Inside Outside

the sex industry in Scotland


“I can’t believe people would want to remove laws around pimping.

Pimping? Legal? Oh my God.

No, that way no.

I think maybe escorting, women indoors to be legal. But not pimping because if the pimping will be legal, you’ll see like every two houses is an escort house. This will bring more pimps, some of them they will also bring drugs. I don’t think nobody wants to have too many crimes.

It won’t be safe for the other girls because if there are too many girls in even in the same city, the pimps, they will start to go after the other ones, the independent ones, those they don’t control and will make them leave. So only their girls make more money. You know, people will die because of it.”

Groundhog day


joane a piece

By Cathy Weir 2016

“There’s nothing enjoyable, nothing you would get out of it that you would get out of a job… satisfaction… There’s nothing like that out there. Most women that are raped once in their life it’s a tragedy but girls out on the street, they can be raped a number of times.

I mean it’s really soul destroying.

There’s so much that it takes away from you and it changes you, your personality, and your looks, your everything.

You’re opening yourself up to be victims. They might put a front on but they’re victims. I put that mask on, I felt that I had to do it. You go into survival mode and you do what you have to do to survive.”


Wendy ….

He was very much a grabber, a hands round the necker as well. I really thought, “This guy’s going to kill me”and there’s nothin’ I can do about it ‘cos I’m stuck in a fucking car wi’ him. How stupid are you? What are you doing?” It only lasted about twenty minutes or so. I kind of toughed it out, shut off to it, I had to shut off.
I don’t let him see that it bothers me. I used to take everything everybody said to me onboard. I’m trying to give him a more care-free attitude. I develop this persona like, “Well, I really don’t care what you’re saying. I can’t even hear it.” I put on this the mask every day with the makeup, the hair and the outfit. I do not let them see they’re grinding me down. It becomes tiring ‘cos you’re constantly having to be strong. I come home and I take the mask off. I can start to be a human bein’ for a bit. Be myself. That’s when I’m most vulnerable ‘cos there’s no pretense. I hear every word that’s been said to me that day. Sometimes it all sort of hits me. I don’t want them to like what I did, to give me praise, I don’t want them, I just want them to just leave me alone.
the doll
I saw quite a few foreign girls especially towards the end of my time on the streets. One of the worst for me was a wee girl, I think she was Romanian. I’d seen her working the streets quite a lot and I thought she looked really young. She was so frail. You could just tell that she did not want to be there. I’d smile and say “Hello” to her when I past her. One summer night I just got off the bus and I passed a doorway. She was in there with her wee skinny legs wi’ her underwear right at her ankles and this guy was obviously having his way wi’ her. She was just a bag of bones, just bein’ used in a doorway. I remember turning and her eyes met mine. She looked fucking dead inside, like she had so given up. While he was doing what he was doing to her there was nothin’ absolutely nothin’ there. Nothin’. She was so young. I saw the fucking arsehole that used to collect her money, he took her all money. I gave her half my money so she could get somethin’ to eat.

Sarah Jane

“Not that long ago actually one of my old regular clients just turned up at my house – obviously he hadn’t see me for a while and didn’t know I had stopped.

He turned up and I was like, “Look, I can’t see youse. I’m with somebody, I’m no longer working and I’ve no intention of going back to it” and he’s like, “Well, can I take your number anyway in case things go wrong?” and I was like, “No. You can’t ‘cos even if things went wrong I still wouldn’t want to see you.”

In case things go wrong? What, so you think you can make things right for me do you?  You’ll be waiting here until something cracks or something goes wrong? You’ll just wait in the background, just hover about?

He got the message like loud and clear though when I had finished with him.”


A gag


(photo by Wendy 2017)

from Wendy’s story –

“Prostitution happens. It’s more common than people think, and it is on their doorstep whether they like it or not. They think it doesn’t affect these wee, quaint towns. Ye kiddin’? I know where it happens here.

I’ve been in services for years and whenever you discuss workin’ the streets, people don’t want to speak about it, don’t want to hear it, they don’t want to know. People are supposed to be able to deal with this kinda thing but they’re shuttin’ down on and tryin’ to get you to discuss other stuff that has no significance whatsoever to where you are. It just makes ‘em so uncomfortable, you can see that they think it’s dirty, it’s appalling, it’s disgraceful. It’s filthy and it’s wrong.

People need to talk about it and women need to be allowed to tell it like it is. It might be unpleasant but these girls need to speak to somebody to deal wi’ the demons, the scars and the wounds and the dirt.

That silencing is like a gag.”



Crossing paths

Its funny how our lives can move in circles and we never know when paths can cross.

I received a facebook message from an old colleague who had read about Inside Outside and wanted to find out more and see if there was a way he could bring it to audiences in another part of the UK.

Without even having to think about it – I said yes.  Of course I said yes.  I have no right to turn down an opportunity for the women’s words and works to reach even more people.  It is all down to practicalities and plans now but knowing him – I am sure we can pull off something pretty exciting and worthy of the women.

I first met him many years ago, too many to type!  I was a young relatively inexperienced idealogical hot head who suddenly had responsibility for leading a peer education project with a team in existence, that I inherited when the previous lead left.  I look back at that project with great fondness, pride with a healthy dose of embarrassment thrown into the mix.  I made many mistakes but also learnt so much.

This young man stood out from the first time I met him.  He had passion and drive and a belief that things could be better in his area and for people.  I think I may have offended him because I instantly thought he should be moving on from the project.  It was not that I didn’t want him to stay nor believe that he couldn’t do the job.  It was because I knew he would very soon outgrow what I / we could offer and he should be on another path.

He is well down that path (and many others) in the 14 or so years since I have seen him and now has a key / lead role in his specialist area of work.   I am so pleased he saw the potential in the Inside Outside work and how it could help inform others in his field.  The power of real lived experiences and art together.

being selfish – I am also pleased to get the chance to work with him on a whole new experience.

A positive and heartening way to start a damp and dull Tuesday and here’s to #insideoutsideNI.  😉

The first night


(photo by Wendy 2017)

“I met a very influential man. Big dangers came wi’ being associated with him. I was his play thing, I was his entertainment. I was in a homeless hostel, getting phone calls at three o’clock in the morning. He said there was money to be made off of me and did I know how to make it? I didn’t have a clue. He explained it, “There’s girls sell themselves all the time.” He wanted to put me in a flat to do whatever he wanted me to. I was like, “No” but he kept on and on at me. I was worried, not only what he would do but what his associates might do to me. I ran away to Olivia’s, one of my friends who was also a drug user.  There was just no money there. I had no family to beg, steal and borrow from. There wasn’t anybody I could sleep with, I didn’t know any of the dealers in the area. We had absolutely nothing.

It wasn’t like I just got up one morning and said, “Today I’m going to do prostitution.”  It wasn’t like that. There’d been a sort of build up to it ‘cos I already had been sleeping with men, whether it was their gratification or whether to get drugs or sometimes just to have a place to crash overnight. To get a roof over my head.

Olivia and I, we talked about prostitution loads of times. She had already slept with local men people for money but it wasn’t a case of walking the streets. I thought that if I worked the streets then I would only be hurting myself. I’m not out shop lifting getting charges mounting up against me. I just knew that jail wasn’t for me and what I’d faced out here would be nothin’ compared to in there. You can’t escape, there’s nowhere you can go. I did think working the street was a means to an end, I have to do it and that’s that. If you don’t do this, you’re just not going to be able to feed your habit.

I don’t know how I managed to take that first step. That first night I remember getting a bath, shaving my legs, putting on perfume and picking out nice underwear. I made myself look nice. I think I was telling myself, “You’re going on a date. You know?”

Olivia was supposed to come but she didn’t even get ready. Looking back now she knew fine well that I would go ahead wi’ it. She said she couldn’t face it, she didn’t have a clue what to do to start prostituting streets. I didnt either.”




Choice and Glasgow history

The wonderful Anni Donaldson from Equally Safe in Higher Education at Strathclyde was a main mover and shaker in getting Inside Outside to Strathclyde University last week.

We joked together that the next time we come up with an idea on a train journey home, we should put the brakes on.  Or maybe not.   It is a good example of people sharing a vision, a focus and a belief that a piece of work can be done, and done well.

We thank you Anni for your energy and committment to the project and of course for introducing us to the lovely Kelly who helped keep it all on track.

In her speech at the launch, Anni drew upon her background as a historian to shed some light on the background and history to approaches within Glasgow to prostitution – “the Glasgow system.”  She has written a great review of Louise Settle’s book “Sex for sale in Scotland”

louise settle

“Prostitution is described as the oldest ‘profession’ but its roots lie in one of the world’s oldest oppressions – women’s. ‘Profession’ implies choice. While its academic purpose is clear and important, the glimpses this book provides into the life of women is where it shines while debunking the myth of free choice by so-called ‘happy hookers’.  Early twentieth-century Scotland blamed the women for making bad choices yet failed to address the harm it caused or why men wanted to rent their bodies in the first place. Abuse victims or free agents? Probably both.  Prostitution was indeed a ‘choice’ for women desperately short of options; while dance clubs and brothels may have been preferable to the street, women often made the best of it despite the risks.  This complicated clandestine world was challenging to police. Women were ill-served by an unequal society which targeted them for being the wrong kind of woman whilst turning a blind eye to the men who paid for sex with them.”


Read the full review here –

You can also read more here –



The Box


An excerpt from Wendy’s story.

“I don’t know what I thought of myself back then.  I would never have called myself a sex worker. I would have said “prostitute” ‘cos that was the word put on me by other people. I was a very mixed up girl putting herself through a lot o’ abuse. There was a time I thought it’s okay ‘cos I’m doin’ it for my own reasons and own terms. When you’re in it, I suppose you kinda tell yourself you’re in control. You don’t wanna admit the way the men are treating you is all wrong. Admittin’ that, it’s like saying is there somethin’ wrong wi’ me? While you’re in it, and you’re still usin’, you don’t realize how detrimental it is. You don’t realize the damage.

I eventually shut off to it so it’s deeply buried that touching it or looking at it again is hard. There can be just moments where it can just take your breath away. It hits me. It can hit me anytime. I’ve had, you know like panic attacks? I get flashes of all these different cars and all these different men and all these different smells, you know? All those hands on me. It’s as if all their hands are on me at once. All the flashes of faces just going continuously in front o’ me. It’s like as if they’re all there and they’re all touching me all at the same time. Like every single one of them is back with me again. Sometimes I’ll see a man on the high street and I look at him and think, “I know your face.”  Part of my brain automatically tries to put that man in a car and, “Is that how I know you?” It takes a lot for me to bring myself out of it, that’s when I really have to breathe.

I have to put it all away in a box. Sometimes the lid comes off but then the lid goes back on again. It has to ‘cos of the panic and the overwhelming feelings. The box is there, it’s very much there and you can only open it bit by bit ‘cos if you were to let all of it out, you would be in self-destruct mode. It would be an instant overload of I’ve done this, these things have happened to me.”


For Wendy’s full story go to


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