Some men say using prostitutes is an addiction

Here’s a piece that unfortunately ignores the voices of sex workers and assumes, like the men “studied”, that sex workers are a faceless, voiceless commodity.-jane brazen,0,7659645.story


Some men say using prostitutes is an addiction

200 take part in study about motivation

By David Heinzmann

Tribune reporter


May 5 2008, 11:27 PM CDT


As anti-prostitution groups try to thwart sex trade by going after customers, they said they have faced a big problem: researchers have only the crudest grasp of why men buy sex.


Even scholarly understanding of prostitution demand has been colored by a boys-will-be-boys attitude toward sex, activists said.


To get a better understanding, a group of researchers—most of them young women—invited more than 100 Chicago-area men who frequently use prostitutes to talk about their attitudes and experiences.


They were overwhelmed by the response. More than 200 men answered the ads the researchers placed in local sex-service classifieds and were willing to sit down with strangers to discuss at length their illegal sexual practices.


While the survey, which is not peer-reviewed, is likely to draw criticism from some academics, the project offers a window into the attitudes of men who buy sex in Chicago.


The results, to be made public Wednesday, show men are often deeply conflicted about their behavior, said Rachel Durchslag, director of the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, which conducted the survey in Chicago with the Evanston-based Justice Project Against Sexual Harm.


Though most of the men interviewed said they believe there is nothing wrong with prostitution, a large majority, 83 percent, view buying sex as a form of addiction, according to the study.


Most men said they believed women entered prostitution freely, but they acknowledge that the sex trade is devastating to the women involved. A large percentage of the men, 57 percent, suspect the women they pay were abused as children, and nearly a third said they viewed women’s relationships with pimps as harmful.


About 40 percent of men said they are usually intoxicated when they buy sex.


According to one man who was quoted anonymously in the report, “For a small second after I buy sex, I feel happy, and then it’s over. It’s so fleeting. There’s frustration beforehand, and depression afterward [because] it’s so quick. Those feelings are always there. They’re associated with buying sex.”


Nonetheless, most men said they viewed their interaction with prostitutes as a business contract in which payment entitles them to treat the women any way they like. Women surrender the right to say no to anything once they accept a customer’s money, many said.


“Prostitutes are a product, like cereal,” said one man. “You go to the grocery, pick the brand you want and pay for it. It’s business.”


The survey was designed by anti-prostitution activist Melissa Farley, who is controversial because academics have accused her of tilting previous research to support a political agenda. The Chicago study is part of an international project that includes surveys in Scotland, India and Cambodia. Critics of the Scotland survey called Farley’s methods unscientific.


Durchslag is aware of the criticism of Farley but said she feels confident in the relevance of the Chicago survey. Although Farley created the survey questions, she was not involved in reporting the results, Durchslag said.


“We have always said this was an exploratory study, and I feel very confident with the way the questions were asked.”


Durchslag said she was stunned by the large response from men, and their willingness to talk to strangers about such a taboo subject. The men who answered questions represented a variety of backgrounds. A majority were college-educated, and more than half were either married or in a committed relationship, according to the study.


Her team of researchers anticipated feeling angry at their subjects, which happened frequently as some of the men talked freely about their attitudes toward women as sex objects, she said. In one case, a man gave answers that basically acknowledged he had committed rape, she said.


But there were also many interviews in which they felt empathy for the men and their confusion about their own sexuality.


“A lot of us felt really sad for a lot of these men,” she said. “It’s more complicated. We were all surprised by the number of men who said, ‘I’ve never had a chance to talk about this.’ “


Still, the goal of the research is to push for harsher criminal punishment for men who buy sex from prostitutes, she said. Nearly 90 percent of the men said that they would stop if they felt there was a likely chance they would be caught and prosecuted.


Men expressing conflicted feelings and frustration “is the good news,” said Farley, who is based in San Francisco. “That they are conflicted. They do have deeply mixed feelings when someone takes the time to really inquire.”


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