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Would you confess to visiting a sex worker?

JUNE 4, 2011

I don’t think I have ever told you about the time that a man I was seeing felt the need to confess to me about many years of regular prostitute use. He called me, in the middle of the day, and admitted to having had visited with sex workers several times a month for nearly a decade. My advice to him at the time was this: If we ever break up, never, ever, give this information to a future girlfriend.  I said “if” because it took me a while longer to realize that this was part of his history that I just couldn’t live with.

You can correct me if I am wrong on this, but I suspect most people would be unimpressed to find that their significant other (or their son, brother, father or co-worker) has been using the services of sex workers.

A study out of British Columbia called “A John’s Voice” surveyed a large number of purchasers of sex workers and asked specifically whether or not they have discussed this behaviour with their partners.  The men in the sample were, by in large, male, over the age of 40, heterosexual, Caucasian, well-educated and had economic security (56% report having annual income over $60,000) – i.e probably not representative of men using the services of sex workers over-all. Most of them, like my former boyfriend, had spent over a decade of buying sex on the market and purchased sex on and off the street. Just under half of the men in the sample (371 out of 781) were married or in a common-law relationship at the time of the survey and 25% of those who were not married are in a relationship.

It seems that few men discuss their purchasing of sex services with other people: fewer than 50% have ever discussed their interactions with sex workers with anyone. Of those men who have, 23% told male friends, 17% told other sex sellers, 10% other sex buyers and 9% female friends.

Just over 12% of the men in the sample who have talked about their behavior have told a spouse or other sex partner that they use the services of sex workers (so around 6% over-all).Of the men who were in a relationship at the time of the survey, 79% report that they actively hide their sex-buying from their partner, which seems to suggest that 21% do not (presumably either because they don’t care or they believe there is little chance they will be caught) and 63% worry their partner will find out. When asked what they thought would be the repercussions of their partner’s discovery that they frequented sex workers: 61% thought they would divorce, 11% thought it would cause arguments, 10.5% thought their partner would be upset, 5% thought it would result in ‘general disaster’ and just over 1% thought it would result in violence.

The survey also asked about the possible reactions of family members and co-workers. In response that question  41% thought that if they were outed as Johns that they would face “shame, embarrassment, stigma or ridicule,” 17% thought they would lose friends or family, 13% of men thought there would be more than one form of repercussions and 13% didn’t care or felt there would be no repercussions.

Is it just me or do these numbers look low? I would like to see a similar survey of wives, mothers and co-workers that asked what would be the repercussions of their partners/sons/co-workers being outed as Johns. I suspect very few would report to being “upset” and many more would predict divorce.

By the way, I was called out last year by a sex worker advocate for calling the men who buy sex on the street “Johns”. She felt that the term stigmatized the buyers and argued that it was more respectful to call them “dates”.  I just can’t bring myself to call someone who pays $20 for a blow job in an alley a “date”. It doesn’t seem fair to all the dates that pay for sex the old fashioned way – with dinner and drinks. I am sorry if any of my readers object to my potentially politically incorrect terminology here; especially my readers who are Johns.

This post originally appeared on my old blog at Dollars and Sex at Big Think

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Comments

  • Josh  On 13 June, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    It’s cultural. In Australia brothels are legal ans there isn’t as much a stigma about that sort of thing. Not that there wouldn’t be people upset, but that for “blokes” it’s much more acceptable discussion point.

    Thinking back to my college years in Canada, Canadians are indeed much more conservative about this sort of thing.

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