Perspectives on purchasing sex – A study based on five young men’s descriptions of their own experiences

RealStars participated in the Nordic Forum that was held in Malmo on 12-15 June 2014. At the Nordic Forum, sociology students Bianca Hallas and Love Rosendal presented a paper entitled ‘Perspectives on Purchasing Sex’ that is based on five interviews with young sex purchasers. Two main themes emerged from the young men’s descriptions: ‘The Advantages of Purchasing Sex’, and, The Legitimised Process’.

The Advantages of Purchasing Sex

The section ‘The Advantages of Purchasing Sex’ describes the advantages that the sex purchasers see in buying sex.

For example, one of the sex purchasers describes how the hunt for a prostitute excites him, but that the act itself leads to feelings of shame and guilt as a result of his inability to stop buying sex. A common explanation as to why the interviewees purchased sex was ease of access together with the absence of emotion. A third factor that one of the sex purchasers saw as advantageous was the act of consumption itself rather that the act of sex. This person made no distinction between purchasing material goods and purchasing sex.

Sociological Analysis

Running through the all the descriptions of purchasing sex was the view of women as objects.  The woman is perceived as something that can be used which can, if seen from the perspective of a patriarchal society, be understood as a way to dominate women and strengthen their own masculinity. Consequently, purchasing sex can be understood as a way for sex purchasers to compete in a masculine hierarchical society where the struggle to exercise power, and therefore hegemony, is a key consideration.

The Legitimised Process

The section ‘The Legitimised Process’ contains the sex purchasers’ rationalisation of their actions. These rationalisations can be seen as different ways of excusing and justifying their actions in order to legitimise the buying of sex.

All of the men compared their own purchasing of sex with what are, according to them, more extreme situations. For example, they state that it is the ‘pimp’ that represents the real danger. They also say they would never buy sex from a women who has been forced into it. They also speak about themselves as more suitable customers as they offer a ‘young handsome body’ rather than a ‘fat old man’. Two of the sex purchasers also described how they contribute to the women’s education through the money they pay when buying sex. Several of the sex purchasers also rationalise their actions by stating that the male sex-drive forces then to buy sex.

Sociological Analysis

Through comparisons with more extreme situations and seeing oneself as a more suitable customer we understand that the sex purchasers do not see themselves as participating in the domination of women.  They do not seem to consider the that the act of purchasing sex itself is a violation of human rights and of the woman, but rather that these outcomes require violence or force in order to injure. The respondents do not see their own accountability but rather use different justifications to neutralise and facilitate both past and future sex purchases. During the interviews, all of the sex purchasers explained how their immediate circle accepts their sex purchases. This method of justifying their actions works partly because the people with whom they associate are representative of a patriarchal society that legitimises hegemony built on dominance.

Conclusion

This study highlights the importance of working towards equality. Sex purchasers must understand that the purchasing of sex itself is a violation of human rights. This can be done by providing information about the consequences of human trafficking and through continually providing information about the patriarchal structures that characterise out society. That is why the work of RealStars and other organisations is so important in the fight to reduce the demand for sexual services.

Read the entire paper here!

Bianca Hällås

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