Share via Email Seven hundred men were interviewed for the project, which aimed to find out why men buy sex. An apparently average, thirtysomething, middle-class man, Ben had taken an extended lunchbreak from his job in advertising to talk about his experiences of buying sex. Shy and slightly nervous, he told me, "I am hoping that talking about it might help me work out why I do it.
Ben was one of men interviewed for a major international research project seeking to uncover the reality about men who buy sex. The project spanned six countries, and of the customers we spoke to in London — where I was one of the researchers — most were surprisingly keen to discuss their experiences.
The men didn't fall into obvious stereotypes. In the main they were presentable, polite, with average-to-good social skills. Many were husbands and boyfriends; just over half were either married or in a relationship with a woman. Research published in found that the numbers of men who pay for sex had doubled in a decade. Another told me that he felt "disappointed — what a waste of money", "lonely still" and "guilty about my relationship with my wife".
In fact, many of the men were a mass of contradictions. Despite finding their experiences "unfulfilling, empty, terrible", they continued to visit prostitutes. I interviewed 12 of the men, and found it a fascinating experience. To a third person it looks like we're in love. No one had shown him how to form a bond with another human being and he was searching for something that commercial sex was never going to provide.
But another of the interviewees left me feeling concerned. Darren was young, good-looking and bright; I asked him how often he thought the women he paid enjoyed the sex. If she enjoys it I would feel cheated. But they still continued to visit them.
More than half admitted that they either knew or believed that a majority of women in prostitution were lured, tricked or trafficked. She told me she had been tricked. I had sex with her and she seemed fine with the sex. She asked me to help her, but I said there was little I could do. She might have been lying to me.
One told me, "Sometimes you might rape someone: Half of the interviewees had bought sex outside of the UK, mostly in Amsterdam, and visiting an area where prostitution is legal or openly advertised had given them a renewed dedication to buying sex when they returned to the UK. Almost half said that they first paid for sex when they were below the age of Maybe he wanted to make sure we weren't gay.
We went to a brothel. Dad didn't do it, and I don't think he told my mum. She didn't want to talk, just lay on the bed and wanted to do the [sex] act only. Be prepared to accept this or don't go at all. It's not a wife or girlfriend. Lots of men go to prostitutes so they can do things to them that real women would not put up with. Ahmed said he thought the woman might feel "relief that I'm not going to kill her". The law's not enforced now, but if any negative thing happened as a consequence it would deter me.
He told me, "If I'd get in trouble for doing it, I wouldn't do it. In this country, the police are fine with men visiting prostitutes. Why do you think men pay for sex? Do you think more should be done to stop them? Email your views to women theguardian.