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Know your john: first major study looks at men who buy sex

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The first major study that looks exclusively at johns, rather than the prostitutes they hire, has been released, and the results are startling.

Imaginatively titled "Comparing Sex Buyers With Men Who Don't Buy Sex," the study was made up of men who lived in the Boston area, ages twenty to seventy-five, with an average age of forty-one. The majority of the sex-buyers were married or partnered, a figure reflective of the group of men that patronize prostitutes.

100 of them served as a control group, meaning they had not been to a strip club more than two times in the past year, had not purchased a lap dance, had not used pornography more than one time in the past month, and had not purchased phone sex or the services of a sex worker, escort, erotic masseuse, or prostitute. 

The study authors found that sex buyers were more likely to view sex as divorced from personal relationships and enjoyed the absence of emotional involvement with prostitutes. Their interviews demonstrated that they dehumanized women and thought of them as commodities, viewed them with anger and contempt, demonstrated a lack of empathy for the women's suffering and enjoyed their own ability to inflict pain and degradation on a sex worker.

Most upsetting, the sex buyers were nearly eight times as likely as nonbuyers to admit that they would rape a woman if they could get away with it. Johns in general committed more kinds of crime of every kind than nonbuyers, and all the crimes associated with violence against women were committed by the johns.

The study also suggested that the use of prostitution may, like the use of pornography, cause men to become more aggressive. 

"Over time, as a result of their prostitution and pornography use, sex buyers reported that their sexual preferences changed and they sought more sadomasochistic and anal sex," the study reported.

The study does quite a bit to dispel the "happy hooker/charming john" archetype occasionally portrayed in the media (thanks largely to Pretty Woman). It's a view of the damage that sex work can actually do to a woman's enjoyment of her sexuality and overall well-being.

The article notes that estimates of men who buy sex range from sixteen to eighty percent of the populace. If a chunk of the male population that large is having its sexual mores re-coded by pornography and prostitution, I'm more than a little worried about the future of the American male's sexual preferences, and especially worried for the women who'll be on the receiving end of same.