2005 December 02 Friday
British Sex Market Doubles In 10 Years

Many more men are paying to get some. (same press release here)

The rate of paid-for sex with women has doubled in a decade, reveals research in Sexually Transmitted Infections.

The findings are based on the results of two national surveys of 11,000 British adults in 1990 and 2000 (Natsal). Respondents were asked about their sexual lifestyles and attitudes to sex. And men were asked if they had ever paid for sex.

In 1990, 5.6% of the men said they had paid for sex at some time during their lives, with 2% saying they had done this within the previous five years, and 0.5% within the past year.

Ten years later, the comparable figures were twice as high.

In 2000, almost 9% of men said that they had ever paid for sex, while 4.2% said they had done so within the previous five years, and 1.3% said they had done so over the past year.

Almost 1 in 10 say they have ever paid for sex. But some of the men who said they hadn't may yet do so. So perhaps the lifetime odds of ever eventually paying for sex are higher for younger.

The 2000 survey results showed that men who said they had paid for sex within the previous five years were more likely to be aged between 25 and 34 and single. They were also more likely to live in London, and to have had more sexual partners.

Over a third of them had had 10 or more sexual partners during the previous five years. And over half had had new sexual partners while abroad, including in countries with higher rates of HIV and sexually transmitted infections than the UK.

But fewer than one in five had gone to a sexual health clinic during that time. And only one in seven had been tested for HIV, although almost one in 10 said they had had a sexually transmitted infection.

The authors suggest a rising divorce rate, sex tourism, and the increasing availability of commercial sex services may help to explain the trend.

Have prices dropped? Maybe a lot more Eastern European and Russian women have flooded into London to offer their services. So perhaps availability has risen and prices have dropped. How much of the change is due to increased demand and how much to increased supply?

Will the use of prostitutes continue to rise? Will it become so widespread that it gains more legitimacy? It would be interesting to see a similar survey done in other European countries. Which country has the highest rate of use of prostitutes? The Netherlands perhaps?

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2005 December 02 11:05 PM  Culture Compared

Stephen said at December 3, 2005 12:36 AM:

From the wonderful nationmaster page:

According to the paper "Prostitution and the sex discrepancy in reported number of sexual partners", the number of full-time equivalent prostitutes in a typical area in the United States (Colorado Springs, CO, during 1970 - 1988) is estimated at 23 per 100,000 population (0.023%), of which fraction some 4% were under 18. The paper goes on to estimate a mean number of 868 male sexual partners per prostitute per year of active sex work, and offers the conclusion that men's self-reporting of prostitutes as sexual partners is seriously under-reported. The length of these prostitutes' working careers was estimated at a mean of 5 years.

A 1994 study found that 16 percent of 18 to 59-year-old men in a U.S. survey group had paid for sex (Gagnon, Laumann, and Kolata 1994). Unscientifically comparing the rates given by the two studies cited here alone, assuming a steady-state model, and adjusting for the five-year working career of women prostitutes, this can be used to estimate that [have-ever-been] male clients outnumbered [have-ever-been] female prostitutes by a ratio of roughly 80:1.

A number of reports over the last few decades have suggested that prostitution levels have fallen in sexually-liberal countries, perhaps as because of the increased availability of non-commercial non-marital sex.

The Bearded Funster said at December 3, 2005 4:07 AM:

The truth is Randall, that all of these self-reported surveys are a load of trash ancan be safely disregarded as a serious study.
No man will ever honestly and truthfully divulge details of his prostitution habit to a stranger.

Hugh Angell said at December 3, 2005 5:39 AM:

I might agree with the "Bearded Funster" on the difficulty of getting accurate info from
a survey on the use of prostitutes but there are factors that lead me to believe the rise
in the use of prostitutes is real. Consider immigration into the UK. London actually has
more new immigrant arrivals per year now than New York City. Many of these new 'immigrants'
are illegal and are young single men from third world/Islamic societies. As with illegal
immigration into the US the gender ratios are heavily tilted toward males and whatever one's religion the biology remains the same.

This gender imbalance combined with third world/Islamic views on male/female relations may
also account for more than an increase in visits to prostitutes. It may also be a factor
in the rise in the number of rapes in Western societies that harbor large numbers of single
male immigrants from atavistic societies.

daveg said at December 3, 2005 7:13 AM:

These serveys tell you how many people will say they have done X. As the number changes over the years it is interesting to speculate why it changes. Is it that the underlying act has actually increase or that people are just inclided to tell you that the act was committed. Of course, they could be lying and saying the committed the act when they didn't as easily as not admitting they did the act when the did, although in this case the later is probably more likely than the former one would think.

So why are more british men telling us they paid for sex, that is the question.

passerby said at December 3, 2005 9:34 AM:

The internet could be playing a huge role in this trend, lowering transactions costs, cutting out middlemen, and increasing competition. I suspect this trend is real, and more studies will confirm it. The increased supply, and easy internet access may help explain part of the trend, but it’s really a product of our sex obsessed, fragmented modern culture. Sex is the modern religion, and the only way to have any sort of transcendent experience.

Marvin said at December 3, 2005 11:51 AM:

I wonder what effect technology will have on the prostitution industry, in the long run. Nude telesex over the internet is becoming more common. With improved teledildonics, (see Wikipedia for more details), more and more men who might have sought a prostitute may be staying home.

The portrayal of sex in "Demolition Man" may grow more accurate with time. STDs should be less common, as might abortions and illegitimacy. One never knows. Lionel Tiger described the unanticipated results of birth control in "The Decline of Males." Unintended consequences happen.

passerby said at December 3, 2005 6:45 PM:

I think Naomi Wolf exposes a key reason why Prostitutes are probably getting more business - the rise of internet porn.
"normal" women just can't compete with waxed and enhanced professional's.

It will be very interesting to see when society begins to realize that unrestained porn consumption, like smoking or fast food, is harmful to its members.

Stephen said at December 3, 2005 7:44 PM:

Passerby: I don't think I agree with that hypothesis because there's no data that the market price for prostitution has increased by more than the inflation rate, which I would expect to be seeing if demand was increasing. Then again, maybe that's not necessary because prices would remain the same if supply also increases at the same rate as the demand, and that could well happen given the ease of entry into the market.

Another test of the hypothesis might be that I'd expect to be seeing data showing that the rate of prostitution in internet-pervasive countries is increasing at a greater rate than in 3rd world countries where browsing is not so available.

As a general comment, prostitution is very lucrative if you consider that it is essentially unskilled work. Indeed, earnings are inversely proportional to age and experience (unlike every other industry). Here are some stats comparing prostitution income against other unskilled work. The figures are taken from this really interesting paper on the economics of prostitution.

France (mid 15th century)

Prostitution Fee: One blanc/half hour
Unskilled equiv: Two blancs/day for agricultural work

Japan (1934)

Prostitution Fee: 884RB (prostitutes) 575RB (geisha)
Unskilled equiv: 130 for factory work yes

West Germany (1947–72)

Prostitution Fee: More than “working women” (data taken from analysis of 1,195 police charge sheets)

Nevada (1973)

Prostitution Fee: 350/week + room & board (brothel based)
Unskilled equiv: 135/week

Thailand (early 1980s)

Prostitution Fee: 10,000 tip
Unskilled equiv: 150–450 for housemaid

Munich (1981)

Prostitution Fee: 50,000–110,000/year
Unsklled equiv: 25,175/year

Los Angeles (1990–91)

Prostitution Fee: 23,845/year
Unskilled equiv: 17,192/year for female service worker

Montreal (1993)

Prostitution Fee: 75% female and 35% male prostitutes earned more than 50,000/year
Hospital Orderly: No orderlies earned more than 50,000/year;

Indonesia (mid 1990s)

Prostitution Fee: U.S.$1,500–2,500
Skilled equiv: Much higher than midlevel civil servant

Barcelona (1995)

Prostitution fee: U.S.$300–2,000/day (low-end brothels)
U.S.$1,000–2,000/day (saunas)
U.S.$1,000 (call girls, one client per night)
Average income: U.S.$18,799/year (per capita GDP, 1994)

Germany (1997)

Prostitution Fee: 400–1,200/day net of room rent
Average income: 42,224/year (per capita GDP, 1995)

Brazil (1997)

Prostitution fee: 30/client or 100/night
minimum wage: 120/month minimum wage

Malaysia (late 1990s)

Prostitution fee: 6 times unskilled work

Randall Parker said at December 3, 2005 8:01 PM:


The movies and TV shows already show much better looking women - albeit with clothes on. Maybe the internet has contributed further to dissatisfaction with normal looking women. But men have already been looking at magazine porn for years. Movie porn too for that matter.

The study above is for 1990 to 2000. The internet wasn't nearly so big in 2000 as it is in 2005. Also, internet connections were slower. I wonder what impact the internet had in 2000.

Mark said at December 4, 2005 8:52 AM:

A drought of farm labor

Furthermore, America is not getting the cheap labor it expects from undocumented workers because of the unseen cost of $10.5 billion spent a year for health, education, and incarceration of such workers, he says. "If you started factoring in all the costs associated with these low-wage workers, you would realize the cost of a head of lettuce is prohibitive in this situation."

Mark said at December 4, 2005 12:03 PM:

Some good news.


In 1972, the average Mexican family had seven children. Today the number is 2.1 children per family. The population is growing at only 1.4 percent per year -- and the rate is declining, compared to 3.4 percent in the 1970s.

Patrick said at December 4, 2005 2:27 PM:

I agree that the real change is in the % of men who will admit to using a prostitute, we have no real data on the actual rates of use.

So the real question is :"is internet porn responsible for men being more ready to admit to using prostitutes"?

Does the widespread use of one sexual service increase the acceptability of another sexual service?

It seems to me that you would need a good argument to say it wouldn't.

Randall Parker said at December 4, 2005 2:55 PM:


I would expect a willingness to admit to the use of prostitutes would be accompanied by an actual real increase in the use of prostitutes.

I bet the influx of Eastern European prostitutes as a result of the collapse of the Eastern bloc kept prices down low enough to enable a large real increase in the use of prostitutes.

Would the availability of porn on the internet increase the demand for prostitutes?

passerby said at December 4, 2005 11:14 PM:

The availability of porn on the Internet is just one factor increasing the demand for prostitutes. The Internet also makes it MUCH MUCH easier to find prostitutes in your local neighborhood. Just check out Craigslist - You'll be astonished (or maybe I was just naive). The competition is fierce, even in suburban neighborhoods.

The Bearded Funster said at December 5, 2005 4:31 AM:

I really doubt that the extent of prostitution (ie the number of women who derive a living from it, the number of "customer"), has changed at all since the earliest recorded history, let alone in comparison to recent decades.
The key factor here is male libido,- which can be take as a historical-time independant constant.
The fact is libidinous men will ALWAYS pay for it and seek out prostitutes no matter what, the only real issue here is the extent of denial, and the extent of the "hidden underworld", the milieu in which prostitution occurs.
A parallel here is with homosexuality.Just a few decades ago homosexuality in the West was subject to strict taboo, with moral and legal censure.Homosexual activity did take place (as we can assume it did under all eras of history), but in a way that was as hidden and as secret as possible to the outsider.
As I said before, the real issue here is not the extent of prostitution, which may be taken as a constant governed by a strictly biological stimulus, but the extent to which it is hidden.

Dominic said at February 17, 2006 6:47 AM:

Hello admin, nice site ! Good content, eautiful design, thank !

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