Real numbers about prostitution

One in nine British men have paid for sex, according to a new study.

And the likeliest to do so are 25 to 34-year-old single men in managerial or professional occupations, and those who have had a high number of partners.

The research, published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections, revealed that 3.6 per cent of the 6,000 men surveyed admitted visiting prostitutes in the past five years.

10% or so (OK, 11%!) lifetime incidence, call it 4%  in the past 5 years.  There’s around 25m million adult males in the country. Maximum possible trade is thus 1 million men a year (that’s the 5 year but call it just the 1).
And we’ve estimates of 60k odd working girls in the country, each having 25 tricks a week. That’s what ONS assumes, based on Dutch figures. Or 1.25 million tricks a week.
From a possible (and very generous) population of 1 million Johns.
Something’s really very wrong with these numbers, isn’t it? And I don’t think that it’s the number of men who buy sex. I think that the error is in assuming that number of tricks. My suspicion is that many of those 60k are decidedly part time…..
Maybe Maggie McNeil will let us know the truth here?

25 thoughts on “Real numbers about prostitution”

  1. “Foreign visitors in UK might bump up the numbers (of customers).”

    True, but I think the figures for men included those who had paid for sex abroad as well at home, so if you stripped out those who had only paid for sex abroad (quite possibly a significant proportion) that would leave an even lower UK based demand base for UK prostitutes.

  2. BBC News says that 1.1% of men had paid for sex in the last year, a lot of it abroad.
    So it’s rather less than 0.25m punters in the UK.
    Also the randy ones have a lot of not-paid-for sex.

  3. Having just looked at the report on the BBC website it states that of the 11%, the majority had visited prostitution hotspots such as Bangkok or Amsterdam. Which would indicate that most of the men in the 11% restrict their paying for sex to abroad, thus reducing the domestic demand level in the UK to far below the 1m men TW suggests.

    On a purely anecdotal level I know of one man who used to visit Bangkok regularly, quite openly for sexual tourism, but I have never even heard of one man who admitted to using a prostitute in the UK.

  4. I’m always puzzled at the ‘epidemic’ of sex trafficing. Given that are there some women who are willing to become prostitutes, why go to the bother of kidnapping women and forcing them to become prostitutes against their will? especially as you risk lengthy jail sentences rather then the slap on the wrist of being a pimp.

    A cynical part of me wonders if the problem is being wildly exagerated for effect. Or that if I was a women who was an illegal immigrant it would be a simple trick if caught by the authorities to claim to have been sex trafficked and then gets lots of tea, biscuits, and a sympathetic interview on Panorama.

  5. Andrew,

    Tim’s addressed that before. Short answer: Yes, it’s exaggerated — in the UK. Seems clear that trafficking is happening in some parts of the world, though.

    > Given that are there some women who are willing to become prostitutes, why go to the bother of kidnapping women and forcing them to become prostitutes against their will?

    Profit margins. Voluntary prostitues get to keep a decent chunk of their wages. Kidnapped women don’t. They can also be sold. They can also be used as drug mules and to offer other illegal services to punters. And you don’t have to pay for health checks for them. And you can make them work for the more depraved end of the market, where willing women would not want to go. All sorts of advantages for unscrupulous bastards.

  6. Foreign visitors in UK
    Bloody cheek. Who do they think they are, coming over here and knocking off our trafficked girls?

    And then, to cap it all, we have to pay Brussels a £1,7bn bonking bonus?

  7. bloke (not) in spain

    @SQ2
    “Profit margins. Voluntary prostitues get to keep a decent chunk of their wages. Kidnapped women don’t.”
    Sorry SQ, but this just doesn’t fly. Paid sex is no different from any other service. It’s a competitive market. The providers compete on quality as well as price. And, like any other repeatable service in a strongly competitive market, the key is getting & keeping customers.There’s simply no way a girl working under duress can compete with one who’s heart & soul enthusiastically plying her trade.
    And there simply isn’t enough money in the business. A “kidnapped” girl is, by definition, going to be working the bottom end of the market. Not a “quality” product. At current prices that’s the price of a cheap lunch end. Her “minders” would be lucky to see a hundred quid a day. And be carrying the expense of the “minding”. Managing access to the girl & appropriating the money. And they would have to provide the girl with accommodation, workplace & sustenance. There’s much more money to be made in “facilitating”. Girls paying a rake-off for customer stream & possibly workplace, but carrying their own risk costs of personal expenditure.

  8. So Much for Subtlety

    Squander Two – “Seems clear that trafficking is happening in some parts of the world, though.”

    Asia? Sure. Britain? Unlikely.

    “Profit margins. Voluntary prostitues get to keep a decent chunk of their wages. Kidnapped women don’t.”

    But kidnapping women brings massive downsides with it not the least is the risk of real prison time. You are earning money the hard way if you try it.

    “They can also be sold.”

    By definition women are a depreciating asset. Better to hire than to buy.

    “They can also be used as drug mules and to offer other illegal services to punters.”

    Hard to make them offer anything but so can legal girls.

    “And you can make them work for the more depraved end of the market, where willing women would not want to go.”

    What end of the market is this? I suppose there is a market for women in tears who just lie there when begging you not to. Not exactly a big market though, I would guess.

    “All sorts of advantages for unscrupulous bastards.”

    Sure. But the sensible unscrupulous bastard grooms some girl raised in a dysfunctional family, tells her he loves her – and asks her to prove it by going on the game.

  9. So Much for Subtlety

    Jim – “Having just looked at the report on the BBC website it states that of the 11%, the majority had visited prostitution hotspots such as Bangkok or Amsterdam.”

    Among men who reported ever having paid for sex, 62.6 per cent had done so outside the UK at least once – most commonly in Europe and Asia.

    This may be driven by ‘hotspots’ such as Amsterdam and Bangkok, said the researchers.

    So basically the market exists where there is a large income disparity. Especially for blokes who can’t get much luck in the UK.

    “Which would indicate that most of the men in the 11% restrict their paying for sex to abroad, thus reducing the domestic demand level in the UK to far below the 1m men TW suggests.”

    Worse than that. Because, as usual with this sort of thing, the methodology appears to be crap:

    A total of 6,108 men aged 16-74 answered questions about paying for sex in a computer-assisted self-interview.

    That looks like the usual sort of garbage questionnaire. What was their completion rate? How many people asked actually filled it out?

    “On a purely anecdotal level I know of one man who used to visit Bangkok regularly, quite openly for sexual tourism, but I have never even heard of one man who admitted to using a prostitute in the UK.”

    I used to work with a Gay guy who spent his holidays in Thailand. Everyone was frightfully polite about it.

    And there’s this:

    The study focused on men as the proportion of women who reported paying for sex was only around 0.1 per cent.

    I assume the figures for women will be lower, but the main problem is one of definition. When women cruise for beach boys in Jamaica or Africa, they do not call it prostitution. He loves her, he really does. As long as the gifts keep coming.

  10. ” I suppose there is a market for women in tears who just lie there when begging you not to. Not exactly a big market though, I would guess.”

    There are ways to make them co-operate. If you don’t work, we’ll go after your family in your home country. If you don’t work to pay off your debts, we’ll beat the crap out of you, or even kill you. Here, have some drugs to help numb the pain; oh now you’re hooked, so you’ll have to keep working to support your habit.

    By framing it as having to do sex work to pay off debts, rather than as being a sex slave, it’s much easier to persuade them. Also, give them a visible (yet ever-receding) target: don’t worry, you’ll have paid off your debts in just two – no three – no five years, so for now just knuckle down and get on with it. And smile, here comes a paying customer.

  11. So Much for Subtlety

    Andrew M – “By framing it as having to do sex work to pay off debts, rather than as being a sex slave, it’s much easier to persuade them.”

    Obviously being a prostitute to pay off a debt is not the same as being a sex slave. More shifting of the goal posts to create a problem where one does not exist, or at least is a different problem.

    Everything else you have mentioned just adds to the hassle and costs. Why bother when grooming is cheap and more or less legal?

  12. One in nine British men have paid for sex, according to a new study.

    Heh! I think nine in nine British men have paid for sex, albeit some may have paid indirectly. But they paid for it, one way or another, sure as eggs are eggs.

  13. So Much for Subtlety

    Tim Newman – “Heh! I think nine in nine British men have paid for sex, albeit some may have paid indirectly. But they paid for it, one way or another, sure as eggs are eggs.”

    And they get to keep on paying for it if they are dumb enough to make any sort of legally binding display of affection for a tot. Even if there has been no sex come to think of it.

    There is a discussion thread somewhere on the internet where a woman asks if she can sue her male neighbour who has been providing free baby sitting for child support.

  14. SMFS,
    But the debt is one that you’ve created, e.g. the debt she incurred for travel to the UK, for obtaining a false passport, etc. And she can’t just walk out and declare bankruptcy. The threat of violence marks the difference between “sex slavery” and mere willing prostitution.

    The risk of grooming local girls is that they speak the local language, they’re less afraid of going to the local police. Also, they might have friends & family locally who wonder what happened to them. But perhaps you’re not very good at grooming: some people are more cut out for old-fashioned crime.

    As far as slave work goes, prostitution is the highest return on your expenses. Putting your slave to work picking vegetables – another job popular with unskilled immigrants – raises much less revenue.

    The risk for the slave-trader is minimal. In this country GBH gets you a few months in prison, if even that. Don’t forget it’s mostly the threat of violence that keeps women prisoner: very little actual violence is required.

    It’s not a job for everyone; but there are certainly enough people prepared to put in that kind of effort.

  15. So Much for Subtlety

    Andrew M – “But the debt is one that you’ve created, e.g. the debt she incurred for travel to the UK, for obtaining a false passport, etc. And she can’t just walk out and declare bankruptcy. The threat of violence marks the difference between “sex slavery” and mere willing prostitution.”

    No, the debt is one that she has created. She wanted to come to the UK to work. Thousands of people borrow money from family and friends to do things including moving. Doesn’t make them slaves. She can just walk out. Not pay a thing. It is bloody hard to find one Asian girl in modern Britain and I doubt many can do it.

    “The risk of grooming local girls is that they speak the local language, they’re less afraid of going to the local police.”

    And we have seen how sensitively the police deal with that. What is the crime – as long as she is old enough?

    “As far as slave work goes, prostitution is the highest return on your expenses. Putting your slave to work picking vegetables – another job popular with unskilled immigrants – raises much less revenue.”

    There is no slave work in the UK. As there are, to all intents and purposes, no slaves. Prostitution may bring in a lot of money but it also brings in a lot of grief. More than it is worth. That is likely to be even more true of picking vegetables.

    “The risk for the slave-trader is minimal. In this country GBH gets you a few months in prison, if even that. Don’t forget it’s mostly the threat of violence that keeps women prisoner: very little actual violence is required.”

    So the urban legend goes. Where’s the evidence? As we virtually never find anyone who even claims to be a sex slave it is hard to know. You try GBH in the course of sexual slavery and you will get a sentence that a serial killer wouldn’t usually get.

    “It’s not a job for everyone; but there are certainly enough people prepared to put in that kind of effort.”

    God knows where because there is no evidence of any in the UK.

  16. SMFS,
    I’m sure there are a lot fewer sex slaves than the campaigners claim. But to claim that there are none at all is just as extreme.

    I’ll repeat again: it’s the violence that makes it slavery. Not the debt, not the working conditions, not even the nature of the work. As soon as somebody threatens you with violence unless you undertake work, you are a slave. The debt is just a framing device.

    There most certainly are people (mainly women) being kept (1) as domestic (2) slaves (3) in the UK (4), often for household chores. It seems absurd to assume that there are no sex slaves at all.

  17. There is no evidence of trafficking or sex slavery in the West and precious little elsewhere in the world in modern times. Yes–prob a small number of girls may be forced into prostitution somewhere in the world but the idea that sexual slavery is a major criminal industry is tripe. Peddled by the Senior Anti-Sex League. Feministas, religious nut jobs, authoritarians everywhere–including cops. Who often behave as if raping and abusing prostitutes is a perk of the job.
    As for the few women being forced to the trade–Maggie McNeil has a couple of recent stories of unwilling girls asking their first “clients” for help and being helped to escape by those clients. A far cry from the image of clients that anti-sex prohibitionists try to present.

    Also–apart from cases of female promiscuity or men who are expert liars–when did men ever get much unpaid for sex? The choice is generally amateurs or professionals and the amateurs are by far the most costly.

  18. > There is no evidence of trafficking or sex slavery in the West and precious little elsewhere in the world in modern times.

    Bollocks. There is virtually no evidence in the UK, which for some bizarre reason doesn’t stop it being a major emergency that our lords & masters need to Stop Right Now. But it certainly happens elsewhere. There was rather a lot in Brazil in the run-up to the World Cup.

    SMFS, BNIS,

    I am not actually a slave trader myself. If you think their business plan is shit, I suggest you find one and explain it to them.

  19. Squander Two,

    I’m afraid the World Cup stories are more fiction than fact. In America they panic about the Superbowl, New Zealand worries about the Rugby World Cup, and the rest of the world worries about the (FIFA) World Cup.

    The numbers never add up: South Africa in 2010 was supposed to receive 30,000 prozzies, of whom a significant proportion were either trafficked against their will, below the age of consent, or both. All that to service a 95,000 capacity stadium.

  20. Find out whereof you speak Squander. Or do you subscribe to the 100,000 girls trafficked in to (whichever US city is hosting) the US Superbowl shite as well?. You are talking bollocks.

  21. Andrew,

    Since I didnt quote any numbers regarding Brazil, I don’t see how they fail to add up. I have no idea what the official figures were, if there were any, but I generally assume that official figures are exaggerated by agencies responsible for reducing them, obviously. That doesn’t mean there are no drug cartels in Mexico.

    There was a kidnapping and forced prostitution problem in Brazil. Arguably not trafficking, as I believe it was mainly conducted without crossing international borders.

  22. Ecks,

    > Find out whereof you speak Squander. Or do you subscribe to the 100,000 girls trafficked in to (whichever US city is hosting) the US Superbowl shite as well?. You are talking bollocks.

    Oo, can I play that game too?

    I bet you believe that the Moon Landings were faked, don’t you? And that proves you’re wrong about something else.

  23. bloke (not) in spain

    @SQ2
    “If you think their business plan is shit, I suggest you find one and explain it to them.”
    The market explains it to them very quickly. They don’t make any money.

    But there’s something else needs explaining. This business is nothing like you think it is. There’s a distinct shortage of thugs in shades & shiny suits. A surplus of women trying to hustle a living. A scarce but sizable pool of regular service users in addition to the impulse buyers. The women move around. The punters shop around. There’ an enormous amount of information goes around. Go look at Punternet for a UK resource. (You’ll see what the guy runs it feels about “trafficking & underage etc”.) The providers aren’t exactly unaware of the police & the police unaware of the industry. You go setting up a knocking shop & staffing it with slave girls & it’ll be all round town within a week. You will get bubbled.

  24. So Much for Subtlety

    Andrew M – “But to claim that there are none at all is just as extreme.”

    I usually claim there are virtually none. But if there are some the police are doing a poor job of finding them.

    “I’ll repeat again: it’s the violence that makes it slavery. Not the debt, not the working conditions, not even the nature of the work. As soon as somebody threatens you with violence unless you undertake work, you are a slave. The debt is just a framing device.”

    Or more accurately, there is no slavery. People who owe money, owe money. They can and do pay it back. That is not slavery. There is no connection between the two. That is just the Usual Suspects lying to inflate the figures. Well, have some figures to inflate.

    “There most certainly are people (mainly women) being kept (1) as domestic (2) slaves (3) in the UK (4), often for household chores. It seems absurd to assume that there are no sex slaves at all.”

    Ahh, modern vibrant, multicultural Britain. Don’t you love it?

    Andrew M – “In America they panic about the Superbowl, New Zealand worries about the Rugby World Cup, and the rest of the world worries about the (FIFA) World Cup.”

    Which is to say it is the more hysterical of our feminists sisters have the vapours over men enjoying themselves. No more.

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