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These memoirs focus on an explicitly sexualised female identity, with women gaining pleasure from their work as prostitutes and emphasising the elements of choice and financial rewards available to them. Whilst largely overlooked by critics, this sub-genre of Irish life-writing offers illuminating insights into prostitution in Dublin by the women who were involved in the sex industry.
The development of this genre was underlined by the re-publication of The Memoirs of Mrs Leeson: Madam originally by Mary Lyons in These books have yet to be situated within a tradition of Irish life-writing, as they map a peripheral history of female experience.
Each of the memoirs share a preoccupation with the violence inflicted on the bodies of prostitutes, and a pervasive sense of anger that Irish law permits such brutality against women.
The history of prostitution in Ireland is a history of intolerance and suppression. On one hand, prostitutes were seen as fallen women, victims of their own moral weakness 3. On the other hand, they have been portrayed throughout Irish culture as disease carriers, symbolising crime and deviance 4. In cultural representations, the prostitute is rarely a sexual agent in charge of her own identity, and there has been little opportunity for Irish prostitutes to give voice to their own lived experience.
Taura S. The relative obscurity of some of these memoirs, and their failure to be recognised and discussed by feminist scholars, suggests an unwillingness to engage in debates about the regulation and legalisation of selling sex. It is only through reading Irish prostitute memoirs that one can trace the evolution and difficulties within the world of prostitution.