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Dublin: 16°C Monday 18 October 2021

Kate McGrew: 'I came out to my parents as a sex worker on national television'

If you saw that show you will realise that sex workers don’t just sell sex, writes Kate McGrew.

Kate McGrew Director of Sex Workers Alliance Ireland

SEX WORK IS isolating work. So is truck driving; and I’m hitting the road. Hop in and keep me company?

Have you ever met a sex worker?  In a shop? At a gig? On the Dart? How would you know?

Allow me to introduce myself to you then. I’m Kate McGrew— sex worker by day, performer by night and Director of Sex Workers Alliance by the way.

Coming out

You might remember me—“Ireland’s Favourite Courtesan” according to one leading Irish newspaper. I came out to my parents as a sex worker on national television, starring in the 20-part IFTA-winning RTÉ 2 series, ”Connected”.

If you saw that show you will realise that sex workers don’t just sell sex. Out of our natural habitat we can be seen interacting with many different species of amicus and familiea, engaging in the sacred rituals of filing taxes, or even wearing flat shoes.

We also do stuff like pay off our college loans, and drink too many G&Ts at the weekend. Imagine.

Creating and performing theatre

Yes I’ve been known to indulge—and I’m getting there on the loans—but my North Star is creating and performing theatre, comedy and music. As I follow my guide, I’m delighted to be your guide on the first stop of our trip: San Diego, California, USA.

My new show is premiering at the 2108 San Diego International Fringe Festival from June 22. It’ a stand-up, hip-hop mash-up, mixing my stories and my tunes.

I was last in San Diego, in 2015, when my show, Hooker P.I. won the ‘Fringe on Fire’ Award. Since you’re along for the ride this time, I’m also putting together some great video interviews, all lined up for your future viewing pleasure. I do love to entertain.

Legal and cultural battles

We’ll be talking with Kata, owner of Les Girls Theatre, the venue of my show. Kata was a dancer there in the 1960s, and was embroiled in the 1969 legal battle for the theatre to become California’s first nude venue. Nearly half a century later it sounds almost funny. Almost.

Yet legal and cultural battles are still waged over women deciding to bare their breasts for finance, fun, or food.

I’ll interview Genevieve Jones-Wright. A criminal justice advocate and a sex workers rights’ advocate, who just ran for San Diego District Attorney.  Advocacy, like hers, is critical in cities like San Diego, because the news media there - like most media outlets in America and beyond – has falsely conflated the presence of migrant sex workers with sex trafficking.

I will also interview a young migrant dancer at Les Girls – getting a fresh perspective on what it’s like being the youngest dancer in the oldest strip-joint in Cali.

Particularly illuminating

What I will say is that sex workers’ insight into womanhood is particularly illuminating. And you know what happens when you turn off the red light? We’re all left in the dark. Instead, I’m turning on the high beams.

Lucky for you, I like being watched. Would you like a glimpse of this world — where the spotlight shines brightly on what is arguably the pinnacle of obsession and, somehow, simultaneously, the depth of ruin? I know you do. Sure, 50 Shades Of Grey is for women over 50 this time around.

The allure of women knowing - and getting – what they want.  The allure of power play in sex. The provocative cognitive dissonance of so-wrong-it’s-right. These powers pulse in all of us.

Thanks for stepping up in my cab, and keeping me company, on the road. I really hope you’ve enjoyed the ride.  (Ahem….it’s €300 an hour).

Kate McGrew is Director of Sex Workers Alliance Ireland. Hookers Do It Standing Up premiers at the 2108 San Diego International Fringe Festival (https://sdfringe.org/)  from June 22.

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About the author:

Kate McGrew  / Director of Sex Workers Alliance Ireland

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