Almost half of men who paid for sex are in a relationship, including marriage, with a similar percentage stating they paid for sex a few times a year.
The new findings are from a study conducted by university researchers, who also found that the majority of those who paid for sex were third-level graduates and a quarter earned more than €60,000 a year.
Most men also said they would see different sex workers and some expressed concern for the welfare of the women providing sexual services.
The findings are based on an online survey of 446 men as well as a smaller number of face-to-face interviews and was published this month. The new findings are based on a broader study conducted in 2014 by Dr Susann Huschke of the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa and Dirk Schubotz of Queen’s University Belfast.
The survey included the views of men who paid for sex on both sides of the border, including 64% of respondents who lived in the Republic. Almost two-thirds were aged between 31 and 50, and almost two-thirds of respondents said they were Irish nationals.
While 42% said they were single, 52% said they were not in a relationship. Among respondents, 58% were employed and another 25% described themselves as self-employed, with only a small percentage either without a job or unable to work.
According to the research article: “Among the respondents were farmers, doctors, civil servants, care workers, bank clerks, accountants, electricians and company directors.”
It said the vast majority of respondents used the services of internet-advertised “escorts”.
When it came to the frequency with which respondents had purchased sexual services, 46.1% said they had bought sex a few times a year while almost 31% said they paid for sex once or twice a month. Just under 3% said they paid for sex every week.
While some men reported paying for sex due to lack of self-confidence and shyness around women, others said “they had sex with sex workers because they were living in ‘sexless’ or ‘loveless’ marriages with no physical contact, or because their relationship with their partners had broken down”.
“Some respondents stated that sex with a sex worker is the easier, but also a ‘more honest’ and safer option than affairs or one-night stands.”
On what they perceived as the negative consequences of buying sex, most referred to the stigma of paying for sex and also to the fear of being found out. The third highest reply to the question, at 36%, was a “worry about the well-being of the sex worker/prostitute”.
In the context of the Turn Off The Red Light campaign here and debate in the North about criminalising the buying of sex, the authors argued that most clients took the well-being of the sex worker into consideration: “They worry about the possible negative effects of selling sex and state that they would not pay for sex with somebody who appears coerced or forced. This constitutes a stark contradiction to the image painted in the public discourse on both sides of the Irish border, where clients are described as sexual predators who do not care whether the person they pay for sex is an independent sex worker or a victim of trafficking.”
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