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Female Prostitution, Customers, and Violence

NCJ Number
Violence Against Women Volume: 10 Issue: 2 Dated: February 2004 Pages: 160-188
Date Published
February 2004
29 pages

Based on a literature review, this article summarizes what is known about customers of prostitutes and incorporates the customers into some of the scholarly debates surrounding prostitution.


A number of qualitative interview studies have provided insight into the experiences and motivations of male customers of prostitutes. Customers are more likely than American men in general to be working full-time, to have seen X-rated movies during the past year, and to be unmarried or separated. Customers who are married are more likely to report that their marriages are "not too happy," although it does not necessarily follow that an unhappy marriage causes men to pursue prostitutes. It is likely that there is a great deal of variability among customers, depending on the context in which they seek prostitutes and the frequency with which they engage in this behavior. Motivations for seeking prostitutes also vary. Some visit prostitutes because they are too shy, awkward, or unattractive to establish conventional sexual relationships. Some customers who are accustomed to sexual access to women visit prostitutes when they are away from their regular partner due to travel or are temporarily uninvolved in conventional sexual relationships. Others argue that their wives or partners are unwilling or unable to satisfy them. These various motivations, however, do not explain why men in similar conditions and circumstances do not seek out prostitutes. Some studies suggest that men who visit prostitutes have a sense of masculine entitlement to sexual access to women or power over women. This customer orientation in turn is believed to translate into the use of violence by customers against prostitutes to reinforce male privilege, either to punish women who do not accept their subordinate status in society or as an attempt to reassert a bruised or challenged sense of masculinity. Overall, the research suggests that the pursuit of prostitutes is not a natural part of the masculine sexual experience, since most men do not engage prostitutes, and very few are regular users. More research should focus on the socialization experiences and the opportunity structures to which customers are exposed. 97 references

Date Published: February 1, 2004