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Who Pays for Sex and Why? An Analysis of Social and Motivational Factors Associated with Male Clients of Sex Workers


A total of 1,225 men and women attending a commercial event in the state of Victoria, Australia were surveyed as to whether they had ever paid for sex. Of 612 men surveyed, 143 (23.4%) had paid for sex at least once. Men who had ever paid for sex were compared with male nonclients on 13 demographic and sexual history measures; only four significantly differentiated clients from nonclients. Clients were significantly older, less likely to have been educated beyond high school, less likely to report having a regular partner in the past 6 months, and more likely to report that their most recent sexual encounter was with a casual partner. Clients of sex workers reported the major reason for paying for sex was to satisfy their sexual needs (43.8%), followed by the belief that paying for sex was less trouble (36.4%), and that it would be entertaining (35.5%). A factor analysis of reasons for visiting sex workers identified three factors labelled Ease, Engagement, and Arousal. Together, these factors accounted for 55% of the variance associated with the factor solution of motivations for paying for sex. In a setting where commercial sex is legally available from brothels, it would appear that clients are unremarkable in their social characteristics and are motivated mainly by the ease of the commercial sex encounter, the need for engagement with another, and because they feel in need of sexual “relief.”

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Pitts, M.K., Smith, A.M.A., Grierson, J. et al. Who Pays for Sex and Why? An Analysis of Social and Motivational Factors Associated with Male Clients of Sex Workers. Arch Sex Behav 33, 353–358 (2004).

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  • commercial sex work
  • prostitution
  • sexual health