Demand for Child Victims
Donna M. Hughes
Professor & Eleanor M. and Oscar M. Carlson Endowed Chair
Women’s Studies Program
University of Rhode Island
Myths and Realities Concerning Child Trafficking
Fafo Institute for Applied International Studies
December 1 and 2, 2004
Over the past decade, most of the analyses of the causes of sex trafficking have focused on factors in the sending countries. And efforts to combat trafficking have aimed to stop trafficking on the supply side through education and prevention campaigns in sending countries to alert people about the phenomenon of trafficking. In comparison, there have been few campaigns or efforts aimed at reducing the demand for victims. The movement to abolish trafficking and sexual exploitation needs a more comprehensive approach, one that includes analyses of the demand side of trafficking, and develops 1practices to combat the demand.
What Is the Demand?
The demand for victims to be used for commercial sex acts can be divided into four components.
1) Men: The first factor is the men who seek out children for the purpose of purchasing sex acts. The purchasers of sex acts are the primary actors and constitute the primary level of the demand. Without them making the decision to buy sex acts, prostitution would not exist. 2) Profiteers: The second factor or level of demand is the profiteers in the sex industries. They include the traffickers, pimps, brothel owners, and supporting corrupt officials who make money from sex trafficking and prostitution. They make a profit by supplying victims to meet the demand created by men. They have vested economic interests in maintaining the flow of children from sending to receiving countries. They are criminals and often members of transnational organized crime networks.
3) The State: There are a number of ways that the state contributes to or accommodates the demand for victims. We need to analyze the destination countries‘ laws and policies. Officials in destination countries do not want to admit responsibility for the problem of sex trafficking or be held accountable for creating the demand.
a) Visa rules for entertainers that are used by traffickers.
b) Asylum processes, especially for unaccompanied minors has been a way that
traffickers have brought children into a country where they are later exploited.
c) By tolerating or legalizing prostitution, the state, at least passively, is contributing
to the demand for victims. The more states regulate prostitution and derive tax
revenue from it, the more actively they become part of the demand for victims. In
destination countries, strategies are devised to protect the sex industries that generate
1 Donna M. Hughes, ―The 2002 Trafficking in Persons Report: Lost Opportunity for Progress,‖ Foreign Government Complicity in Human Trafficking: A Review of the State Department‘s 2002 Trafficking in Persons Report, House Committee on International Relations, Wednesday, June 19, 2002.
hundreds of millions of dollars per year for the state where prostitution is legal, or for
organized crime groups and corrupt officials where the sex industry is illegal.
In the destination countries, exploiters exert pressure on the lawmakers and officials
to create conditions that allow them to operate. They use power and influence to
shape laws and polices that maintain the flow of women to their sex industries.
There has been a global movement to normalize and legalize the flow of foreign
women into sex industries. It involves a shift from opposing the exploitation of
women in prostitution to only opposing the worst violence and criminality. It involves
legalizing prostitution, and changing the migration laws to allow a flow of women for
prostitution from sending regions to sex industry centers. The normalization of
prostitution is often recommended as a way to solve the problem of trafficking.
4) The Culture: The fourth factor is the culture that indirectly creates a demand for victims by sexualizing children and normalizing prostitution. Media depictions of prostitution and other commercial sex acts, such as stripping and lap dancing, that romanticize or glamorize these activities influence public knowledge and opinions about the sex trade. Women and girls‘ behavior is often considered to be the sole cause of prostitution. Their imagined
experiences and motivations are represented in countless novels and movies. These images often suggest that prostitution is a victimless crime or sad, but necessary life for some children. Individual writers, academics, and groups advocating the idea that prostitution is a form of work for women claim that providing sexual services can be an empowering for women. Over the past decade, we have seen in increase in the term ―child sex worker,‖ as if children are workers in the sex trade. Terms like this overlook the violence and victimization involved, or suggest that more empowerment is the solution to exploitation and abuse of victims of the global sex trade.
In places where women and girls or certain ethnicities or classes of women and girls are devalued, there is more acceptance of the exploitation of a female relative in prostitution to financially support the family.
Men who purchase sex acts have for the most part remained invisible and anonymous in the 2universal consciousness on prostitution. They are ―faceless and nameless.‖ Men who solicit
and buy sex acts are often called ―customers,‖ ―clients,‖ and ―consumers.‖ These terms normalize men‘s behavior. We need to refer to them as criminals, perpetrators, predators, child molesters, child rapists, or something more precise that does not normalize their activities and instead conveys the harm they are doing to children. The focus on the demand requires that we consider men‘s responsibility for the existence and continuation of prostitution, and how they create the demand for women and particularly children to be used in prostitution.
2 Cecilie Høigård and Liv Finstad, Backstreets: Prostitution, Money and Love, University Park, Pennsylvania:
The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1986, p. 25.
Although some men specifically seek out children for sex, in most commercial sex establishments, there is no evidence that men distinguish between women and children or those who are victims of trafficking and those who are not. Whether or not the victim is a woman or child that is being compelled to engage in prostitution seems to be irrelevant to men when they purchase sex acts.
Therefore, in researching the demand for commercial sex acts, is it not possible to distinguish between men‘s demand for victims of sex trafficking from men‘s demand for commercial sex 3acts.
How Many Men Purchase Sex Acts?
There is little research on how many men or what percentage of the male population purchase sex acts. It is difficult to compare statistics from one country to another or from one survey to the next because of different methods used to collect data and different definitions used. The few studies that are available indicate that the percentage of men who purchase sex acts varies widely among countries and cultures.
A recent pilot study interviewed men, some of whom had experience with purchasing sex acts, in Denmark, Thailand, India, and Italy. They found significant cross—national
differences with regard to the extent and nature of social acceptance for men to buy sex. For example, Danish men said they never experienced social pressure to buy sex, and disagreed with the idea that purchasing sex was a mark of virility or masculinity. In contrast, the Thai men said that purchasing sex acts was a normal masculine behavior.
More research is needed to determine the approximate number and proportion of men in different countries who purchase sex acts, with a special focus on cultural differences on acceptance of purchasing sex acts. Research is also needed on what deters men from purchasing sex acts. For example, in some countries fewer men purchase sex acts with less frequency than in other countries. Can this be attributed to the criminalization of soliciting sex acts? The role of law in setting social norms needs to be explored.
Behaviors and Attitudes of Purchasers of Sex Acts
Men who purchase sex acts are all ages and come from all socioeconomic levels, all 4occupations categories, and ethnic/racial groups. Their behavior to buy a sex act is voluntary 5behavior and a choice.
3 For purposes of this report, the term ―commercial sex act‖ will mean any sex act on account of which anything of value is given to or received by traffickers, exploiters or purchasers, either directly or indirectly, for sexual acts or practices performed by victims of commercial sex acts.
4 M. Alexis Kennedy, Boris B. Gorzalka, John C. Yuille, ―Men Who Solicit Prostitutes: A Demographic Profile of Participants in the Prostitution Offender Program of British Columbia,‖ Prepared for the Vancouver Police Department and the John Howard Society of Lower Mainland, February 2004.
Most of the information is based on surveys of and interviews with men who have been arrested for soliciting commercial sex acts or who self-report that they purchase sex acts. Over the past decade, programs for men arrested for soliciting commercial sex acts have created samples of men who could be surveyed about their attitudes and behaviors. There is one behavior of men that is rarely covered in surveys and rarely reported by men: acts of violence against prostitutes. Men do not usually voluntarily admit to committing violent crimes. Most researchers do not ask the men questions about violent behavior, instead they ask questions that are more sympathetic to men‘s motivations and decision to purchase
Women’s Reports of Men’s Violence
Women and children in prostitution are subjected to high rates of violence and abuse from the men who pay them for sex acts. In some men‘s minds, the act of paying money entitles
them to do whatever they want to a woman or child.
Research findings from the last 25 years have consistently documented the high incidence of battery and sexual assault against women in prostitution by the men who buy them. ―Certain 6customers commit some of society‘s most vile crimes through their abuse of prostitutes.‖
In the early 1980s, a study of 200 women and girls in street prostitution, most of whom were minors (70% were under 21, almost 60% were 16 or under, and numbers were 10 and 11 years old), in the San Francisco area found that 70 percent of them had been raped or sexually assaulted by a man an average of 31 times, and 65 percent of them had been physically abused or beaten by men an average of 4 times. According to the women and girls perceptions of why men beat or raped them: 40 percent said the men ―got off on it, enjoyed it, and thought it was part of sex;‖ 32 percent said it was because the men couldn‘t or didn‘t want to pay the money promised; and 16 percent said it was because the men hated prostitutes or hated women in general. Forty-six percent said the beatings were arbitrary –
―no specific reason, just crazy, that‘s how they are‖ – and eight percent said they did not
know the reason. More than 75 percent of the victims said there was nothing they could do 7about the men‘s abuse.
There are also reports from Asian countries, particularly Cambodia, of the sale of virgin girls 89to men who can afford them.
5 The exception might be teenage boys who are taken to prostitutes by friends or relatives for a ―first time‖ experience.
6 Erbe, August 1984, p. 610.
7 Mimi H. Silbert and Ayala M. Pines, ―Occupational Hazards of Street Prostitutes,‖ Criminal Justice and
Behavior, Vol. 8, No. 4, December 1981, pp. 395-399.
8 Joe Cochrane, ―Virgins for sale to AIDS-wary men,‖ Australasian Business Intelligence, November 10, 1999.
9 ―Child prostitutes make tearful plea, Hong Kong Standard, 30 November 1998.
It is not known what proportion of men who purchase sex acts commits acts of violence against women and children. It is likely that a minority of the men commit most of the acts of violence. Prostitutes are considered to be population that can be violated with impunity, and violent perpetrators seek them out knowing they are unlikely to be apprehended.
All research findings conclude that men who purchase commercial sex acts are not a homogenous group of men. They have a range of motives, behaviors, and attitudes about prostitution.
Age of Men When They First Purchased a Sex Act
The age at which men first purchased a sex act varies widely, but for most, they were young men. Based on a sample of men arrested for soliciting a prostitute, the average age when they 10first purchased a sex act was 24 (with a median of 21); the range was from nine to 62.
Another survey found the range of when men first purchased a sex act to be from 12 to 57, 11with an average of 27. These findings were typical for all the surveys of men arrested for soliciting a sex act in the United States and Canada.
A Norwegian study interviewed sailors who had purchased sex acts. All of them
reported that they had purchased sex for the first time when they were teenagers. For
the most part, they copied older men’s behavior. For them, engaging in sex with a
prostitute was a ritual and passage into manhood that the older men arranged for the 12young sailors. A noted minority said that they did not want to participate, but were
forced into it by the older men.
It is not known how the age at which a man first purchases a sex act influences his subsequent behavior. Nor is the impact on men and boys of being forced into a commercial sex act known.
Frequency of Purchasing Sex Acts
Among men arrested for soliciting or who self-report that they purchase sex acts, there is a considerable range on how often men purchase sex acts. There are indications from research findings that a subgroup of men, who are ―hard core, habitual‖ users, may account for a disproportionately high percentage of the demand for commercial sex acts. Sven-Axel Månsson in Sweden compared what he called ―occasional buyers‖ – ―men who
buy sex on a few occasions during their whole life course‖ and ―habitual buyers.‖ He concluded that the occasional buyers were most sensitive to legal measures, meaning they were more likely to respect a law against purchasing sex acts. They were more worried about public prosecution; therefore, legal measures probably have a more discouraging effect on
10 Martin A. Monto, ―Focusing on the Clients of Street Prostitutes: A Creative Approach to Reducing Violence Against Women – Summary Report,‖ Report submitted to National Institute of Justice, October 30, 1999.
11 Kennedy,. Gorzalka, Yuille, February 2004.
12 Høigård and Finstad, 1986, p. 29.
their behavior. The habitual buyers were relatively few in number, but accounted for a large 13number of prostitute contacts.
The Norwegian researchers concluded that it was the ―habitual buyers‖ who sustained the 14―buyer side‖ of the sex trade. These conclusions indicate that intervention strategies
directed at habitual purchasers would significantly reduce the number of sex acts purchased. Men’s Motives for Purchasing Sex Acts
A frequent assumption about why men purchase sex acts is that they are single, lonely or have an unsatisfactory sexual relationship with their partner. Research findings from surveys and interviews of men who purchase sex act indicate that this may be an incorrect assumption for many men.
The majority of men surveyed or interviewed in the studies reviewed were married or had a 151617steady partner (57%, 59%, 70%). In these studies, at least half of the men had families. According to a U.S. study, 80 percent of the men who had been caught soliciting a sex act 18said that their marriage or steady relationship was sexually satisfying. Norwegian
researchers found two different types of married men who purchased sex acts. The first were relatively young and had not been married very long. They said they were content and pleased with themselves and their married life and sex with their wives, but wanted more variety and excitement. The expressed ―few scruples‖ about their behavior. They wanted particular sex acts that they felt could only be purchased. The other group of married men was older. They had little sexual experience before marriage. Sexual activity and intimacy 19had begun to decrease in their marriage and they sought to replace it by buying sex acts.
A Swedish study found that ―the experience of paying for sex is greatest among men with a 20lot of sexual partners.‖ A U.S. study made similar findings: Men who purchased sex acts were more likely than men who didn‘t purchase sex acts to report that they had more than 21one sexual partner over the past year (56 percent as compared to 19 percent).
13 Månsson, (forthcoming 2004)
14 Høigård and Finstad, 1986, p. 28.
15 Kennedy, Gorzalka, Yuille, February 2004.
16 Steven Sawyer, Michael E. Metz, Jeffrey D. Hinds, and Robert A. Brucker, ―Attitudes Towards Prostitution Among Males: A ‗Consumers‘ Report,‖ Current Psychology: Developmental, Learning, Personality, Social,
Winter 2001-02, Vol. 20, No. 4, pp 363-376.
17 Sawyer, Rosser, and Schroeder, 1998, pp. 111-125.
18 Sawyer, Metz, Hinds, and. Brucker, Winter 2001-02, pp 363-376.
19 Høigård and Finstad, 1986, p. 33.
20 Månsson, Sven-Axel. (1998) ―Commercial sexuality.‖ In: B. Lewin (ed.), Sex in Sweden: On the Swedish
Sexual Life, Stockholm: The National Institute of Public Health.
21 Monto, M.A. ―Why men seek out prostitutes.‖ In: R. Weitzer (ed.), Sex for Sale: Prostitution, Pornography
and the Sex Industry, London: Routledge, 2000.
These finding indicates that many men who purchase sex acts do not fit the stereotype of the lonely, sexually dissatisfied man. Nor are the majority of the men satisfied from buying a sex act. Although men sought out prostitutes, often repeatedly, a significant portion of the men said they were dissatisfied with the experience and wanted to stop. In one study, only a third of men surveyed said they enjoyed sex with prostitutes, and 57 percent of them said they had 22tried to stop going to prostitutes.
Norwegian researchers identified a group of men in their research similar to the ―socially
inadequate type.‖ They said they were mostly single men who had trouble establishing lasting relationships with women. They are characterized by ―distance, anxiety, and helplessness toward women.‖ Purchasing sex was a way to avoid women‘s expectations and 23―confrontations with their own inadequacies or failures.‖
In one study, 65 percent of men said that someone close to them, such as a wife, girlfriend, family member, or friend, knew that they purchased sex acts, yet 71 percent of them said that 24no one had ever expressed concern about their behavior.
It appears a significant proportion of the men is troubled by their behavior. This may indicate that these men are amenable to change.
Analysis of Men’s Motivations, Attitudes, and Behavior
Not surprising, the more often men purchased sex acts the more likely they were to accept 25the idea that sex is a commodity. In addition, the more they thought that sex was a
legitimate commodity; the more they had attitudes that justified violence against women. They conveyed their attitudes in supporting violence against women by indicating that they agreed with rape myths (thinking that women are responsible for rapes, invite rape, and are not hurt by rape), were attracted to violent sexuality, and refused to use condoms for commercial sex acts. The researchers concluded that a commodified view of sexuality could 26be related to lack of respect for and violence against prostitutes. This finding also indicates
that frequent or habitual buyers of sex acts may also be the ones committing acts of violence. Several researchers who have conducted in-depth interviews with men who purchase sex acts have put forth analyses that explain men‘s motivations and behaviors. They emphasized that men who purchase sex acts are a heterogeneous group. Each subgroup of men has a different profile, motivations, and behaviors that are important to understand in order to design 27different therapeutic and criminal justices responses.
22 Sawyer, Rosser, and Schroeder, 1998, pp. 111-125.
23 Høigård and Finstad, 1986, p. 31.
24 Sawyer, Rosser, and Schroeder, 1998, pp. 111-125.
25 Monto, October 30, 1999.
26 Monto, October 30, 1999.
27 Sawyer, Metz, Hinds, and Brucker, Winter 2001-02, pp 363-376.
A few researchers and therapists are looking at the connections between purchasing sex acts and using pornography. One researcher found that men who purchased sex acts are twice as likely to have watched pornography in the past year than those from a random national 28sample of men.
A lot of research on men who purchase sex acts is rather sympathetic to the men, focusing mainly on their self-reports of loneliness, or a need for change, variety, or excitement. Two men who research and write about men‘s demand for prostitution have more critical views of
men‘s behavior and motivations.
Joe Parker, the Clinical Director at the Lola Greene Baldwin Foundation in Portland has a more critical view and analysis of men‘s behavior. He says that most of the men he sees in the john school in Portland, Oregon are married, have children, and have ―a life.‖ He believes the core motivation of men who purchase sex acts is that they do not, and do not want to, 29respect women; they want control.
“Some people do not want real relationships, or feel entitled to something beyond the
real relationships they have. …Some people do not want an equal, sharing
relationship. They do not want to be nice. They do not want to ask. They like the 30power involved in buying a human being who can be made to do almost anything.”
He says these men do not want to have an extramarital affair with a woman because that would require them to be nice to the woman. They want to have sex on demand in which they do not have to be nice.
The research by Grubman Black reveals the more violent attitudes and behaviors of men who purchase sex acts. He used a more confrontation interviewing style that uncovered more of men‘s aggressive attitudes and violent behaviors towards women. The profile of the men who fit into over half of his categories seem most capable of committing the many acts of physical and sexual violence that the women describe. Grubman Black‘s research is less sympathetic to the men, their motivations, and behaviors, and consequently, he identifies men‘s hostile attitudes towards women, their sense of entitlement, their callous indifference to others, and their self-serving excuses. He concludes:
“A John is a man who believes he is entitled by virtue of his gender and money to
have sex on demand. Whether he is shy or not, whether he calls her a girlfriend or a
whore, and whether or not he abides by some set of rules or limits, he believes he can 31buy for sexual use a woman’s body.”
28 Monto, October 30, 1999.
29 Joe Parker, Lola Greene Baldwin Foundation, Portland, Oregon, March 23, 2004.
30 Joe Parker, ―How Prostitution Works,‖ Lola Green Baldwin Foundation, Portland, Oregon, http://www.prostitutionrecovery.org/how_prostitution_works.html
31 Grubman Black, October 16, 2003.
Clearly, men who purchase sex acts are a heterogeneous group with subgroups who have different motivations for purchasing sex acts. Some of these findings challenge society‘s assumptions of why men purchase sex acts. A better understanding of men‘s motivations to seek out prostitutes will provide a basis for a better criminal justice response, treatment, and rehabilitation.
Men’s Motivation to Buy Sex Acts from Children and Adolescents
A few researchers and advocates have focused on the attitudes and motivations of men who seek out children for commercial sex acts. Although there are different national standards, according to universal standards, when a man engages in sex with a child under the age of 18, he is committing an act of sexual abuse, whether or not it is a commercial sex act. Men who sexually abuse children make a decision to commit criminal acts against children. The characteristics and behaviors of predators who sexually abuse children are fairly well known 323334and described.
Less is known about men who buy sex acts from children. Are they similar or different from the men who sexually abuse children they access by seducing or ―grooming‖ the child?
An obvious difference is the amount a time a man must expend to acquire a victim. Sexual predators often take long periods of time to ―groom‖ children before they sexually abuse them. A man who purchases a sex act takes no time at all to ―seduce‖ the child; he just pays money and has immediate sexual access. Child sex abusers who groom children must have fairly ready access to children or take time to establish themselves in organizations, professions, or relationships that will give them access to children. A ―buyer‖ seeks
immediate access and instant gratification.
Also, a man who buys a sex act may think he is taking less risk with his reputation and is less likely to be caught than someone who molests a child who might tell friends, relatives, or authority figures. Joe Parker of the Lola Greene Baldwin Foundation thinks that men who purchase sex acts from children are cruder and have a different sense of time than ―groomers.‖ They want immediacy and act more directly on what they want. Men who
purchase sex acts with children may be more overtly sadistic; they want to hurt children in ways that leave visible damage. They are less likely to get away with such brutality with known children. Men who want to torture, sodomize, and batter children go to pimps who specialize in providing children who can be hurt with impunity.
Experts who have worked with both victims and offenders believe there is a link between men‘s use of adult prostitutes and their eventual use of children. Norma Hotaling, founder
32 Kenneth V. Lanning, ―Child Molesters: A Behavioral Analysis For Law Enforcement Officers Investigating Cases of Child Sexual Exploitation, Third Edition,‖ National Center for Missing and Exploited Children,
33 Anna C. Salter, Predators, Pedophiles, Rapists, and Other Sex Offenders: Who They Are, How They Operate, and How We Can Protect Ourselves and Our Children, Basic Books: New York, New York, 2003.
34 Max Taylor and Ethel Quayle, Child Pornography: An Internet Crime, Brunner-Routledge; 2003.