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Prostitution on Demand: Legalizing the Buyers as Sexual Consumers

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Abstract

Research, programs, and legislation related to sex trafficking are often premised on the invisibility of the male buyer and the failure to address men’s role in buying and abusing women in prostitution. Governments, UN agencies, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and others act as if the male demand for sexual exploitation is insignificant, or that prostitution is so entrenched because, after all, “men will be men.” Little research on trafficking has focused on the so-called customer as a root cause of trafficking and sexual exploitation. And even less legislation has penalized the male customer whose right to buy women and children for prostitution activities remains unquestioned. This article looks at the demand—its meaning, the myths that rationalize why men buy women in prostitution, qualitative information on the buyers in two studies conducted by the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW)—as well as best practices that address the gender of demand.
10.1177/1077801204268609VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN / October 2004Raymond / DEMAND FOR PROSTITUTION
Prostitution on Demand
Legalizing the Buyers as Sexual Consumers
JANICE G. RAYMOND
Coalition Against Trafficking in Women
Research, programs, and legislation related to sex trafficking are often premised on the
invisibility of the male buyer and the failure to address men’s role in buying and abusing
women in prostitution. Governments, UN agencies, nongovernmental organizations
(NGOs), and others act as if the male demand for sexual exploitation is insignificant, or
that prostitution is so entrenched because, after all, “men will be men.” Little research on
trafficking has focused on the so-called customer as a root cause of trafficking and sexual
exploitation. And even less legislation has penalized the male customer whose right to
buy women and children for prostitution activities remains unquestioned. This article
looks at the demand—its meaning, the myths that rationalize why men buy women in
prostitution, qualitative information on the buyers in two studies conducted by the
Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW)—as well as best practices that address
the gender of demand.
Keywords: male buyers of prostitution; prostitution; sex trafficking
What does legalization of prostitution or decriminalization of the sex
industry mean? In the Netherlands, as well as in other countries
where prostitution has been normalized, legalization amounts to
sanctioning most aspects of the sex industry, including pimps
who are reconstructed as prostitution businessmen and legiti-
mate sexual entrepreneurs. Legalization/decriminalization of
the sex industry converts brothels, sex clubs, massage parlors,
and other sites of prostitution activities into above-board venues
where commercial sexual acts are allowed to flourish legally with
few restraints. Under the regime of legalization, “prostitute
users,” or the men who buy women for the sex of prostitution, are
also empowered as sexual consumers.
1156
VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN, Vol. 10 No. 10, October 2004 1156-1186
DOI: 10.1177/1077801204268609
© 2004 Janice G. Raymond
In calling for legalization or decriminalization of prostitution,
some people believe that they dignify the women in prostitution.
However, validating prostitution as work dignifies the sex indus-
try and the male consumers, not the women in it. People often do
not realize that decriminalization means decriminalization of
most of the major participants in the sex industry, not just the
women. In addition, they have not thought through the conse-
quences of legalizing pimps as legitimate prostitution entrepre-
neurs, or the fact that men who buy women for prostitution activi-
ties are now accepted as normal consumers of a sexual service.
There is a persistent research, program, and legislative silence
about the role of men who abuse and buy women in prostitution.
Governments, UN agencies and reports, and nongovernmental
organizations (NGOs) send the message that the male demand
for sexual exploitation is not a large part of the problem, or that
prostitution is so entrenched because, after all, “men will be
men.” Little research on trafficking and prostitution has focused
on the men who buy women for prostitution—the so-called cus-
tomer—as a root cause of trafficking and sexual exploitation. In
addition, there is meager legislation that penalizes the male cus-
tomer whose right to buy women and children for prostitution
activities remains unquestioned.
This article looks at the demand—its meaning, the myths that
rationalize why men buy women in prostitution, and qualitative
information on the buyers contained in two studies conducted by
the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW)—as well as
best practices that address the gender of demand. I do not con-
tend in this article that it is only male demand for the sex of prosti-
tution that promotes trafficking, prostitution, and the sex indus-
try. I do contend that male demand is a primary factor in the
expansion of the sex industry worldwide and sustains commer-
cial sexual exploitation, and that the buyer has largely escaped
examination, analysis, censure, and penalty for his actions.
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF DEMAND?
The UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in
Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United
Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (United
Nations, 2000) is the first UN instrument to address demand. It
Raymond / DEMAND FOR PROSTITUTION 1157
does so in the context of prevention of trafficking, generally call-
ing on countries to take or strengthen legislative or other mea-
sures to discourage the demand that fosters all forms of exploita-
tion of women and children (Art. 9.5).
The Swedish Law That Prohibits the Purchase of Sexual Ser-
vices (Ekberg, 2004) is a more exact elucidation of the demand.
The Swedish Law clearly articulates that demand has a gender
and this gender is male—not as in male biology but as in male
behavior. The Law goes further than the UN Protocol on traffick-
ing and states that prostitution is men’s violence against women
(Swedish Government Offices, 1998); and, as such, the Law pro-
hibits the purchase of sexual services within the larger framework
of a Violence Against Women Government Bill (Kvinnofrid). The
Swedish Law is a model in targeting the demand for prostitution
and in delineating the demand, naming the demand as the men
who use and abuse women in prostitution.
Instead of abandoning women in the sex industry to state-
sponsored prostitution, the Swedish Law addresses the preda-
tory actions of men who buy women for the sex of prostitution.
Recognizing the inseparability of prostitution and trafficking, the
Law states, “Prostitution and trafficking in women are seen as
harmful practices that cannot, and should not be separated; in
order to effectively eliminate trafficking in women, concrete mea-
sures against prostitution must be put in place” (Ekberg, 2003,
p. 69).
Legislators often advance legalization proposals because they
think nothing else is successful in legally addressing prostitution.
However, there is a legal alternative. Rather than sanctioning
prostitution, states could address the demand by penalizing the
men who buy women for the sex of prostitution. Sweden has
drafted legislation recognizing that without male demand, there
would be a much-decreased female supply. Thinking outside the
repressive box of legalization, Sweden has acknowledged that
prostitution is a form of male violence against women and chil-
dren, and the purchase of sexual services is criminalized.
The dictionary can be helpful in defining and describing
demand. One definition is, “To claim as just or due.” Another def-
inition taken from economics, without being economically
reductionistic, is, “The desire to possess something with the
1158 VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN / October 2004
ability to purchase it.” In the context of prostitution and traffick-
ing, these definitions accurately describe the demand aspect of
prostitution.
Julia O’Connell Davidson, who coined the useful term,
prostitute-users, has cowritten an International Organization of
Migration (IOM) Migration Research Series report titled “Is Traf-
ficking in Human Beings Demand Driven?” (O’Connell & Ander-
son, 2003). This report maintains that there is no direct and unilat-
eral relationship between consumer demand and any specific
form of sexual activity. More than male demand for the sex of
prostitution, the authors cite three reasons for the rapid expan-
sion of the sex industry: a market that is (a) poorly regulated, (b)
widely stigmatized, and (c) partly criminalized.
One theme in this report is that “sex work” is much too com-
plex an issue to limit demand simply to the consumers of sexual
services. We agree that factors promoting the expansion of global
commercial sexual exploitation are indeed complex. However,
we do not agree that complexity should be allowed to serve as an
academic excuse for inaction, or as a non sequitur from which few
answers can then follow. Indeed, we must not simplify the com-
plexity; however, at the same time we must confront complexity.
Complexity should be conducive to clarity, not confound it.
In the IOM report that proposes to address demand, there is a
reluctance to target the gender of demand, much less to legally
penalize the buyers.
Even when focusing only on the sex sector, it is not clear that calls
for punitive policies against customers would lead to the desired
outcome. . . . Given the political and moral problems posed by a
policy of legal suppression, and the fact that individual patterns of
consumer behavior are often established at a very young age, we
would argue instead that those who wish to see the commercial sex
market shrink rather than continue to expand . . . need to come up
with more creative, less punitive and longer-term strategies.
(O’Connell & Anderson, 2003, p. 43)
Of course, many scholars and advocates who work against traf-
ficking and prostitution and who see consumer demand as a root
cause of prostitution and trafficking know that male demand is
not the only promoter of prostitution. National and international
Raymond / DEMAND FOR PROSTITUTION 1159
economic policies; globalization; an organized sex industry;
countries in financial and political crisis; female poverty that is
preyed on by recruiters, traffickers, and pimps; military presence
in many parts of the world; racial myths and stereotypes; and
women’s inequality all contribute to the rise in global sexual
exploitation. These factors, too, are highly gendered. At the same
time, many scholars and activists would see the male demand for
the sex of prostitution as the most immediate and proximate
cause of the expansion of the sex industry, without which it would
be highly unprofitable for pimps, recruiters, and traffickers to
seek out a supply of women. This may be labeled simplistic,
unnuanced, or conceptually impaired; however, a prostitution
market without male consumers would go broke.
One reason that the authors of the IOM report offer for not tar-
geting the male consumers is that the same argument would be
“rarely applied to any other sector—for example, consumers who
buy the product of the labor of ‘trafficked’ women, children and
men in the form of T-shirts, diamonds, processed meat, etc.”
(O’Connell & Anderson, 2003, p. 10). The authors conveniently
elide that these “products” of other trafficked persons do not
involve the exploitation of their bodies both as “product” and as
“labor.” In T-shirt making, the consumer buys the T-shirt, not the
person making it. In prostitution, the consumer buys the
woman’s body and her “labor” of blow jobs, “half-and-half,” “full
service,” or whatever else he wants her to “work at.” One survi-
vor of prostitution criticized the superficiality of this comparison
when she stated in response to the claim that prostitution was no
better or worse than flipping burgers at McDonald’s: “In McDon-
ald’s, you’re not the meat! In prostitution, you are the meat”
(Giobbe, 1999, n.p.).
Some critics of sex trafficking use terminology of supply and
demand to explain factors that promote trafficking. They
acknowledge that we must address the demand. However, what
they mean by demand often amounts to an abstract emphasis on
market forces. Unfortunately, in much discussion of demand,
men once more become invisible when demand is articulated in
terms of the market and economic push/pull factors. Demand
supposedly has no gender.
1160 VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN / October 2004
MYTHS ABOUT WHY MEN BUY
WOMEN IN PROSTITUTION
There are many myths surrounding the perpetrators of prosti-
tution that are used to rationalize and often to excuse what men
do and why they do it. Here are some of the ways in which men
escape responsibility for their sexual abuse of women in
prostitution:
Male customers of prostituted women are basically decent men
looking for a bit of harmless fun.
Men who use women in prostitution are sexually frustrated men
who do not get what they need/want/demand from the women
in their lives.
Men purchasing sex is the inevitable result of natural male
instincts.
Prostitution protects “good” women. If prostitution did not exist,
more “good” women would be raped. Prostitution, therefore, is a
sexual safety valve, not for the women in prostitution, but for the
“other” women.
Prostitution is a needed sexual service for men without women,
whether temporarily or more long term: for military men on tours
of duty, for captains of industry on tours of business, for migrant
male workers away from home, for men who because of disability
or dysfunction do not have the usual number of women available
to them, or for lonely, frustrated, or oversexed men—literally for
all types of men. This myth assumes that there is always a popula-
tion of men who need sex and must get it, even if it means they buy
the bodies of women and children.
Men need to release tension, especially if they are in the military,
or on business, or in competitive or stressful work situations. Buy-
ing women for the sex of prostitution is letting off steam.
Male biology is different from female biology and requires multi-
ple women for sexual satisfaction. Men who use women in prosti-
tution fulfill the sexual evolutionary process.
Prostitution is a means of education for initiating boys and men
into sexual activity in a way that allows them to control the situa-
tion and dominate the woman.
Many men who buy women in prostitution are vulnerable them-
selves and have little control of their lives. Thus, buyers are vic-
tims, too.
Men are giving many women the means to make a living in a soci-
ety where they would starve or exist in utter poverty. This is not
exploitation. This is charity.
Raymond / DEMAND FOR PROSTITUTION 1161
Men are able to compartmentalize their lives and thereby do not
regard themselves as unfaithful to their wives or partners when
they buy women and children for sex.
Men buy children because they want to be ensured that they will
not contract venereal diseases. In some societies, having sex with a
supposed virgin is said to cure a man of sexually transmitted dis-
eases or to have miraculous powers that will rejuvenate him.
Many of these myths are used to rationalize men’s use and
abuse of women in prostitution. It is not my task here to analyze
the why behind these myths, as if understanding these rational-
izations may give us some insight into why men prostitute
women. That may well be true; however, I list these myths to
show that men buy women in prostitution, as Barry (1979, 1995)
stated, because they can. What these rationalizations reveal is that
men construct prostitution as inevitable, not that it is inevitable. If
we allow any of these myths to justify prostitution, then we are
telling women and girls in prostitution that they must continue to
do what they do because prostitution is predestined and that’s the
way men are.
CONSEQUENCES OF LEGALIZED
PROSTITUTION ON THE DEMAND
Some have argued that normalizing prostitution as work is
good economic development policy. The International Labor
Organization (ILO) has called for prostitution to be recognized as
a legitimate economic sector, suggesting that women in the sex
industry and countries will benefit. The ILO report has proposed
that recognizing and regulating prostitution as a normal eco-
nomic sector would be particularly beneficial for poorer countries
in Southeast Asia, and that revenues from the sex sector could be
an enormous source of tax revenue to aid countries in financial
crisis (Lim, 1998).
Prostitution as good economic development policy means
prostitution on demand. Legalizing prostitution and normalizing
it as economic development is satirized quite well in the follow-
ing tongue-in-cheek commentary:
As sex is a human need and prostitution is here to stay, we should
think about a proactive and realistic approach to deal with the
1162 VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN / October 2004
situation. Therefore, I would suggest to pay more attention to sus-
tainable prostitution (SP) in order to transform inevitable prostitu-
tion into a more responsible and beneficial industry. As with the
term sustainability in general, it is a bit difficult to concretely
define SP. But clearly, SP can be a miracle agent for sustained eco-
nomic growth in the Third World. . . . [U]nder properly planned
and managed conditions, SP has the potential to make positive
contributions to community development and environmental pro-
tection. Most importantly, it can also empower poor and under-
privileged women. In its ideal form, SP can create jobs and income,
boost foreign exchange, disperse benefits to rural areas, and gener-
ate funds for public purposes such as education, health care,
preservation of culture and nature. (Pleumarom, 1997, n.p.)
In the sustainable prostitution paradigm, prostitution not only
gives the customer what he wants (“The Sex Industry,” 1998) but
also is viewed as an economic development strategy for poor,
marginalized women. Sustainable prostitution is an apt description
of what now exists in countries where legalization of prostitution
and decriminalization of the sex industry has been implemented.
Since the onset of legalization of prostitution in Victoria, Aus-
tralia, more men go to more and bigger brothels because legaliza-
tion and decriminalization are out of control and, quite simply,
are impossible to control. “Each week 60,000 men spend $7 mil-
lion on prostitution. . . . When one considers that Victoria’s popu-
lation is around 3.5 million people, these figures attest to how
mainstream buying the right to sexually abuse a woman has
become in the state” (Sullivan & Jeffreys, 2001, p. 4). After legal-
ization of prostitution in New South Wales in 1995, brothels tri-
pled in number by 1999 and expanded in size, the vast majority
having no licenses but operating and advertising with impunity.
Specialty brothels advertise services that cater to men with dis-
abilities, and caretakers (mostly women) are now required to take
disabled men to brothels and assist them in engaging in sex acts
(Sullivan & Jeffreys, 2001). In New Zealand, where prostitution
was legalized in June 2003 by a one-vote majority, disability agen-
cies are seeking money to train women in prostitution to provide
“sexual services” to disabled men (“State-Funded Sex,” 2003).
Legalization makes more prostituted women available to more
men.
Advertisements line the highways of Victoria offering women
as objects for sexual use and teaching new generations of men and
Raymond / DEMAND FOR PROSTITUTION 1163
boys to treat women as subordinates. Businessmen are encour-
aged to hold their corporate meetings in these clubs where own-
ers supply naked women on the table at tea breaks and lunchtime.
A Melbourne brothel owner stated that the client base was “well
educated professional men, who visit during the day and then go
home to their families” (Sullivan & Jeffreys, 2001, p. 14).
Women who desire more egalitarian relationships with men
find that often the men in their lives are visiting brothels and sex
clubs. They have the choice to accept that their male partners are
buying women in commercial sexual transactions, deny what
their partners are doing, or leave the relationship (Sullivan &
Jeffreys, 2001).
In the Netherlands, legalization has brought with it profes-
sional associations of prostitution buyers and entrepreneurs,
whose express purpose is to promote prostitution for more men,
and who consult and collaborate with the government to further
their interests. These include the Association of Operators of
Relaxation Businesses, the Cooperating Consultation of Opera-
tors of Window Prostitution, and the Man/Woman and Prostitu-
tion Foundation, a group of men who regularly use women in
prostitution, and whose specific aims include “to make prostitu-
tion and the use of services of prostitutes more accepted and
openly discussible,” and “to protect the interests of clients”
(Bureau NRM, 2002, pp. 115-116).
Faced with a dwindling number of Dutch women who engage
in prostitution activities and the expanding demand for more
female bodies and more exotic women to service the prostitution
market, the Dutch National Rapporteur on Trafficking has stated
that in the future, a solution may be to “offer [to the market] pros-
titutes from non-EU/EEA [European Union/European Eco-
nomic Area] countries, who voluntarily choose to work in prosti-
tution” (Bureau NRM, 2002, p. 140). These women would be
given “legal and controlled access to the Dutch market” (Bureau
NRM, 2002, p. 140). As prostitution has beentransformed into sex
work, and pimps into entrepreneurs, so too this recommendation
redefines trafficking as “voluntary migration for sex work.”
Looking to the future, the Netherlands is targeting poor women
for the international sex trade to remedy the inadequacies of the
free market of sexual services. Prostitution is thus normalized as a
suitable option for the poor.
1164 VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN / October 2004
Interpol and the Dutch national police confirm that the Nether-
lands is a prime destination and home for child sexual abusers,
also known as pedophiles. The British police have accused the
Netherlands of being a leading pedophile country in Europe.
Claims that legalization of prostitution would control and reduce
child prostitution have not proved true, with police suspecting
that child prostitute abusers choose the Netherlands because of
its prostitution-promoting environment. The pedophile lobby is
also very strong in the Netherlands, advocating the “right of chil-
dren to sexual self-determination.” The lobby has had several
legal victories, one of which has been to make sexual abuse of chil-
dren older than age 12 years actionable only in cases where a par-
ent or child reports the crime. Because no action may be taken
without a complaint, abusers are freer to use children and most
often go free (Child Rights Information Network [CRIN], 1995,
p. 4). In Romania and Poland, Dutch child sexual abusers have
started their own sex resorts (CRIN, 1995, p. 5). In addition, the
trade in children from eastern Europe and other continents to
European countries passes through the Netherlands (CRIN, 1995,
p. 6).
Some argue that we must make distinctions between forced
and voluntary prostitution, prohibiting child prostitution but
allowing women the choice. However, most male consumers who
buy women for sexual activities do not debate the alleged distinc-
tions between forced and voluntary prostitution, between child
and adult prostitution, or between trafficking and prostitution.
Most male consumers do not stop to ask whether women and
girls elect or are forced into prostitution or whether they have
been trafficked from abroad. In fact, if men do learn that force has
been a means of initiating and keeping some women in prostitu-
tion, this can be a turn-on. Force has been an intrinsic part of the
repertoire of many men’s sexuality outside of prostitution. Men
use coerced sex in the home, with children, and with
subordinates.
WHO ARE THE INVISIBLE MEN WHO
CONSTITUTE THE DEMAND FOR PROSTITUTION?
There has been some research on men who are prostitute-users.
More generally, there have been studies that try to account for the
Raymond / DEMAND FOR PROSTITUTION 1165
number of men who, as buyers, engage in prostitution activities.
In Asia, a study of Thailand conducted by the U.S. Agency for
International Development reported that 75% of Thai men were
prostitution buyers and that almost 50% had their first sexual
intercourse with women in prostitution (Brown, 2000). In Viet-
nam, 70% of those caught in brothels are reported to be state offi-
cials (“Officials Make Up 70%,” 2000). Brown (2000) also cited
studies that indicate that 60% to 70% of men in Cambodia have
purchased women for sexual activities.
In Europe, 1 of 8 (or 12.5%) men in Sweden uses women and
children in prostitution (Ministry of Industry, 2003). At a recent
conference in Alba, Italy, on the subject of legalization of prostitu-
tion, it was reported that 1 of 6 (or almost 17%) Italian men uses
women in prostitution. Differently stated, this means that in Italy,
9 million men use an estimated 50,000 women in prostitution
(International Conference, 2004). According to German criminal
psychologist, Adolf Gallwitz, 18% of German men regularly pay
for sex (“Stolen Youth,” 2003). A German doctoral thesis in pro-
cess finds that one million prostitute-users buy women daily in
Germany for sexual activities (Herz, 2003).
A 1997 study in the United Kingdom estimated that 10% of
London’s male population buys women for the sex of prostitution
(Brown, 2000). In the United States, as early as 1948, it was esti-
mated that one half of the adult male population was frequent
prostitute-users, and that 69% of the same population had pur-
chased women for sexual activities at least once (Brown, 2000).
Numbers, of course, can always be debated. Yet these various sta-
tistics, ranging from lower to higher, indicate that large-enough
numbers of men buy women and children to satisfy their sexual
demands.
To understand the impact of legalization and decriminalization
of the sex industry, we must examine who and what activities are
being legally sanctioned. As part of two larger studies on sex traf-
ficking into the United States, the CATW interviewed women in
local prostitution and women who had been trafficked from other
countries into the United States. In addition, we also interviewed
social service providers and law enforcement authorities about
men’s behavior and activities as buyers to understand the role of
men in creating the demand for prostituted and trafficked
1166 VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN / October 2004
women. From these studies, we gained a description of prostitute
users, the findings of which I cite here, not as a quantitative
assessment of male buyers, nor as a full picture of the demand
side of prostitution, but rather as primary information about
prostitute-users and about men’s attitudes and treatment of
women in prostitution.
The first study, supported by a U.S. Department of Justice
grant, titled Sex Trafficking in the United States (Raymond,
Hughes, & Gomez, 2001), interviewed 128 individuals, including
15 international women, most of whom had been trafficked to the
United States, 25 U.S. women in local prostitution industries, 43
social service providers, 32 law enforcement officials, and 13 oth-
ers. The second study, supported by a Ford Foundation grant,
titled “A Comparative Study of Women Trafficked in the Migra-
tion Process,” interviewed 146 victims of sexual exploitation,
most who had been trafficked across and within borders in five
countries (Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Venezuela, and
the United States; Raymond, D’Cunha, et al., 2002). Information
on male prostitute-users from these studies is referenced below
by year and page.
BACKGROUND OF BUYERS
Several studies reveal that men who buy women in prostitu-
tion come from all nationalities, races, and walks of life. In our
U.S. study, many of the brothels housing international women,
most of whom had been trafficked, specifically catered to buyers
from within women’s ethnic communities. One law enforcement
agent reported that in New York City’s Chinatown, the Chinese
houses of prostitution are closed to non-Chinese buyers. Not even
other Chinese men are allowed into the Fucanese brothels. Prosti-
tute buyers have to speak the correct dialect to gain access to the
brothels. Restriction of buyers also applies in the Mexican estab-
lishments, where certain speech patterns are monitored for entry
(Raymond, Hughes, et al., 2001, p. 69).
A number of African American women in the sex industry in
the United States commented that the majority of their customers
were White, mostly married, and from the suburbs. However,
other ethnicities of men were also described as buyers:
Raymond / DEMAND FOR PROSTITUTION 1167
I had one Chinese guy 16 years old. He brought other people from
China and he brought them all to me. We really didn’t do nothing.
All they wanted to do was to see my black skin. They just kept rub-
bing it to see if the color would come off. (Raymond, Hughes, et al.,
2001, p. 70)
In our five-country report (Raymond, D’Cunha, et al., 2002),
Filipino women trafficked to Japan reported that many Japanese
customers were demanding and violent. Filipino women traf-
ficked to Nigeria found their Filipino buyers were generally well
behaved. Although empathizing with their plight, many Filipino
men nevertheless bought them for sex (Raymond, D’Cunha, et al.,
2002, p. 107).
The Thailand country report (Raymond, D’Cunha, et al., 2002)
describes how women and children of diverse ethnic groups and
nationalities are incorporated into the Thai sex industry:
With an emphasis on “differentness, exotica and mystery,” Thai and
Japanese men demand fair skinned hill-tribe girls from Thailand,
or from the Northeast part of the country, or from Burma; farangs
(foreigners) prefer browner women from North Thailand; and Chi-
nese buyers demand Chinese women from the region. (p. 138)
Men from U.S. military bases were frequently mentioned as
buyers in the U.S. study. Clubs, massage parlors, and brothels
replicate the sexual rest and recreation (R&R) areas that prolifer-
ate near U.S. military bases to serve U.S. servicemen outside the
United States. The military demand for prostitution in the towns
and cities surrounding U.S. military bases abroad continues to be
responsible for the exploitation, rape, and prostitution of impov-
erished local populations in these areas. The infrastructure and
culture are re-created in the United States, with inordinate num-
bers of Asian women especially, trafficked and exploited in U.S.
massage parlors, strip clubs, bars, and brothels surrounding U.S.
military bases (Raymond, Hughes, et al., 2001, p. 70).
AGE, EDUCATION, AND OCCUPATIONS OF BUYERS
Women in the sex industry stated that buyers come from all age
groups. The range of ages reported was from age 15 to 90 years.
One U.S. woman in prostitution stated that younger men use
women in street prostitution because they are cheaper and easy to
1168 VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN / October 2004
access, and the young men think they are getting away with
something. One internationally trafficked woman who saw
mostly older men stated that they came for the company, not so
much for the sex, because “a lot of old men can’t perform.” This
same woman commented that fathers often brought sons to give
them a “good time—training on sex” (Raymond, Hughes, et al.,
2001, p. 70).
In CATW’s five-country study, the Indonesian country report
noted that buyers of women in prostitution in the areas of Batam
and Karimun Islands were very old men who came from ethnic
Chinese backgrounds. It was a common picture in these areas to
see a very old man holding hands with a young woman in the
streets or the entertainment establishments, looking more like
grandfather and granddaughter than buyer and young woman in
prostitution. Some of these men were also reported to use medi-
cine to achieve sexual function. Respondents reported that some
older men died in the act of sex when the medicine they con-
sumed (possibly Viagra) precipitated a heart attack (Raymond,
D’Cunha, et al., 2002, p. 81).
Buyers also came from all walks of life. Several women in the
U.S. study commented on the number of married men (70% to
90%) who bought women for prostitution. In the five-country
report, 75% of the buyers in the Indonesian country report were
married, whereas the common assumption among Indonesians is
that it is unmarried men who buy women in prostitution (Ray-
mond, D’Cunha, et al., 2002, p. 82). Buyers in the Venezuela coun-
try report were between the ages of 17 and 80 years, the majority
of whom were married.
Men in the five-country study had more education than the
women they bought in prostitution. Women interviewed in Vene-
zuela reported that the educational level of buyers ranged from
illiterate to Ph.D.s. The majority of men had completed high
school or university, and a number had attained a doctoral degree
(Raymond, D’Cunha, et al., 2002, p. 166). Compared to the educa-
tional levels of the Indonesian women, the buyers in Indonesia
had a relatively high education (Raymond, D’Cunha, et al., 2002,
p. 82).
In the U.S. study, occupations of U.S. buyers of women in pros-
titution ranged from working class, such as fast food employees,
truckers, oil rig and pipeline workers, or warehouse workers, to
Raymond / DEMAND FOR PROSTITUTION 1169
professional men, some of whom were prominent community
members, such as businessmen, lawyers, doctors, politicians, and
dentists. One woman reported, “Guys with the best jobs are the
cheapest. The others (farmers, etc.) are more lenient with their
money” (p. 70).
Several U.S. women reported that police officers or undercover
cops had asked for sex in exchange for dropping charges against
them.
Police officers—they were abusive. The undercover cops asked me
to have sex with them—straight and oral—in order to drop the
charges. Police are frequent customers, though, and they walk in
like they own the place. In fact one of the cops ran his own house
somewhere in Brooklyn and was always trying to get me to be part
of his posse. They’d come in and be on a power trip and treat us like
we were nothing. (Raymond, Hughes, et al., 2001, p. 71)
Another U.S. woman commented that her first trick was a police-
man. She was not arrested, because he let her off (Raymond,
Hughes, et al., 2001, p. 71).
These reports indicate that the main users of women in prosti-
tution are regular men who are in regular marriages, study in reg-
ular educational programs, and have regular jobs, some of whom
are entrusted with upholding the very laws that they violate. In
other words, studies indicate that prostitute-users in general are
not marginalized men, unlike the women they use and abuse. As
another report noted, even those who use children in prostitution
“are nice people, often occupying a leading position in soci-
ety....Theimage of the pedophile as a ‘dirty old man’ is hardly
ever correct” (CRIN, 1995, p. 3). In all regions of the world that we
studied, men are seeking young women, often underage girls.
BUYERS’ DEMANDS
In the United States study, all those interviewed reported that,
on average, women were required to service 1 to 10 men per day.
Law enforcement estimates were higher, with a majority report-
ing that women were required to engage in commercial sex with 6
to 20 or more men per day. One immigration official reported that
one of his witnesses stated, “It was a ridiculous figure. Depending
on the day—it was sometimes at least ten. . . . Over a period of two
1170 VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN / October 2004
and a half months, one of our witnesses said she had to sleep with
over a hundred men” (Raymond, Hughes, et al., 2001, p. 71).
Another law enforcement agent reported that if you includeother
sexual activities, such as stripping, in this tally, essentially women
are providing sex to 50 or more men a night.
In the cheaper venues, some women had to have sex with 20 to
30 men per day. When there were few buyers, women had to
entertain the guards and the pimps. One trafficked woman
reported that weekends were the busiest times. When women
were brought into bachelor parties or conventions, they might
have to engage in sex with up to 20 men (Raymond, Hughes, et al.,
2001, p. 71).
In the five-country report, Indonesian women reported that
they had to service men throughout the night, even when they
were ill or did not feel well (Raymond, D’Cunha, et al., 2002,
p. 83). In the Thailand country report, Raymond, D’Cunha, et al.
(2002) wrote about Thai women trafficked to Australia:
All the women said they had no control over the number of clients
they were made to service. In Australia, the brothel was a sex fac-
tory with a woman forced to take a minimum of 500 clients without
payment, to repay a debt of A$40,000 that could be unilaterally
increased. After repayment, women would be paid A$40-50 per
client. Living in conditions of complete bondage, these women
were made to work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week to meet the target
so that they could start earning money. Police admitted at least
three Melbourne brothels used contract girls who had to sleep with
700 clients each, without payment, to meet their contract terms.
(pp. 141-142)
D’Cunha commented further that, “Once in prostitution a
woman realizes that she has no control over the choice of client,
the pace or price of work, or the nature of the sexual activity. She is
the shared property of any male who can pay a price for sex and
for her body (p. 141).
In the U.S. study, the majority of trafficked and local women
(82% and 58%, respectively) were expected to comply with all
requests of the buyers (Raymond, Hughes, et al., 2001, Table 7). If
the women tried to place limits on what they would do, what the
men could do to them, or where they could be touched, the men
would complain. Activities in which women were expected to
engage were, “Everything. From half and half, some [men] liked
Raymond / DEMAND FOR PROSTITUTION 1171
to be beaten up, some [men] liked to be urinated on, some [men]
wanted us to dress in different clothes” (Raymond, Hughes, et al.,
2001, p. 72). Another woman responded to the question about
buyer demands by listing the sexual acts requested with a price
tag attached to each one:
Sitting naked: $10; Verbally abusing men: $10 - $20; Masturbation:
$20; Homosexual fantasy: $20; Using a dildo: $30; Anal sex with
dildo: $40; Pee in a glass: $100; Sniff shoes, pop balloons with my
high heels, hotdog man—put ketchup and mustard on his penis,
tie a string on his penis and tug. (Raymond, Hughes, et al., 2001,
p. 72)
Some women stated that they would refuse to accept verbal
abuse or enact men’s fantasies of sex with children. Other women
said that if they needed the money (e.g., to buy drugs) they would
take what they could get and do what was demanded. One
woman summed it up by stating that the most important thing
was to say you enjoyed whatever the customer requested that you
do (Raymond, Hughes, et al., 2001, p. 72).
CONDOMS
In the U.S. study, almost one half of the trafficked women and
U.S. women in prostitution (47%) reported that men frequently
expected sex without condoms. Fifty percent of the international
women, and 73% of U.S. women reported that men would pay
more for sex without a condom. A significant portion of the
women (international women 29%, U.S. women 45%) reported
that men became abusive if women tried to insist that they use
condoms (Raymond, Hughes, et al., 2001, Table 8).
Some women said that establishments have rules that men
wear condoms; however, in reality, men still try to have sex with-
out them. One woman said, “It’s ‘regulation’ to wear a condom at
the sauna, but negotiable between parties on the side. Most guys
expected blowjobs without a condom” (Raymond, Hughes, et al.,
2001, p. 72). Several U.S. women reported that men try to slip off
the condom without the women knowing it. Another woman
reported that she did not use condoms regularly when she was
offered extra money: “I very rarely had sex using a condom. I’d be
one of those liars if I said ‘Oh I always used a condom.’ If there
1172 VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN / October 2004
was extra money coming in, then the condom would be out the
window. I was looking for the extra money” (Raymond, Hughes,
et al., 2001, p. 72).
Many factors mitigate against condom use: the need to make
money; older women’s decline in attractiveness to men; competi-
tion from places that do not require condoms; pimp pressure to
have sex with no condom for more money; money needed for a
drug fix/habit or to pay off the pimp; and the general lack of con-
trol that prostituted women have of their bodies in prostitution
venues (Raymond, Hughes, et al., 2001, pp. 72-73).
SCREENING BUYERS
Health checks and screening women for sexually transmitted
infections have been themes in the public health approach to
prostitution. The unexpressed goal in this approach, and in the
public health literature in general, has been screening of the
women for the protection of the male buyers and the general pub-
lic. Few researchers question whether the male buyers are
screened for protection of the women, not only for disease but
also for protection of the women from abuse.
Almost unanimously, law enforcement officials and social ser-
vice providers, advocates, and researchers in the U.S. study indi-
cated that they were not aware of any sex industry practices of
screening men for disease or for protection of prostituted women.
In most sex venues, there is also little physical protection for the
women from violence and abuse of buyers. One social service
provider reported that in some establishments, “They tell you
that there’s a bouncer, but I have never ever seen a bouncer
before” (Raymond, Hughes, et al., 2001, p. 73). One law enforce-
ment official stated,
As long as they are making the money, anything goes. In [a particu-
lar club], they have dungeon rooms—there’s no way for her to get
help if she wanted. One of the girls had reported to her pimp that
one of the johns had brutally raped and beat her. All he [the pimp]
said was did you get the money. Plus the pimps beat them up too.
(Raymond, Hughes, et al., 2001, p. 74)
Social service providers generally reported that screening for
disease and protection from abuse were impossible, especially in
Raymond / DEMAND FOR PROSTITUTION 1173
the escort services where women travel to different locations. One
social service provider reported that in the saunas or health clubs,
women had no one they could call on for protection. In one rural
trafficking case involving migrant male workers, men came into
the trailers (makeshift brothels) high on drugs and alcohol and
wanted the women to perform sexual acts on demand. According
to an advocate for the women, if the women refused, they would
frequently be beaten and raped by the buyers and/or those
guarding the brothel. The buyers would call the ring leader “who
would personally come in and give them a beating as well. The
young girls got it bad” (Raymond, Hughes, et al., 2001, p. 74).
International and U.S. women in prostitution in the U.S. study
also indicated that prostitution establishments did little to protect
them. “The only time they protect anyone is to protect the custom-
ers. For instance, they only put in the surveillance camera after a
customer was killed” (Raymond, Hughes, et al., 2001, p. 74). Of
the women who did report that establishments gave some protec-
tion, they qualified it by pointing out that no protector was ever in
the room with them, where anything could occur. “The driver
functioned as a bodyguard. You’re supposed to call when you get
in, to ascertain that everything was OK. But they are not standing
outside the door while you’re in there, so anything could still hap-
pen” (Raymond, Hughes, et al., 2001, p. 74).
VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
Trafficked and prostituted women in the sex industry suffer the
same kinds of violence and sexual exploitation as women who
have been battered, raped, and sexually assaulted. The difference
is that when women are subjected to this same kind of violence
and sexual exploitation in prostitution, it is viewed as sex and
often tolerated as part of the so-called job. The findings of these
two studies reveal that violence is endemic to the sex of prostitu-
tion and traps women in the system of prostitution.
Much of the violence of prostitution is perpetrated by buyers.
In the U.S. study, U.S. women reported higher rates of violence
compared to international women, most of whom had been traf-
ficked into the sex industry. The highest rates of buyer violence
reported by both groups of prostituted women were in the follow-
ing categories: physical violence, sadistic sex, and use of weapons
1174 VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN / October 2004
to threaten or harm women. Other types of violence cited
included being harassed by obsessive men, videotaped, robbed,
kidnapped, stalked, and destruction of women’s property (Ray-
mond, Hughes, et al., 2001, Table 9).
In the five-country report, rates and frequency of violence and
control are extremely high, with physical harm (almost 80%), sex-
ual assault (more than 60%), emotional abuse (more than 80%),
verbal threats (more than 70%), and control through the use of
drugs/alcohol (almost 70%) leading the indicators (Raymond,
D’Cunha, et al., 2002, p. 62). The five-country report did not sepa-
rate violence perpetrated by pimps and traffickers from violence
perpetrated by buyers.
Indonesian respondents reported the highest rates and fre-
quency of violence of the four country reports quantified. Ninety
percent to 100% of Indonesian women reported that they experi-
enced physical harm, emotional abuse, immigration status
threats, death threats to themselves or their families, and control
through the use of weapons. Seventy percent to 90% of Indone-
sian respondents reported enduring sexual assault, threats to
report them to the police, control through the use of drugs/
alcohol, and withholding of money. In addition, the frequency of
violence, means of control, and threats were very high (Raymond,
D’Cunha, et al., 2002, p. 62). When women reported violence from
buyers, however, they often did not define these acts as violent
because they had been instructed to do anything the buyers
wanted. Most Indonesian women reported feeling violated by the
buyers when the men demanded oral or anal sex. Using strategies
of avoidance and survival, women plied the buyers with alcohol
until they were drunk and sleepy. Most of the respondents also
reported that they had tried to leave the sex industry but received
little help (Raymond, D’Cunha, et al., 2002, pp. 83-84).
To understand how violence is intrinsic to prostitution, it is nec-
essary to understand the sex of prostitution. The sexual service
provided in prostitution is most often violent, degrading, and
abusive sexual acts, including sex between a buyer and several
women; slashing the woman with razor blades; tying women to
bedposts and lashing them till they bleed; biting women’s breasts;
burning the women with cigarettes; cutting her arms, legs, and
genital areas; and urinating or defecating on women. One woman
interviewed in the Thailand country report, Choy, told of a buyer
Raymond / DEMAND FOR PROSTITUTION 1175
who inserted an iron rod into her vagina. She bled profusely and
suffered vaginal inflammation, bleeding, and pain for more than
10 days. The buyer insisted it was menstrual blood and com-
plained about her to the brothel owner who, although he believed
her, did nothing to the man (Raymond, D’Cunha, et al., 2002,
p. 143).
Women in prostitution are often raped on the job, so to speak.
Nine of the women in the Thailand country report said they had
been raped in prostitution multiple times. Others reported that an
agreement to service a single buyer resulted in being gang raped
by several of his friends. None of the women sought any help or
reported the rapes to the police, knowing that they would be told
they asked for it (Raymond, D’Cunha, et al., 2002, p. 143).
D’Cunha listed common responses of women in prostitution to
the men who buy them: disgust, fear, resentment, indifference,
feigning cheerfulness and enjoyment of sex, play acting and pan-
dering to buyers, and jeering at buyers who fall prey to their pre-
tenses. Some women perceive the men solely as sources of
income. Some women are also attracted to and fall in love with
buyers. Dissociation from the buyer and the sexual act is a very
common survival technique used by women in prostitution.
Other methods of survival are use of alcohol and drugs, avoid-
ance of kissing, and trying to avoid penetrative and oral sex. One
of the service agencies interviewed in the Thailand country report
stated,
Some of the girls insist on condom use, or develop ways of slipping
on the condom without the client’s knowledge, not just as a disease
or pregnancy prevention mechanism, but to avoid skin contact.
They thus ensure physical and emotional detachment and a pres-
ervation of their integrity. (Raymond, D’Cunha, et al., 2002, p. 143)
Rather than speaking about the violence done to themselves, it
was easier for many of the women interviewed in these two stud-
ies to speak of violence done to other women in prostitution.
Many women witnessed or knew of others who were mutilated,
drugged, stalked by tricks, and murdered by serial killers. One
woman said, “I knew of three girls who were murdered. One was
stabbed by the cashier at [a well-known sex club] in February
1991. The other incident was in 1994 where two buyers killed the
two women they took home” (Raymond, Hughes, et al., 2001,
1176 VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN / October 2004
p. 75). Another woman reported, “One girl went with a Russian
client. She was drugged. She didn’t know where she landed up.
They held her for 24 hours. About five of them. She was gang
raped. She never reported this to anyone” (Raymond, Hughes,
et al., 2001, p. 76). Another international woman trafficked to the
United States reported that her Russian girlfriend was killed by a
buyer who picked her up on the street. She also knew an Asian
American woman who was also killed by a “trick on the street”
who had slit her throat (Raymond, Hughes, et al., 2001, p. 76).
The reported findings with regard to violence against women
in prostitution are particularly significant because they indicate
high levels of violation, harm and trauma, and the fact that prosti-
tution is a form of violence against women. The ambivalence on
the part of many researchers, NGOs, and governments to view
prostitution as violence against women parallels an earlier disre-
gard and neglect of the harm done to battered women on the part
of those who believed that if women made the choice to stay with
abusive husbands or partners then “it couldn’t be that bad.” In
addition, sexually abusive male behavior and practices are trans-
formed into socially sanctioned and acceptable behavior in coun-
tries that have decriminalized the sex industry.
PROGRAMS AND POLICIES THAT ADDRESS THE DEMAND
Women’s and human rights groups should be advocating for
study and replication of the Swedish law prohibiting the pur-
chase of sexual services and penalizing the buyer. Instead of giv-
ing legal permission to profoundly abusive sex industries, gov-
ernments should respond to the male violence and sexual
exploitation of women in prostitution by legally addressing the
demand for prostitution.
We hear too little about the role of the sex industry in creating a
global sex market for women and children. Instead, we hear that
prostitution could be made into a better job for women through
regulation and/or legalization, through unions of so-called sex
workers, and through campaigns that provide condoms to
women but fail to provide them with alternatives to prostitution.
We hear much about how to keep women in prostitution but very
little about how to help women get out.
Raymond / DEMAND FOR PROSTITUTION 1177
In some countries, labor unions have been encouraged to
accept prostitution as work. The London-based International
Union of Sex Workers has affiliated with the General Municipal
Boilermakers (GMB), the fourth largest union in the United King-
dom, to form an adult entertainment branch and to recruit per-
sons in prostitution, strip clubs, and pornography. The GMB is
also lobbying for a review of U.K. laws relating to prostitution and
other sexual activities (“Sex for Sale,” 2003). Rather than affirming
prostitution as work, however, labor unions could follow the
example of Denmark’s Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) that,
in June 2003, prohibited its 1.5 million members (in a country of
5.4 million) from engaging in prostitution when they represent
the union on business and travel abroad (Agence France Presse,
2003).
Some agencies, such as the UN Inter-Agency Standing Com-
mittee (IASC) that brings together more than 15 UN and multilat-
eral agencies, have devised codes of conduct for their personnel
in humanitarian crisis situations (Inter-Agency Standing Com-
mittee [IASC], 2002). One of the core principles of the IASC code
of conduct states, “Sexual exploitation and abuse by humanitar-
ian workers constitute acts of gross misconduct and are therefore
grounds for termination” (IASC, 2002, p. 1). Another core princi-
ple makes clear that “Exchange of money, employment, goods, or
services for sex, including favors or other forms of humiliating,
degrading or exploitative behavior is prohibited” (IASC, 2002,
p. 1).
It would be a great leap forward in the campaign against sexual
exploitation for governments and UN agencies to prohibit their
diplomats, military personnel, UN police, and peacekeepers from
engaging in prostitution activities on or off duty. In 2002, Norway
required its civil servants not to purchase sexual services during
official travel, with violations leading to disciplinary measures.
Finnish defense forces have implemented regulations to prevent
prostitution use among their peacekeepers (Sanomat, 2003).
Legal measures penalizing the demand, military measures and
codes of conduct, and labor union policies must be supplemented
with prevention programs that target the demand. CATW Asia
Pacific has initiated an innovative 3-year project in the Philip-
pines to prevent sex trafficking by discouraging the demand for
1178 VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN / October 2004
prostitution. The project is aimed at boys and young men in
schools and communities in the Philippines where prostitution
flourishes (Coalition Against Trafficking in Women [CATW],
2003).
The overall objective of the project is to change the sexual atti-
tudes and practices of boys and young men that result in the sex-
ual exploitation of women and children by employing various
educational tools: reproduction of an innovative video titled First
Time to be distributed in video compact disc (VCD) format, illus-
trating how young men go through male rites of passage by using
women in prostitution; use of education materials such as flyers
and flipcharts detailing causes of prostitution and trafficking;
comic books portraying the stories of women who have been in
prostitution, including the role of male buyers; workshops in 12
regions of the Philippines during a period of 2 years educating
young boys and men about the harm of prostitution and traffick-
ing, men’s role in perpetuating sexual exploitation and the sex
industry, and men’s potential role in being catalysts for change.
This program is being carried out with the collaboration of sur-
vivors of prostitution and trafficking in the Philippines. Survivors
have been part of the team that has planned the program and edu-
cates boys and young men, especially about the harm of prostitu-
tion to girls and women.
During the first year of the program, CATW Asia Pacific has
designed a questionnaire and discussion format to be used with
young men, established criteria and methods for male trainers
who will help conduct workshops for boys and young men, and
conducted seven focus groups to pretest the questions to be asked
in future workshops with boys in 12 regions of the Philippines.
Focus group participants have been drawn from various sectors:
male students of mixed class background in four colleges of the
Philippines; two focus groups from selected communities; and
one focus group composed of working class, urban poor jeepney
drivers in metro Manila.
I visited the Philippines from January 5 through 9, 2004, to
observe the project and to discuss its design, implementation, and
changes with CATW Philippines staff. I observed the focus group
discussion that was conducted with jeepney drivers—poor,
urban working men—who drive the public transport and “float-
Raymond / DEMAND FOR PROSTITUTION 1179
ing art” vehicles in metro Manila. This group of men was reached
through contacts with the drivers’ union.
Questions and discussion, at first, centered on why men
thought prostitution exists, followed by questions about what
men get out of prostitution. How do men feel after having sex
with a woman in prostitution? What do men tell their friends
about their experiences engaging in the sex of prostitution? How
do men think that women or girls feel when they are having sex
with a prostitution customer? And ultimately, men in the focus
group were asked whether they had engaged in sexual activities
with women in prostitution. Almost all responded affirmatively.
There was a lot of joking among the men and a certain level of
discomfort in responding to the questions. However, after the dis-
cussion was finished, the CATW male and female discussion
leaders talked for about 15 minutes about their own responses to
the questions and CATW’s work and experience with women in
prostitution. Responses then began to change, and some of the
men acknowledged that men’s role in buying women for the sex
of prostitution perpetuated the problem. Some even made sug-
gestions about how to change male patterns in the jeepney driv-
ers’ environment. One suggestion made was for drivers, who are
approached by street women in prostitution to engage in sex in
exchange for giving the women a free ride on the jeepney or in
exchange for money, to give them a free ride or the money rather
than engage in exploiting the women.
Finally, the men were given T-shirts with various messages,
such as “Stop the Sale of Women and Children” or “Women
Should be Valued, Not Sold.” In departing, men said they would
wear the shirts and seemed pleased with the session, thanking the
facilitators for what they had learned. This is not to say that a mass
conversion took place among the men but rather to suggest that
some significant learning did occur, that men themselves recog-
nized this, and that consciousness-raising programs for men are
an important intervention in addressing the demand (CATW,
2003).
The actual workshops with young men began in March 2004.
They are intensive camp sessions in 12 regions of the Philippines
continuing into Year 3 of the project, and work will continue with
hundreds of young men from these regions.
1180 VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN / October 2004
THE INVISIBLE MAN, CONDOMS, AND SAFE SEX
On August 13, 2001, the World Health Organization (WHO) in
Vietnam recommended that prostitution be decriminalized to
combat the spread of HIV/AIDS. The WHO told a press confer-
ence that attempts to eradicate prostitution had failed. The WHO
Southeast Asia advisor called on governments to “accept the
imperfections of society” and rather than “condone [prostitu-
tion], [decriminalization] is a matter of accepting that [prostitu-
tion] is a reality that takes place, and we are trying to reduce
harm” (“Vietnam Presses On,” 2001, n.p.).
The WHO response in the modern health campaigns to check
the HIV epidemic is the traditional public health response to pros-
titution as codified in the Contagious Diseases Acts of the 19th
century: Monitor the women to protect the men. Little has
changed when AIDS-prevention advocates target prostituted
women, not male customers and transmitters, for disease control.
Although epidemiologists have documented that the HIV epi-
demic is driven largely by male-to-female viral transmission and
male use of prostituted women, it is potentially infected women,
not the sexual consumption habits of infected or potentially
infected men, that are the focus of control (Hynes & Raymond,
2002).
Burdening women in prostitution industries with the responsi-
bility for negotiating with men to use condoms by making them-
selves and condom use “sexy”—in other words, teaching women
to eroticize their sexual objectification and sexual submission—is
an ineffective way to fight HIV/AIDS. A more sensible anti-AIDS
program would target the group who engages in the most
unhealthy and high-risk behaviors: men who buy the sex of pros-
titution. Yet the common solution to male demand for prostitu-
tion is only to give women condoms to give to men.
Harm reduction programs are not enough. Carried out within
the context of supporting the legalization and decriminalization
of prostitution, they are very misguided. A lot of safe sex pro-
grams teach women demeaning and sexually subordinating
ways to respond to male demand under the umbrella of protect-
ing themselves. A director of an organization providing services
to women and children in prostitution wrote, “The damage
Raymond / DEMAND FOR PROSTITUTION 1181
caused by the substance and style of HIV/AIDS propaganda in
countries like India and the role it is playing in normalizing com-
mercial sexual exploitation of women (as also of children) worries
me immeasurably” (Pravin Patkar, personal communication,
March 3, 2003). The advocate was criticizing the ways in which
HIV/AIDS projects and policies are making the situation worse
for sexually exploited women in prostitution by putting the bur-
den on them to negotiate male condom use and safe sex and then
blaming women if negotiations fail.
Conducted within the orbit of the sex industry, HIV/AIDS pro-
grams give new respectability to pimps, traffickers, and buyers,
valorizing them as allies in the struggle against death and disease
without challenging their role in an institution that doles out
death and disease by harming women in so many other ways. In
fact, HIV/AIDS advocates must usually seek permission from the
brothel owners if they enter the brothels, from organized crime if
they enter the red light areas, and from buyers with whom
women are taught to negotiate, promising in most cases not to
propose alternatives to women and to ignore trafficked or child
prostitutes in these areas (Friedman, 1996).
Many men who act recklessly in their sexual lives by engaging
in habitual prostitution use are not doing so because they lack
information about condoms but rather because they lack respon-
sibility, intimacy, emotion, a sexual identity based on gender
equality, and a sense of justice. As one commentator expressed it,
“They don’t want ‘safe.’ That takes the thrill out of it” (Elias, 2003,
p. 2). This view was reinforced at a conference in South Africa
where experts were discussing attitudes of many men to HIV risk.
Men’s behavior was unfortunately permeated by scorn for safe
sex, high promiscuity, and often forcing wives or girlfriends into
having intercourse. In discussing how to change male attitudes,
many conference participants stated that “conventional sex-
education campaigns, with the condom invariably in the spot-
light, might be a waste of time and resources” (“Change the
Man,” 2003, p. 2).
Ultimately, condoms and safe sex programs ensure a healthier
supply of prostituted women for male buyers if they do not chal-
lenge the sex industry and provide alternatives for women in it as
part of safe sex education. Safer sex intervention programs also do
not protect women against condom breakage during intercourse,
1182 VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN / October 2004
nor against latex allergies and vaginal abrasions from frequent
sex with multiple customers and, most important, against the
high incidence of physical and psychological harm that women in
prostitution have reported. Condom programs in prostitution are
similar to gun locks in gun safety programs: they do save some
lives; they don’t eliminate the source of the harm (Hynes &
Raymond, 2002).
A more comprehensive and courageous public health response
would advocate for the health and safety of women within the sex
industry, at the same time that it seeks to dismantle the sex indus-
try. Most HIV/AIDS programs, enacted in the context of the sex
industry, have concentrated on modifying female behavior rather
than changing male behavior. These campaigns have not encour-
aged men to question their sexual attitudes and practices, have
done almost nothing to erode pimp control of women, and leave
untouched the buying and selling of women’s bodies in the mar-
ketplace. When safe sex advocates for women in prostitution are
as willing to confront the sex industry as they are to challenge the
pharmaceutical industry and other multinationals, this will be an
enormous step forward (Hynes & Raymond, 2002).
CONCLUSION
Those who argue for legalization of prostitution and decrimi-
nalization of the sex industry contend that normalizing prostitu-
tion as work will restrain male abuse of women in prostitution
and decrease the number of buyers by controlling and regulating
the industry. Rather, legal legitimation of prostitution gives more
customers what they want and grants more men moral and social
permission to practice the prostitution of women and children. If
prostitution is something that is done to women, as conveyed by
the term prostituted women, then it is the buyers who more
accurately can be said to practice prostitution.
A progressive response to the sex industry and its promotion of
prostitution must go beyond prostitution on demand—exactly
what the sex industry is lobbying for. Legal approval of prostitu-
tion promotes a model of male sexuality that is based on the sex-
ual exploitation of women. This model endorses a double stan-
dard for women and men.
Raymond / DEMAND FOR PROSTITUTION 1183
Recognition of prostitution as work can only give more cus-
tomers what they want by increasing the current expansionism of
the sex industry, giving it the stable marketing environment for
which it continues to lobby. Rather than economic opportunity for
women, state-sponsored prostitution is economic opportunism.
The most glaring evidence of women’s economic marginalization
and social inequality is the rampant commodification of women
in prostitution, sex trafficking, sex tourism, and mail-order-bride
industries. In a context of severe global economic decline, it seems
the height of economic opportunism to argue for the recognition
of the sex industry based on transforming women’s sexual and
economic exploitation into legitimate work. Actual unemploy-
ment of women is disguised by the fact that large numbers of
women are limited to the “employment” of prostitution and other
“jobs” in the sex industry.
The alleged benefits of legalizing/decriminalizing prostitution
sound a lot like the promised land of trickle-down economics.
Proponents simply assert the benefits of legalization/
decriminalization of the sex industry. In addition to regulating
abuse by buyers, proponents of legalization often claim that the
benefits include better regulation of the entire sex industry, less
violence to women in prostitution, more control of the “work” by
the women, higher earnings, and protection of women’s health,
all of which will trickle down to women in prostitution and soci-
ety at large when legalization/decriminalization of the sex indus-
try takes place. These romantic notions about state-sponsored
prostitution are belied by what has actually happened in coun-
tries that have already legalized prostitution (see Raymond,
2003).
Legalization of the sex industry and normalizing prostitution
as sex work sanctions prostitution on demand. Instead of aban-
doning women in the sex industry to state-sponsored prostitu-
tion, we need research, programs, and public policies that target
the demand.
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on the new German prostitution law. Freiburg, Germany: Max Planck Institute for Foreign
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Janice G. Raymond is Professor Emerita of Women’s Studies and Medical Ethics
at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is also coexecutive director of
the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, an international nongovernmental
organization having Category II Consultative Status with the UN Economic and
Social Council (ECOSOC), and with branches in most world regions. She is the
author of five books and multiple articles including Women as Wombs: Repro-
ductive Freedom and the Battle Over Women’s Bodies (1994). Her most
recent publication is “Ten Reasons for not Legalizing Prostitution and a Legal
Response to the Demand for Prostitution” in M. Farley (Ed.), Prostitution, Traf-
ficking, and Traumatic Stress.
1186 VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN / October 2004
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... trazando una equivalencia entre "prostitución", tortura y esclavitud (Volnovich, 2018). Estas y otras aproximaciones desde el feminismo radicalabolicionista han contribuido a conceptualizar el consumo de sexo como una forma de violencia de género y a posicionar a los clientes como perpetradores de la misma (Farley, et al., 2011;Raymond, 2004). ...
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The prostitution of sexuality
  • K Barry
Barry, K. (1995). The prostitution of sexuality. New York: New York University Press.
No more prostitutes, Danish union says
  • Agence France Presse
Agence France Presse. (2003, June 30). No more prostitutes, Danish union says.