United States: Study Reveals Men's Attitudes on Prostitution
Monday, August 8, 2011 10:50 AM

A recent study in the United States, Comparing Sex Buyers With Men Who Don't Buy Sex, by Prostitution Research and Education has found that men who buy sex appear to be very ordinary. “They're the cops, the schoolteacher – the dignified, respected individuals. They're everybody.”  In fact, the study had a difficult time locating men who could identify as "non-sex-buyers", men who have “not been to a strip club more than two times in the past year, have not purchased a lap dance, have not used pornography more than one time in the last month, and have not purchased phone sex or the services of a sex worker, escort, erotic masseuse, or prostitute.”


The study found that men who buy sex have attitudes toward women and sex that differ in significant ways from men who do not purchase sex. In general, the study found that the men who buy sex share attitudes and beliefs that “dehumanize and commodify women, view them with anger and contempt, lack empathy for their suffering, and relish their own ability to inflict pain and degradation.” Furthermore, the study found that men who purchase sex were “nearly eight times more likely to say they would rape a woman if they could get away with it.” Although research has shown that prostituted women “suffer from high levels of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, suicidal ideation, and other psychological problems,” the men who buy sex in the study have a warped sense of reality on prostitution and “prefer to view prostitutes as loving sex and enjoying their customers.”


The study also suggested that the use of pornography and prostitution may cause men to “become more aggressive” and change their sexual preferences to more “sadomasochistic and anal sex.” As one john in the study stated, “prostitution can get you to think that things you may have done with a prostitute you should expect in a mutual loving relationship.” This way of thinking leads to “anger towards other women if they don't comply, impairing men's ability to sustain relationships with non-prostitutes.”


Many experts believe that the internet has caused an enormous increase in sexual exploitation due to online postings and escort agencies, which have become so common that many men don’t see such things as strip clubs, or lap dances as forms of prostitution. “The more the commercial sex industry normalizes this behavior, the more of this behavior you get,” says Norma Ramos, executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW). 


Many organizations in the United States are spearheading a change in attitudes toward prostitution. They are building coalitions to reshape policies and change attitudes in the criminal justice and social welfare systems. “I think there has been an amazing evolution in thinking, and the movement is growing by the day,” stated Ramos.

In a number of US states, tougher enforcement laws have been legislated, and “john schools” which allow educational programs as an alternative to sentencing for first-time offenders, are common. However; the study found that johns view jail as a far more powerful deterrent to recidivism, and the strongest deterrent of all was the threat of being registered as a sex offender.

The study found that “for every john arrested for attempting to buy sex, there are up to 50 women in prostitution arrested,” These statistics are changing as a result of a change in thinking by law enforcement. “It’s been accepted that this is something men will do, without any real thought about the victims,” says New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, whose department recently started an anti-trafficking unit and increased its arrests of johns. “It was considered a victimless crime. But it certainly isn’t; we realize that young women are being victimized.”

Other countries' laws also influence policies in the United States. Sweden has made it a crime to buy sex, although not to sell it. In Sweden, this approach brought about a drastic reduction in trafficking, whereas the legalization of prostitution in the Netherlands, Germany, and much of Australia led to a growth in demand. However, South Korea, Norway, and Iceland have passed laws similar to that of Sweden.  

Ted Bunch, cofounder of A Call To Men, a US organization working to end violence against women and girls, stated that, "This is the first generation of men that's being held accountable for something men have always gotten away with, and that's why you have such a backlash...The system has been set up to blame women for the violence men perpetrate, and this has been seen as a women's issue, so it's easy for men not to get involved. But men's silence about the violence men perpetrate is as much of a problem as the violence itself. Men feed the demand, and men have to eradicate the demand."


Compiled from: The John Next Door – New US Study on the men who buy sex,Newsweek, (18 July, 2011).