Why You Should Be Skeptical Of Study Saying Men Who Buy Sex Are Prone To Violence

Men who pay for sex may be more inclined to sexual violence and have less empathy for women, according a study that made headlines last week. But critics say there’s reason to doubt the study’s reliability and, more importantly, that the authors miss the point when it comes to the rights and well-being of sex workers.

The Study

The study, Comparing Sex Buyers With Men Who Do Not Buy Sex, relies on two-hour interviews with 202 men who were recruited from ads on Craigslist or in the Boston Phoenix and compensated $45 apiece. To balance the groups in regard to age, education and ethnicity, researchers selected the participants out of a group of 1,247 who initially responded to the ads. The study was published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence on Aug. 31.

Half of the men in the study were classified as “sex buyers,” meaning they have, at least once, paid for sex or exchanged “something of value” for a sex act, and half were classified as “non-sex-buyers.” (More on that later.)

Both groups of men interviewed included heterosexual, bisexual and homosexual individuals, though the majority of both groups — 89 percent of the “sex buyers” and 93 percent of the “non-sex-buyers” — identified as heterosexual.

The study’s primary conclusions were that the sex buyers were more likely to share personality traits seen in men who commit sexual violence, had “less empathy” for women who sell sex, and, on average, self-reported higher rates of “sexually aggressive” behavior.

The Criticism

The public should look at those results with a skeptical eye, critics say. The study’s lead researcher was Melissa Farley, founder and director of Prostitution Research and Education, a nonprofit with the stated goal of abolishing prostitution. The research was funded by a —> Read More