What’s in a name?

The relationship between sex and food may have been taken too far by Dublin restaurant Happy Endings

Food and sexual activities have always been linked. Whether it is through the medium of aphrodisiacs or branding used by bars and restaurants to entice couples, it is hard not to see the relationship between food and sex. But one post by the Dublin-based restaurant Happy Endings got me thinking about when this relationship can go too far.

For those who don’t know, Happy Endings derives its name from the “extras” offered at the end of some massages. A “happy ending” results in the client achieving an orgasm, typically by a handjob or fingering, at the end of a massage and is common enough in Dublin massage parlours, often branded as Thai in nature. Being a sex worker in Ireland is technically legal, but the purchase of sex or working in a brothel or as part of a group is not. 

“For those who don’t know, Happy Endings derives its name from the ‘extras’ offered at the end of some massages.”

What is worse is that our legislation actively prevents sex workers from seeking help from the Gardaí when assaulted or abused. The Sexual Offences Act prohibited the purchase of sex and increased penalties for sex workers sharing premises. The maximum fine for “brothel keeping” increased from €1,000 to €5,000 and the maximum jail term doubled from six months to one year. A conviction on indictment (which requires a Jury trial), remained unchanged by the act with a maximum fine of €10,000 remaining and/or a maximum five-year jail term. According to a 2021 report carried out by UCD, the majority of sex workers in Ireland are migrants who engage in predominately survival sex work. 

“Intended as an inside joke for those who know about the practice in massage parlours, the post signalled to me that sex work, at least to the owners, is merely something to be laughed at.”

But why does this matter when it comes to Happy Endings? Well, on April 1 the official Instagram account of the restaurant posted the “launch” of their OnlyFans account. Intended as an inside joke for those who know about the practice in massage parlours, the post signalled to me that sex work, at least to the owners, is merely something to be laughed at. Has branding gone too far with this one? Perhaps, especially when one remembers the infamous Discord leak of November 2020 where up to 40,000 images of sex workers, children and ordinary people were shared without their consent. Also shared on their Instagram for Valentine’s Day was a graphic captioned “Tonight the chicken comes first.” Their regular event of “Pornstar Wednesdays” has attracted Dublin’s clientele, but patrons may not be aware of the wink-wink-nudge-nudge nature of the restaurant’s name.

Happy Endings itself seems to know their own limits when it comes to their menu and website design, the more “formal” side of the business. Deliberately citing that their food is inspired by “global street food flavours”, the closest their menu gets to referencing sex acts is their “Missionary” burger. All other items are distinctly south-Asian inspired with their flavours and names. But it still begs the question, who is behind Happy Endings? From what I can tell, two men from South Dublin who own various other establishments across the city. They plan to expand to Cork in the near future.

In contrast, sex workers are actively punished for attempting to live together – if someone were to discover their profession they could lose their home and livelihoods as they have no way of proving they don’t use their residence for their services. If they are assaulted at work and choose to report it, their landlord or employer will be arrested. They are bound by law to suffer in silence as there is no reward for coming forward, only stigma and perhaps retaliation by clients or co-workers. 

So what’s in a name? Does a name really matter? Will calling the restaurant something else make everything better? I’m not sure. But I definitely am of the opinion that the owners of Happy Endings see sex work as a bit of a joke. Creating a fundraiser to help sex workers, especially those who are trapped in situations like Direct Provision would be a good step forward to dismantling negative perceptions of the trade. Even speaking out against the unfair treatment of sex workers in Ireland would be better than their current stance.

There’s a certain shallowness that is slowly creeping across Dublin. Between pubs named after James Connolly (a famous teetotaler), to other establishments attempting to cash in on Dublin history and culture without paying proper homage. Are we losing Dublin to corporate greed? It certainly seems so. For the moment, Happy Endings has left an odd taste in my mouth, and I’m not hungry for more. 

Eva O'Beirne

Eva O'Beirne is the Deputy Life Editor of Trinity News and a Junior Sophister History student.