Men who purchase sex, known as johns, often use online social networking forums to find prostitutes in their area.
According to research published January 11 by the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE), the most effective way of stopping the sale and purchase of sex is by spending time at the epicenter of the problem.
"'Our Great Hobby': An Analysis of Online Networks for Buyers of Sex in Illinois", a study by Lara Janson, focused on men who posted on a website called the USA Sex Guide. In the three-month period studied, over 2,600 posts were created by johns about buying sex in Illinois. In those posts, johns discuss everything from where they buy sex to their successes and failures, and even violence against women and girls in the sex trade.
CAASE Executive Director Rachel Durchslag says, "What johns were very vocal about on the site was that when they felt consequences from law enforcement for their purchasing, many of them decided to stop purchasing or at least stop for a night or a particular period of time. What they said did not deter them was when law enforcement focused on arresting those who were being prostituted."
The men posting on the site discussed their successes and failures, making it easier for others to follow in their footsteps. Buying sex from women and girls who are possibly underage, under the control of a pimp, or the victims of trafficking was a popular topic, as was violence against women and girls initiated either by the johns, pimps, or others.
Some of the biggest discussions on the site are triggered by "reverse stings" by law enforcement, in which the men buying sex are targeted. After those occur, discussions between johns on whether or not they should continue buying sex appear on the forum.
However, when law enforcement targets prostituted women and girls or men of color, it does not appear to dissuade the johns on the forum from their activities.
"If we want to adequately and effectively reduce the demand for paid sex, and thus reduce the violence against prostituted people, we need to first understand what motivates men to purchase sex," CAASE Executive Director Rachel Durchslag said. "Lara Janson's report highlights, through johns' own words, how specific law enforcement responses to prostitution do deter men from purchasing sex."
Law enforcement can then use this information to reduce the problem in their communities.
Lieutenant Patrick Hoey with the Rockford Police Department explains how they can use this knowledge to stop the cycle of prostitution in Rockford. "What I did find interesting is some of the comments, some of the posters from Rockford talked about Rockford and talked about specifically what the Rockford police have done to combat this and they're giving warnings to each other 'be careful the Rockford police just made another prostitution bust.' So that's good to see that our enforcement efforts are driving away potential Johns."
Chicago had the most posts about buying sex in Illinois, with Rockford coming in second. Melrose Park, Washington Park, Lombard, and Bloomington came in next. Venues johns bought sex in ranged from the street to businesses like massage parlors and strip clubs.
A full copy of the report can be found at www.caase.org/demandreport.
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