Are you familiar with these myths about prostitution and sex purchases?

When discussing sex purchases and the Swedish Sex Purchases Act, arguments are often mentioned which are based on myths. Below we list and deal with six myths that are used to justify sex purchases.

“Selling sex is like any other job”
Describing prostitution as “sex work” is to conceal the real suffering and violations that most people are exposed to. In what other profession would it be accepted that 60-80 percent are subjected to physical, verbal and sexual abuse and that the mortality rate is 10-40 times higher than the average?

“Prostitution is something voluntary”
The majority of people in prostitution are in a situation of coercion, either internal coercion/self-harm behavior or external coercion that someone else is behind. Many are financially vulnerable and about 60 percent have been abused during their childhood. At sex purchase markets and brothels around the world, including state sanctions, victims of trafficking are sold.

“The right over their own body”
The argument points to an important approach for human rights defenders. The problem with prostitution is that the right does not lie with the person who sells sex, in the majority of all sex purchases the power and control lies with the buyer. Many sex buyers do not consider it themselves that they “only” buy a “service”, for example vaginal sex, but that they buy a human being that they can do whatever they want with, have control over and sometimes even degrade. The sex buyer pays for the right to someone else’s body.

“Men cannot stop their sexual drive”
The basic idea is that if the man does not get an outlet for his sexual drive more rapes will happen and therefore prostitution must exist. The assumption here is that men are driven by an unquenchable need, not by the brain. Men’s sexual drive is described as unstoppable, which is an offense to most men who are seen as irrational people who commit abuse without understanding or being able to stop themselves. By justifying prostitution as an accepted social phenomenon in society to silence men’s alleged unruly sexual drive, some women are “sacrificed” for men’s satisfaction.

“Sex purchases take place between consenting adults and are a private matter”
The majority of those who sell sex began to be exploited already as minors and many of the men who buy sex do so from a younger woman, sometimes under the age of 18. Claiming that sex buying is a private matter does not take into account that people do not necessarily have the same negotiating positions when it for example comes to social or economic status. Prostitution is based on unequal relationships and exploitation. The violence that often occurs cannot be made a private matter. Society must protect the most vulnerable people.

“The Sex Purchase Act means that prostitution becomes more dangerous and must go underground”
Some argue that the Swedish Sex Purchase Act makes it more dangerous for people in prostitution, because the buyer is criminalized and sex purchases must occur in hidden and unsafe places. It is rather the opposite, the law acts as a protection for people in prostitution. Those who sell sex are not criminalized and can therefore more easily contact the police and aid organizations. Nor can prostitution go underground and “disappear”. If the sex buyers can find it, then the police can. Many also believe that the Sex Purchase Act has made it easier to leave prostitution, since selling sex is not criminal.

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