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Published on March 15, 2013 @ 7pm (PST)

*Following is the elusive and much requested “Part Five” of my four-part series on Human Trafficking as relates to sexual crimes. Yes, you read that correctly and, no, I’m not high. *grin*  I was asked by many readers to include what was considered the overlooked driving force behind the crime of sexual trafficking. First presented on BehindTheYellowTape with Joey Ortega on March 15, 2013, I finally present to you Part Five~ Human Trafficking: The Mindset of the Buyer. As a note to the reader, empirical citations are included for the benefit of the reader wishing to learn more regarding the crime of sex trafficking from verified sources.

The participants in human trafficking are known in detail with the exception of perhaps the most important participant: the buyer. The typical yet erroneous belief as respects sex trafficking and prostitution is generally that the behavior of the women involved is the sole cause of the selling of sex. What is portrayed in the media often enhances this belief with prostitutes portrayed as sexual enticers and not as enslaved victims. Prostitutes are well defined and fleshed out as caricatures within media in contrast of the harsh reality to the exclusion of the buyer who remains faceless, nameless, and poorly defined. To effectively stop the practice of human slavery in the form of sex trafficking we must clearly define, insofar as that is possible, the buyer and what motivates their behavior as relates to sex trafficking. The fact remains that without the buyer, there is no market, and there is no demand.

Examining the mindset of the buyer is critical in addressing the growing problem of sex trafficking. For the consenting adult sex need not be purchased in order to be enjoyed. Let’s face it, sex is free in many respects so why the created market for what could be negotiated outside of monetary coercion? Is it really necessary for anyone to have to pay for sex? The answer is, maybe. Without making anyone entirely uncomfortable, there might be certain sexual preferences to otherwise enjoyed without the benefit of money and I won’t go into those details. But, again, if it were solely an issue of sexual gratification would it be necessary to buy such enjoyment? Probably not, which begs the question: if it’s not about sex, then what is the true issue?

It might be surprising for many to learn that the purchase of sex usually has less to do with the sex act itself and more to do with buying the “right” to temporarily degrade and abuse another human being for ones personal entertainment. When researching the attitudes and behaviors of the typical sex purchaser one trait was uniformly clear; all subjects from which data was collected had the desire to physically abuse and degrade their victims. In short, purchasing sex was less about engaging in sex and more about inflicting harm and the “right” to do so because money had changed hands. Ironically, the issue of violence is the one area all but ignored by traditional research that seeks to explore patterns in prostitution and how to combat the trends in sex trafficking.

As clearly stated in last week’s overview of human trafficking, the majority of data compiled in relation to sex trafficking relies on self report not just in terms of identified  victims who, heretofore, have been referred to as “prostitutes” or ”sex workers” but also as respects purchasers commonly referred to as “johns” making it difficult to pinpoint accurate statistics. Even so, current available research data indicates the violence factor as a primary motivator in the purchase of sex across socioeconomic categories (Hughs, 2004, p. 9). Specifically, current research indicates that the typical purchaser of sex acts engages routinely in beating, slapping, and intimidating with a deadly weapon those persons from whom they purchase sex (Erbe, 1984, p. 623; Hughs, 2004, pp. 9-11). The only potential exception to this trend appears to be teenaged boys taken to a strip club and/or prostitute as a “first time” experience (Hughs, 2004, p. 10).

Because of the otherwise ignored violence factor as a motivator for purchased sex, the typical view of the “john” is one of being a lonely, single, or otherwise sexually dissatisfied male unable to maintain a relationship with opposite sex who must, therefore, purchase sexual gratification. Current research does not support this portrait. In two major studies conducted in Canada and the United States, the portrait of the typical “john” has emerged as much more disturbing (Sawyer, et al., 2002). As respects the Candian study, 70% of sex purchasers were married or in long-term relationships. 43% of the Canadian study participants either had children or planned to have children in the future. As respects the participants of the United States study, 80% of the “johns” reported that they were either married or in a steady relationship that was sexually satisfying. These same study participants shared the view with other males in studies conducted around the globe that sex is commodity associate with the right to perpetrate violence against women  (Sawyer, et al., 2002).


Hughs, D. (2004).  Best Practices to Address the Demand Side of Sex Trafficking. University of Rhode Island, Women’s Studies Program.

Erbe, N. (1984). “Prostitutes: Victims of Men’s Exploitation and Abuse,” Law and Inequality, Vol. 2(2). p. 623.

Sawyer, S., Metz, M., Hinds, J., & Brucker, R.(Winter 2001 – 2002). Attitudes towards Prostitution among Males: A ‘Consumers’ Report,” Current Psychology: Developmental, Learning, Personality, Social, Vol. 20(4), pp 363-376.

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