1 in 10 UK Men are Punters? I Don’t Buy It

It is generally claimed that about 1 in 10 men in the UK have paid for sex. For example, according to research collated by The John’s Chart, between 7 and 9% of men in the UK report having paid for sex at least once in their lifetimes. But the maths simply does not add up to such a low percentage.

According to a 2009 US government report, the number of people in prostitution in the UK was estimated at 100,000. That’s a lot of people and the majority of those are female, so for simplicity I will refer to them as women. At least 99% of the punters are male.

Now let’s assume that each of those women in prostitution “sees” five punters a day, five days a week, 40 weeks a year. That’s 1,000 punters a year.

5 * 5 * 40 = 1,000

Of course, some women will have fewer punters, but we also read reports of pimped and trafficked women being forced to have 10 or even 20 punters a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. So 1,000 punters a year seems like a reasonable estimate of the average.

Of course many men patronise more than one woman in prostitution and make return visits. So let’s assume that 900 of those 1,000 punters a year are repeat visits, etc and each woman has on average 100 “unique” clients.

If we accept all these assumptions, we can say that each of those 100,000 people in prostitution sees on average 100 “unique” punters a year. That makes 10 million different punters a year.

100,000 * 100 = 10,000,000

The 2011 census put the population of the UK at a little over 63 million, of whom approximately 25 million are males aged 15 and over.

So according to our calculation, each year 10 million different men buy sex from a prostituted human being in the UK. That’s more than one third of all men over the age of 14.

 (10,000,000 / 25,000,000) * 100 = 40%

So if I am right, approximately one third of men in the UK buy sex each year. We know that behaviour changes over time, so it’s almost certain that it’s not the same approximately one third of the male population who are doing it every year. Which means that it is reasonable, I believe, to assume that most men in the UK have bought sex at one time or another – even if many of them don’t admit it, even in anonymous surveys.

So in any gathering or group of men, whether on a bus, in a workplace, a school staff room, a living room, a pub, a TV studio, or Parliament, half of them are likely to have bought another human being for sex.

Why does it matter?

It matters because recent research has shown that men who buy sex have less empathy for women in prostitution than men who don’t buy sex and are more likely to report having committed rape and other aggressive sexual acts. To see what men really think about women in prostitution, visit the Invisible Men Project.

It matters because all men benefit from the system of prostitution, and all women are hurt by it. And the bigger the system, the more men benefit and the more women are hurt by it.

And it matters because men have disproportionate political power – they are over-represented in Parliament, in law making, in the higher echelons of the criminal justice system, police force, judiciary, Amnesty International, and so on. They get to decide policy and law on prostitution and other issues that disproportionately affect women. In other words, it’s like putting the fox in charge of the chicken house.

7 thoughts on “1 in 10 UK Men are Punters? I Don’t Buy It

  1. You saying what prostituted women know – but others choose to not listen to. Most long-term prostituted women and girls have hundreds if not thousands of punters consuming them. It is rare to see a punter more than once – so a minority of men being punters never made sense to me.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I don’t find it at all difficult to believe – it reminds me of all those other ‘issues’ where we all have to pretend that only a few nasty men do X . Actually some women believe that . I remember being surprised that a woman’s shelter address was widely known by local authority bureaucracy , who were ‘providing funding after all’ . When I suggested that a female partner of one of said bureaucrats might need the facility I was told it was ‘unlikely’ !

    But isn’t it a major problem with changing laws as a form of revolution ? Were far less men buying sex in Sweden so that the Nordic model had less opposition ?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think the women in Scandinavia worked very hard politically, working together in the unions and political parties to raise feminist issues. We need to learn from them.

      I think what this article shows is that we definitely need the 50:50 Parliament campaign (http://www.5050parliament.co.uk/) and we need to get organised and work together in any and every way, including in unions and political parties. We should see it as feminist activism to make our voices heard in every way. We should support each other in this – it can be lonely out there. Some of us might not be temperamentally suited to slogging it out in unions and political parties, but let’s support our sisters who can do that. Some of use might not be temperamentally suited to metaphorically throwing bricks through pro-sex trade organisations windows, but let’s support our sisters who can, etc.

      As you say, we have had the wool pulled over our eyes for too long. No longer! Punters, be warned, we can see through your lies. We are not prepared to let you continue ruining the world for our daughters and grand daughters.

      In solidarity!


      (I joked with Frances Scott after Feminism in London, that actually we need at least three millennia with the historic ratio reversed before we settle for 50:50. Let’s call for 95:5 women:men until men en masse rid themselves of their prostitution habit.)

      Liked by 1 person

    2. You’re right. It’s not a few nasty men seeing prostitutes. Men visit prostitutes for a variety of reasons. For myself, a prostitute provides an outlet for my sexual needs in a situation I can control, and worry about whether my inadequacy will be mocked. (I have a micro penis which I’m very self conscious about. I’ve been laughed at and ridiculed by women I’ve attempted intercourse with.) A prostitute can be a kind heart and make me feel like a man.

      – A punter through circumstance


      1. Dear Bare With Me,

        We know that many (perhaps most) punters are not aware of the damage that their behaviour causes the women in prostitution. We are asking you to open your eyes, to see that it is a fundamentally unequal relationship that causes IMMENSE damage to the person being prostituted as well as to the whole of society. I believe it also causes damage to the punter themselves.

        You buy the lie that the prostituted woman thinks you are marvelous and now you believe it – that no woman would want you unless you pay her to pretend she wants you. How sad is that? The reality is that we are all a mixture of good and bad and finding a partner who can love and accept us is not always easy. And the further you are from the media’s rigid rules of what is “normal”, the harder it can be. But it is possible and I urge you to give up prostituting and find the courage to seek for a mutually satisfying relationship.

        Here is some more food for thought:




  3. Totally agree, its like the 1 in 3 schoolgirls that are sexually assaulted at school. Either we have a few bad men who are crazy busy, or more likely we have 1 in 3 of the male population who openly use violence and 2 in 3 who are happy to use sexist hate speech and may well provoke violent confrontations through their discriminatory language and actions.

    Liked by 1 person

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