Translated by Jéssica Soares Bezerra and reviewed by Alessandra Marimon
*This is one of the investigations sponsored by AzMina Magazine’s Report Grant Program that you’ve helped become true. Read the full series here.
Humanity has already thought several ways to curb prostitution – from torture to jail, running through preaching and the moral code – which is worth questioning: Why does the demand is so high especially among male clients? What do men look for when they pay for a prostitute? Therefore, to analyze prostitution without understand what have been supporting is only half the problem.
In order to answer this question, AzMina interviewed 191 prostitute clients through an online open-form. 95.8% of the respondents were men and the others were women of various sexual orientations. This profile matches with international surveys that mention men as more than 90% of prostitute clients. Social class and sexual service frequency were diverse.
All of them were invited to answer the following question: “Why did you look for sex with a prostitute?”.The responses were open and the respondents could offer more than one reason. Organized results were organized around central topics.
The winning motivation? Practicality and lack of commitment! It was mentioned by 81 of the respondents. Then, as follows: “fetish, curiosity or taboo break” (50), “insecurity, needy or loneliness” (42), “group pressure” (21), “loss of virginity” (14), “variety of sexual partners and sexual desire for a specific prostitute” (11), “search for a specific talent of sex workers and secrecy assured” (10), and finally four (04) of them did not know or did not want to answer.
Among the responses, attention is drawn to those referred to loss of virginity and group pressure. Many interviewees claim to have been coerced and not to have enjoyed the experience. “I was forced by my older ‘friends’ because I turned 15 and I was still virgin”, “I was 15 and I was forced by my father. It was not a good experience” or “I felt under pressed by all of my ‘friends’ for being the only virgin of the group”.
Something similar happened to Davi*. At 14 an older friend took him and other acquaintances of the same age to have their first sexual experience in a whorehouse in São Paulo. He wanted to be seen as a brave man. When he was upstairs in the room with the prostitute, he was so nervous and uncomfortable that he did not even got horny. For years, that experience has fueled him with the fear of failing women. And he ended up postponin his early sex life for much later than the average men of his generation.
“In those cases, there is a victimization of masculinity”, says the American PhD Melissa Farley, Director of the Center for Research and Education on Prostitution in the United States.
For her, both the prostitute in a plight situation – who is forced to serve minors (or children) in order to survive – and her young client suffer from violence. “We need to change our concept of masculinity”, she affirms.
Empathy and sexual trafficking
The interview took place in Soho, a neighborhood in London. Melissa Farley interviewed a young man who alleged to have paid for sexual services only once. in life.
– Why just once? Why did you never look for another prostitute again?
He got teary eyes. His eyes filled with tears. He hesitated and was uncomfortable to answer. Finally, he confessed:
Because when I gazed her eyes, I saw the same look I had when I was a boy… A boy abused by a priest. when a priest sexually abused me.
She forgot about her The interviewer put aside her academic impartiality. She cried with him. At that moment, she was completely sure that empathy is the key to understand why men pay for sex – especially in contexts which men are not sure if women have voluntarily chosen to work as a prostitute, as happened in Soho, where immigrant women from Eastern Europe are cheated deceived and turned into become sexual slaves.
In At the end of last year, Melissa published the results of a study she performed with 202 male participants, two different age groups but similar social class and schooling grade. The only difference between them was: one contained those who paid for sex; the other, those who never had.
“We found out that men who pay for sex have less empathy ability and are more prone to aggressive behaviour” , she says. This result was measured with the following question: “If you were sure that you would not be discovered or punished, would you rape a woman?”. Among the non- prostitute those who were never clients, 2% said yes. Among the prostitute clients, 15%.
Besides Regardless, the research showed that the both groups of men were sexist: both of them claimed to believe in an ideology of rape victim’s culpability, agreeing with arguments such as “women dressed in a sexy way ‘are asking’ to be raped”.
However, some other female researchers contest the results of Farley’s study by affirming that it has limitations. “I’ve never found any indication that prostitute clients are more violent”, says Nadia van der Linde, coordinator of the Red Umbrella Fund, the first international foundation to help sex workers organizations, based in Amsterdam, Netherlands, where prostitution is legal regulated. According to her, as criminalization or moral condemnation is the rule in most part of the world, this type of study has a certain bias.
“What happens is that in places where prostitution and similar activities are illegal or curbed is easier to find people who less respect less the law and the dominant moral, looking for such services”.
Nadia says that the results of the survey organized by AzMina are very coherent to what she has been noticed in her researches performed for years in the Red Light District in Amsterdam, Netherlands. “Undoubtedly, there is too much sexism in the world, but it is not necessarily related to prostitution more than the relations not mediated by money. There are many people whose desires are not considered “acceptable” by most people – such as bondage, sadomasochism or consensual submission – and sex workers help those people to deal better with their own sexuality. “People are as different as their own desires.”
Those “inadequate” or “embarrassing” desires are widely mentioned by Brazilian respondents in the survey perfomed by AzMina. It is the second most mentioned reason on why they looking for prostitution to seek prostitution. Among the specific fetishes, the most common are paid sex itself and ménage – and interviewed prostitutes include anal sex among the most requested.
In the transsexual world, the question is even more crucial. Men who are interested in them are on a line of sexual orientation between heterosexuality and homosexuality and it is usually misunderstood by the most people, being sexually attracted by women who are proud of having a penis. The way they have found to realize these sexual fantasies is through prostitution.
“The straight man who usually lookings for a transsexual sex worker sees himself as straight and, in many cases, wants one of the two things: a blowjob us or to being penetrated by a female figure”
– says Luisa Marilac, a transsexual who was a prostitute in Brazil and in Europe for almost about 10 years (or a decade).
The oppressorive man, the needy man and the human man
Santiago* is not one of those handsome guys but he looked like smart and while he was speaking, he played charmingly with the cigarettes between his fingers. No, he should not be the kind of man who could not easily convince women to have sex with him – I thought about it during the interview. Even though he used to pay for sex twice a month, for five years.
“For me, prostitution was the a way to practice sex without establish any strongly involvement. No barriers, no guilt and no emotional load – good or bad – that comes with sex. And I didn’t want to have sex with the same woman, I was looking for variety”, he confesses. “Nowadays, I regret it.”
During his experiences, he had sex with strong and academic prostitutes but also with weakened, simple and poor young women. The most important change for Santiago happened at the day he got in a dingy whorehouse where he was not sure if the women were actually in there voluntarily. He could not have sex with any of those women and never paid for sex again.
“I’m not totally against prostitution itself, but I think we are too far from reaching minimum conditions to make it happen in a dignified way.
Until then, I’m not a client anymore”, he says.
“But it was when I faced the abuses in the prostitution world that I began to critically analyze how I used to treat women in my personal relationships”.
For Marilac, there is another point at stake that clients never mention in such surveys: the power.
“Paying for sex make men feel more dominant. As he is paying, the woman is supposed to be under his control and she has to do whatever he wants because he is the superior. It’s that hunting feeling thing”.
On the other hand, Thiago* includes himself at the opposite side of the client spectrum. With a birth physical disability, he was extremely insecure and needy of affection, and he could not even get closer to women. He is forever grateful to the prostitutes who had sexually initiated him and who had helped him to overcome his limitations. Nowadays, Thiago is in a healthy and stable amorous and sexual relationship.
“At that time, I was shaking like a leaf!”- he recalls, laughing. “ I still remember the name of the first prostitute whose I had sex with. She was called Sofia and was so beautiful. I wanted a ‘girlfriend sex style’ and she was quite natural in each step. She acted very well pretending to be my girlfriend, she was so lovely and sensitive with me that I felt comfortable with her.”
Of those 174 respondent men, some of them were like Davi, Thiago or Santiago. Others were men who said degrading things about women such as “my wife is bad in the sack” or that prostitutes are less sexually “fussy”. But it is difficult to establish a singular profile.
Among the most surprising responses, there was a man who enjoyed talking to prostitutes in order to find out men preferences in sex. As men are more restrained to talk about sex, unless to showing off themselves, that was the only way he have found to access the secrets of male sexuality. For him, prostitution was the way to get in touch with his own masculinity.
***Did you know that you can reproduce, for free, in your website all the publications of Azmina as long as you provide us the credit for it? Further information here.