates that violence against sex workers has increased 92% since the end-demand model was introduced in 2017.
The law banned the purchase of sex and increased sentences and added a prison term for workers who share a building.
The SWAI has called for the legalization and regulation of sex work to better protect workers.
Mrs. Babeurre agrees. She has worked in Germany, France, Great Britain, her native Czech Republic and Ireland.
She felt safest in Germany, where both selling and buying sex are legal, regulated and taxed.
Criminalizing women for collaboration – known as brothel care – puts the lives of sex workers at risk, she believes.
But she also believes that criminalizing the buyer puts the sex workers at risk by further dwarfing the trade.
“What would have happened to my girlfriend if she had been alone that day? It could have seriously injured her or worse, ”said Ms. Babeurre.
“Everyone sells their body or brain in some way anyway. Why is it legal to do porn in most countries but illegal to do so? ”
Business was good on Ms. Babeurre’s last trip to Cork prior to the Level 5 lockdown. She made $ 1,650 on a very good day, but made nothing another day when all six customers canceled.
Since returning to Ireland in January after spending Christmas at home with her family in Prague, business has fallen by 70% to 80%.
“I think people are more concerned this time [about Covid-19]. And many of my regulars are at home with their children because schools are closed, ”she said.
“What I did in one day now takes four days.”
During the lockdown, she mostly stayed in AirB & Bs or apartments that were rented directly from landlords, where she has fewer reasons for her travel than in hotels.
Recent trips to Cork and Dublin were “dead dead” and business was not going well in Galway, Belfast or Newry.
She waited for the government to announce whether the lockdown would be extended and plans to return to Prague in early February until public health restrictions here relax again.
Despite the current troubles, she said she loves her job and the freedom it normally gives her – financially and while traveling.
But every day she gets horribly abusive messages or calls from men she doesn’t want to see.
She said that misogyny and prejudice against sex workers are terribly visible in any online forum – when a sex worker takes the floor, ugly voices do so, saying that women who sell sex and have been attacked “deserve” it.
“I hope you get coronavirus and the doctor is giving your ventilator to someone else because you are a slut. You should be shot, ”is just one of the messages Ms. Babeurre received this week.
And last week she received drone messages saying she would die alone. The sender also said that she would never have children “because no man wanted children with a whore and no child wanted a whore for a mother”.
“It really hurt because I have two kids at home,” she said. “But I’ve been working for nine years, so I built a wall.”
“Some people think they can treat you in some way because they pay you.
“I check every number on the Ugly Mugs website [where sex workers share details of dangerous or abusive clients] to check whether this number was previously complained about by other providers. “
Her children are with the family in their apartment in their beloved hometown of Prague, which is like a mixture of Paris, Budapest and Rome, she said, but friendlier, greener, with an east London atmosphere and better beer.
Mrs Babeurre’s path to sex work was winding. When the former model escaped from an abusive relationship in Prague, desperate for money, she agreed to take some semi-nude “glamor” shots.
Their nude photos led to porn producers offering their work. She refused until her landlord suddenly announced that his son was moving in, so that she and her children would have to move out, and she needed money again quickly to secure a new home.
After working in porn for almost two years, she consented to sex work.
She has been working in Ireland for over a year and spends most of her time between Ireland, Prague, London and Edinburgh.
“A lot of people don’t understand, but I really like what I’m doing,” she said. “I don’t see anyone if I don’t respect them or click with them.”
“Everything is so easy to get online that it feels like people have become disposable. If you want to meet someone for sex, you can find them online in five to 10 minutes. We no longer have the same connections with people outside of our friend groups.
“I’ve met three clients in the past seven years, but I’ve been single for the past two years.
“When it comes to online dating, men often treat you like an escort anyway and expect sex without drinking coffee. Why should I do this when I could charge € 400 for it instead? “