I was wondering, what do you all think about men who hire women sex workers? I am hoping to do some work addressing stereotypes and misconceptions (I have found that almost always a little education in this area can go a loooong way), but I'm not really sure what I might encounter. Besides, of course, the really vocal groups and individuals who think sex work = sex trafficking = victimization, and so anyone on the 'demand' side of that equation must be a complete monster. I'm talking about women sex workers who are explicitly there voluntarily, although if you have any comments about male sex workers and/or female customers, I'd love to hear about that too.
I am having trouble explaining that while my goal is to address stereotypes and misconceptions, further on, I am not meaning to imply that all arguments against sex work are based on misinformation. So if you have thoughts for or against sex work (in specific or general cases), you are welcome here.
[PLEASE do not mainpage (I don't know why anyone would, just in case). If you are tempted, let me know and I'll make this more professional - this would doxx me in a wider audience and I would like it to be more formal if that were to happen.]
If you just want to share your opinion on the above question, please feel free to jump down to the bottom and tell me what you think! Your opinion can be educated or not, visceral or rational - I am not going to judge you, although I will ask that you be respectful to alternate opinions (in the "don't be a jerk" GT tradition).
For my grad research, I interviewed men who hire sex workers in Canada. I interviewed a specific subset of these men - many refer to them as 'hobbyists' - who are pretty involved in the subculture/identity of being a client of sex workers. I met with them in person, and participated a bit in their online world where they talk to each other and some of the women sex workers in the area. This is what I found.
1) A lot of these men hired sex workers for health related reasons, physical or mental. Some had injuries that made it difficult to have sex, so having a trained professional who wouldn't mind some awkwardness really made it easy to feel that human, personal connection of intimacy without the added stress of trying to impress a new partner/girlfriend/one night stand. It particularly shocked me how some of the men had heartbreaking stories of mental health problems that they self-treated through sex and intimacy with women who were sex workers. The mental health problems in the group ranged from just general stress and anxiety to diagnosed bipolar disorder and major depression.
2) A few had agreements with their life partners where they got the sexuality and intimacy they needed from a sex worker (or multiple sex workers), which lessened the stress on a partner who no longer wanted to perform sexually.
3) Lifestyle and priorities. Some of the men I interviewed had such crazy demanding work schedules that they couldn't get into a new relationship - for example, one was a video game developer who was passionate about his work and would fall off the radar for a week or longer while he worked on a game. He had yet to find a woman who would wait for him to resurface at the 1-2 date stage, and found it a lot easier to schedule time with the same woman/women when he had breaks in his work.
4) Almost all of the men developed real relationships - long or short term - with the women they paid for sex. They told me intricate stories about each woman's life, the names of her children, what her career goals were, what she was taking in school. If their fantasy was the 'stranger' type of fantasy, that was one thing, but every single man I interviewed liked to form real friendships with at least some of the women, often all.
My preconceptions (which I didn't even know I had!) were blown away by talking to these men, and I know that they want me to use my data and their stories to help work on the stigma they face, and the public conceptions that have them talking about their feelings and experiences in secret (or with me) instead of with people they know IRL. There is a real subset of male clients of unknown magnitude, because it's impossible to know for sure, who engage in really 'normal' relationships with women who choose to be there.
The experiences of the women they talk about are, of course, an unknown here. But we were largely talking about independent escorts, many of whom contacted me to give me the 'inside scoop' on some of the men, or just to say hello. Everything I found, without fail, fed into the idea that sex work is work, and something that can happen between two consenting adults.
So, Groupthink, what do you think?
ETA: I didn't think I needed to say this before, but please refrain from using slurs or derogatory terms for sex workers in the comments. People who are or have been in sex work might want to be a part of this discussion (or may already be) and it would be ideal to not alienate people, accidentally or intentionally, by using offensive language. Let's stick with 'sex worker' unless you have a good reason (ex. you do sex work and prefer another word) not to do so.