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WHO ARE THE MEN BUYING PROSTITUTES?

Prostitution is:

a) sexual harassment
b) rape
c) battering
d) verbal abuse
e) domestic violence
f) a racist practice
g) a violation of human rights
h) childhood sexual abuse
i) a consequence of male domination of women
j) a means of maintaining male domination of women
k) all of the above

 

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The commercial sex industry includes street prostitution, massage brothels, escort services, outcall services, strip clubs, lapdancing, phone sex, adult and child pornography, video and internet pornography, and prostitution tourism. Most women who are in prostitution for longer than a few months drift among these various permutations of the commercial sex industry.
All prostitution causes harm to women. Whether it is being sold by one’s family to a brothel, or whether it is being sexually abused in one’s family, running away from home, and then being pimped by one’s boyfriend, or whether one is in college and needs to pay for next semester’s tuition and one works at a strip club behind glass where men never actually touch you – all these forms of prostitution hurt the women in it. (Melissa Farley, paper presented at the 11th International Congress on Women’s Health Issues, University of California College of Nursing, San Francisco. 1-28-2000)

 


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"The everyday life of prostitution is distant from most of us. And here, our imagination is a poor assistant. Negotiate a price with a stranger. Agree. Pull down one pant leg. Come and take me. Finished. Next, please. It becomes too ugly to really take it in. The imagination screeches to a halt." (Cecilie Hoigard and Liv Finstad, Backstreets: Prostitution, Money, and Love, 1992, translated by Katherine Hanson, Nancy Sipe, and Barbara Wilson; first published as Bakgater in Norway, 1986, Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park, Pennsylvania).


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Men call up the image of the whore when they are abusing their partners. The accusations in between the kicks and slaps: "You slut....whore...." Historically, the words mean "subhuman," "having no rights," "invisible," and "wicked." As recently as 1991, police in a southern California community closed all rape reports made by prostitutes and addicts, placing them in a file stamped "NHI." The letters stand for the words "No Human Involved." (Linda Fairstein, Sexual Violence: Our War Against Rape, 1993, New York, William Morrow.)


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"[The prostitute] is a victim of every bad thing men do to women: physical and sexual abuse, economic oppression and abandonment." (Mick LaSalle, "Hollywood is hooked on hookers, " San Francisco Examiner, December 3, 1995).


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Women in prostitution are purchased for their appearance, including skin color and characteristics based on ethnic stereotyping. Throughout history, women have been enslaved and prostituted based on race and ethnicity, as well as gender (Kathleen Barry, 1995 ,The Prostitution of Sexuality, New York University Press).


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We usually don‘t see prostitution as domestic violence because it is just too painful: "...the carnage: the scale of it, the dailiness of it, the seeming inevitability of it; the torture, the rapes, the murders, the beatings, the despair, the hollowing out of the personality, the near extinguishment of hope commonly suffered by women in prostitution." (Margaret A. Baldwin "Split at the Root: Prostitution and Feminist Discourses of Law Reform" in Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, 1992, Vol 5: 47-120)


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"Male dominance means that the society creates a pool of prostitutes by any means necessary so that men have what men need to stay on top, to feel big, literally, metaphorically, in every way;..." (Andrea Dworkin, Prostitution and Male Supremacy, in Life and Death, Free Press, 1997).


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"Prostitution isn‘t like anything else. Rather, everything else is like prostitution because it is the model for women‘s condition." (Evelina Giobbe, 1992, quoted by Margaret Baldwin in "Split at the Root: Prostitution and Feminist Discourses of Law Reform," Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, 5:
47-120).


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"The sex industry markets precisely the violence, the practices of subordination that feminists seek to eliminate from the streets, workplaces, and bedrooms." Sheila Jeffreys, (1997) The Idea of Prostitution, Spinifex Press, North Melbourne, Victoria.


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The practice of prostitution is a practice of sexual objectification of women. "... every act of sexual objectifying occurs on a continuum of dehumanization that promises male sexual violence at its far end." John Stoltenberg (1990) Refusing to be a Man, Fontana, London.


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The average age of entry into prostitution is 13 years (M.H. Silbert and A.M. Pines, 1982, "Victimization of street prostitutes, Victimology: An International Journal, 7: 122-133) or 14 years (D.Kelly Weisberg, 1985, Children of the Night: A Study of Adolescent Prostitution, Lexington, Mass, Toronto). Most of these 13 or 14 year old girls were recruited or coerced into prostitution. Others were "traditional wives" without job skills who escaped from or were abandoned by abusive husbands and went into prostitution to support themselves and their children. (Denise Gamache and Evelina Giobbe, Prostitution: Oppression Disguised as Liberation, National Coalition against Domestic Violence, 1990)


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The age of entry into prostitution is decreasing. For example, how do we even conceptualize "juvenile" prostitution, when the age of consent for legal sexual activity is constantly lowered, as in Netherlands and Philippines? (Kathleen Mahoney, Professor of Law, Calgary University, Canada, 1995)

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* "Incest is boot camp [for prostitution.]" (Andrea Dworkin, "Prostitution and Male Supremacy," in Life and Death, Free press, 1997)


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Estimates of the prevalence of incest among prostitutes range from 65% to 90%. The Council for Prostitution Alternatives, Portland, Oregon Annual Report in 1991 stated that: 85% of prostitute/clients reported history of sexual abuse in childhood; 70% reported incest. The higher percentages (80%-90%) of reports of incest and childhood sexual assaults of prostitutes come from anecdotal reports and from clinicians working with prostitutes (interviews with Nevada psychologists cited by Patricia Murphy, Making the Connections: women, work, and abuse, 1993, Paul M. Deutsch Press, Orlando, Florida; see also Rita Belton, "Prostitution as Traumatic Reenactment," 1992, International Society for Traumatic Stress Annual Meeting, Los Angeles, CA M.H. Silbert and A.M. Pines, 1982, "Victimization of street prostitutes," Victimology: An International Journal, 7: 122-133; C. Bagley and L Young, 1987, "Juvenile Prostitution and child sexual abuse: a controlled study," Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health, Vol 6: 5-26.


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80% of prostitution survivors at the WHISPER Oral History Project reported that their customers showed them pornography to illustrate the kinds of sexual activities in which they wanted to engage. 52% of the women stated that pornography played a significant role in teaching them what was expected of them as prostitutes. 30% reported that their pimps regularly exposed them to pornography in order to indoctrinate them into an acceptance of the practices depicted. (A facilitator‘s guide to Prostitution: a matter of violence against women, 1990, WHISPER - Women Hurt in Systems of Prostitution Engaged in Revolt Minneapolis, MN)


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The male sexuality in prostitution is "male masturbation in a female body." (Hanna Olsson, regarding a study of Swedish prostitution, quoted by Kathleen Barry in The Prostitution of Sexuality, 1995, New York, New York University Press) In prostitution, "men buy not a self but a body that performs as a self, and it is a self that conforms to the most harmful, damaging, racist and sexist concepts of women..." (Kathleen Barry, The Prostitution of Sexuality, 1995, New York, New York University Press)


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The prostitution market is driven by customer demand for sexual service. During WW II, the Japanese military forced from 100,000 to 200,000 Korean women into prostitution to service their military. (Kathleen Barry, The Prostitution of Sexuality, 1995, New York, New York University Press).


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In 1974, police estimated that there were 400,000 prostitutes in Thailand, procured primarily for the U.S. military on R & R from the Vietnam War. As of 1993, an unofficial estimate is that there are 2 million prostitutes in Thailand, whose national economy is dependent on tourism. Prostitution is the largest commodity for the 450,000 Thai men who purchase prostitutes daily as well as for a large percentage of the 5.4 million tourists a year who arrive in Thailand for "sex tours." (Kathleen Barry, The Prostitution of Sexuality, 1995, New York, New York University Press).

A more accurate term for "sex tourism" is prostitution tourism. (Melissa Farley, 1997)


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90% of prostituted women interviewed by WHISPER had pimps while in prostitution (Evelina Giobbe, 1987, WHISPER Oral History Project, Minneapolis, Minnesota).


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Pimps target girls or women who seem naive, lonely, homeless, and rebellious. At first, the attention and feigned affection from the pimp convinces her to "be his woman." Pimps ultimately keep prostituted women in virtual captivity by verbal abuse - making a woman feel that she is utterly worthless: a toilet, a piece of trash; and by physical coercion - beatings and the threat of torture. 80% to 95% of all prostitution is pimp-controlled. (Kathleen Barry, The Prostitution of Sexuality, 1995, New York, New York University Press)


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Describing the trauma of prostitution, and its consequences, one fourteen year old stated: "You feel like a piece of hamburger meat – all chopped up and barely holding together" (D. Kelly Weisberg, 1985, Children of the Night, Lexington Books, Toronto).


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The answer to the question "why do prostitutes stay with their pimps?" is the same as the answer to the question "why do battered women stay with their batterers?" (Melissa Farley, 1996) Humans bond emotionally to their abusers as a psychological strategy to survive under conditions of captivity. This has been described as the Stockholm syndrome (Dee Graham with Rawlings and Rigsby, Loving to Survive: Sexual Terror, Men‘s Violence, and Women‘s Lives, 1994, New York University Press, New York.)


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"About 80% of women in prostitution have been the victim of a rape. It‘s hard to talk about this because..the experience of prostitution is just like rape. Prostitutes are raped, on the average, eight to ten times per year. They are the most raped class of women in the history of our planet. " (Susan Kay Hunter and K.C. Reed, July, 1990 "Taking the side of bought and sold rape," speech at National Coalition against Sexual Assault, Washington, D.C. )
Other studies report 68% to 70% of women in prostitution being raped (M Silbert, "Compounding factors in the rape of street prostitutes," in A.W. Burgess, ed., Rape and Sexual Assault II, Garland Publishing, 1988; Melissa Farley and Howard Barkan, "Prostitution, Violence, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder," 1998, Women & Health.


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78% of 55 women who sought help from the Council for Prostitution Alternatives in 1991 reported being raped an average of 16 times a year by pimps, and were raped 33 times a year by johns. (Susan Kay Hunter, Council for Prostitution Alternatives Annual Report, 1991, Portland, Oregon)

85% of prostitutes are raped by pimps. (Council on Prostitution Alternatives, Portland, 1994)


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Prostitution is an act of violence against women which is intrinsically traumatizing. In a study of 475 people in prostitution (including women, men, and the transgendered) from five countries (South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, USA, and Zambia):

62% reported having been raped in prostitution.
73% reported having experienced physical assault in prostitution.
72% were currently or formerly homeless.
92% stated that they wanted to escape prostitution immediately.
(Melissa Farley, Isin Baral, Merab Kiremire, Ufuk Sezgin, "Prostitution in Five Countries: Violence and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder" (1998) Feminism & Psychology 8 (4): 405-426


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83% of prostitutes are victims of assault with a weapon. (National Coalition Against Sexual Assault)


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A Canadian Report on Prostitution and Pornography concluded that girls and women in prostitution have a mortality rate 40 times higher than the national average. ( Special Committee on Pornography and Prostitution, 1985, Pornography and Prostitution in Canada 350.


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Many of the health problems of women in prostitution are a direct result of violence. For example, several women had their ribs broken by the police in Istanbul, a woman in San Francisco broke her hips jumping out of a car when a john was attempting to kidnap her. Many women had their teeth knocked out by pimps and johns. (Melissa Farley, unpublished manuscript, 2000)

One woman (in another study) said about her health: "I’ve had three broken arms, nose broken twice, [and] I’m partially deaf in one ear….I have a small fragment of a bone floating in my head that gives me migraines. I’ve had a fractured skull. My legs ain’t worth shit no more; my toes have been broken. My feet, bottom of my feet, have been burned; they‘ve been whopped with a hot iron and clothes hanger… the hair on my pussy had been burned off at one time…I have scars. I’ve been cut with a knife, beat with guns, two by fours. There hasn’t been a place on my body that hasn’t been bruised somehow, some way, some big, some small." (Giobbe, E. (1992) Juvenile Prostitution: Profile of Recruitment in Ann W. Burgess (ed.) Child Trauma: Issues & Research.
Garland Publishing Inc, New York, page 126).


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In one study, 75% of women in escort prostitution had attempted suicide. Prostituted women comprised 15% of all completed suicides reported by hospitals. (Letter from Susan Kay Hunter, Council for Prostitution Alternatives, Jan 6, 1993, cited by Phyllis Chesler in "A Woman‘s Right to Self-Defense: the case of Aileen Carol Wuornos," in Patriarchy: Notes of an Expert Witness, 1994, Common Courage Press, Monroe, Maine.


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Like combat veterans, women in prostitution suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a psychological reaction to extreme physical and emotional trauma. Symptoms are acute anxiety, depression, insomnia, irritability, flashbacks, emotional numbing, and being in a state of emotional and physical hyperalertness. 67% of those in prostitution from five countries met criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD – a rate similar to that of battered women, rape victims, and state-sponsored torture survivors. (Melissa Farley, Isin Baral, Merab Kiremire, Ufuk Sezgin, "Prostitution in Five Countries: Violence and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder" (1998) Feminism & Psychology 8 (4): 405-426


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"For a great part of 1992 I lived in a beautiful apartment on Capitol Hill. I drove my expensive car. I bought lovely clothes and traveled extensively out of the country. For the first time in my 20 years as an adult woman, I paid my own way. There was no need to worry about affording my rent, my phone bill, all the debts one accumulates simply by living month to month. I felt invincible. And I was miserable to the core. I hated myself because I hated my life All the things I came to possess meant nothing. I could not face myself in the mirror. Working in prostitution lost my soul." Survivor interviewed by Debra Boyer, Lynn Chapman and Brent Marshall in Survival Sex in King County: Helping Women Out (1993), King County Women;s Advisory Board, Northwest Resource Associates, Seattle.


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"[In the past, we had a women‘s] movement which understood that the choice to be beaten by one man for economic survival was not a real choice, despite the appearance of consent a marriage contract might provide. ...Yet now we are supposed to believe, in the name of feminism, that the choice to be fucked by hundreds of men for economic survival must be affirmed as a real choice, and if the woman signs a model release there is no coercion there." (Catharine A. MacKinnon, "Liberalism and the Death of Feminism," in Dorchen Leidholdt and Janice Raymond (eds), The Sexual Liberals and the Attack on Feminism, 1990, Teachers College Press, New York.)


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67% of 475 people in prostitution from South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, USA, and Zambia met diagnostic criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 92% stated that they wanted to leave prostitution, and said that what they needed was: a home or safe place (73%); job training (70%); and health care (59%). (Melissa Farley, Isin Baral, Merab Kiremire, Ufuk Sezgin, "Prostitution in Five Countries: Violence and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder"P (1998) Feminism & Psychology 8 (4): 405-426

Other studies have noted that those in prostitution want to escape, and have the same needs as others who are in similar circumstances. El Bassel found that women who used drugs and who also prostituted were significantly more psychologically distressed than were drug-using women who did not prostitute. El Bassel et al. (1997) "Sex Trading and Psychological Distress among Women Recruited from the Streets of Harlem," American Journal of Public Health, 87: 66-70.


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In order to understand the trauma of prostitution, it is necessary to also understand the ways in which racism and sexism are inextricably connected in prostitution (see Vednita Carter,1993, "Prostitution: Where Racism and Sexism Intersect," Michigan Journal of Gender & Law, 1: 81-89. Also see Jackie Lynne (1998) "Street Prostitution as Sexual Exploitation in First Nations Women’s Lives." Essay submitted in partial fulfillment of Master of Social Work, University of British Colombia, Vancouver, B.C., April 1998. See a short version of Lynne’s thesis "Colonialism and the Prostitution of First Nations Women in Canada" on the Prostitution Research & Education web site <http://www.prostitutionresearch.com>


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There are few if any programs which address the needs of children of prostitutes. In a recent study of 1,963 prostitutes, more than two-thirds had at least one child. The average number of children was 2. 40% of the children lived with their grandmothers, but 20% lived with a mother working as a prostitute. 9% of the children were in foster care. 5% of the working prostitutes were pregnant when interviewed. (Adele Weiner, "Understanding the Social Needs of Streetwalking Prostitutes," 1996, Social Work, 41: 97-106.)


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In 1994, women in the sex industry were identified as one of three populations most in need of specialized services, primarily as a result of the violence inflicted upon them as a result of their work. (City of Seattle Dept of Housing and Human Service, Domestic Violence Community Advocacy Program Expansion, Feb. 1994)


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In prostitution, demand creates supply. Because men want to buy sex, prostitution is assumed to be inevitable, therefore ‘normal.‘ Here are quotes from three different johns:

"It’s like going to have your car done, you tell them what you want done, they don’t ask, you tell them you want so and so done…" (McKeganey, N. and Barnard, M. ,1996, Sex Work on the Streets: Prostitutes and Their Clients. Milton Keynes Open University Press, Buckingham, Scotland.).


I am a firm believer that all women… are prostitutes at one time or another" (Hite, S. ,1981, The Hite Report on Male Sexuality. New York, Alfred A. Knopf)


Discussing his experience in a strip club, one man said, "This is the part of me that can still go hunting" (Frank, K. (1999) Intimate Labors: Masculinity, Consumption, and Authenticity in Five Gentlemen’s Clubs, Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Duke University, Durham, N.C.).


Violent behaviors against women have been associated with attitudes which promote men’s beliefs that they are entitled to sexual access to women, that they are superior to women, and that they are licensed as sexual aggressors. ( White,J.W. & Koss, M.P 1993, "Adolescent sexual aggression within heterosexual relationships: prevalence, characteristics, and causes. " In H.E. Barbaree, W.L. Marshall and D. R. Laws.(eds.) The Juvenile Sex Offender, Guilford Press, New York.


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In 1993, 42% of women arrested in Seattle on prostitution-related charges were convicted.

In 1993, 8% of men arrested in Seattle on prostitution-related charges were convicted. (Seattle Women‘s Commission, 1995, "Project to Address the Legal, Political, and Service Barriers Facing Women in the Sex Industry" Seattle, Washington.


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If we view prostitution as violence against women, it makes no sense to legalize or decriminalize prostitution. The primary violence in prostitution is not "social stigma" as some maintain. Decriminalizing or legalizing prostitution would normalize and regulate practices which are human rights violations, and which in any other context would be legally actionable (sexual harassment, physical assault, rape, captivity, economic coercion.) or emotionally damaging (verbal abuse). (Melissa Farley)

In 1999, the Swedish Parliament put into effect a law which criminalizes the buying of sexual services but not the selling of sexual services. This is a compassionate, social interventionist legal response to the cruelty of prostitution. (see,Sven-Axel Mansson and Ulla-Carin Hedin, 1999, "Breaking the Matthew Effect - On Women Leaving Prostitution," International Journal of Social Work. Also see Prostitution Research & Education web site, http://www.prostitutionresearch.com for a copy of the Swedish law))

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"It takes a village to create a prostitute."


http://www.prostitutionresearch.com

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