Brain & Behavior
While the media is replete with examples of “normal” men who seek out prostitutes regularly, how common are prostitute-seeking men and how much do they differ from men in the normal population?
According to a new comparison study by Dr. Martin A. Monto, University of Portland, and Dr. Christine Milrod, only about 14% of men across the U.S. have ever paid for sex in their lives and only 1% of those men had done so in the previous year. In addition, the majority of these men do not possess any “peculiar” qualities that distinguish them from the normal population. The study was published in the SAGE journal International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology (IJO).
“Our findings clearly contradict the ‘john next door’ notion perpetuated by some media,” Dr. Milrod stated. “While it is noteworthy to recognize that the 1% of adult men who paid for sex in 2010 still result in a large number of customers, there is no credible evidence to support the idea that hiring sex workers is a common or conventional aspect of masculine sexual behavior among men in the United States.”
The researchers also found that men who actively seek out prostitutes do not possess any “peculiar” qualities that would differentiate them from men in the normal population. In fact, arrested customers are only slightly less likely to be married, slightly more likely to be working full-time, slightly more sexually liberal, and slightly less likely to be White than men who have not been clients of prostitutes.
A small group of highly active customers, such as those who were never arrested and who sought out sex workers listed on a prostitute review website, were found to differ substantially from men who do not pay for sex. A substantial portion of these married White men earn over 120K annually, have graduate degrees, and are more sexually liberal than any of the other groups in the study. Additionally, they do not exhibit any mental impairment.
Dr. Milrod discussed the implications of this finding, “Privileged men, such as our wealthier sample of review website clients, are generally not marginalized or threatened due to their sexual behavior. In contrast, customers associated with street prostitution are likely to have fewer financial and social resources and it could be argued that these men are explicitly targeted by law enforcement in marginalized areas or transitional neighborhoods. The emphasis on teaching about ‘sex addiction’ and ‘healthy relationships’ to arrested men further supports the notion that customers of street prostitutes are endowed with some form of psychopathology that needs reorientation toward more accepted forms of sexual relations. The focus on treatment fails to separate paying for sex and being psychologically impaired.”