Why do men visit prostitutes? This may seem like a silly question with a one-word answer, but advocates battling sex trafficking say the reasons are actually quite complex and could be key to understanding the changing face of prostitution in modern times.
Psychologists from international advocacy groups sat down with 700 Johns in several countries to learn why they decided to pay for sex. The study has illuminated some personal stories of loneliness, to pure desire. "No big deal, it's just like getting a beer," one man said, whiles others suspected that the women were held against their will.
"She was frightened and nervous. She told me she had been tricked," one man in London told researchers from the non-profit Prostitution Research & Education and the London-based charity Eaves.
Gone are the heydays of the local brothel or even the red light district. With the rise of the Internet, a new anonymity was born and with it a covert business model that blended in with local homes and businesses. Some Internet advertisements are from individual prostitutes and some are from pimps who run sex trafficking rings that exploit women captured into sex slavery through force, threats of violence or coercion.
Experts say sometimes Johns may not even know the difference -- so a coalition of non-profits dedicated to abolishing modern day sex trafficking decided it was time to shift from interviewing women about why they were selling sex to asking why men decided to pay for sex.
The answers varied. From two-hour interviews with 103 men aged 18-70 in the London area who responded to a newspaper ad, some explanations included:
"Prostitution is like masturbating without having to use your hand."
"I feel sorry for these girls but this is what I want."
"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.
"We're living in the age of instant coffee, instant food. This is instant sex."
"Prostitution is a last resort to unfulfilled sexual desires. Rape would be less safe, or if you're forced to hurt someone or if you're so frustrated you j*** off all day."
The most common reason why men said they bought sex was to satisfy immediate sexual urge; 21 percent of time men wanted to select women with certain physical racial and sexual stereotypes such as being submissive; 20 percent went to prostitutes because they were unsatisfied with their current relationship; and 15 percent went to prostitutes because there was no emotional connection or commitment.
Only 3 percent of the responders in the survey said they went to prostitutes because of a sex addiction or because they were drunk.
Melissa Farley, clinical psychologist and a co-author of the study, said she wants legislators to understand the Johns' motives to find a way to crack down on prostitution. For instance, Farley also asked what would deter the men from visiting a prostitute.
More than 80 percent of the men said the following would deter them: being added to a sex offender register, having your picture and/or name on a billboard or local newspaper, mandatory prison time, having your picture and/or name posted on the Internet or a letter sent to family members.