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Men Who Buy Sex Are More Prone to Sexual Violence, Study Says

Sep 01, 2015

Men who buy sex are more prone to sexual coercion and are more likely to report a history of sexual violence, according to a new study.

The study of 101 men in the Boston area, published Monday in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, found that men who hire prostitutes tend to have less empathy for women and tend to share characteristics with sexually violent men. The researchers screened 1,200 men in order to isolate demographically comparable groups to interview. "Both groups tend to have a preference for impersonal sex, a fear of rejection by women, a history of having committed sexually aggressive acts and a hostile masculine self-identification," said UCLA professor Neil Malamuth, who co-authored the study, in a statement. "Those who buy sex, on average, have less empathy for women in prostitution and view them as intrinsically different from other women."

The researchers define "hostile masculinity" as a hostile and narcissistic desire to have power over women. One man told researchers he thought of prostitution like buying a cup of coffee: "When you’re done, you throw it out.”

The study also found that men who buy sex are more likely to rape and commit other sexual offenses. The study comes as more and more jurisdictions are focusing on targeting johns rather than prostitutes in their efforts to curb prostitution and sex trafficking, and on the heels of Amnesty International's vote in August to recommend the complete decriminalization of prostitution for buyers and sellers. Read about the effort to target sex-buyers in the United States here.

The study was co-authored by Melissa Farley, who runs Prostitution Research & Education, a nonprofit that studies prostitution and sex trafficking. In its mission statement, PRE says it is dedicated to abolishing the prostitution altogether. The study was also funded by Hunt Alternatives.

SPECIAL REPORT: Catching Johns: Inside the National Push to Arrest Men Who Buy Sex

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