Sunday, February 22 2015
In a word, everything. For far too long, when we talk about prostitution we talk about women. Are they victims or are they making a choice? What is in their background that leads to this? Why would anyone stay in the life? When we imagine prostitution - a woman appears. Why is this our default image? What about the buyers? What about the drivers of cars that are picking up women in our neighborhoods or arranging “dates” online?
The answer may be that we still carry unequal views about men relative to women. We assume that buying sex is normal, but selling sex is deviant. Perhaps it is because we believe that men need sex and prostitution is a harmless and victimless way to meet this need. Regardless of why we choose to focus on the women, prostitution is a demand driven industry. Demand creates the supply, not the other way around. We can all think of many things that have met their demise when demand dried up. Unfortunately, demand for prostitution remains strong, with 10 – 20% of US men buying sex online and on our streets.
So, who IS buying sex? Many of the men are educated, employed, married, and free from long criminal histories, challenging the idea that they aren’t able to acquire sex in a legal fashion. Of course, women also buy sex – but the vast majority of the demand for prostitution in the US comes from men. Why do they take the risk? Because they want sex acts they can’t convince others to do, they are looking for intimacy they haven’t acquired, and they find the illicit nature of prostitution exciting. Plus, the actual risk is pretty slight. Enforcement usually focuses on prostituted women. They are often the source of community complaints because they are most visible and many believe arresting them provides a very short term solution. Unfortunately, recidivism is incredibly high because there is little evidence that prostitution will end without services for the women and a strong focus on demand.
And as far as harmless, consider how communities respond to this crime. It is estimated that prostitution costs $10 - $15 million per year in criminal justice, public health, and social service costs. This is money is not spent on things that matter to members of a healthy and thriving city. What if we challenge our current ideas and look more closely demand? Check out DEMAND forum.net to see what people are doing around the Nation and join the conversation about DEMAND.