Mapping the Swedish Internet sex market: Part 1

Realstars has conducted a survey of the Swedish Internet sex market. It is a cynical market where bodies are treated like commodities. This survey is presented in a series of articles. Part 1 is presented below.

What is the extent of the Swedish Internet sex market? According to information from the Police, between 200 and 300 advertisements are posted daily on the Internet by men and women offering sexual services. On average, a person selling sex meets between three and ten people buying sex, every day. Using the median of these figures, the Swedish television current affairs programme Kalla Fakta (‘Cold Facts’) calculated that approximately 250,000 people in Stockholm alone purchase sex through the Internet. The Police catch about one sex buyer per day. “A drop in the ocean,” says Simon Häggström, from the Stockholm Police Prostitution Group (Hökerberg, 2013-11-15).

It is a common assumption that it is older men that purchase sex. But the fact is that the average age for a male purchasing sex is 30 years of age. Kalla Fakta made this estimate by monitoring 11,000 email exchanges between buyers and sellers of sex and this age is significantly lower than the 45 years of age which is usually the finding for research into sex purchasers.(Fredriksson, Björk & Anjemo, 2013).

Posting a fake sex advertisement on the Internet appears to be the most common way of estimating the size of the demand for sex on the Internet. Kalla Fakta’s reporter assumed the identity of a 14 year-old girl offering sex. Over five days, approximately 50 people answered the advertisement. There is also a big demand for sex with children (Recabarren, 2014). Nineteen local Radio Sweden stations got an even larger response when they published a made-up advertisement in which a woman offered to sell sex. In the course of one week, they received close to 1000 unique email and telephone responses (Boo & Degerman, 2009).

Based on the high demand and the number of advertisements posted on the Internet, the scale of the Internet sex trade is enormous. However, we see only a small part of this trade as most of those both buying and selling sex are hidden because prostitution and people trafficking are crimes which are rarely reported by those involved and are uncovered only through investigative work. There are also a large number of requests for ‘new girls’, particular ages, ethnicities, hair colour, clothing or other sexual desires (Claude, 2010).

These specific requests, in combination with the high demand, drive the wide range of people available in the sex trade. It is here that prostitution and trafficking meet. The supply of prostitutes does not match the demand. As a result, people are forced and lured into being sold as sex slaves on a daily basis. Combatting trafficking and prostitution requires proactive efforts to stop the demand for purchasing sex.

Bianca Hällås

Part 2
Part 3

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