Safety for Sex Workers

Ugly Mugs is a not-for-profit technology initiative that improves the safety of sex workers in Ireland and the UK and reduces crimes committed against them, by bringing sex workers together to share information about potential dangers.  We support the right of sex workers to engage in their work as safely as possible.

Visit our For Sex Workers section for full information about our ugly mug scheme.

Visual of Ugly Mugs mobile app

Ugly Mugs Geography

We are the leading ugly mug scheme in Ireland (the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland). We also have a strong member base in Scotland. Whist we also cover the rest of the UK and the Channel Islands - England and Wales, Isle of Man, Isle of Wight, Guernsey and Jersey - these are not our core geographic focus.

Ugly Mugs Stats

Please visit our news section for the latest stats on crime against sex workers in Ireland and the UK.

Ugly Mugs History has been online since 2009.

The practice of sex workers sharing information with each other to try to stay safe is not new, it is probably as old as sex work itself, but is a very modern manifestation of this concept.

The word "mug" in English can mean face, and when we say "ugly mugs" we are saying ugly faces and we mean bad people. The first so called "ugly mug" schemes were started in the late 1980s by organisations in Australia and then the UK. They would put warning notices up in their drop-in centres or distribute warning leaflets to sex workers on outreach.

"Ugly mugs" isn’t the only term used to describe such schemes. In North America, the term “bad date lists” is often used.

Whilst some customers of sex workers are abusive, our experience is that most customers of sex workers are not in any way abusive. We find most people who abuse sex workers are not in fact customers.  This is why we prefer the term "ugly mugs" to "bad date list".

When sex work went online, warnings about dangers then started getting posted online. What we did in Ireland with is utilise technology to take ugly mug schemes to a new and much more advanced level. We were the first in the world to do that.