Comparing Sex Buyers and Non-Sex Buyers

Comparing Sex Buyers with Men Who Don’t Buy Sex: “You can have a good time with the servitude” vs. “You’re supporting a system of degradation” 
Paper presented at Psychologists for Social Responsibility Annual Meeting July 15, 2011, Boston.

This research study compared 101 men who buy sex with 100 men who did not buy sex, matched by age, ethnicity, and education level. Most had a wife or girlfriend at the time of the study. Sex buyers had many more sex partners in their lifetime (prostituted as well as non-prostituted) than non-sex buyers.

Sex buyers were far more likely than non-sex buyers to commit felonies, misdemeanors, crimes related to violence against women, substance abuse-related crimes, assaults, crimes with weapons, and crimes against authority. All of the crimes known to be associated with violence against women were reported by sex buyers; none were reported by non-sex buyers.

Sex buyers acknowledged having committed significantly more sexually coercive acts against women than non-sex buyers.

Sex buyers had significantly less empathy for prostituted women than did non-sex buyers and they acknowledged fewer harmful effects of prostitution on the women in it and on the community. Non-sex buyers more often saw prostitution as harmful to both the woman herself and to the community as a whole.

The sex buyers masturbated to pornography more often than non-sex buyers, imitated it with partners more often, and had more often received their sex education from pornography than the non-sex buyers. Significantly more of the sex buyers compared learned about sex from pornography compared to the non-sex buyers.

Both sex buyers and non-sex buyers evidenced extensive knowledge of the physical and psychological harms of prostitution. Two thirds of both the sex buyers and the non-sex buyers observed that a majority of women are lured, tricked, or trafficked into prostitution. Many of the men had an awareness of the economic coercion and the lack of alternatives in women’s entry into prostitution. Almost all of the sex buyers and non-sex buyers shared the opinion that minor children are almost always available for prostitution in bars, massage parlors, escort and other prostitution in Boston.

The knowledge that the women have been exploited, coerced, pimped, or trafficked failed to deter sex buyers from buying sex. Many of the sex buyers had used women who were controlled by pimps at the time they used her for sex.

Both sex buyers and non-sex buyers agreed that the most effective deterrent to buying sex would be to be placed on a registry of sex offenders. Other effective deterrents included public exposure techniques such as having their name or photo publicized on a billboard, newspaper, or the Internet. Spending time in jail was considered an effective deterrent by 80% of sex buyers and 83% of non-sex buyers. Educational programs were considered the least effective deterrent by both groups of men.

Taken together, these findings – a range of criminal activity in addition to prostitution, nonrelational sexual preference, a high number of sex partners, extensive pornography use – interact and increase the likelihood of future violence against women, according to other studies cited in this report.

Our finding that the sex buyers are involved in these criminal activities suggests that sex buying should be considered in that context. State and federal laws against prostitution and trafficking should be enforced against johns. Sex buyers hold extensive information about pimps, coercion, trafficking, and the harms of prostitution to the women in it. This information is not yet fully used by law enforcement and could be useful.

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