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.