How Many Americans Pay for Sex?

via About’s Sexuality blog, come the results of the US National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior. From the blog:

The survey, which is the largest nationally representative survey of sexual behaviors conducted in the U.S. since 1994, included a question about transactional sex. Transactional sex is a term one comes across primarily in research and development work, and is usually used to describe sex that is exchanged for money, goods or services. Transactional sex may or may not be considered sex work or prostitution by those involved.

and the figures in question:

  • Overall 3% of men and .6% of women report having had transactional sex within the past year
  • For both men and women, those aged 50-59 were most likely to report engaging in transactional sex in the past year, 6.2% of men and 1.6% of women.

I have often contended that we should remove the stigma of sex work as a marginal activity that only serves the lowest sectors of society. The stereotype of the “crack whore” or the sex worker who is submerged in the most depraved of conditions is not realistic. Sure, it is true for a portion of sex workers, but it is incomplete. The figures above are demographically significant and not some negligible segment of the population that can be dismissed as an oddity. Until legislation starts protecting those who voluntary engage in the trade, providing them tools for their safety and self care, there is going to be a great number of people who will be faced with avoidable dangers.

The current portrayal of sex workers as victims of either crime (via trafficking) or the most horrendous of social circumstances (i.e. “crack whores”) actually does nobody any favors because it presents people as “beyond help or repair” and it allows the institutional hand-washing by presenting the issue as one that cannot be improved. When more than 6% of men between the ages of 50 and 59 admit to paying for sex, we should know better than to treat it as a “marginal problem”.

For the past decade and a half I have been making all my content available for free (and never behind a paywall) as an ongoing practice of ephemeral publishing. This site is no exception. If you wish to help offset my labor costs, you can donate on Paypal or you can subscribe to Patreon where I will not be putting my posts behind a lock but you'd be helping me continue making this work available for everyone. Thank you.  Follow me on Twitter for new post updates.

Leave a Reply

Scroll to top