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Cory Silverberg

How Many Americans Pay for Sex?

By October 4, 2010

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This is the first in a series of blog posts about specific data coming from the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior. If you want to start at the beginning, start here.

I was thrilled to discover amongst the sexual behavior questions one expects from a large social survey of American's sexual activities, that the researchers behind the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (NSSHB) asked American's about paying for sex.

The survey, which is the largest nationally representative survey of sexual behaviors conducted in the U.S. since 1994, included a question about transactional sex. Transactional sex is a term one comes across primarily in research and development work, and is usually used to describe sex that is exchanged for money, goods or services. Transactional sex may or may not be considered sex work or prostitution by those involved.

The researchers included a question about transactional sex in the context of different kinds of partners. This is, in my opinion, a misunderstanding about the nature of transactional sex, which doesn't describe a relationship between two people as much as it describes the meaning and purpose of a particular sexual encounter. Still, I let out a little schoolgirl shriek when I saw that they asked about it at all, and I'm happy to have the data available now.

So, what did they find out?

  • Overall 3% of men and .6% of women report having had transactional sex within the past year
  • For both men and women, those aged 50-59 were most likely to report engaging in transactional sex in the past year, 6.2% of men and 1.6% of women.
  • Men reporting using condoms more often when engaging in transactional sex compared to sex with romantic partners

Of course these numbers don't tell us who was paying who, or whether the sex happened in the context of a relationship or with someone who the individual also had sex that could be described as non-transactional.

I'm just happy that a group of researchers undertaking such a large project, one that will be cited for many years to come, decided to include questions that reflect just a little bit more of the breadth and depth of human sexual experience. It may not be much, but it's a start. If you're interested in seeing the full details, you can download the full pdf of all nine articles, and just search for "transactional sex".

Read the original papers - Center for Sexual Health Promotion: National Survey of Sexual Health Behavior

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Comments
October 6, 2010 at 7:12 am
(1) Any Size Lingerie says:

This is truly a great blog posts. I had no idea that the people that paid for sex were older like that but then again it makes sense. Many people don’t feel like taking the time to do the whole mating ritual. Maybe that is why we lingerie and our producs mostly to the younger crowd. The older crowd doesn’t want to to deal with corsets and g strings. They just want action…lol

October 6, 2010 at 5:52 pm
(2) Irene says:

Never new that old man would pay for sex

October 6, 2010 at 6:36 pm
(3) Steve says:

If only 3% of men are customers of the sex trade and fewer than one percent of women are prostitutes, then why on earth are the politicians so torqued up about legalizing prostitution as is done in Holland (and I believe, Costa Rica)? With all that is written about prostitution, sex slaves, etc., I would have thought that a lot more people were customers. Or is the survey biased against sampling people who pay for sex?

October 12, 2010 at 5:17 am
(4) TJ says:

Yes it’s truly naive to not consider that many people crave intimacy. Sexual embrace is often something men will embrace – especially if they are mid life confirmed bachelors (often not to comfy with women) or disbled, or of course roaming married ‘romantic lotharios’.

Anyway, as an ex Professional, I believe that its time we accepted that a transaction as such is much more holistic and nurting than credited. Thus it’s time for better legislation to protect those who offer such a unique service. I hope the seeds of change have now been planted…

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