“Men who buy sex: Who they buy and what they know”

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Men who buy sex: Who they buy and what they know,” is a research study of 103 men who describe their use of trafficked and non-trafficked women in prostitution, and their awareness of coercion and violence, prepared by Melissa Farley, Julie Bindel and Jacqueline M. Golding, December 2009. Here is a short excerpt from page 15-16:

Fifty per cent of interviewees said that they had used a woman in prostitution who they knew was under the control of a pimp. As one man explained,”It’s like he’s her owner.”As another man put it:”The girl is instructed to do what she needs to do. You can just relax, it’s her job.”One-half of the research participants (51%) said that they had observed a prostituted woman who had a pimp. Nearly one-third of the interviewees (31%), often those who bought sex in the Soho area, used prostituted women who were controlled by women pimps. Twenty-five per cent of the men interviewed had encountered a woman in the sex industry who they believe was forced into a brothel, massage parlour or another type of prostitution. Some of the men described pimps as abusive, controlling, opportunistic, coercive and violent. They described beatings and forced addiction.”Pimps get their money and abuse them. They have no respect for them at all. They treat them virtually like dogs.”One man explained,”Some are really made to or forced – like raped – and they find there is no other hope for them. Some are being held hostage and in a brothel, not all of them but in situations where she is looking to get out. I felt a little bit guilty when I was in saunas and massage parlours.”A number of the men appeared to have a somewhat nuanced if rationalised awareness of the psychological dependence of women on pimps:”It’s a cold relationship from his part. But the woman does it because she’s in love with him and doesn’t want to
lose him.”

These men’s awareness of the sexual exploitation, coercion and violence associated with buying sex is confirmed by a significant literature on violence against women in prostitution. Watts and Zimmerman (2002) at the Department of Public Health and Policy of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine noted that trafficking for prostitution and violence against prostitutes was one of the most common and severe forms of violence against women in the world (2002). A study of 240 women prostituted in Leeds, Edinburgh, and Glasgow found that 26% of women in indoor prostitution had experienced some form of serious violence from the men who had bought them in the past six months (Church et al., 2001).

The interviewees were asked about their awareness of deception and trafficking for prostitution. Forty-three per cent of the men said that it was their impression that one-half or fewer of all those in prostitution were fully informed about the nature of prostitution. Of the men interviewed, 55% believed that a majority of women in prostitution were lured, tricked or trafficked. Thirty-six per cent said they thought that the women in prostitution they used had been trafficked to London from another country. Seeming to understand the levels of abuse and vulnerability of most women in prostitution, one man described prostituted women as”orphans or from other countries who are treated like family. But others can be treated like shit if they don’t pay their fees.”Another explained,”The guy at the top normally controls about a dozen brothels and they move them around. Some of the Chinese girls move on after just one week.”An interviewee said that in Amsterdam he assumed a woman was trafficked”because of the way it was set up with a big guy standing outside,”adding that”the woman looked younger than sixteen”and appeared to be”Polish, Russian, Albanian or Romanian.”One man described with some chagrin a prostituted and possibly trafficked woman who had told him that she was going on a holiday. Later he realised”It was against her will. When I went back two weeks later, they were not there. The phone number also did not work. They bring in girls and move them around to different points so she doesn’t know where she is… it’s sick.”Another said that he had seen women with”bruises, cuts and Eastern European accents in locations where lots of trafficked women and girls are.”

Similar estimates were made by an additional 223 men who bought sex in Scotland and the US. Fifty-six per cent of men who bought sex in the US and 63% in Scotland said that they also believed that a majority of all those in prostitution are lured, tricked or trafficked into it. Studies by Anderson and O’Connell Davidson (2003) and Di Nicola et al (2009) report that most men who buy sex are aware of and have witnessed exploitation, coercion and trafficking but this does not affect their decision to buy sex.

(Emphasis added).

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