Monday, 3 July 2017

Buying Sex in Scotland: Understanding the motives and incentives for paying for sexual services

CRFR is delighted to welcome Dr Holly Davis, British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Edinburgh, as an associate researcher. In this post, Holly introduces her research on why individuals pay for sexual services and reflects on the relevance of this within the context of the proposed changes to prostitution laws in Scotland.

The best current estimates suggest that between 11-18% of the adult male population in the UK regularly pays for sexual services. These numbers suggest that paying for sexual services is not as rare, or deviant, as many would assume.

There is limited research on the 'demand' side of prostitution which creates a gap in the ongoing academic and policy discourses within and beyond Scotland. The absence of the voices and perspectives of those who purchase sex greatly limits the scope and understanding of the demand that drives sex work markets. In order to gain a more comprehensive grasp of the complex issues of purchasing sex, it is imperative that the voices, opinions, and practices of those who constitute the demand be included.

This topic becomes relevant when we consider the various proposed changes to prostitution laws in Scotland over the past few years.

My research is focusing on individuals who pay for sexual services ('punters') in Scotland, gathering data regarding their attitudes, experiences, and motivations. This project is specifically examining the customers of individuals who work in prostitution.

Two competing notions are evident in the literature - one which reduces the purchase of sex solely to simple acts of sexual gratification and convenience, and another which unapologetically demonizes punters as perpetrators of sexual violence. Moving beyond these oversimplifications, a more nuanced approach will be taken to examine the motivations and experiences of punters to explore the more complex incentives for purchasing sex and to personify these social actors.

The first phase of this research includes preliminary interviews with key stakeholders who can offer further perspectives and insights about punters and prostitution within Scotland. Interviews will be sought from police, local officials, NGO workers, and advocacy groups. Following the recommendations and advice of stakeholders, approaches to recruitment methods, and interview questions would be developed. After finalizing the development of methods and locations, this research will utilize both in-depth interviews and questionnaires with at least twenty-five individuals who purchase sex in Scotland.

The core aim is to generate data to contribute to forthcoming debates about, and understandings of, prostitution in Scotland and abroad. The gathering of rigorous and contextually rich data directly from punters would provide invaluable insights to the broader academic and policy fields. For example, exposing the motives and incentives of punters’ behaviour would in turn offer new perspectives for clearer and more workable legal frameworks. This research will be highly salient for policymakers, politicians, police, medical and educational professionals, and the voluntary sector. Also, this work would explore questions pertaining to sex trafficking and customers’ awareness of these issues which would have great relevance to current efforts aimed at curb trafficking within sex service markets and industries.

Holly will provide further updates for the CRFR blog as her research findings emerge.

No comments:

Post a Comment