The law of supply and demand are at the heart of any business’s success or failure. That law also holds true in the global criminal industry of human trafficking. Without demand for human labor or sex, there would be no need to establish supply.
The focus of this blog is on the consumer at the heart of the illegal sex trade, those who drive the demand for commercial sex. Those consumers are commonly referred to as “johns”.
So, where does someone go to buy sex? In addition to street prostitution, there is often a front business johns go through to purchase illegal commercial sex. Such businesses can include escort and massage services, private dancing, drinking and photographic clubs, major sporting and recreational events (including the Super Bowl), major cultural events, conventions, and tourist destinations. Johns can also make appointments online to hook-up with prostitutes via sites such as Craig’s List or Backpage.com.
So, who are johns?
Believe it or not, many of them share some common characteristics:
- The age of their first purchased sex experience ranges anywhere from a very young 11 to a mature 49. On average, though, johns first buy sex when they are 21 years old.
- Peer pressure was cited as a primary reason johns first buy sex.
- A significantly higher number of johns (94%) have visited a strip club as compared to non-sex buyers (54%).
- Frequent johns are more likely to be married or older in age.
Many johns don’t view the people from whom they are buying sex as being victims of sex trafficking. In a study on prostitution, 67% of the johns indicated they believed there are no or only slightly negative effects to purchasing sex. Shockingly, 54% of johns surveyed believe that prostitution actually decreases rape, while a quarter consider the notion of raping a prostitute to be ridiculous, believing prostitutes are “unrapable” and are all are in that line of work by choice. The idea of prostitutes being trafficking victims isn’t a remote consideration for most people who buy sex.
Some johns exhibit negative behaviors and attitudes toward women and sex. Nearly 40% of them have admitted to “tricking” non-prostituting women into having sex, while 16% claim they would rape a woman if they knew they wouldn’t get caught.
Additional research shows that anywhere from 62%+ of violent acts against women engaged in street-level prostitution were perpetrated by johns. According to another study, 68% of women in prostitution said they had been raped while working as prostitutes.
It is estimated there are 19 million people with sexually transmitted infections or diseases (STDs) in the U.S. Consumers who participate in sex trafficking or prostitution are at high risk for contracting and transmitting STDs to others — sadly, this also impacts unknowing spouses or intimate partners (again, many johns who frequently purchase sex are married). Such STDs and other subsequent serious, even life threatening illnesses can include:
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV): by the way, transmission of HPV is NOT prevented by condom use
- Gonorrhea: there are over 700,000 new infections per year in the U.S. alone; females are usually asymptomatic carriers, meaning they rarely display any visible symptoms of the disease.
- Chlamydia: this is the most common STD; highest degree of incidence is seen in 15 to 19 year olds. Known as a “silent” disease, most people who have chlamydia don’t know they have it.
- Liver cancer
- Cervical cancer
- Antibiotic resistance
In my home state of Indiana, patronizing a prostitute (again, many prostitutes are sex trafficking victims) is a Class A misdemeanor; the offense jumps to a Class D felony if the person has two prior convictions. To see other penalties around the country and world, visit the U.S. Department of State website.
My deepest appreciation goes to the Indiana Attorney General’s Office under the direction of Attorney General Greg Zoeller for providing much of this information, research and data. Special thanks goes to Attorney and Human Trafficking Prevention Project Manager Nicole Baldonado and Intern Kelly Dobkins for their tremendous assistance, guidance and support. These dedicated professionals, along with other state, local and federal officials, are working diligently to protect the victims of human trafficking. Thank you for the incredible work you do!
Raising awareness awareness of the world-wide epidemic of child abuse has become Ginger’s life mission. An impassioned child advocate, trainer, speaker and child forensic interviewer, Ginger can be contacted via her website, “Ginger Kadlec: 4UrKids” at gingerkadlec.com or find her on Facebook at facebook.com/gingergkadlec.
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