Clients as monsters and misfits, exploiters and rapists, dysfunctional or weird: that’s how many who hate prostitution and the sex industry generalise all men who buy sex (they skim over women who buy sex because that’s not the gender-equality road they want to follow.) If you attend meetings where sex workers are present, you will hear another story, in which all sorts of guys buy sex for all sorts of reasons, most of them quite ordinary. In these excerpts a researcher amongst clients also speaks up.
Shadi Elien, Straight.com, 26 November 2009
Veteran sex worker Susan Davis wants people to know that her “clients aren’t the bogeymen they are made out to be. I love what I do,” Davis told the Georgia Straight in an interview at the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch. “I think the guys are the best; a lot of them are my friends. Some I’ve known for 18 years. How do you not become emotionally attached?”
Davis, who has been in the business for 23 years, insisted that stability and security for sex workers can only come with decriminalization of prostitution. FIRST, a national coalition of feminists who support sex workers’ rights, hosted a lively forum on the subject at the library on November 23. Davis, who was on the panel, suggested that men who buy sex can actually help enhance the safety of those in the trade. “I think that clients are our biggest resource in trying to combat exploitation, trafficking, and exploitation of youth within the sex industry,” declared Davis, a member of the West Coast Cooperative of Sex Industry Professionals, in the interview.
Another panellist, SFU sociology instructor and researcher Chris Atchison, echoed Davis’s sentiments. He revealed the results of an extensive three-year study—called “Johns’ Voice”—that documents the relationship between buyers and sellers of sex in Canada. “I wanted to understand how these men engage in purchasing behaviour and what their relationships with sex-trade workers are about,” Atchison told the audience. “I wanted to know whether social and legal intervention such as the Swedish model is warranted by any empirical evidence.”. .
. . . The men he spoke to were seeking companionship and a connection with the sex workers they patronized, he said, adding that they wanted to engage in a safe and respectful relationship. He also reported that many customers saw the same sex worker for months or years, and that 79 percent said they wished to see prostitution decriminalized and regulated.
“I’m not here to present a picture of the sex buyer as some wonderful guy or say that they are all great, salt-of-the-earth people,” he said. The “Johns’ Voice” project showed that between one and two percent of clients have been brutally violent toward a sex worker. Those are the people the law must address, according to Atchison. . .