Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 48, Issue 7, pp 1931–1935 | Cite as

Challenging the “Prostitution Problem”: Dissenting Voices, Sex Buyers, and the Myth of Neutrality in Prostitution Research

  • Maddy CoyEmail author
  • Cherry Smiley
  • Meagan Tyler

All research and policymaking on the prostitution system is deliberated and decided in the shadows of fundamentally incompatible positions. We recognize these positions along broadly similar lines as Benoit, Smith, Jansson, Healey, and Magnuson (2018) (although, as we shall discuss, with crucial differences): to legitimate prostitution as a form of labor, or recognize it as a form of male violence against women and girls. Over the past decade, the latter approach has gained significant momentum. The Equality (or Nordic) Model, pioneered in Sweden in 1999, is now in place (with localized variations), in Norway and Iceland (2009), Canada (2014),1 Northern Ireland (2015), France (2016), and the Republic of Ireland (2017) (Bindel, 2017; Tyler et al., 2017). The decriminalization of selling sex, combined with provision of exiting support, criminalization of buying sex, and public education, is rooted in recognition not only that prostitution and trafficking for sexual exploitation are...



  1. Benoit, C., Smith, M., Jansson, M., Healey, P., & Magnuson, D. (2018). “The prostitution problem”: Claims, evidence, and policy outcomes. Archives of Sexual Behavior. Scholar
  2. Bhattacharya, M. (2016). Neither ‘free’ nor ‘equal’ work: A Marxist-feminist perspective on prostitution. Indian Journal of Women and Social Change, 1(1), 82–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bindel, J. (2017). The pimping of prostitution. London: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bishop, R., & Robinson, L. (1999). In the night market: Tourism, commerce and sex in contemporary Thailand. Women’s Studies Quarterly, 27(1/2), 32–46.Google Scholar
  5. Boyle, K. (2012). The myth of objectivity: A reply to Weitzer. Violence Against Women, 18(4), 506–511.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Butler, C. N. (2015). A critical race feminist perspective on prostitution and sex trafficking in America. Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, 27(1), 95–139.Google Scholar
  7. Carter, V. (2004). Prostitution and the new slavery. In C. Stark & R. Whisnant (Eds.), Not for sale: Feminists resisting pornography and prostitution (pp. 85–88). Melbourne: Spinifex Press.Google Scholar
  8. Carter, V., & Giobbe, E. (1999). Duet: Prostitution, racism and feminist discourse. Hastings Women’s Law Journal, 37(1), 37–57.Google Scholar
  9. Cho, S., Dreher, A., & Neumayer, E. (2013). Does legalized prostitution increase human trafficking? World Development, 41(1), 67–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Connell, R., & Pearse, R. (2015). Gender in world perspective. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  11. Coy, M. (2008). The consumer, the consumed and the commodity: Women and sex buyers talk about objectification in prostitution. In V. Munro & M. Della Giusta (Eds.), Demanding sex: Critical reflections on the regulation of prostitution (pp. 181–198). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  12. Coy, M., Horvath, M., & Kelly, L. (2007). It’s just like going to the supermarket: Men buying sex in East London. Report for Safe Exit. London: Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit, London Metropolitan University.Google Scholar
  13. Earle, S., & Sharp, K. (2007). Sex in cyberspace: Men who pay for sex. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  14. Edwards, T. (2015). For the sake of equality: Moving towards the Nordic model of prostitution law in Canada. In M. Kiraly & M. Tyler (Eds.), Freedom fallacy: The limits of liberal feminism (pp. 175–188). Melbourne: Connor Court Publishing.Google Scholar
  15. Farley, M., Golding, J., Matthews, E., Malamuth, N., & Jarrett, L. (2017). Comparing sex buyers with men who do not buy sex: New data on prostitution and trafficking. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 32(23), 3601–3625.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Farley, M., & Kelly, V. (2000). Prostitution: A critical review of the medical and social sciences literature. Women and Criminal Justice, 11(1), 29–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Farley, M., Lynne, J., & Cotton, A. (2005). Prostitution in Vancouver: Violence and the colonization of First Nations women. Transcultural Psychiatry, 42(2), 242–271.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Farley, M., Matthews, N., Deer, S., Lopez, G., Stark, C., & Hudon, E. (2011). Garden of truth: The prostitution and trafficking of Native women in Minnesota. St Paul: William Mitchell College of Law.Google Scholar
  19. Graham, E. (2014). More than condoms and sandwiches: Feminist investigation of the contradictory promises of harm reduction approaches to prostitution. Doctoral thesis, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.Google Scholar
  20. Grootboom, G. (2018). Exit! A prostitution survivor voice from South Africa. Indian Journal of Women and Social Change, 2(2), 202–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Holt, T., & Blevins, K. (2007). Examining sex work from the client’s perspective: Assessing johns using on-line data. Deviant Behaviour, 28(4), 333–354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. hooks, b. (2013). Writing beyond race: Living theory and practice. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  23. Jakobsson, N., & Kotsadam, A. (2013). The law and economics of international sex slavery: Prostitution law and trafficking for sexual exploitation. European Journal of Law and Economics, 35(1), 87–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Jovanovski, N., & Tyler, M. (2018). “Bitch, you got what you deserved!” Violation and violence in sex buyer review of legal brothels. Violence Against Women, 24, 1887–1908.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Macleod, J., Farley, M., Anderson, L., & Golding, J. (2008). Challenging men’s demand in Scotland: A research report based on interviews with 110 men who bought women in prostitution. Glasgow: Women’s Support Project. Retrieved from Accessed 1 Nov 2018.
  26. Madden Dempsey, M. (2017). What counts as trafficking for sexual exploitation? How legal methods can improve empirical research. Journal of Human Trafficking, 3(1), 61–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Marttilla, A. (2008). Desiring the ‘other’: Prostitution clients on a transnational red-light district in the border area of Finland, Estonia and Russia. Gender, Technology and Development, 12(1), 31–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Milrod, C., & Weitzer, R. (2012). The intimacy prism: Emotion management among the clients of escorts. Men and Masculinities, 15(5), 447–467.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Miriam, K. (2005). Stopping the traffic in women: Power, agency and abolition in feminist debates over sex-trafficking. Journal of Social Philosophy, 36(1), 1–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Monroe, J. (2005). Women in street prostitution: The result of poverty and the brunt of inequity. Journal of Poverty, 9(3), 69–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Moran, R. (2013). Paid for: My journey through prostitution. Melbourne: Spinifex Press.Google Scholar
  32. Nelson, V. (1993). Prostitution: Where racism and sexism intersect. Michigan Journal of Gender and Law, 1(1), 81–89.Google Scholar
  33. Norma, C., & Tankard-Reist, M. (2016). Prostitution narratives: Stories of survival in the sex trade. Melbourne: Spinifex.Google Scholar
  34. Ondrasek, S., Rimnacova, Z., & Kajanova, A. (2018). “It’s also kind of an adrenalin competition”—Selected aspects of the sex trade as viewed by clients. Human Affairs, 28(1), 24–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. O’Neill, M. (2001). Prostitution and feminism: Towards a politics of feeling. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  36. Outshoorn, J. (2004). Introduction: Prostitution, women’s movements and democratic politics. In: Outshoorn, J. (Ed.), The politics of prostitution: Women’s movements, democratic states and the globalisation of sex commerce, pp.1–20. Cambridge: University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Rosario-Sanchez, R. (2016). The construction of masculinity in the online communities where men talk about their experiences as buyers in the sex trade. Masters thesis, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR. Retrieved from Accessed 1 Nov 2018.
  38. Sahu, A., Mondol, R., Khatoon, F., Chettry, N., & Khatoon, N. (2017). The insider voice about prostitution. Indian Journal of Women and Social Change, 2(1), 81–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Smiley, C. (2016). A long road behind us, a long road ahead: Towards an Indigenous feminist national inquiry. Canadian Journal of Women and the Law, 28(2), 308–313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Stark, C. (2006). Stripping as a system of prostitution. In J. Spector (Ed.), Prostitution and pornography: Philosophical debate about the sex industry (pp. 40–49). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Turner, J. (2012). Means of delivery: The trafficking of women into prostitution, harms and human rights discourse. In M. Coy (Ed.), Prostitution, harm and gender inequality: Theory, research and policy (pp. 33–52). Farnham, UK: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  42. Tyler, M. (2016). Where do survivors fit in Australian sex industry research? Melbourne: The Australian Sociological Association. Retrieved from Accessed 1 Nov 2018.
  43. Tyler, M., Carson, L., Chambers, K., Farhall, K., Jeffreys, S., Jovanovski, N., … Weiss, C. (2017). Demand change: Understanding the Nordic approach to prostitution. Melbourne: Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Australia (CATWA). Retrieved from Accessed 1 Nov 2018.
  44. Tyler, M., & Jovanovski, N. (2018). The limits of ethical consumption in the sex industry: An analysis of online brothel reviews. Women’s Studies International Forum, 66(1), 9–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Waltman, M. (2011). Sweden’s prohibition of purchase of sex: The law’s reasons, impact, and potential. Women’s Studies International Forum, 34(5), 449–474.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Williams, S., Lyons, L., & Ford, M. (2008). “It’s about bang for your buck, bro”: Singaporean men’s online conversations about sex in Batam, Indonesia. Asian Studies Review, 32, 77–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Yonkova, N., & Keegan, E. (2014). Stop traffick! Tackling demand for sexual services of trafficked women and girls. Dublin: Immigrant Council of Ireland.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Gender, Sexualities and Women’s Studies ResearchUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  2. 2.Nlaka’pamux and Diné Nations, 2016 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation ScholarConcordia UniversityMontrealCanada
  3. 3.Centre for People, Organisation and WorkRMIT UniversityMelbourneAustralia

Personalised recommendations