Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Johns, Explained

Dunno exactly why an article that’s over a year old would appear on the front page of today’s (web) edition of The Times (UK), but there it was. And here it is: Who pays for sex? You'd be surprised… More and more young men are choosing to visit prostitutes. One writer asks them why.” Excerpts:

Volumes of research have been published on trends among sex workers across the globe — studies on drug use, on the spread of STDs, on the impact of prostitution on society. Yet as a study published in the British Medical Journal in 2005 pointed out, “far less is known about the men who pay for sex”. That study found that the proportion of British men who reported paying for heterosexual sex had increased from 5.6 per cent in 1990 to 9 per cent in 2000. Of these, the largest group were in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties, living in London and either single or divorced.

I realised that, as a single woman in her late twenties living in London, I am surrounded by this demographic. And given that a small but significant proportion of the men identified in the study were apparently upstanding types who slept with prostitutes in secret, I decided to see if I could persuade a few of them to confess.


The cold truth is that many men today, regardless of how eligible, rich and dashing they may be, don’t go to prostitutes because they can’t get laid. They go because, frankly, it’s an easier way of getting laid.

So, would I mind if my future husband admitted that in his past he had spent weekends in Amsterdam and Prague seeing prostitutes before we met? Probably. But again, is it really any worse than picking up a girl in a bar and lying his way into her pants simply because he was horny? Having been that girl, now I’m not entirely sure.

I jumped quite a bit in my selection of excerpts from the article, from early on in the piece to the author’s final conclusion. There’s a lot of interesting stuff in between, believe me. One should keep in mind that the article is primarily about British men and I suppose there may be differences, however slight, in the sexual behavior of British and American males. The first thing that comes to my mind is the Brits are generally much better-traveled than we Americans are, and are likely to have more opportunities to encounter the pay-for-play phenomenon. There are many references, for instance, of “adventures” in Amsterdam, which is only about a 45-minute flight from London…or a six to eight hour train/ferry/train ride. And, as we all know…Amsterdam is, or just might be, the World Capital of Professional Sex. And there isn't another city in the world that compares...with the possible exception of Bangkok (which is literally world's away from London. And the USofA.).

We Americans have a somewhat “unique” view (read that as: “puritanical”) on sex in general and prostitution, specifically. Having seen the way other cultures handle sex I’m of the opinion we could learn something from them…especially the Dutch. Control, and by that I mean the licensing, registration, and mandatory health check-ups for prostitutes, goes a long way to eliminating or minimizing the ills we traditionally and correctly associate with prostitution. Things like STDs, violence towards sex workers, and various and sundry other associated crimes and bad stuff (for lack of a better term). But that will never happen in America…at least not in MY lifetime. Well, outside of Nevada, anyway, which is our own lil great big Amsterdam (in terms of area, not volume or variety), as it were.

There’s always an exception to every rule.


  1. Well, color me unsurprised. Isn't Hugh Grant a really big star over there? I'll bet wherever Indiana Jones and Die Hard movies are big business, and "Bridget Jones' Diary" didn't sell too many tickets by comparison, in that community the sex trade is in a steep, steep decline.

    To put it simply, I have doubts that it's really about "the sex." I know I've made this into a one-note samba, but when a man shares his life with a bitchy woman, NUTHIN' is right anywhere. And a lot of "ladies" really have no use for a real, flesh-and-blood man. They want a stuffed animal they can drag places. When a man is designed by God to preside over a household, and instead is reduced to the level of some kind of adorable cabbage-patch doll...that's a "john" in the making right there.

    I'll bet some good money right now that if you could round up the wives and girlfriends of these johns, you'd find those betrayed gals overall aren't even that bad in the sack. But you'd also find they don't really communicate that well.

    It makes for a terribly lonely and miserable life for the gander, and for the goose too.

  2. I'm not so sure about our Puritanical ways. Just watch an episode of "Friends"- if you date, you sleep with the date according to Hollywood. What do we need prostitutes for when it sex is free. Reminds me of something I overheard one time in Red River. A tourist talking about life in RR said, "I bet living here is wonderful - no crime rate at all." My friend answered, "Well, you can't rob the poor or rape the willing."

  3. ahhh Bangkok! Nothing like selling your 5 year old daughter into the sex market to support your heroin addiction. Now THERE'S a morally, ethically progressive society.

  4. Interesting theory, Morgan, but I'm not all that sure about the applicability. I tend to fall in line with Freud's "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar" quote (or whatever it was he really said)...in the sense that visiting hookers is "just getting laid" for a lot of (most?) guys. Without emotional involvement, which I believe was the author's point.

    Of course it's something else altogether to interpret/define "emotional involvement" from the male and female perspectives, which can be, and usually are, widely divergent. So we come full-circle.

    Lou said: Just watch an episode of "Friends"- if you date, you sleep with the date according to Hollywood.

    Which is another aspect of the issue, and that would be cultural mixed-messages. When a male receives (bombarded is more accurate) messages such as you describe, Lou, his expectations are set in a manner that conflict with his reality, regardless of what his brain tells him. Something on the order of "What's up here? I should be getting laid, but I'm NOT." Paid-sex just might be a way to resolve that conflict. And it might not. This subject is waaay too complex to sum up, or even begin to discuss, in a comments section.

    Certain large cities aside, I don't believe "Friends" is an accurate depiction of reality as we know it. And sex has never really been "free," now or even back when things were VERY loose...like in the '70s before HIV. (But it has been easier... at times)

    Jay said: ahhh Bangkok! ... Now THERE'S a morally, ethically progressive society.

    Sounds like you're dealing in stereotypes, Jay. I could complete the following in any number of disparaging manners: "Ahhh San Francisco!..." or "Ahhh...NYC!" and it wouldn't be a reflection on American society as a whole, just on the criminal/morally-deficient elements that exist every-frickin'-where.

  5. "And sex has never really been 'free,'" Sounds like "no such thing as a free lunch." And your right. Rather than pay for dinner and a movie, it might be easier to pay a hooker - no emotional ties. I've always wondered why protitution was illegal. Someone always pays. Interesting discussion.

    My word verification "idufot" - a great word for those morally bankrupt folks.

  6. I think Lou's point about "Friends" and promiscuity and your point about Puritanical ways both exist in a dichotomy, which is the problem. We have a media culture that is encouraging promiscuity while at the same time our larger culture tends to look down on people who are promiscuous as "sluts" or the like, especially females. I've encountered as much with some of my female friends who, given the choice, would like to be more promiscuous (smartly, mind you) but who feel restricted because of the labeling they will receive as a result of those actions.

    I also think your point about differences depending on the region are very true. I would add to that religious background. Speaking as someone who grew up in a very Catholic town and who is going to school in a very Protestant town (in a very Protestant state at a university that tends to draw more rural students), the differences are stark. Maybe it's because Catholics tend to be less practicing of their religion on a whole as opposed to Protestants, but things are MUCH more uptight sex wise in Ames, even with the fact that it's a college campus. Of course, part of that is the sampling bias in that I don't run with the really promiscuous girls, but still, there's no intermediate level like there is in Omaha. In Ames you tend to go straight from "sleep with a new guy every weekend" to "I'm saving myself for marriage and anyone who doesn't is a sinner."

  7. Mike: You make some great points...especially concerning this:

    Speaking as someone who grew up in a very Catholic town and who is going to school in a very Protestant town (in a very Protestant state at a university that tends to draw more rural students), the differences are stark.

    Something I've noticed, as well. FWIW, both my ex's were good catholic girls, despite the fact that TSMP was well into her relapsed-Catholic days when I met her. And there's not much in life that's MORE fun than a good catholic girl making up for lost time. But I digress.

    As I said earlier, this subject is waaay too deep for discussion in a comments thread...better off at the bar with good company, good beer, and good cigars. This topic could go all night under those circumstances. Assuming a couple of good catholic girls were in attendance, as well. ;-)


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