Saturday, 16 January 2010

Whorish habits

Why on earth do men use prostitutes? Having never been to one, I'm bemused as to why so many men seek such an obviously shallow, unsatisfying experience.

An international research project has asked 700 men why they pay for sex and what they get out of it. The answers are fascinating.

Many of them feel intense guilt and shame about what they're doing and find their encounters unfulfilling and empty. They know the women themselves probably feel disgusted, miserable, dirty and scared. Yet still they visit prostitutes to satisfy some deep-seated need they have to respond to.

Some who are shy say it gives them intimate contact with women. Some use a prostitute to avoid thoughts of committing rape. Some have sexual tastes their regular partners object to. And some just want total control of the sexual act. The reasons they come up with are numerous and often bizarre.

Many say the habit of seeing prostitutes is so strong the only thing that would stop them is strict enforcement of the relevant laws and a high chance of embarrassing public exposure.

But whatever the reasons they give, I still don't accept that such men are unable to find less sordid ways of dealing with their sexual needs and frustrations.

Surely it's melodramatic nonsense for any man to claim that his sexual urges are so uncontrollable and so powerful he has no choice but to make use of some unhappy, dehumanised woman desperate for an income. It's even more repugnant that he probably already has a wife or girlfriend who is blissfully ignorant of his squalid backstreet activities.

Men have insisted since way back when that one of women's essential roles is to satisfy men's sexual impulses. It's about time that ludicrous and oppressive idea was laid to rest.


  1. I am very interested to read the purported reasons men give for using this "service." Great post!

    This is one area where my inner prudish finger-wagger comes out--I have zero tolerance for men who see prostitutes. It just horrifies me, from both angles. I've had many people argue (even read journal articles to the effect) that "sex workers" are just doing a job like any other--and that without the John population, they wouldn't have work--but I've never been able to agree with the idea of normalizing the whole business.

    I'm horrified both by prostitutes and by johns. See, my inner prude!

  2. In India, many men leave their families behind in the villages and move to urban areas and live in barracks of men sharing common accommodation. These form the highest percentage of clients for prostitutes. The next group, are truck drivers who too usually are from our villages who leave on long trips from town to town loading and unloading cargo at different towns and return home perhaps three or four times a year.
    Both have been identified as carriers of HIV and a movement to tackle the problem at the prostitute level by propogating safe sex is beginning to pay dividends. Unfortunately, many carriers have carried HIV to their wives, and hold your breath, they in turn have passed it on to local beaus!
    It is a sociological problem brought about by poverty for the women who end up as prostitutes and an outlet for men without regular access to nature's demands.
    The higher society peccadilloes are more due to men with money being bored with one wife! In India, we have male prostitutes being bought by affluent women too!

  3. Excellent post. I have heard men say that "the women choose this 'profession' and if they enjoy it, why not?" They give the same justification for using porn. Women are humiliated and degraded in both. Many women in prostitution are doing it because they have no choice- have been pimped into it with drugs etc. Or their circumstances are such that they are desperate. Or have been groomed through an abusive childhood. All this is well publicised. Men have access to this information- yet they will still find reasons to justify their ab-use of prostitutes. I agree with Leah- it is a vile sign of the times that the normalisation of 'the sex industry' has been spread so far into our culture- largely through internet and popular music.

    Rant over! You knew this would cause lots of comment, eh Nick!

  4. Leah - I would say that being opposed to prostitution is civilised rather than prudish. Prudish to me means squeamish about sex and sexual pleasure, which you and I are definitely not!

    There's a strong argument for legalising prostitution and bringing it under all the normal employment laws regarding working conditions, health and safety etc. But at the end of the day would those laws ever be properly observed or enforced?

    Ramana - That's true, prostitution is a well-known route for the spread of HIV and other sexual infections. And as you say, unwitting wives and girlfriends can find they're infected. That's just shockingly irresponsible.

    Sorry, I don't agree prostitutes are a necessary outlet for nature's demands. Men can enjoy sexual pleasure on their own with no need to put pressure on women.

  5. Cinnamon - Couldn't agree with you more! Many prostitutes, or even the vast majority, have been forced into it one way or another and would jump at the chance to do something more dignified and rewarding. The men who use them simply perpetuate their wretchedness.

    I guessed I would stimulate plenty of comments, but mainly I wrote about this because I feel so strongly about this utterly degrading activity - degrading for both the women and their customers.

  6. Couldn't it be said that some women who marry men for their money are prostituting themselves?

    I don't know what I mean! It's late and my brain has already switched off.

    What came first I wonder: the payer or the payee. I also wonder if prostitutes of earlier centuries were often highly regarded, and enjoyed a good life rather than the low abused life of so many victims today.

    I'm just pondering generally. The horrendous stories of girls brought into this country and forced into prostitution or children who've run away from home who get caught up in the drug and sex scene. So many very sad and horrific tales.

  7. It never ceases to amaze me, Nick, that the word "rape" is rarely used in the context of prostitution.
    What else is it then? Men say it likes the power it gives them, a mannequin would do the job then.
    And like they say, for every prostitute, in the background stands the man or men who have abused her.
    I have blogged about this myself on so many occasions but I guess it deserves a fresh airing.

  8. I don't get it either. I once knew a woman who worked her way through Columbia graduate school as a prostitute. She told me that she was sexually active anyway, and might as well get paid for it. I try not to judge, but find the whole thing quite repulsive, to say nothing of dangerous in the extreme.

  9. It's interesting to hear those perspectives. I've never really had any insight into the whys of people visiting prostitutes, but it generally doesn't strike me as something a happy person would do.

  10. Liz - I would say if money is the woman's main object and there's no genuine love, yes, it's virtually prostitution. Interesting point about whether prostitutes in earlier times were better treated - I've no idea. And I agree the whole trafficking scenario is quite sickening.

    www - Agreed, most of it is effectively rape as there is no true consent. Many of the women are being controlled (if necessary with beatings) by pimps, as you say.

    Heart - It can be very dangerous. Some of the men are quite prepared to use physical violence if they don't get exactly what they want.

    Tattytiara - I think you're right only unhappy men would do it. Why would a contented, well-adjusted male resort to such seedy indignities?

  11. I've been thinking about this off and on all day, and I still don't know exactly what I want to say about it or how I want to say it.

    In my past, I was more than once guilty of using sex as a tool to get what I wanted - a place to crash, an entree into an exclusive club, a nice dinner or two.

    To this day, I have a difficult time seeing the act as an expression of love. It's a need, is what it is.

    I can't help thinking that the straightforward demand for cash has honesty going for it, at least.

    But obviously, I'm damaged, right?

  12. Megan - Well naturally every woman has used the lure of sex to get what she wants from time to time. That seems a fairly innocent ruse.

    Are you saying the sexual act itself isn't an expression of love or just the act of prostitution? I'm unclear.

    I think the demand for cash has more to do with grim necessity than honesty. And surely the prostitute's pretence that she enjoys what the man does is blatantly dishonest?

    Of course you're not damaged, or at least no more than the rest of us, lol.

  13. Oh my what a can of worms. Yes, there are those brought into the sex trade under duress or lamentable circumstances which is unforgivable but there are also those who 'choose' (God knows why but the money's damn good if you're high class) the profession. I actually met a call girl oncde who does it because it's lucrative, the men are clean and often powerful politically and financially and she chooses her clients. She makes a fortune, is well dressed, well presented and had no problem with it at all.

    I abhor the idea of trafficking in the sex trade but if a woman wants to be there and lets face it, this is the oldest profession in the world, then as long as it's her choice who are we to judge. Same with porn. Many of the participants are willing because again, it's lucrative.

    I do have an issue with the clients, the profession wouldn't survive if there wasn't a ready army of men willing to participate. If you're single, lonely, horny . . Hell why not but if you're married, in a relationship put your pencil back in your pocket and leave well enough alone.

    I don't believe it's a sign of the times. Prostitution has been around since Jobe was a boy.

    Having said that. I'm all for legalising it. It's decriminalised here but there are still the 'desparates' who walk the highways or hang out at the Wall at Kings Cross and the use of 'boys' is increasing which is a worrying trend. It's always amazed me why sex is such a driver for men. Then they're biologically designed to have sex until they reach a ripe old age, we're not . . we have a use by date.

  14. A can of worms indeed. I'm sure there's a small minority of prostitutes who genuinely choose to do it and have civilised clients, but I'm also sure there's very few of them compared to the ones who're forced into it and treated like dirt.

    I don't believe even the single horny guys need to exploit some miserable prostitute. If you've got a tap, you can turn it on without calling a plumber.

    I think the problem with legalising it, as I said, is that bad working conditions and violence may still persist. And black-market prostitution will thrive.