by FP intern Bethany McArthur
The psyche of a John is paradoxically simple and complex at the same time. “What” they want is easy to see, but it’s in the “why” that the tangled web appears. Some are married, successful in their careers with beautiful homes, wives, and children. Some are sexually disturbed and have been addicted to pornography since they were ten. Some Johns have been molested or neglected since childhood. And others are just your normal, everyday guy in a relationship or single with a mind obsessed with sex. No matter their situation, it is hard to imagine why any man would pay for sex. Regardless, the purchase of sex is a current reality, and understanding who the John is plays a critical role in combating the demand side of human trafficking.

One common misunderstanding among Johns is their view of the victim or the person from whom they are purchasing. They often equate a prostitute’s work with that of the people they see in pornography without understanding that the latter are paid actors. As opposed to individuals who choose to be part of an industry, prostitutes are almost always owned by a pimp and forced to be a product for the John’s sexual cravings. I was conducting some research on this particular issue when I came across the following story. A woman, after finding out that her ex had purchased sex on numerous occasions, asked men what they felt about prostitutes. This was the disturbing answer that prompted me to write this blog post. He stated, “In the long run hookers are cheaper than having a girlfriend. Think about it, you have to go on dates, buy her stuff, drive her places. That adds up and in the long run all we want to do is have sex and leave. That’s our nature. Once the chase is over, there is no more excitement. Hookers, your (sic) in your (sic) out and only costs 60 to 100 dollars as opposed to the life long commitment of gifts and dates.” ttp://

While some hold disillusions of prostitutes, many know exactly what they are doing. In a 2010 article titled, “Why Men Use Prostitutes” author Julie Bindel exposed some startling quotations from Johns in London, England. As part of a research project to expose the reality of why anyone would pay for sex, the researches interviewed a number of Johns. One man featured in the article was a good-looking, smart man named Darren who paid for sex fairly often and held no remorse. “I don’t want them to get any pleasure. I am paying for it and it is her job to give me pleasure. If she enjoys it I would feel cheated.” The article went on to reveal that most of the Johns interviewed were aware that the prostitutes were both trafficked from all over the world and owned by pimps.

How can a John be identified? That has proven to be rather difficult as Johns come from most every ethnicity and most every job sector. Here’s what we do know. 39% are regular porn viewers, 14% have a history of armed forces duty, 62% are married or in a relationship, and 36% have a college degree. A large percentage of Johns say they buy sex because they are either lonely, longing for excitement, have a sex addiction, or they can do things with a prostitute that their wife would never do. There also seems to be a correlation between childhood neglect or sexual molestation and purchase of sex as an adult. Another John named Alex was interviewed, and he reported feeling neglected and unloved as a child. He says that his encounters with prostitutes give him a brief feeling of being loved, but the childhood feelings of neglect and loneliness return immediately when his encounter is over.

So how bad is this problem? How many men are actually purchasing sex? The U.S. Department of Justice issued the “Final Report on the Evaluation of the First Offender Prostitution Program”. It states that 1 out of every 5 U.S. men admit to purchasing sex once in their life. That’s 20% of American men. That number may seem astonishing, but it pales in comparison to the 80% of Cambodian men who confess to buying sex. While the problem seems to be much lower in the U.S., the purchase of sex in the U.S. is growing, and there are no signs indicating its decline here or elsewhere. While prosecution of traffickers and protection for victims has somewhat helped reduce trafficking, little has been done to address the demand side. The John Program was established to educate those who have been arrested for purchasing sex, but nothing has been done to eliminate the act before it’s perpetrated. The demand side must be addressed, and it must be a community effort. Teachers, parents, churches, and community leaders must become engaged in order for there to be any kind of change. My research has shown that if we start by simply teaching teenagers and young men to value sex and women, we would see a reduction in demand. NGO’s and governments can do many things to reduce human trafficking, but until the demand side is addressed this problem will continue to grow. It’s up to all of us to get involved. As long as there is demand, there will be a trafficker supplying the product – and that product is innocent women and children.

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