New report finds johns aren't exactly nice to prostitutes

By Managing Editor Claire Bushey

It's not exactly a job to inspire envy: six to 10 hours a day reading Internet message boards written by men who purchase sex from prostitutes and feel quite justified in enjoying what they refer to as their "hobby."

Yet that's what researcher Lara Janson did to produce a report released Jan. 11 about the habits and practices of johns in Illinois, based on postings at the website USA Sex Guide between June and August of 2010.

"There were posts that would sometimes make me weep, because I was reading about violent acts done to women," said Janson, a doctoral candidate in sociology at the University of Chicago.

The report, published by the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, found that men who reported buying sex rationalized that they were entitled to it, an attitude that bled over into their interactions with women outside of prostitution. They also were generally aware of the harm the business caused to the women in it.

Law enforcement stings targeting johns prompted lively discussion on the message boards, with some men swearing off prostitution to avoid the risk of public exposure, the report found.

There's little academic research into the demand side of prostitution, Janson said. But understanding what causes men to pay for sex is the first step to finding solutions to the problem.  

Men talk regularly about thinking with their "little brain," using “the idea of a supposedly insatiable male sex drive as a justification for their entitlement to buy sex," the report says.

Some men compare dating unfavorably to visiting prostitutes, since "for around the same cash outlay you are guaranteed a little happy time and you don't have to put up with the normal female BS once its [sic] over. … In my opinion renting pussy when needed is much smarter than taking a long term lease."

One man says buying sex has made him less enthusiastic to try Match.com.

The toughest posts are the ones that describe violence, sex with underage girls and sex with victims of human trafficking. The men are aware of the harm these women have experienced, Janson said, because they report listening to their "sob stories." Yet she came across no cases where the "guy didn’t end up purchasing sex from the very woman he said had experienced violence."

"Instead, many of them bought into a fantasy where they thought they were helping these women by giving them money," she said.