MYTH: Prostitution is about men buying women for sexual exploitation.
- Not all clients are male, not all sex workers are female, and not all interactions are heterosexual.
- Clients are retaining a service, not buying a person.
- Sex workers set boundaries about the services they provide, and refuse service when those boundaries are not respected.
- Abuse and exploitation in commercial sex are fueled most by making it a crime and depriving people of rights, especially legal recourse.
MYTH: Clients see the people they hire for sex as disposable, don’t care about their well-being, and have a greater propensity for violence.
- The study cited by opponents of sex worker rights to uphold these claims has been criticized for bias and numerous methodological flaws.
- More reliable surveys of sex work clients show a significant percentage expressing concern for the well-being of their service providers.
- Sex workers report that their regular clients often become friends who support them in other areas of their lives.
MYTH: Clients are pathetic losers who can’t get dates or sustain meaningful relationships.
- Many clients are in relationships, but turn to sex workers to address unmet needs.
- Some sex workers specialize in addressing the needs of disabled clients.
- Sex work clients have diverse and complex reasons for retaining the services of sex workers.
MYTH: The “Swedish model” of arresting and prosecuting clients will end demand for prostitution.
- There is no evidence that “end demand” strategies, such as Sweden’s law against paying for sex, actually reduces the prevalence of commercial sex.
- Evidence gathered by numerous human rights, public health, and sex workers’ groups point to the “Swedish model” fostering increased harm to sex workers.
- In contrast, research into the decriminalization model practiced in New South Wales and New Zealand reveals reduced harms and better relationships with police and social service agencies, with no significant increases in the number of sex workers.
MYTH: The vast majority of women selling sex are controlled by pimps and traffickers; criminalizing prostitution is the best way to fight sex trafficking.
- The best reliable studies put the rate of those deceived or coerced into commercial sex at ten percent or less.
- Those seeking to outlaw and eliminate sex work routinely rely on shoddy research and fabricated figures, lumping consensual sex work in with trafficking.
- There is no real evidence that criminalizing consensual adult sex work is effective in dealing with sex trafficking or other abuses.
- Some researchers have shown many individuals enter sex work because it provides better opportunities than other occupational choices.
- Full decriminalization provides better ways of fighting coercion and trafficking, by allowing sex workers and sex work clients to report suspicions of abuse.
MYTH: People who sell sex routinely experience violence and abuse at the hands of pimps and clients; most prostitutes suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
- The most reliable research shows that police are the biggest perpetrators of violence and abuse against sex workers.
- The only source for the PTSD claim is a discredited paper by Melissa Farley, an avowed opponent of sex workers’ rights who used a 15-minute self-administered questionnaire; the National Center for PTSD considers such a method to have “poor validity”.
- Many sex workers take precautions to reduce their risk of being abused or attacked, such as screening potential clients.
- Full decriminalization gives sex workers more power to protect themselves and get legal recourse against abuses.
MYTH: The average age of entry into prostitution is thirteen.
- This is a blatant misrepresentation derived from two sources: a) a survey of young people under 18 years old; b) a 30 year-old survey of 200 sex workers who were asked what age they first had sexual intercourse.
- The figure doesn’t even make sense mathematically.
MYTH: The Super Bowl and other major sporting events are magnets for sex traffickers.
- This claim has been repeated by many who confuse consensual sex work with trafficking, but without any proof.
- Law enforcement and “anti-trafficking” groups routinely claim tens of thousands of “victims” at such events – but actual evidence shows few if any cases uncovered.
- The Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women considers these claims “based on misinformation, poor data, and a tendency to sensationalize”, and raises the question of whether police efforts waste resources and do more harm than good.