myrna balk, artist
etchings, woodcuts, and monoprints sculpture photographs artist statement and bio fiber arts

The Demands of Men
Male demand is at the root of the abuse of women trafficked and prostituted.

from The Demand Factor: Buying Despair
Woodcuts, etchings, and collages by Myrna Balk

The Demand Factor

"The Buyers" - Collage on packing paper 33" x 56""The Buyers"
Collage on packing paper

waiting for the prey"Waiting for the Prey"
Foamcore cutouts
6'x17' (each 3-4'x18")

The Men
"Waiting for the Prey"
Foamcore cutouts
6'x17' (each 3-4'x18")

Most laws related to soliciting sex apply equally to men and women, yet only 10 % of all arrests are men.

Sexual exploitation of women and girls is a money making business. Without the demand there would be no business involving the abuse of women.

Some facts about the men that abuse women:

  • The age range is 16-90 and they come from all walks of life: working class, fast food workers, truckers, professionals, doctors, lawyers, and police.
  • They see themselves as respectable “regular guys”, not mean.
  • Gang rape is seen in bachelor parties and gang initiations.
  • A US study indicated that women may service from 1-10 men a night; a law enforcement study indicated that the number is closer to 6 to 20 a day.
  • Many men think of visiting a prostitute as proof of masculinity and part of peer culture; they deny intent to do harm. (Source: CATW)
  • Men who go to prostitutes have a choice and they choose to buy sex; 92% of the women prostituted would choose to leave the situation if they could find a place to stay and a support system.
  • The 1998 Manhattan Yellow Pages has 52 pages of escort services - legal businesses that frequently front as prostitution networks. In 1997, there were 35 pages.

(Police department statistics, Kit. R. Roane, "World’s Oldest Profession Moves Off the Streets," New York Times, 23 February 1998)

Not a victimless crime:

  • Condoms are not used by half of the men.
  • There is an increased incidence of post traumatic stress syndrome and cervical cancer among prostituted women and girls. (Source: Melissa Farley and Vanessa Kelly)
  • Alcohol and drug use in prostituted women and girls is related to the psychological trauma. It is a means of anesthetizing their physical aversions to the situation.
  • The death rate of women prostituted is 40% higher than the general public.
  • “...for prostituted youth, suicide attempt rate of 76%, roughly twice that typically found among the street youth.”
  • Emotional pain was composed of experiences with and feelings of isolation, rejection/betrayal, lack of control, and most pervasively, low self-worth. The participants viewed the origins of their emotional distress in their abusive and neglectful upbringing.

(“Suicide and prostitution among street youth from Adolescence", summer 2002)

Looking Forward

In most states paying for sex is a criminal act. However men are rarely arrested. this is beginning to change. Rather than sanctioning prostitution, states can address the demand by penalizing the men who buy women. Currently, of all arrests related to prostitution, 10% are men and 90 % are women and girls. African American women are arrested in greater numbers than others. For years we minimized the harm done to women because of domestic violence and did not believe that a married woman could be raped. Society is slowly changing its attitudes and developing resources for dealing with this problem. These changes are coming about in part because of public awareness, educational/promotional campaigns, the voices of the abused and more regular enforcement of laws. Several ideas have been tried.

Johns Schools

  • In order to reduce prostitution and hold clients equally responsible for its existence, a number of programs have begun to focus on customers, providing workshops or classes designed to educate men about prostitution and its exploitative nature. These are so-called “Johns Schools”.
  • Most Johns Schools are diversion programs that are offered to first time offenders of prostitution. The Johns School is usually a full day activity comprised of several workshops addressing issues of sexual health, ethics, morality etc. * Although each John School is different, many of the "Schools" employ ex-sex workers to speak to offenders about their horrible experiences as sex workers.
  • The objective is often to use guilt and shame as a means to deter clients from purchasing the services of sex workers in the future. This includes publishing names in the newspaper and impounding cars.
  • Men convicted of prostitution are either required to participate as a condition of probation or invited to participate in exchange for receiving a reduced fine.
  • The choice and responsibility that men have to create egalitarian relationships without coercion or violence is stressed. (Sexual Exploitation Education Project, 1995)
  • Nora Hotaling, founder of SAGE (Standing Against Global exploitation) in San Francisco is often credited with starting the Johns School idea. After working with 6,000 men who were court ordered to go to the group, she observed that there can be change if the men feel they too have something to lose and if they get the message that it is not ok to abuse women and children. (Demand Dynamics the force of Demand In global Sex Trafficking)


Sweden has drafted legislation recognizing that without male demand, there would be a much-decreased female supply. Sweden has acknowledged that prostitution and the purchase of sexual services are criminal acts. Swedish law addresses the predatory actions of men who buy women for sex. Recognizing the inseparability of prostitution and trafficking, the law states: “Prostitution and trafficking in women are seen as harmful practices that cannot, and should not be separated; in order to effectively eliminate trafficking in women, concrete measures against prostitution must be put in place”. (Ekberg, 2003) The Swedish Act Prohibiting the Purchase of Sexual Services is a model. It targets the demand for prostitution by naming the demand as the men who use and abuse women in prostitution.


contact Myrna Balk for permission to reprint
July 14, 2008
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