Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Men Who Buy Sex

Now this is a piece which should provoke some discussion here:
A clinical psychologist, Farley studies prostitution, trafficking, and sexual violence, but even she wasn’t sure how representative her results were. “The question has always remained: are all our findings true of just sex buyers, or are they true of men in general?” she says.
In a new study released exclusively to NEWSWEEK, “Comparing Sex Buyers With Men Who Don’t Buy Sex,” Farley provides some startling answers. Although the two groups share many attitudes about women and sex, they differ in significant ways illustrated by two quotes that serve as the report’s subtitle.
One man in the study explained why he likes to buy prostitutes: “You can have a good time with the servitude,” he said. A contrasting view was expressed by another man as the reason he doesn’t buy sex: “You’re supporting a system of degradation,” he said.
And yet buying sex is so pervasive that Farley’s team had a shockingly difficult time locating men who really don’t do it. The use of pornography, phone sex, lap dances, and other services has become so widespread that the researchers were forced to loosen their definition in order to assemble a 100-person control group.


Overall, the attitudes and habits of sex buyers reveal them as men who dehumanize and commodify women, view them with anger and contempt, lack empathy for their suffering, and relish their own ability to inflict pain and degradation.
Farley found that sex buyers were more likely to view sex as divorced from personal relationships than nonbuyers, and they enjoyed the absence of emotional involvement with prostitutes, whom they saw as commodities. “Prostitution treats women as objects and not ... humans,” said one john interviewed for the study.
In their interviews, the sex buyers often voiced aggression toward women, and were nearly eight times as likely as nonbuyers to say they would rape a woman if they could get away with it. Asked why he bought sex, one man said he liked “to beat women up.” Sex buyers in the study committed more crimes of every kind than nonbuyers, and all the crimes associated with violence against women were committed by the johns.

Prostitution has always been risky for women; the average age of death is 34, and the American Journal of Epidemiology reported that prostitutes suffer a “workplace homicide rate” 51 times higher than that of the next most dangerous occupation, working in a liquor store.
Read the whole article. Then read the comments! You shall be enlightened... The study and the article appears to be the fault of goddesses like me: feminists.

(As a complete aside, I often wonder if I fly around in my dreams, oppressing all men into not being able to have sex with the best looking woman in the whole world and making sure that their bitches of ex-wives exploit them and walk away with their hard-earned money, just to begin on the next victim. Because all that and more appears to be my doing. Or the doing of other feminists.)

I have been unable to get hold of the study itself, probably because it is "exclusively" for Newsweek. But some things smell off to me.

For instance, the average age of death being 34 seems simply impossible. To get that low an average for the length of life in some population usually requires a very high infant mortality rate. But that is not relevant when we are looking at an occupational group. That leaves very few alternative ways of getting such a short life figure, and most of those are unlikely. It is, however, true that prostitution is an occupation with a very high violent death crime rate.

At the same time, getting good data on paid sex work or its customers is very difficult, especially when prostitution itself is regarded as a crime. Because I have been unable to get hold of the original study, I don't know where the data come from and have no way of judging them. Neither do I know how the questions were answered in general.

I also wanted to get more percentages and more numbers in general. As an example, what percentage of the users of prostitutes' services declared themselves as misogynists? How were the questions here phrased?

And how were the original samples found? This is very, very important, because the way the samples were created affects the likelihood that they are representative of all men.

While searching for this study, I found very little on the consumers of paid sex. Even the estimates of what percentage of men frequent prostitutes varied from 18% to 80%! The latter figure seems impossible, because if that use has any frequency we should find a humongously large number of women and gay men to be sex workers, much larger than any existing studies suggest.

All this means only that I take studies in this area with lots of reservations. That is not the same thing as agreeing or disagreeing with any particular study; it just means that I don't think the data we have is sufficiently reliable to draw firm conclusions which would generalize to all men, all sex workers or all human beings.

It's worth stressing that these reservations do NOT mean that no study on the topic is any good, that difficulties with studies would mean that we shouldn't study the field at all or that somehow the status quo is justified by being skeptical about the methodology of a particular study.

If you read the comments to the linked article you will find much anecdotal evidence, based on individuals' own life experiences (or at least what they say those are). Anecdotal evidence of this kind tells us nothing of how many people have the same experiences or different ones, and it can never substitute for a study which does tell us those numbers. How common something is does matter, after all.

It's also good to remember that comment threads are not a random sample of opinions. People with strong feelings comment more often, so threads are likely to cover extremes better than the muddy middle, say.

Likewise, an article deploring the misogyny clearly present in at least some use of prostitutes' services will get more than a proportionate share of comments which argue back or attack that view, sometimes paradoxically revealing misogyny in the way they do it.

Gosh. Well, you know what I mean. I'm talking about one particular study, not the wide topic under the study. A more subjective opinion: If true, this really frightens me:
Farley’s findings suggest that the use of prostitution and pornography may cause men to become more aggressive. Sex buyers in the study used significantly more pornography than nonbuyers, and three quarters of them said they received their sex education from pornography, compared with slightly more than half of the nonbuyers. “Over time, as a result of their prostitution and pornography use, sex buyers reported that their sexual preferences changed and they sought more sadomasochistic and anal sex,” the study reported.
The majority of the study participants got their sex education from porn??!!! That would be extremely worrisome, because the majority of porn is made for male audiences, is based on what pleases the male customer and certainly is not objective and neutral sex education.

Just imagine: This is what your future girlfriend will love you to do to her!
See also this post.