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Why are more men using prostitutes?

The Magazine answers...

Do the figures reflect changes in behaviour or honesty
The number of men paying women for sex has nearly doubled in a decade, says research. Why?

One in 10 of the 11,000 men asked in a survey in 2000 said he used prostitutes, compared with one in 20 in 1990.

The figure is published for the first time in the latest edition of the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections.

But why such a sharp rise in just a decade?

Dr Helen Ward, lead author of the report, points to growing divorce rates, sex tourism like stag holidays and the increasing availability of commercial sex through such means as the internet.

She sees an increased commercialisation of sex in the media, such as "lad mags".

Sex psychologist Dr Lesley Perman-Kerr, who was not involved with the report, acknowledges sex is shedding its taboo and wonders if men are more willing to own up.

"Maybe men are just more open about it. Human beings don't tend to change that much and there's always been prostitutes and always been affairs."

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Research carried out in 1949 claimed one in four men used prostitutes so in that context the latest figures do not seem so startling.

However there are changes in sexual attitudes which could have contributed to an increase, says Dr Perman-Kerr.

"Men and women are saying they want the sex life they want and they're not prepared to put up with anything less.

"In my work I see that sex is one of the major issues within marriage and people are more prepared to talk about it, and I don't see an enormous difference between men and women complaining about it, but men have an easier outlet.

"Sex without commitment is another feature of sex with a prostitute. You can be who you want with who you want and very often people will not explore these things with a partner, even if it's something as innocuous as dressing up in women's clothes."

Ready cash

While men have prostitutes to express themselves with, this is not so available for women so some use casual relationships instead, she says.

And while stag weekends and divorce rates are probably "irrelevant influences", greater honesty among respondents must be considered. Work pressures too could be a factor.

I would like to see the possibility of people expressing themselves without resorting to paid sex
Dr Lesley Perman-Kerr
Chartered psychologist
"People are more overloaded with work and feel they don't have time to form relationships but still want to have sex. Money isn't the object but the desire to form a relationship with someone is not there. And the internet has made it more available."

But does it really matter if more men are seeing prostitutes?

"I think it's healthy for sexual expression but I don't think it's healthy to exploit people for sex or to have sexual practices that are harmful to another person," says Dr Perman-Kerr.

"But I would like to see the possibility of people expressing themselves without resorting to paid sex. That's the revolution that needs to happen."

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