Interviewing men who buy sex

by Jess McCabe // 17 January 2010, 20:24

menwhobuysexcover.jpgJust over 100 London men who buy sex from prostitutes/sex workers have been interviewed, as part of an international study the Guardian reports. You can also read the full report here.

I've started, but not finished reading the London report - I'm not sure whether the rest of the results have been published yet.

I've cut and paste this section about the attitudes to rape among the men interviewed in full:

4.7 Rape myth acceptance, prostitution myth acceptance and hostile masculinity

The association between these men’s acceptance of myths about prostitution and their acceptance of myths about rape was statistically reliable (r = 0.23, p = .024). The more accepting they were of prostitution, the more likely they were to also accept cultural myths about rape such as “Women say no but they really mean yes” or “A woman who dresses provocatively is asking to be raped.” The notion that prostitutes are “un-rape-able” was a common belief among the men in this sample. Twenty-five per
cent told us that the very concept of raping a prostitute or call girl was “ridiculous.

Nearly one-half of the buyers stated that rape happens because men get sexually carried away (47%) or their sex drive gets “out of control” (48%). Sixteen per cent stated that they would rape a woman if they could be assured that they would not be caught.

Acknowledging their sexually coercive behaviours with non-prostitute women, 37% told us that they had tricked non-prostituting women into having sex by lying to them.

Twenty-four per cent asserted that the concept of rape simply does not apply to women in prostitution. Twenty-seven per cent of our interviewees explained that once he pays, the customer is entitled to engage in any act he chooses with the woman he buys. Forty-seven per cent of these London men expressed the view to a greater or lesser degree that women did not always have certain rights during prostitution.

Seventeen per cent of the men agreed that half of the time or less frequently prostitutes
have certain rights during the prostitution encounter. Another 22% of these interviewees expressed 60- 80% agreement with the statement “women have certain rights in prostitution”. These findings suggest that at various times during prostitution, many of the men who buy women for sex think that the women they buy have no rights in the interaction.

As Kinnell (2008) argues, such men believe that “buying sex entitles them to do anything they want” (p264) or that paying “gave them the right to inflict any kind of assault they chose” (p86).

Writing for the Guardian, Julie Bindel recounted some interviews she carried out as part of the research:

I felt compassion for Alex. No one had shown him how to form a bond with another human being and he was searching for something that commercial sex was never going to provide.

But another of the interviewees left me feeling concerned. Darren was young, good-looking and bright; I asked him how often he thought the women he paid enjoyed the sex. "I don't want them to get any pleasure," he told me. "I am paying for it and it is her job to give me pleasure. If she enjoys it I would feel cheated." I asked if he felt prostitutes were different to other women. "The fact that they're prepared to do that job where others won't, even when they're skint, means there's some capability inside them that permits them to do it and not be disgusted," he said. He seemed full of a festering, potentially explosive misogyny.

When asked what would end prostitution, one interviewee laughed and said, "Kill all the girls." Paul told me that it would take "all the men to be locked up". But most of them told the researchers that they would be ­easily deterred if the current laws were implemented. Fines, public ­exposure, employers being informed, being issued with an Asbo or the risk of a criminal record would stop most of the men from continuing to pay for sex. Discovering the women were trafficked, pimped or otherwise coerced would appear not to be so effective. Almost half said they ­believed that most women in prostitution are victims of pimps ("the pimp does the psychological raping of the woman," explained one). But they still continued to visit them.

Comments From You

Beejay // Posted 17 January 2010 at 23:33

Did they include internet prostituted sites? I consider that prostitution and the women to be prostituted (no matter how they spin it). I haven't seen the study or any other breakdown.

Katie // Posted 18 January 2010 at 02:13

Dear God I feel sick. This is a sample representative of the men I walk the streets with every day. How utterly, utterly horrifying.

Hannah // Posted 18 January 2010 at 10:21

This makes really depressing reading.

gadgetgal // Posted 18 January 2010 at 10:49

It does make for depressing reading - the bit where one man ignores an actual plea for help really does make me want to heave:

"She was frightened and nervous. She told me she had been tricked. I had sex with her and she seemed fine with the sex. She asked me to help her, but I said there was little I could do. She might have been lying to me."

It's the fact that he had sex with her when he was completely aware of the fact that she was trafficked and that she didn't want to be there - I'd call that rape, not sex.

Just goes to show how low you will allow yourself to sink when you start to dehumanise other people.

Zee // Posted 18 January 2010 at 10:52

One opinion (among many), voiced by one of the interviewees in the Guardian article, that I find extremely troubling is: '... Bob, who said, "Look, men pay for women because he can have whatever and whoever he wants. Lots of men go to prostitutes so they can do things to them that real women would not put up with." '

Real women?

Jess McCabe // Posted 18 January 2010 at 11:01

I agree @gadgetgal, AFAIC if a man buys sex with someone who's been trafficked, that's rape. If he knows or suspects that the person is being forced into it, and yet proceeds anyway, that's rape.

Jess McCabe // Posted 18 January 2010 at 11:15

@Zee Yep, the way that prostitutes/sex workers are referred to by several men (in the report as well) as not "real women" is deeply worrying. Perhaps it's not unconnected to the grotesque beliefs expressed that sex workers/prostitutes are somehow "unrapeable" and or have less right to bodily autonomy than other women.

Zee // Posted 18 January 2010 at 12:56

@Jess I'm sure of it. I also think it goes way beyond that, beyond the male/society view of prostitution and further into everyday realms.
I've had discussions before, with both men and women, on the definition of a 'real woman' - so far, no one has been able to pin it down with any certainty. It usually ends up with several fuzzy-edged definitions that depend on the surrounding circumstances. This generally leads me to counter that if the definition of a 'real woman' can be magically mutated and varied depending on the need to produce 'evidence' to back up an argument, then it's no definition at all.
Where on the arbitrary scale of realness, say from prostitute/porn star/lesbian (not real*) to dowdy housewife/yummy mummy/hetro girly girl (real*) do any other women fit in the minds of these men? Our 'realness' is decided on whims and semantic contortions all designed to fit the excuse, sorry, reason the (potential) rapist wants to give. Furthermore, our 'realness' is decided by the (potential) perpetrator - we do not get a say as to our own 'realness'.

*not my definitions but examples of the myriad of definitions available

Does a man who believes that the rape of a prostitute is impossible, simply because he has paid her, also believe that rape of his wife & stay at home mom is impossible because he is providing for her? How about the rape of a woman who has accepted his generosity in paying for a meal and a drink on a date? I just don't believe that these men truly believe that it's the cash contract that gives the 'right' to rape.
Their argument also falls down when you compare that cash contract - and it's limitations - to any other business arrangement (which is what many will argue it is, a simple business transaction). My purchasing a few veg from the local shop does not give me the right to take their entire stock - that is not part of the 'deal'. I buy my broadband from a well known supplier at an agreed price for an agreed service, I cannot 'just take' more than that contract states. I work for myself and my clients pay for specific services I offer. They don't have the right to demand or force me to do anything beyond the scope of that contract without negotiation and - crucially - agreement. Unless the prostitute/sex worker clearly states "for this money you can do anything that you feel like, with no limitations" then those men are moving beyond the agreed transaction and their "I paid for it, I can do what I like" argument is utterly invalid.

Another element is that any person, selling any type of service or good, has a right to 'cancel their contract' regardless of the nature of that contract. In business, refusing to fulfil a contract may have a financial penalty, but certainly not a physical one. If these men genuinely do see it as a simple business transaction then they should also agree with and stick by business rules. Yet they do not. Because it's not actually about 'services paid for' it's about power and domination and boosting their own pathetic egos using a convenient and, sadly, widely agreed with excuse.

The removal of emotion, care and consideration for another human is yet another self-blinkering exercise designed to support spurious arguments for rape under paid-for temporary 'ownership' of a woman. It may well be a business transaction, in the mind of both the provider and the customer but both of these people are just that: People.

Apologies for the long comment. It must be Monday or something. I daren't even go into the whole "If I don't get sexual release I might 'really' rape someone" style of defence, my brain is boiling over as it is.

Cycleboy // Posted 18 January 2010 at 13:05

@Katie "This is a sample representative of the men I walk the streets with every day."

Dear God, I hope not. It's clear that a frightening proportion of those men interviewed have views that 99% of women would find abhorrent. However, I hope that most men would also find them abhorrent.

I've no idea what proportion of men use prostitutes; personally, I don't know of any, (At least, none who are brave enough to admit it.) but I'm sure most men I know would find those misogynistic views as repulsive as you do.

Emerald // Posted 18 January 2010 at 13:14

I have no words. I echo the comment by Kate that this is a segment of what's on our streets. It really puts me off men in a big way and makes me wonder if I could ever have a relationship with one (but I might start lying to them to get them into bed seeing as so many of them think that's okay to do that to 'real' women!).

coldharbour // Posted 18 January 2010 at 13:26

More conservative hysterical tabloid garbage from the Guardian. So what is the moral/political subtext from this article? All men who visit sex workers are inhuman monsters who who should be incarcerated indefinitely. Apart from the fact a field study of one-hundred men has no value whatsoever Bindel obviously highlighted controversial statements to fit into her naive simplistic tabloid viewpoint. Although I doubt this is really Bindels viewpoint, like all the journalists at he Guardian she is obligated to conform to their constantly dumbed down editorial policy.

mary // Posted 18 January 2010 at 13:39

I don't doubt the men in question said the things they're reported to have said, but I just can't take research run by the Poppy Project and involving Julie Bindel seriously. They got slated for the Big Brother report.

Several of the commenters on the Guardian comments section linked to Teela Sanders, an academic at Leeds University who published a book called Paying For Pleasure: Men Who Buy Sex. (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Paying-Pleasure-Men-Who-Buy/dp/1843923211). There's also an article by Sanders here:
http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storyCode=209397&sectioncode=26

If anyone's got access to electronic journals, you can find four academic reviews of it (three favourable, one critical) through Web of Science.

I don't believe there's any such thing as perfectly objective "true" research which has no biases whatsoever, but I do think that a peer-reviewed academic study is better than one run by a journalist who has shown over and over again that she's got a massive political agenda and isn't afraid to distort figures and people's own words to further that agenda. And given how repeatedly and publically Bindel has made vile transphobic statements, I'm a bit shocked to see her given airspace here.

Jess McCabe // Posted 18 January 2010 at 13:54

(Note: I'm not going to make any further comment on all the hubbub about the research methods, or 'ulterior motives' - yeah, it was carried out by a feminist organisation which runs a shelter for trafficked women and has a stated policy on prostitution/sex work, that's bias I can live with. Academic research is not the only research with any value. Everyone can read the full report linked above and draw your own conclusions, however.)

mary // Posted 18 January 2010 at 13:57

Sorry to post twice in succession, I just wanted to give a link to some of the complaints about the Big Brother report:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2008/oct/03/research.women

I will be interested to see what the response to this one is. The statement on ethics in the Methodology section is this:

This research design is based on concepts and ethical principles from the field of psychology, providing a different perspective from the sociological paradigms that have been described as previously dominating research on prostitution (Munro and Della Giusta, 2008, p7).

I don't know enough about the field to know whether that's a reasonable statement or not, but given my fantastically low opinion of Julie Bindel, I'm not expecting it to be super-duper. Anyone know?

emma // Posted 18 January 2010 at 14:02

I know this is appalling, but it is really important to bear in mind the type of men that would be paying for sex. They are very selfish and so they are very likely to have these attitidues which enable them to justify what they do...im not defendning these men but after speaking to a young man who became groomed into prostituion from the age of 12, he said that none of the men that paid to have sex with him were interested in helping him...they were there to get what they wanted...it doesnt matter if the prositiute is male or female the people that pay for them are selfish...and hence why they have these attitudes...so dont be too shocked by them.

Miloronic // Posted 18 January 2010 at 14:04

"This is a sample representative of the men I walk the streets with every day"

Really?

Isn't it a sample representative of men who pay prostitutes for sex as opposed to men who walk on streets?

Wouldn't the solution be to abolish the economic factors that give rise to prostitution in the first place?

Kristin // Posted 18 January 2010 at 14:09

In contrast to sensationalist tabloidy stuff starring Julie Bindel, there was a programme on BBC 3 or 4 a few nights ago about stag parties who travel to Amsterdam, Prague and other 'stag party destinations', and how this leads to increased trafficking in women. I was impressed because it focussed on the lives and feelings of women involved in the sex trade, the suffering caused, and for once actually had their view of things. The reporter questioned and was very critical of the entltlement these men feel to just go out and 'buy' a woman for sex.

Kate // Posted 18 January 2010 at 14:56

I have now read the report. The figures on the number of men who think prostitutes are “unrapeable” are profoundly depressing. 24% think the concept of rape does not apply in prostitution.

I think it’s important to push this stat out there though. The pro-prostitution lobby is always claiming that prostitution is a “choice” for women. Well how do they feel that the very clients they claim to cater for don’t think that women should have any choice at all, least of all over the most fundamental issue of bodily autonomy?

Jennifer Drew // Posted 18 January 2010 at 15:27

Anyone who believes these men's accounts are not representative of common male excuses/justifications for the perpetuation of prostitution should read The Johns: Sex For Sale and The Men Who Buy It by Victor Malarek.

Malarek uses Johns' accounts and their uncensored discussions within pro-prostitution chat rooms to show such male beliefs are not those of a few individual men but are widespread and common. Yet even when men themselves demonstrate their contempt and hatred of women this is dismissed as 'not real evidence' because researchers take a feminist anti-prostitution approach.

Perhaps the reality of mens' insatiable demand for access to women's and girls' bodies is such that it must always be dismissed as 'irrelevant and not real.'

Because facing the fact it is men who are the ones driving and condoning prostitution which in itself is male sexual violence against women, would shatter so many illusions concerning belief that such male callousness is not limited to a 'minority of men.'

Some Thoughts // Posted 18 January 2010 at 15:40

Nice article - if depressing. Thanks.

Zee, great comment.

gadgetgal, yes, isn't that awful?

Miloronic, emma, yes, of course it's a sample of men who use prostitutes, not all men. I don't think anyone is claiming that it is all men. Unfortunately, it does demonstrate the attitudes of (some) men who use prostitutes - so whether or not it's representative of *men*, these unpleasant types are most of the customers that prostitutes have to deal with, making their lives, to say the least, risky and unpleasant.

Mary, (in response to your post at 1:57), I have a psychology degree and can't see anything wrong with that, on the face of it. I have not yet read the study, though, so will reserve judgement. I will also look at the links you posted.

Kate - I like your last point on choice and autonomy. Combine that with, as Zee rightly points out, the way that men feel entitled to *any* service they like. You wouldn't hire a plumber to fix a leak and insist they install a whole new bathroom at no extra cost, because 'I'm paying, you'll do as I say'! Sex work isn't a job like any other.

Feminist Avatar // Posted 18 January 2010 at 18:44

This is academic research. Melissa Farley is a top academic and specialist in prostitution across the world. Dr Jacqueline Golding is an academic psychologist who specialises in sexual assault. And while Julie Bindel is not an academic, she does have a long history of campaigning against violence against women.

The methodologies used for this appear sound and in line with many very similar projects. It does have a feminist methodology- that is believes that women's low social status needs to be taken into account when explaining their experiences- but again this is not unusual in academia- and something feminists usually want to promote.

It is also increasingly important in academia to be seen to be making links with the community when doing this research- this is because we want it to matter and not just sit on a shelf in a university library. By working with community organisers and activists, we can ensure that academic research is actually used to make women's lives better.

I would also say that having read a few academic studies like this- there is nothing in this report or in what the men say that is surprising or unique.

SnowdropExplodes // Posted 18 January 2010 at 19:32

As academic research, this is fundamentally flawed and does not support the conclusions apparently being drawn from it.

For this study to have any validity in terms of drawing policy conclusions, it would need to have a control sample for comparison purposes. It doesn't. The sad fact is, that for the general population of men living in London, I suspect very similar results could be found. Last year, the Home Office reported that 17% of UK citizens believed that a prostitute was "entirely to blame" if someone raped her; that's not all that dissimilar from saying that "rape a prostitute" is a "ridiculous" concept (an opinion held by 25% of the men surveyed).

The research report doesn't give details of the questionnaires used or how they were used to measure attitudes, so although I am sceptical about the validity of them I cannot criticise directly and have to accept the results as reported.

The point I am making is not to defend the men who expressed abhorrent views (they are abhorrent views, after all) but rather to say that it is the views that should be addressed directly, and the fact of the matter is, a Swedish Model approach would not do this (in fact, Farley, Bindel & Golding seem to want to make the stigma of sex work even worse, which could conceivably have the opposite effect).

There are serious problems revealed about the way people (especially men) view sex work, and these are problems that need to be addressed. However, the contention of sex workers' rights advocates is that the only effective way to address those concerns begins with decriminalisation and thus bringing sex workers under the full protection of the law (and not just under protection after they've been raped)

coldharbour // Posted 18 January 2010 at 20:48

"Because facing the fact it is men who are the ones driving and condoning prostitution which in itself is male sexual violence against women, would shatter so many illusions concerning belief that such male callousness is not limited to a 'minority of men.'"

"There is no gender identity behind the expressions of gender... identity is performatively constituted by the very 'expressions' that are said to be its results.'
Judith Butler

The point of articles like this in the Guardian is not to improve the position of woman or sex workers in society, it is to perpetuate patriarchal stereotypes about biological men (sex obsessed, controlling, emotionless) and biological woman (subordinate, weak, lacking in any autonomy). From the reaction of a lot of people posting on here (who would call themselves feminists) it is quite obvious that this article has been very successful in fostering patriarchal ideologies regarding gender stereotyping that ultimately harm woman. With regard to sex work the great anarchist-feminist Emma Goldman was the first to understand the classist nature of differentiating sex workers from the rest of the working class renting their bodies for labor to the capitalist class. For upper and middle class woman to engage sexual relationships for economic gain she argued the was no social stigma whatsoever, for poor working class woman to have sex in exchange for capital to feed their families the patriarchal stigma of being a 'whore' was of course unavoidable. Lets not forget last year when woman who were brave enough to stand up for the rights of sex workers were threatened and abused on R.T.S., is it any wonder that transphobic bigots like Bindel are lauded on this site? Let's be honest, are we expecting authoritarian state laws controlling womans bodies to help the situation? If I could think of two of the most male dominated patriarchal institutions in land it would be the Metropolitan Police and the Criminal Justice System, do you think the feminist solution is to hand control of womans bodies over to them? The subtext of this thread is without doubt part of a larger campaign on the f-word to forward the cause of outdated ultra-conservative second wave feminism in place of the progress that has been made over the last twenty years in the wake of the failed authoritarian statist ideas of Dworkin/MacKinnon. I didn't become a feminist to have the same views on sex work as my right-wing Christian fundamentalist granny or dehumanize 'criminals' and glorify the prison system. I became a feminist because I understood gender roles were social constructs created to divide and oppress people, in this respect stereotyping biological men is the biggest own goal the powers of be want us to make.

makomk // Posted 18 January 2010 at 21:57

coldharbour: nope, feminist anti-prostitution "garbage", spin-off of the second wave anti-porn movement. Looks about typical (which is why I'm a tad puzzled that comment got through).

mary: you shouldn't be surprised. Julie Bindel's transphobic statements were published in the Guardian, after all. As far as I know, they've never apologized for it either.

Jennifer Drew: IIRC, depends which chatrooms. Different ones have different cultures, and some are more toxic than others. Don't have a link off-hand, but there are blog posts out there by sex workers discussing it.

Shea // Posted 18 January 2010 at 22:16

This a truly depressing read.

But I do wonder whether it is representative of what men believe. Surely men who visit prositutes are a self selecting group anyhow and will already have certain values about women in general. I don't think these can then be extrapolated to the male population in general.

I am more cautiously optimistic. I am currently seeing a man who admitted to visiting a prostitute when he was younger (age 17). I was initially quite shocked and disgusted that he would just use a person like this, and asked him what he would feel if I had been a prostitute? He found it hard to deal with and said he could see the double standard. I also explained about the trafficking element- he was utterly horrified and had never even considered it. He said he felt it was an empty hollow experience, because it was apparent the woman took no pleasure in it and he has never visited a prostitute again.

To my mind this seems a more hopeful interpretation. Men want a valid emotional and physical connection every bit as much a women do. Not every man (not even every man interviewed) will have such a mercenary view of sex and sex workers.

Julie Bindel // Posted 19 January 2010 at 08:22

Mary

My advice is to randomly chose a handful of those so-called ethical and impartial academics from the 27 who signed the complaint about BB and have a quick Google into their links with others in the sex industry.

Catherine Redfern // Posted 19 January 2010 at 10:20

Can I reasurre coldharbour and readers there is certainly no campign at the f word to 'forward the cause of ultra-conservatives' !

In fact, I find that idea a little amusing since many of the (presumably radical/anti-sex work) feminists you're talking about actually think we have a campaign to push exactly the viewpoints expressed by coldharbour above.

Just sayin'.

But seriously, surely whatever your view of the rights and wrongs of sex work/prostitution, the attitudes of these men towards sex workers/prostitued women must concern everyone equally, whatever 'side' they are on in this debate.

Jess McCabe // Posted 19 January 2010 at 10:35

@coldharbour

The point of articles like this in the Guardian is not to improve the position of woman or sex workers in society, it is to perpetuate patriarchal stereotypes about biological men (sex obsessed, controlling, emotionless) and biological woman (subordinate, weak, lacking in any autonomy).

The story is about men who buy sex from women prostitutes/sex workers, not all men. It's not stereotyping men to confront the real and actual patriarchal, kyriarchal attitudes that some hold, and those views are not going to go away if we can't name them. It's not the story or the report which is putting across the view of women as lacking agency, or 'subordinate', it's the men in the study who, when asked, said that's what they believe - that sex workers/prostitutes are 'unrapeable', or don't have as many rights as other women.


The subtext of this thread is without doubt part of a larger campaign on the f-word to forward the cause of outdated ultra-conservative second wave feminism in place of the progress that has been made over the last twenty years in the wake of the failed authoritarian statist ideas of Dworkin/MacKinnon. I didn't become a feminist to have the same views on sex work as my right-wing Christian fundamentalist granny or dehumanize 'criminals' and glorify the prison system. I became a feminist because I understood gender roles were social constructs created to divide and oppress people, in this respect stereotyping biological men is the biggest own goal the powers of be want us to make.

Please note the small print: "All blog posts are the views of the individual post author, and not those of The F-Word." Although, in this case, I thought I was quite careful not to put in any sentiments about what I think should be done about the situation, precisely to avoid derailing the thread from the main point: what are the attitudes of men who buy sex from prostitutes/sex workers.

No doubt Julie would be surprised to read we're lauding her, as we've run quite critical posts in the past. I think perhaps we need to be able to differentiate between lauding someone and quoting them.

OK, let's try not to derail the thread too much from the actual report!

gadgetgal // Posted 19 January 2010 at 11:29

@Shea - I have had a similar experience with some of my friends. Sadly, though, it doesn't seem to be as uncommon as I once thought. The first guy who I knew who'd visited a prostitute (who openly admitted it, anyway) had no problem with it, he was actually kind of using it to impress us about how sexually aware and experienced he was (put me off right away, but it may have worked with others). The second guy was a bloke I was seeing - nice guy, went to Amsterdam with his mates and they all went to prostitutes, it's the done thing there. He said he didn't like it because she just didn't give a crap and didn't even pretend to enjoy it, and it was... unfinished, shall we say! Then I found out that my (now) husband's mates had all visited prostitutes in Amsterdam too (he hadn't, nor had one other friend who went with them) - not sure what the others thought but I know one especially regrets it, he despised himself afterwards. Also one of the men involved was the father of one of the lads - married, but since the new tradition of getting your son his final sexual experience before marriage has taken off (usually by buying him lap dances, but sometimes prostitutes too) that doesn't seem to matter anymore. Apparently, according to the blokes I know, it doesn't count as cheating if money exchanges hands!

And I don't know particularly hard-up cases, or screwed up people on drugs, or seedy fellas you'd avoid, these are all normal, nice, middle class boys with regular jobs on stag dos, most of whom had girlfriends or wives at the time. So it can't be THAT uncommon - I mean, how many men go away to various cities for stag dos, how many lap dancing joints there (and here) offer "extras" that you would consider akin to prostitution, and how many just go straight to the prostitutes anyway because what happens on a stag do stays on the stag do? I've never seen any evidence to say what proportion of men go because most wouldn't admit it (although apparently they will to me - maybe it's just me face, or something!). But the numbers visiting sex workers is going up, they must be coming from somewhere.

And the problem isn't being tackled in full - I could care less if someone wants to be a sex worker (even worked in that area a bit myself) or go to a sex worker so long as it doesn't interfere with my own life, but increasingly it seems to be the case that it does, whether its in the fear I have suffer every time a guy gets married round here and my husband's invited, or the attitudes of the other guys when they all come back and talk down at me and their girlfriends the day after (and yes, that is frequently the case), or the now "no-go" areas I can't catch the bus in anymore. Whether prostitution is made illegal or not (personally I don't know which way would be better, I've yet to see any real evidence either way as most opinions are based upon hearsay and biased reporting), it seems to me the real problem is the culture that we've developed over the years to say that for men it should be tolerated as part of a "rite of passage", when women aren't even given the chance of a decent sexual release because that's not ok, apparently. To illustrate my point - my local bookshop stocks the usual male porn (Nuts, Loaded et al) and they used to have erotica for women (no visual porn, because we're women, therefore we couldn't possibly want to see a hard penis). But because we live in a poorer area they cut back on the number of books we stocked(!) and the first thing to go was the women's erotic fiction. It was never advertised like the porn for men, although it did seem to sell out so they can't have been unpopular.

Basically I think as the inequity between the sexes continues so will men's attitudes towards sex workers and all other women besides. I'm also less inclined to believe that changes in legislation are the real problem or the solution - it's attitudes that need changing, and since that's not coming from the men (who of course enjoy the status quo, they can have their cake and eat it) it needs to come from women.

Any suggestions? I've done a little bit by banning hubby from going to lap dancing joints on stag dos (or otherwise), but I'm still left here in my crowd as the only woman who's dared open her mouth to do it, so according to others I'm a bit of a meanie (until I point out I used to work in one so they can fool other women into thinking it's not cheating, but I'm the last person who would ever buy that one!). I don't want to stop other guys from going or other women from doing, but I want to engender the idea that they're not just entitled to it and I don't have to put up with it if I don't wish to have it in my life. It still doesn't solve the problem of the lack of sexual expression and freedom for women, that might actually require a law change, but I'm trying to move towards it - any ideas?

makomk // Posted 19 January 2010 at 11:39

Julie Bindel: thank you for the impromptu demonstration of the veracity of SnowdropExplodes' comment upthread.

Jess McCabe: the trouble is, their research is the stuff that gets reported in the news and on sites like this one and that influences government policy, whereas better-conducted studies are ignored. This is a common phenomena: where study quality is ignored, bad research drives out good because it gets more impressive results.

(Make no mistake, the Big Brothel report was bad, like a lot of the widely-reported figures. Apparently, they also assumed in another report that all foreign sex workers in the UK were forced into prostitution - something contradicted by a rather less widely-reported study that actually talked to these women. That didn't stop the Guardian itself later printing those dubious figures, nor did it stop the Home Office from using them repeatedly.)

In fact, ignoring of actual sex workers' experiences in favour of what white middle-class cis women activists think they should be - the fundamental flaw of the Big Brothel report - seems widespread in the anti-sex trafficking movement. For example, take the anti-trafficking laws they pushed for in the UK. Actual sex workers said the law would be dangerous to them, by making it difficult to work with a maid or similar for safety reasons. They were ignored or attacked. Pretty much the exact same thing happened in Australia, except that it was the feminist academic Shelia Jeffreys pushing for it.

In fact, maybe helping prostituted women isn't the goal after all, but rather it's about protecting decent middle class women at the expense of the dirty sex workers. This survey and Guardian article fits well with that theme.

gadgetgal // Posted 19 January 2010 at 11:42

Sorry, went off on one there - I just can't stand the "othering" of women, whatever they choose to do with their lives, and saying they're not real women really gets to me - feel free to not post me, I just had to have a mini-rant!

Feminist Avatar // Posted 19 January 2010 at 11:59

Just because people seem to be wondering: a recent report has suggested that in a survey of c.5000 men in the UK in 2000 showed that about 9% use prostitutes (double that of ten years before). This is consistent with studies from the US.

And if anybody wants to see the Glasgow Survey done in 2008, it is here:
http://www.rapecrisisscotland.org.uk/documents/Challenging_Men's_Demand.pdf

Kit // Posted 19 January 2010 at 12:42

"I'm also less inclined to believe that changes in legislation are the real problem or the solution - it's attitudes that need changing..." - gadgetgal
I agree. Wouldn't criminalising more paying for & or selling sex only force it further underground and make it harder for anyone who is in a bad situation there to get out or get help?
I don't see any problem in theory with people paying for sex or people getting money for having it. It should be up to the individual what they do with their own body. Fact is though, there are obviously bad attitudes towards folks who are doing that either because they want to, or even if they don't want to but have to/are made to. How much do you think society's attitudes to poor or not well-off people goes into this idea that prostitutes aren't really people and therefore not required the same rights or basic level of respect as others, as well?

"It still doesn't solve the problem of the lack of sexual expression and freedom for women, that might actually require a law change, but I'm trying to move towards it - any ideas?"
idk what kind of law you could put in. I'm sure it would be branded "PC gone mad" whatever it is. I think it's another one of those things that requires a social attitude overhaul. Unless you could get a law _against_ portraying liking sex as being a sin and shameful (no matter the gender of the person liking it).

Some Thoughts // Posted 19 January 2010 at 12:53

OK. I agree with others - I do not agree with all of Julie Bindel's views.

However, that doesn't mean everything she does is discredited (and she's only one of three main researchers on this). It is good to evaluate the ideas, not the person.

As for bias, yeah, no research is ever without bias (which goes double for something like this) - perfectly reputable researchers on a subject disagree with each other all the time.

SnowdropExplodes, you think the research was flawed? Really? I thought it was sound, and I am willing to criticise research that isn't. I think they gave details of the questionnaires used. I don't think they claimed that this sample generalised to all men, and disagree - for policy purposes, it matters what men who visit sex workers think, because er, they're the ones who visit sex workers.
You agree that the views expressed by these men are repugnant, well, that's the point of the research and that's all it was intended to show.
I don't think they were stigmatising prostitution at all. The recommendations specifically point out that ASBOs etc. are used against sex workers, not buyers. In terms of policy recommendations, they don't specifically advocate the Swedish model, or take any position on legalisation. (I'm sure they do have views, but they are not expressed in this report.) Your contention that they are out to intentionally stigmatise sex workers seems overly harsh and a bit cynical. It is fairly obvious they do care about women in the sex industry. Whether or not you agree with the proposed solution, the accusation that they don't is unfair.

Helen S // Posted 19 January 2010 at 13:50

OMG, gadgetgal, your description of stag do's could have been mine, its uncanny. My husband has been to Prague 3 times in under 2 years for stag do's (one of which was his own) and exactly the same happened.

On all 3 occasions he ended up in a lap dancing club although he didn't pay for anything and sat at the bar with a drink while waiting for those who did. I wasn't comfortable with him going to those places at all but was browbeaten by comments such as 'it's the done thing'. It took me several months to uncover who did what and when at his do due to the 'what happens on the Stag stays on the Stag' mentality which apparently equals some brotherly code of blood. I did actually ban him from going to a lap-dancing club at all on his stag do, and after the wedding of course found out that I'd been ignored.

On one Stag do he went to, the brother of the groom tried to force the groom to go to a prostitute, offering to pay and even 'selecting' one for him, claiming it was fine as it was a 'last hurrah'. Fortunately the groom (backed up by my husband thank God) refused point blank and got quite angry, saying he wasn't a cheater. So at least some men have (a few) morals.

Anyway, guess I'm just agreeing with your comments, really. I'm seen amongst our male friends as a bit of a party-pooper when it comes to my stance on lap-dancing clubs, but nothing I've ever done or said to them seems to make any difference. I'd be interested to know what could change their minds!

Rose // Posted 19 January 2010 at 15:13

Woah, now research like this is NEEDED. Lots more of it, made public all the time.

This film is the best short film about prostitution I've seen, applying to normal prostitution as much as trafficking:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2009/dec/18/journey-emma-thompson

Films like this along with this research need to be shown before things like Belle De Jour are ever given breath.

IMO it might not legally be rape to visit a consenting prostitute, but when you're *buying consent*, it has to come close. How can a man call a 17 year old girl doing it for food 'consenting'? Prostitution is inherently creepy.

Rose // Posted 19 January 2010 at 15:31

"Because facing the fact it is men who are the ones driving and condoning prostitution which in itself is male sexual violence against women, would shatter so many illusions concerning belief that such male callousness is not limited to a 'minority of men."

Well, someone's hit the nail on the head.

In other news, less publishing of troll comments on serious issues please! When confused ranting comments make so little sense that the only thing discernible is 'I don't like feminists or this article' then leave it out.

Elmo // Posted 19 January 2010 at 16:52

@ Gadetgal, I just...can't fathom how men dont feel its cheating in any way to get a lap dance. Maybe its like dieters who don't count snacks when their standing up as breaking the diet....I dunno. It's not so much the cheating on the girlfriend, but the fact that they dont consider the dancer/prostitute human enough to count as cheating, if you get me. Like, if you have sex with someone who isnt your girlfriend, thats cheating, but if you have it with someone you paid for, it doesnt count, since their not meant to feel anything, or enjoy it, or... be real. Like a blow up doll.
It's bad enough cheating on a your partner, but its even worse to consider the one you cheat with as a piece of meat, somewhere to stick yourself.

Maybe you could say to your friends-"Have you ever asked your partner to stay home, and you could give him a lap dance?". Well, you probably shouldnt say that, but you see what I mean. Or I bet your friends would be annoyed if YOU started lap dancing for their husbands, but they don't mind when their husbands are paying for some random girl.

Money involved= its just a buisness deal. There are no human feelings involved. Money cancels out humanity.

Probably best not to take my advice, just some thoughts!

Jennifer Drew // Posted 19 January 2010 at 23:13

makomk I wonder how many male interviewees it will take for you to accept these men themselves condemned themselves in their own words. No feminist interviewer forced/coerced or threatened these men to justify their choosing to buy women in order to use them as sexual slaves.

Furthermore I was not talking about 'different chatrooms' and neither was Victor Malarek (if you read his book you will see the evidence is irrefutable). The chatrooms Malarek infiltrated are common ones all designed to booster Johns' overblown egos and pseudo beliefs in their inalienable right of buying/using women/girls sexually whenever they wish. It is called sexual slavery but because so many do not want to read/see/hear the truth instead they twist the focus around and hey presto it becomes 'innocent men.'

The only 'innocent men' are those males who do not buy women for the purpose of using them as sexual service stations.

As regards demonising men - that is an old, old patriarchal trick. Women have alway been demonised by men but it is called 'male supremacist entitlement.' Women who hold men accountable for their misogynistic/and/or violence against men are called 'man-haters.' Clever is it not, the dominant group men defining what is is not truth.

Read Rebecca Mott's blog for first-hand evidence concerning the hatred and contempt Johns express/hold towards women involved in prostitution.

Mary // Posted 20 January 2010 at 10:21

Julie Bindel wrote:

My advice is to randomly chose a handful of those so-called ethical and impartial academics from the 27 who signed the complaint about BB and have a quick Google into their links with others in the sex industry

I certainly don't believe that academics were impartial or ethical. But it's not about the personal standards of the researcher, it's about the standards of the research: good academic research should be peer-reviewed and generally held to higher standards, and should have been properly examined by an ethics committee before it can be carried out. There are structures in place. What standards was this research held to? Genuine question.

And I really don't see why having links to the sex industry to be a problem?

Mary // Posted 20 January 2010 at 11:27

Again, I don't want to sound like I think academic research is the be-all and end-all of truth. There are plenty of problems with it, including problems like access and privilege and who is excluded from academia, and even the best research is (and should be!) subject to criticism from related experts. But this research is informing policy, and used as the basis for laws like the kerb crawling one which are being criticised by plenty of organisations which advocate for sex-workers or do sex-worker outreach for putting women's lives in danger. It's *really* important that the research that is used to justify policy is sound, and the academic standards, whilst not perfect, are the best ones we've got.

Jodie // Posted 21 January 2010 at 00:28

I don't understand the general consensus on this thread the research is 'rubbish'. There's no two ways of looking at them. To moan about feminist bias is to cause a big fuss to derail from the real issue. So the real issue gets neglected and women continually get hurt by these very real attitudes.. the issue once again into the shadows because, despite most research being inferential from a small sample - this one has to be a stinker. Freud interviewed a handful of patients to produce his research, influencing psychology to this day. Yet feminists still need to test the whole world of men, then travel to mars just to make sure every possible male species is included in their attitudes towards British female prostitutes.

These men reflect dark reality - because they're having sex when consent isn't there in the first place. Consent is arranged. Yes, I'd rather prostitution be underground than worshipped in Disney-esque glamour on the BBC with programs like Belle De Jour. A culture that accepts prostitution is a dark culture indeed. In places like Shanghai where prostitution is completely underground, the attitudes to women are much more enlightened. These dangerous attitudes from British men and the legalise- prostitution crowd, show more research needs to be done. How similar is paid- for- consent to no consent? What is the power dynamic? How many men agree with the idea 'it feels better when the girl doens't want it?

Welcome to the freakshow, girls, where we are the circus freaks continually paraded.

Kathryn H // Posted 21 January 2010 at 09:23

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/lancashire/8466185.stm

It is interesting to see articles like this. Prostitution is seen as the woman's fault, obviously, to fix. To some extent we all are held accountable for our actions. And there are attempts to offer help and education. Does anyone know more about this? Is it to help the women find alternative work?

In any case, it is not surprising that many women working in the sex industry may not find the framework of this support workable, and will not see the benefits.

Mike Arthur // Posted 21 January 2010 at 10:34

I found this pretty disgusting reading, however I'm not surprised. Of my peers, the ones I know who have visited prostitutes (only one I know for sure) have very strange views towards women and this study sadly doesn't surprise me.

I think this is where the problem comes in with legalising prostitution. You may be able to have a situation (eventually) where there is no trafficking or no pimps but I'd still argue the men that would visit prostitutes are far more likely to be be misogynistic than those that get their sex in trusted relationships with partners.

I'm always willing to be corrected however :)

Kit // Posted 21 January 2010 at 11:10

"On one Stag do he went to, the brother of the groom tried to force the groom to go to a prostitute, offering to pay and even 'selecting' one for him, claiming it was fine as it was a 'last hurrah'." - Helen S

Honestly, I really don't understand that attitude. How can they be so cruel and disrespectful of all involved? I would seriously consider steering well clear of men who have friends like that, even if they themselves are alright :/ Good on the groom and your husband though!

"In other news, less publishing of troll comments on serious issues please! When confused ranting comments make so little sense that the only thing discernible is 'I don't like feminists or this article' then leave it out." - Rose
Despite some jumping on dissenting but politely worded opinions (at least IMO) and branding them as trollish because they don't agree with what is being asked or said, it doesn't look like anyone's posted comments like that. You run the risk of forcing _everyone_ not saying anything that doesn't conform to your own views and that would be a shame :) Sorry for the sidetrack, but I think the mods do an awesome job of keeping this blog a good place for discussion.

Kate // Posted 21 January 2010 at 11:27

@ Mary, really, you don't think that someone standing to gain if govt turns a blind eye to, or even legalises, prostiution isn't cause for concern?

makomk // Posted 21 January 2010 at 12:23

Jennifer Drew: oh, I've no doubt that the male interviewees really did make those comments, albeit with some cherry picking. The question that that the study doesn't and can't answer is whether it's using prostitutes that gave them these attitudes, or if all men are similar. (I think SnowdropExplodes commented on this earlier.)

It's clear, though, that the survey is intended to answer that question with a resounding "yes, visiting prostitutes causes these attitudes". From there, it's only a small step to blaming the prostitutes or seeing them as people who deserve the way they're treated. (See also Jodie's comment about driving prostitution underground: sure, it makes life more dangerous for the women involved, but that's apparently forgivable since it improves things for normal, unsullied women.)

One thing I'm unclear on is why Victor Malarek needed to infiltrate any chatrooms. I repeat: if you pay attention to sex worker's blogs, it's obvious that many of the online communities for punters not only have a really nasty culture of entitlement to women's bodies, but they often do so in the full presence of the women in question.

Mary: the best I can tell is, there's effectively two kinds of prostitution. There's real prostitution, in which women are held in sexual slavery and unable to speak out. Then there's fake prostitution - anything where the women involved do it voluntarily, or don't consider it that bad, etc. In this model fake prostitution is a facade, created to hide the evil of real prostitution with the complicity of the women involved and any researchers who talk to them. That's also why sex workers' groups are ignored.

gadgetgal // Posted 21 January 2010 at 12:47

@Kit - "Fact is though, there are obviously bad attitudes towards folks who are doing that either because they want to, or even if they don't want to but have to/are made to. How much do you think society's attitudes to poor or not well-off people goes into this idea that prostitutes aren't really people and therefore not required the same rights or basic level of respect as others, as well?" - I am in total agreement with you! Like I said, I reckon a serious change in attitudes is more important than the legislation, there's no point in changing an already poor system for another equally poor one. Oh, and over making the laws more equal I was referring to the out-of-date pornography laws, which tend to demonise not only the act of sex but penalise women as well by making it biased in favour of pornography for straight men (especially in the mainstream). I think this adds to the whole "women as non-sexual beings" idea, which then goes on to men like those interviewed being able to split us up into being either "real" women (those who aren't there for sex) or "not real" women (those who are ONLY there for sex). I wonder if maybe we should try a bit in the way of shaming tactics too - I remember a couple of years back someone actually totted up the percentages of different races of people shown on TV so they could point out how under-represented minorities are. I wonder if anyone has ever done that with, say, female nudity versus male nudity? Pressure on networks (if you can generate it) can really make a difference, since there's money at stake and they don't want to lose any!

@Helen S & Elmo - I don't know if it's the solution to all problems, that's going to take a very long time, but the last time I found out my husband had gone to a lap dancing place (he said he felt pressured into it and couldn't stop all the others from going, my argument was it was 1am and he could have got a friggin taxi home!) I threw him out. After a couple of days he finally got that going to one would make me angry. As for the girlfriends/wives who just let them go, I find that my experience in the field tends to give me the edge in letting them know what I think about it. And if that fails then the offer of giving their loved ones a "dance" myself usually leads into the whole "real women versus sex worker" conversation and I can hammer them down by calling sexism. Women may not like the tag "feminist" any more, but they like the sexist tag even less!

Belle // Posted 21 January 2010 at 14:09

'I did actually ban him from going to a lap-dancing club at all on his stag do, and after the wedding of course found out that I'd been ignored.'

I find that incredibly sad. It's not about 'banning' or 'allowing' - it's about respect. Your husband doesn't seem to respect your opinions and values on this subject very much, or take you very seriously. It seems indicative of a wider lack of respect for what you think and say. He needs to learn that you mean what you say and that you say what you mean, and that if he wants you in his life he has to respect and value that.

My partner, when we met, had been to strip clubs, watched a lot of porn, etc. We have talked about it extensively and he was genuinely shocked to find that my objections went beyond the poular myth that objection is due to 'prudishness' or 'jealousy', but were based on my distaste at the purchase and use of human beings for the visual and sexual pleasure of other human beings. I'm not saying it's our job to educate people about what our ACTUAL objections to prostitution/stip clubs, etc, are - but it's astonishing how many people genuinely have never considered the power imbalance existing in such situations.

As for the sad specimiens interviewed in the original article, they are probably beyond help. I'd like to see them stripped of their city-boy privileges and feeling like they had no choice between selling their bodies and starvation/drug withdrawal/not paying the rent/being beaten and raped by their pimps. Or simply having grown up in a world that tells them to aspire to be nothing more than a collection of orifices with a price attached. They make me sick.

Helen S // Posted 21 January 2010 at 15:32

Oh I agree with you Belle, I havn't entirely forgiven him for that behaviour and like to raise it every once in a while. Not entirely healthy I know but it keeps it in his head that it's not acceptable.

Like you, my partner was a lot worse when I met him - had been to strip clubs before (once at the age of 14, but I blame his parents for that one!), watched loads of porn and had VERY old views on women. I thought of it as a bit of a challenge to tackle his views, to the point where he's starting to question certain status quo's himself. It's taken me 6 years but I'm getting there!

Unfortunately a lot of men (and those in the original article included on a more extreme level) were raised in a way that made it all too easy for them to see these things the way they do - until someone challenges them, it doesn't even cross their minds that their behaviour is offensive. I'm not excusing it, but that's what I think.

Jess McCabe // Posted 21 January 2010 at 15:33

@makomk - Sorry, but no, I firmly disagree that there's any implied or actual criticism of women in prostitution/sex work in this report, or intent to blame women. On the contrary, the report focuses on men who buy sex, and the misogynist views some of them came out with. Indeed, the bias the report has is surely in believing those views are misogynist and QED wrong.

It's just not true that an objection to men who buy sex automatically results in blaming prostitutes/sex workers, or viewing them as "sullied" - that's your choice of words. One thing does not logically lead to the other, simple as that.

I'd suggest that you're extrapolating beyond the limits of what's actually in the report, which as far as I read it, didn't ask or answer the question of whether "using" prostitutes caused misogynist attitudes, but documented how men who buy sex feel about sex workers/prostitutes.

Kate // Posted 21 January 2010 at 15:42

@mamok “It's clear, though, that the survey is intended to answer that question with a resounding "yes, visiting prostitutes causes these attitudes". From there, it's only a small step to blaming the prostitutes or seeing them as people who deserve the way they're treated.”

I really don’t agree with this and don’t think that implication is being made at all. Even if the study does imply that purchasing women for sex gives men these attitudes (and as you say it fails to say whether these men are distinct or typical of all men) that in no way assumes that the attitudes are a result of how the prostitutes behaved, responded etc. More likely the fact that these men thought they had a right to buy someone gave them these attitudes.
(just realised I'm cross posting with Jess but I want to say it anyway)

@Gadgetgal – what I would add is that the changes in legislation that groups like Object are talking about are intended to change attitudes. They’re primarily aimed at tackling demand by challenging the idea that men have any sort of right or expectation to buy sex. They no longer treat women as criminals and instead say that women are victims of violent acts. I’m sure there are some people who will object to the victim terminology but I suspect it’s closer to most people’s experience of prostitution.

Mary // Posted 21 January 2010 at 19:52

@ Mary, really, you don't think that someone standing to gain if govt turns a blind eye to, or even legalises, prostiution isn't cause for concern?

@Kate - what if the person who stands to gain is a woman who gets to work in safer conditions because the men who are trying to purchase her services aren't criminalised and don't feel the need to pressure her to go to increasingly isolated places? Who feels relatively confident about her ability to go to the police if she's attacked or someone steals from her?

I don't believe that criminalising either prostitution or purchasing sex helps protect women, and there's plenty of evidence to back me up on that. I know there is a lot of exploitation in the sex industry, but I don't believe that everyone "with links to the sex industry" is either an exploiter or exploited, and furthermore I don't believe that the policies that Bindel promotes protect those who are exploited.

gadgetgal // Posted 22 January 2010 at 10:37

@Mary - "And I really don't see why having links to the sex industry to be a problem?"

I'm still undecided as to how the issues above could be solved (as you can see from my above posts in a perfect world I'd have no problem with prostitution if it wasn't hurting anyone, I'm just not sure how that's best achieved) but I have to comment on this one - if you stand to make a profit (as in cash profit) from something you're doing research on then then the results are likely to be more biased than someone doing research, whatever their opinions, that doesn't stand to make a profit. Therefore anyone reading those results should be more wary of the outcome of the research. It's like reading research conducted by big pharmaceutical companies that recommend their own products above others - I'd prefer to read research by outsiders, even if they don't like the companies and the fact that they're pushing their product, because mostly those outsiders don't stand to actually make any money off it, so they have less of a vested interest.

Don't get me wrong, I think many people have vested interests when it comes to the legalisation versus non-legalisation issue, but I think if they have monetary links it tends to make their evidence less than trustworthy.

Kate // Posted 22 January 2010 at 12:49

I presume you’re talking about reports from Sweden, where women say that they don’t feel as safe as men are putting them under pressure to work quickly, in secret etc. That is worrying, but in my view shows that prostitution is an inherently nasty industry and one that is going to be difficult to ever make safe.

Most research agrees that as soon as you start trying to create a “nice” legalised sector you also create a nastier, darker sector which can’t meet the official criteria. Licensed prostitution fuels unlicensed prostitution and trafficking. Why? In part because it doesn’t ask enough questions of the demand side. It reinforces the idea that men should be able to buy sex and creates the myth that there is a safe way for women to sell it.

Phoebe // Posted 22 January 2010 at 15:08

Elizabeth Pisani has written a lot about the issue of criminalising those who buy sex.

http://www.wisdomofwhores.com/2009/06/29/a-parliament-of-whores-access-denied/

(Her book 'the wisdom of whores' is well worth reading also).


Phoebe // Posted 22 January 2010 at 15:16

Incidentally, the main problem I had with this piece of 'research', was that it didn't sufficiently answer the question, 'why men buy sex'. I'm not sure that research conducted primarily through surveys is ever going to reveal how and why misogynistic attitudes occur, although as the Eaves report shows, it certainly can highlight the prevalence of such attitudes. I would be interested to read some research on sex workers' perceptions of why men buy sex.

AverageMan // Posted 22 January 2010 at 21:49

I am a well educated, middle-class, divorced man in my early forties and have on occasion, in the past, visited prostitutes for sex. I have never to my knowledge been with a trafficked woman and on the only occasion where I suspected this may be the case, I asked whether she needed help (and did not engage in any activity with her of a sexual nature). She assured me she was fine and I let it go. I now feel I should have contacted the authorities with my concerns and I regret I did not. I try to respect all people of all genders and at any time "no" means just that whatever the situation. I condemn wholeheatedly any idea to the contrary. However, I am of the opinion that in a fully consensual way if a man, or a woman for that matter, pays for sex for what could be a multitude of legitimate reasons, then as long as both parties are aware and in agreement with the terns of the verbal contract (and the terms of such should be agreed beforehand in the manner of what "services" are to be provided), then I fail to see where it is wrong. Sadly, due to drugs, greed, pimps and society's unwillingness to discuss sex openly, there are more victims of sexual exploitation every year. I no longer visit prostitutes because I do not wish to be part of the victimisation of vulnerable women. I have heard first hand accounts of events that make me ashamed to be human let alone a man. There are many educated women who have chosen the sex industry with eyes wide open and who genuinely lead fulfilled lives but these are not your average working girls or massage parlour types. More likely they are independents, often working as dominas (who do not engage in direct sexual services with clients) and who are as in control of their lives as people with more "regular" jobs. I would discourage anyone from paying for sex on grounds of being an accomplice to exploitation and suffering, but I do not condemn sex for money per se as it can be an informed choice with set terms and conditions and as such, is as legitimate as any financial transaction for a provided service. And to the question why do men buy sex...I am sure there will be many different answers from men...for me the answer is relatively simple..I live alone and would not have a one-night-stand or pursue a woman just to have sex with her as that is disingenuous and against the respect I have for myself and for others. That is just my belief for myself, not a moral judgement on people who see things differently. However, I enjoy sex and so, by visiting a prostitute, I was able to engage in sexual activity (although, and I don't know if I am typical, over half the time in my encounters was spent chatting and in my experience, the vast majority of the few prostitutes I visited were very pleasant people) which I am unwilling to do with some stranger met in a bar or club. On the whole, I enjoyed my visits and the thrill of the "naughtiness" of it all and I was fortunate that all bar one of my encounters (mentioned above) were with mature, wordly women who were on the whole, charming, fun and in control of their environment. Apologies for the long post but all men who visit prostitutes cannot be classed the same any more than all women who work as prostitutes. I utterly condemn and am appalled by some of the opinions that men have voiced in the Guardian article and for my part, I assure you we are not all women-hating rapists. It saddens me to think that is how we are perceived by many.

pwerner // Posted 23 January 2010 at 09:33

Julie Bindel said:

"My advice is to randomly chose a handful of those so-called ethical and impartial academics from the 27 who signed the complaint about BB and have a quick Google into their links with others in the sex industry."

I'm sorry, but unless you're defining "sex industry" pretty broadly, this is just so much smoke and mirrors.

It is accurate to say that the authors of the report, such as Petra Boynton, etc, are mostly people who are on the "sex-positive" and/or "pro-sex-worker" camp. Does that indicate a certain bias? Yes. But no more so that the extreme radical feminism of Julie Bindel and Melissa Farley, which most definitely should be taken into account in evaluating their studies.

The implication that those authors are in the employ of or somehow directly paid off by the prostitution or porn industry? Baseless, and if you have evidence to the contrary, I would really like to see it.

In short, put up or shut up!

Mary // Posted 24 January 2010 at 00:50

if you stand to make a profit (as in cash profit) from something you're doing research on then then the results are likely to be more biased than someone doing research, whatever their opinions, that doesn't stand to make a profit

@gadgetgal - OK, I'll answer this properly. Basically, it's just not an allegation that I take very seriously coming from Bindel. Here's the list of people who signed the response to the Big Brother report:

Dr Teela Sanders, University of Leeds
Jane Pitcher, Independent Researcher
Rosie Campbell, Chair, UK Network of Sex Work Projects & Loughborough University
Dr Belinda Brooks-Gordon, Birbeck College, University of London
Dr Maggie O’Neill, Loughborough University
Dr Jo Phoenix, Durham University
Professor Phil Hubbard, Loughborough University
Mary Whowell, Loughborough University
Dr Nick Mai, London Metropolitan University
Dr Linda Cusick, University of the West of Scotland
Dr Tracy Sagar, Swansea University
Kate Hardy, Queen Mary, University of London
Dr Ron Roberts, Kingston University
Jane Scoular, Strathclyde University
Professor Graham Scambler, University College London
Hilary Kinnell, Author, “Violence & Sex Work in the Britain” (2008)
Dr Petra Boynton, University College London
Justin Gaffney, Clinical Specialist, Sohoboyz
Dr Elizabeth Wood, Nassau Community College
Dr Michael Goodyear, Dalhousie University
Professor Ron Weitzer, George Washington University
Dr Jackie West, Bristol University
Dr Helen Self, Author “Prostitution, Women & Misuse of the Law” (2003)
Dr Hera Cook, University of Birmingham
Dr Sophie Day, Goldsmiths College, London
Dr Helen Ward, Imperial College, London
Tiggey May, Institute for Criminal Policy Research, King's College, London

(From here: http://image.guardian.co.uk/sys-files/Education/documents/2008/10/07/poppyresponse.pdf)

I mean, what is the allegation here - that these academics are all secretly moonlighting, running stripclubs and making porn films and running brothels? Seriously? I really think Bindel needs to be more specific about what she means by "links with the sex industry". I'm more or less 99% certain, however, that what she means is that one or more people are activists for sex workers' rights and have a very difficult political position to her. Calling sex workers' rights groups advocates for the sex industry and for punters is a tactic that anti-prostitution activists use pretty regularly. I've got a friend who used to work for ScotPep (http://www.scot-pep.org.uk/services.html) doing outreach work with sex workers, and I thinkthey were accused on more than one occasion of working for punters rather than sex workers.

So you know, whilst I agree that if someone's profiting from the sex industry then their motives need to be questioned, when it comes to the people who criticised the Big Brother report, it's just not an accusation I take that seriously!

And this is again why I'm shocked at how much airtime Bindel gets in the Guardian and that her research is being taken seriously here. I mean, this is a woman who, when a group of academics criticise her research, basically slanders them by publically accusing them of having a financial interest in keeping women exploited! It's just such a dishonest tactic. It's completely appalling.

gadgetgal // Posted 01 February 2010 at 11:45

@Mary - hi! Sorry, I didn't realise you'd written in response to my comment, so I wasn't being rude in not getting back to you.

I kind of part agree with you and part not, but the part not actually isn't a disagreement with you per say, it's actually more to do with the media's reporting of the research, which I think was inaccurate and misleading.

I definitely agree with you on the problems regarding Julie Bindel - her name on ANYTHING tends to lessen it in my eyes too. I read what the report was saying with my usual pinch of salt when her name was mentioned. But, since a lot of the report was made up of what other people were saying in interviews it was easier to ignore any kind of spin - unless they were completely lying about what the interviewees said, then it is what they said (trying to ignore any of the bias of the rest of it, which I also tend to do with academic research as well).

I separated this report from academic research in what I said just now, and that was deliberate. I think the main problem here was the reporting of the report in the press, which gave it the air of an academic research paper, which I wouldn't classify it as. Basically you're talking the difference between academic research and market research. I know a little about both because of university and I worked in market research for a few years. There are pluses and minuses with both types of research, although they're used for completely different things.

I don't think the research is being used to inform policy - I think the policy has already been decided and the report has been commissioned to back it up. Now, we can call that bias, which it is, but again I have to point out that the respondents said what they said - I remember getting way out there responses from a lot of people on surveys we were conducting, and although you may be doing your research for a particular company to put figures on their products, you also can't make it up. I seem to recall a PR-based report for a large mining company, which they were hoping would say their public image had improved and that they could then quote to the papers, but unfortunately the answers gave a very different response! Hard to put a spin on that (they weren't best pleased).

I read the links you provided on the Big Brothel research - I'd never read it before so it was all new to me! Again, I'd have to say it was more market research than academic, and they even said so in their response to response. I suppose you could also say that that then makes it peer reviewed - open reviews count too, and the academics you mentioned had given their response, and the people in charge of the report responded to that. I thought their answers were quite good - I don't think I agree with their aims, but I could still see they had pretty good answers to all the issues raised, and they went through them point by point like you're supposed to.

Basically I agree with you that the report, like most other research whether academically-based or not, had bias from the outset. But most do - in fact, most research is written with a hypothesis already in mind, then the research is done to either prove or disprove it. I think the media reporting of it and the fact that the authors didn't clearly state that this was market research, not academia, was misleading, but I'm not going to discount all of it just because it's not an academic paper - the information that I collected as a market researcher was as valid as the information I collected to do my thesis for university, and the outcomes, quite frankly, were just as biased!

You were absolutely right about discounting what Julie Bindel said, though - I made my comment about cash interests without googling any of the people on the report, just in response to your general query about how having links to the industry might be a bad thing. She was being misleading (actually, possibly libellous too) too when she stated "links with the sex industry" - it gave me (and possibly everyone else) the impression that they might be brothel owners or pimps, when in fact they're far from it!

We need to have this kind of debate without the hype, spin, labelling, etc. etc., otherwise none of the problems highlighted in any of the recent reports we've read will be solved!

Jess McCabe // Posted 01 February 2010 at 12:59

I don't think the research is being used to inform policy - I think the policy has already been decided and the report has been commissioned to back it up

@gadgetgal I think that's potentially confusing, as the research was not AFAIK commissioned by the government; also, it's a multi-country study, across countries with different policies on prostitution/sex work, which I think is important to bear in mind when looking at the organisation/individuals who carried out the research in this country.

Also, non-academic research is used all the time to inform policy - that's not a surprise or problematic at all. I'm really a bit resistant to the notion that research has to be academic to 'count' or to inform policy, as that has some implications in terms of hierarchy and authority. Stepping away from this particular report, I think the notion that something has to be in an academic report before it should inform government policy is actually quite problematic. Who are the academics? Who is able to get funding to carry out research? Does a report by a group actually working on an issue, with direct experience, not in fact also 'count'?

gadgetgal // Posted 01 February 2010 at 14:04

@Jess - sorry for the confusion - I wasn't saying the research wasn't valid because it's not academic, in fact, I was refuting what had been said earlier that somehow this kind of research was worth less than peer reviewed academic research. ALL research has inherent bias, and to dismiss something because it hasn't been reviewed by academics is just silly - similar faults are found in both types of research. And, as you said, what makes an academic's word or research any greater than that of people who work directly in the field? I have to say I saw no difference in the research methods I used in either market research or academia, and in fact the results we got in market research were more heavily scrutinised using a stricter code of practice.

I just didn't like that the newspapers presented the report as something it wasn't, they've made that mistake before with research done by the Poppy Project (like on Big Brothel) and all it does is create arguments about the research methods used, which is not the point, really.

Jess McCabe // Posted 01 February 2010 at 14:16

Ah, I misinterpreted what you were saying then, sorry!

all it does is create arguments about the research methods used, which is not the point, really

Hmm, perhaps, but frankly I think opinions are so strongly held on this issue that people will do that whatever.

I'm not sure I understand your point about the Guardian's reporting though, could you explain?

gadgetgal // Posted 01 February 2010 at 14:50

@Jess: Actually, the article itself was ok, but I'll specifically say the headline could have easily been misconstrued: "The reasons why many men pay for sex are revealed in the interviews that make up a major new piece of research", which implied this was the entirety of the research done - I can see some people reading it thinking "it's not very wide-ranging" if they miss out the fact that it's actually a survey that is a part of a wider body of research (the comments below show how not-carefully some people skim these articles, including one guy who thought the entire thing was based on Bindel's interviews only, and she only did 12 of them!). Like you said, people will read them how they want depending upon what they believe, but it would help if the headline grabbing could take that into consideration, it just creates arguments out of something that probably shouldn't be the bit that's being argued about!

pwerner // Posted 01 February 2010 at 18:24

"Stepping away from this particular report, I think the notion that something has to be in an academic report before it should inform government policy is actually quite problematic. Who are the academics? Who is able to get funding to carry out research? Does a report by a group actually working on an issue, with direct experience, not in fact also 'count'?"

The kind of questions you raise could be said about any researcher, inside or outside of academia. Nonetheless, there are several important factors that make some research better than others, and *generally* academic research is more likely to conform to these standards than non-academic ones. The first is to use good social science methodology. That means clearly stating a hypothesis, using a control group, and using careful sampling. The hypothesis needs to be falsifiable, otherwise it simply falls into inductive reasoning - having an a priori conclusion and marshaling whatever evidence you can find to "prove" your argument. The second is peer review, that is, having others in your field actually vet your research methods. This is not to say that academic research doesn't fall short of these standards too, or that there isn't good research done outside of academia, however, non-academic research is more likely to have these problems and is rarely peer-reviewed.

You point out that the question of "who are the academics?" is an important point. It is. But that question certainly applies to NGOs, activist groups, and government bodies who do research, does it not? And the thing is, if they haven't been careful about scientific methodology, then there's even more reason to treat the research as just one group's opinion rather than based on the reality of the situation.

In the case of this paper, I think the bias in this report is pretty clear. Not just because it has Julie Bindel's seal of approval, but because the lead researcher on this paper is Melissa Farley. Melissa Farley has had her research methods and bias called into question many times, and I think only those in the "abolitionist" movement consider her to be a credible researcher. What's immediately stands out as wrong with this report is that there is absolutely no control. Hence, the report does not establish whether the opinions of punters are actually different from a baseline of similarly selected non-johns from the same demographic. There is also the fact that the report was based on translating in-person interviews into statistical data. When something like that is carried out by a group that openly admits their extreme dislike of the interview subjects, the subjectivity of that method becomes very suspect.

BTW, here is a link to the above-mentioned critique of Farley's Scottish john study. I think all of the criticisms in that report apply to the more recent London study as well:

http://myweb.dal.ca/mgoodyea/Documents/Client%20studies/FarleyCritique-2.doc

gadgetgal // Posted 02 February 2010 at 13:45

@pwerner - I actually want to get out of this conversation now, as I have no firm views on what solution (if any) could be taken to solve the problems surrounding prostitution, sex work, trafficking, etc. etc. but I have to comment on a couple of things you've said.

"You point out that the question of "who are the academics?" is an important point. It is. But that question certainly applies to NGOs, activist groups, and government bodies who do research, does it not? And the thing is, if they haven't been careful about scientific methodology, then there's even more reason to treat the research as just one group's opinion rather than based on the reality of the situation."

In the report you linked to the first name that came up (Dr. Teela Sanders) is listed on the critique of the Big Brothel Report, making it more likely in my mind that as much as Eaves and Bindel sit biased on one side of the fence, then she sits biased on the other - that calls into question immediately the bias that would be included in the critiques. And bias is one area where peer reviews are famous for falling short as academics are human beings and just as susceptible to it as us mere mortals. You mention Melissa Farley being called into question on numerous occasions, but if the same names are appearing on those questions repeatedly it would surely also raise questions? I don't even know who she or Teela Sanders are, but I'm getting the impression they don't see eye-to-eye on the subject, so either one commenting on the other might be a little on the dodgy side.

Unfortunately I'm at work so I haven't had much of a chance to delve into it too deeply but one of the first lines states:

"The reason that this report would not be accepted if it was subjected to ordinary academic peer review processes is not because it is biased per se but that the particular form of bias is one that (i) translates the social, economic, political and ideological realities of commercial sex and the complexity of the relationships involved into more or less 'simple' questions of violence or lack thereof, (ii) transposes what might be economic questions or other questions and realities into gender i.e. everything is the result of gender, and (iii) conflates fundamentally different social phenomena (rape, paedophilia and other forms of sexual violence) in a way which closes off understanding rather than opens it up."

Basically what I'm getting from that is number 1 - they state it isn't biased per se (translation: the information itself is factual and not biased); number 2 - it wouldn't be accepted by us because it isn't complicated enough (and as the response to the Big Brothel report pointed out it's not an academic work that doesn't really matter - it's a survey, not a thesis); and number 3 - the bias isn't my bias so there. Sounds just as bad as the criticisms of the original report to me.

I don't have their response to this report to hand, but on one of the links provided above there is a pdf you can look at which has the Poppy response to the Big Brothel report - it answers all the questions, including those about the purpose of it and the methodology (I'll include it here, it's at the end of the article):

http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2008/oct/03/research.women

People may not like the answers, but as it does so point by point (including a couple of factual errors found in the original critique) I'm going to have to accept the facts as presented. As I said before, I may not accept their conclusions (I definitely don't agree with Bindel, on anything really), but it's very dismissive to just ignore what's been said because it wasn't done in an academic format - on that basis you can ignore almost anything, since most things haven't had academic studies made about them, but we take polls about everything all the time! Maybe the wider report will be done by academics, who knows? All I know is I trust the word and work of one report author as much as the next, whether academic or not - i.e. take everything with a pinch of salt and draw your own conclusions. You can find fault with EVERY report done EVER or you can discuss what it says instead.

In fact, after looking into this (I've done a lot of reading of late, my eyes are goggling!) I'm going to presume that all reports on this subject are biased (whether academic or not, there seem to be very firm lines drawn) therefore all I can work with are quotations, basic facts and the people I've met who are sex workers (including me, briefly, although in a milder version). It seems more likely that I'll get a better answer to it by reading everything I can than in arguing over the veracity of everyone who's ever written on the subject!

pwerner // Posted 02 February 2010 at 16:20

I never said that those critiquing the Poppy Project report or Farley's john studies are necessarily unbiased themselves. While Bindel's accusation upthread that these people are in the pay of the sex industry is out of line, many of those who authored the critique are associated with sex-positive and pro-sex worker perspectives. That needs to be taken into account.

Where I think you go terribly wrong here is that is that you seem to think that any report is as good as any other, one just has to "accept the facts as presented", and simply account for the biases of the authors. Well, sorry, but that's not the case. Scientific, controlled studies, when carried out properly, give one a more accurate picture than simple anecdotes. The question with anecdotes will always be, how representative are they? A proper study will tell you that, whereas a bad study, or one based entirely on anecdote is prone to selection bias, and one has no baseline to compare the anecdotal information with larger population. Anecdotal information can be valuable when these limitations are kept in mind, but simply cannot be the end-all answer to a controversial issue.

And I think even worse than pure anecdote is a study that is essentially junk science, which is where I place Melissa Farley's work. These are basically studies which lack any control group and often have enormous selection bias. And yet Farley is very big on trotting out percentages and figures from her studies to give her work the patina of science, when in fact she did not carry out a proper scientific survey and should not be presenting as such.

So, sorry, not accepting Farley's "facts as presented". Not by a long shot.

Jess McCabe // Posted 02 February 2010 at 16:42

No more comments making generalised arguments about report methodologies will be published. I'm not publishing anything else unless it engages with the actual issues raised by the report.

Julie Bindel // Posted 02 February 2010 at 16:48

When I made the comment about the 27 folk who signed the letter of complaint re Big Brothl, I meant that the vast majority are campaigning alongside sex industry profiteers (pimps) and punters to legalise the industry, NOT that they are directly profiting themselves. I was making the point that they are politcal campaigners and certainly not objective.

I must say I get really tired of this villification of me. Boring. Do some activism instead of having a go at me and my colleagues.

pwerner // Posted 02 February 2010 at 16:50

Wow, Jess – bad faith much?

Jess McCabe // Posted 02 February 2010 at 16:55

@pwerner Everyone has got their point across, further discussion on the generalities of report methodologies are off topic.

pwerner // Posted 02 February 2010 at 17:02

"I meant that the vast majority are campaigning alongside sex industry profiteers (pimps) and punters to legalise the industry, NOT that they are directly profiting themselves."

As opposed to feminists campaigning alongside New Labour and the socially conservative right. Yeah, really striking a blow for progress there, Julie Bindel, Finn McKay, etc.

Sammy // Posted 02 February 2010 at 19:04

Right.Thank you Jess, now I feel I can discuss what I wanted to say without being sidelined by people getting confused in their outrage and derailing.

I don't get the obsessive dicussion of stats - like Jess was saying, it's a shame this is such a hugely sensitive issue.

But that doesn't mean we should turn a blind eye (i.e. accept nothing).

Well done Julie Bindel - I too get tired of feminists who only find a role in having a go at other feminists.

Also to massively second Kate. An acceptance of the role as women up for purchase, increases underground prostitution - there will always be a market for what legal prostitution wouldn't provide. This sanctioning of women- to- buy would increase demand on all levels.

I don't understand the need to legally protect those men who use prostitutes, and why this ever got tied to a woman's rights.

Jess McCabe // Posted 02 February 2010 at 19:12

@pwerner I think if you can't distinguish between feminist critiques of prostitution/sex work, and the socially conservative right, you can't have been paying much attention.

pwerner // Posted 02 February 2010 at 19:22

"I think if you can't distinguish between feminist critiques of prostitution/sex work, and the socially conservative right, you can't have been paying much attention."

Jess, I've been paying PLENTY of attention to these debates for a number of years now, thank you very much, and I think the Sheila Jeffreys-school feminists (of which I include Bindel) sound very much like the far right when one takes off the blinders of "they're feminists, therefore their ideas MUST be progressive". Well, sorry, it actually looks pretty damn regressive to those of us who don't give these people a free pass.

I'll specifically point to the podcast you did a few years back with Finn McKay and several others. That McKay's rhetoric was practically indistinguishable from the kind of reactionary ranting of somebody like Mary Whitehouse is quite apparent. Go back and give it a listen.

Believe it or not, I actually am pretty much ready to call it quits with this argument, but you are so damn ready to circle your wagons and protect these people against all comers, Jess, you keep it going.

Sammy // Posted 02 February 2010 at 19:27

Pwner -

As a BSc psychology student with a million different scientific studies to learn each year - my degree is just looking at scientific articles! So many of them have less value than this, use fewer participants, are more arguably refutable yet still widely used, and considered valid. You're long shot to accepting any study by a feminist is your own issue - one you need to get around.

Lucy // Posted 03 February 2010 at 03:11

So, getting back to the actual report...

First off, I ran into what is for me the usual issue with the phrasing of just what is being purchased in prostitution. The report uses some variation of "women purchased for sex" which makes sense to a point as the researchers oppose prostitution in large part because they see the punter as being able to do whatever they want to a woman the punters see as an object to be used however they wish (which shows objectification, misogyny, etc). My main objection to the phrase is that there are, in fact, those who do purchase women for sex in the sense that the purchaser then "owns" the woman as a sex slave. Even if you argue that all prostitutes are sex slaves, surely the pimps are the "owners". Thus it would be more accurate to say that the punters "rented women for sex". (Of course there are those, including me, who feel that that this whole construction ignores that some sex workers claim that men are purchasing the service of sex from them not renting them unconditionally, but I know that anti-prostitution people are not going to accept that kind of language at all.) Adopting more accurate language would help those of us who have/do read about sex trafficking where women and children are sold into sexual slavery to individuals (almost wholly men). As it is, each time I hit the problematic phrase used, I had to keep reminding myself that this research was about punters not sex slave "owners". A minor quibble? Perhaps, but we all know how word choice and use affects thinking.

I'm concerned about the possible conflict in the research between being research about the men's experiences and research about their awareness of the sex industry. This shows up as a possibility, for instance, when the report say several men referred to Prague and other extra-UK locations of prostitution. The chart shows that only 2 men interviewed went to Prague and they quoted one of the men who went there just prior to this (He also went to Amsterdam.). So, is the quote they offer by another man about Prague made by the other man who went there, or is he instead only referring to his awareness of Prague's prostitution obtained via watching a programme on Bravo? Thanks to the verb tense used by the man in the quote about going there, it's unclear and the report does not clarify. I can hold all sorts of ideas about a place I've never visited (awareness) but this is very different than ideas I have about a place I have visited (experience). It can be useful to know both people's awareness and experiences but being clear about which is which is also very important for reasons which I hope are self-evident to feminists. (Keep this issue in mind, as I come back to it in a slightly different way later.)

The paragraph which contains the beliefs of the men as to when prostitutes have certain rights (which rights, btw? Never specified in the report.) makes no numerical sense. You can't simply total up the percentages as you get 113% which is obviously wrong, nor does it work to try to figure out which groups are parts of other groups numbers because they still don't add up. Certainly this is not helped by sentences like this: "Another 22% of these interviewees expressed 60-80% agreement with the statement “women have certain rights in prostitution”." The use of a confidence measurement for dis/agreement without explaining it any further is horribly confusing. I am thus utterly mystified as to whether the conclusion that "at various times during prostitution, many of the men who buy women for sex think that the women they buy have no rights in the interaction" is justified or not.

The suggestion that there is a positive association between the rape rate and legalised prostitution in Nevada relies upon misinterpretation of the data used to draw this conclusion and glossing over the reality of the legality of prostitution in that state. First off, prostitution is not legal in Las Vegas and Clark County. This matters because when you look at the statistics for the rape rate for Nevada for the year used (2004), of 4,905 (!) rapes committed in Nevada, 4,856 (90%) were committed in what is called a Metropolitan Statistical Area of which Nevada had 3 of in 2004: Las Vegas-Paradise (city of Las Vegas and Clark County), Reno-Sparks (city of Reno and Washoe and Storey Counties) and Carson City (which is both a city and a county). As a guide, of the 2000 US Census, Nevada had slightly under 2 million people with 1.375 million (69%) of them living in Clark County, where prostitution is illegal. Reno-Sparks and Carson City, where prostitution is legal, together had slightly under 400,000 people (20%). Additionally, as I think most people are aware, Las Vegas is by far the largest draw for visitors although Reno has a certain popularity with Carson City attracting some as well (Yes, I'm basing this off of my own awareness and visits to Las Vegas and Reno). Now, I might be off here, but it seems likely to me that the greatest majority of rapes occurred in the part of the state where prostitution is illegal. I'm not going to suggest that this indicates a negative association between rape rates and legal prostitution (because I'd need to do more than look at a single year and a handful of states as was done here to make the opposite claim), but it certainly makes it reckless to assert even the possibility of a positive association between the two. In fact, anybody who looked into the assertion's validity, as I just did, might just call it an outright lie.

This is a long enough comment, and I really don't have enough time to look further at the report right now, so I'll close with one other problem I see in general. The report sometimes uses the men's "awareness" as a way of judging facts. Because the authors could not verify the factual accuracy of a lot of what the men said as to their awareness, they instead compared their reported awareness (aka impressions) of factual matters as accurate or inaccurate depending on their matching or not matching other studies. So, how is this a problem? To use a fictional example, if a punter's awareness/impression is that a woman is under the age of 18, he could be correct or he could be a really poor judge of age. But if you go on to accept that impression as a factual measurement of her age because it also jibes with other studies that measured the age of women in prostitution by (presumably) factual inquiry? No, that doesn't work. You can't use statistical trends that way. Saying, "Oh, look the men's awareness (ie, impressions) match up with other studies as to how many women in prostitution are underage. The men must be be correctly aware of the ages of the women they frequented."? Totally unsupported conclusion. That they then base their recommendations on such logic invalidates their recommendations.

So, overall, I'm not impressed with this report. As others have pointed out, it also lacks a control group which is especially important when drawing conclusions as to the effects on punters of the acceptance of various myths. The anecdotes are appalling, there is some interesting data, but it has too many problems to use it for forming policy.

Jess McCabe // Posted 03 February 2010 at 16:31

@pwerner the last thing I want to do is keep this going :) but just to add that I was on that podcast and edited it at length, so don't feel really like I need to re-listen to it to know there was no Mary Whitehouseness going on. It's a non sequitar of an argument - the Pope wants to cancel developing country debt, so do I, it doesn't follow that our reasons for doing so are coming from the same analysis, or that I agree with him on the Equality Bill!

pwerner // Posted 03 February 2010 at 17:08

All I have to say to wrap this up, Jess, is that you sound *exactly* like Marxist-Leninists who shout down comparisons between the Soviet Union, the Stasi, etc and those of historic fascist states. Because, this line of reasoning goes, the former was defending "real existing socialism" and hence, was ultimately not practicing repression even when they did some of the same things fascist states did.

And so now I'm supposed to believe that feminist and right-wing anti-sex industry campaigners, who often campaign for the same laws and back the same NGOs, are fundamentally different because they're coming from a different ideological basis.

Well, as with the communist vs fascist state example, I think its a case of same old repressive shit, different *rationalization*. And just because the rationalization happens to be a particularly tired kind of cultural feminist dogma rather than tired old religious dogma doesn't really make a whole lot of difference from where I'm sitting.

In any even, your ongoing kneejerk defense of intensely problematic (to put it mildly) activists like Julie Bindel and Finn McKay pretty much pegs you as a died-in-the-wool ideologue, and if I've learned anything on the interwebs, reasoning with ideologues is an utter waste of time.

Jess McCabe // Posted 03 February 2010 at 17:49

I'm hardly shouting anyone down, and the comparison to apologists for genocidal regimes is not appreciated and hardly merits a response.

pwerner // Posted 03 February 2010 at 17:53

Actually, if you'd read that clearly, the comparison being made is to apologists for repressive Communism, of which there are plenty on the UK Left. (George Galloway, anyone?) That UK feminism is dominated by the holdouts of the most repressive branches of feminism is quite analogous. What all of this says about "progressive" culture in the UK is not very flattering.

Chelsea // Posted 03 February 2010 at 19:24

Time for pwerner to give Jess (and us) a break.

I hate how the F word publishes these comments, it's no friendlier than 'anti- misandry' in this sense. Even though a lot of us clearly do think with a passion about feminism and want to discuss it without the context of arguments.

It would be nice to discuss the article on a feminist website without listening to all the rejections of it, and the thinly- veiled feminist hate (pwner being a nice example of this).

Latest Comments

Further Reading

Has The F-Word whet your appetite? Check out our Resources section, for listings of feminist blogs, campaigns, feminist networks in the UK, mailing lists, international and national websites and charities of interest.

Write for us!

Got something to say? Something to review? News to discuss? Well we want to hear from you! Click here for more info

  • The F-Word Feeds
  • #
  • #