Tuesday, January 12, 2010


I was driving home last night and heard a remarkable documentary on CBC radio, which I might just add, has a lot of great educated listening material. Chris Atchison is a researcher in Simon Frazer University's sociology and criminology department. http://www.johnsvoice.ca/ He was talking about his research on "John's" men who buy sex and discussing how the findings of his research discreditted the stereotypes of political correctness. He'd given questionaires to some 1000 men who had bought sex from prostitutes and conducted in depth interviews of some 26 of the men. Interestingly his research correlated with other research of prostitutes which showed that in contrast to the dirty swaggering arm dragging neanderthal psychopaths the vast majority of men ,98%, who used the services of sex workers were not violent or abusive but genuinely cared for the women. Indeed, many described relationships and some even married. Mostly there was an atmosphere of sadness and generally both the sex workers and the John's came off sounding marginalized, survivalists, so to speak in a winner take all reality. The john's ranged from tradesmen to lawyers and professionals.

I enjoyed hearing this research because over the years I've talked to dozens of prostitutes at length in my work. Most commonly they've had drug problems and seen the 'john' not as predator but as prey.
The 'pimps' I've treated were for the most part downright predatorial.
The 'john's' I've seen have come to me for treatment of their sex addictions and frankly had no more negative attitude towards the sex workers than an alcoholic might have to a bar tender. They were thankful and disheartened by their 'disease' and didn't demean or discredit the women.
I have treated some who were violent, though very few and those when I worked in a state asylum for dangerously insane.
In contrast I had treated many women who had experienced violence in working as sex workers but the incidence of the violence was more a product of the situation, a street worker getting into a car with unknown stranger. Statistically the risk might be similiar for female or young male hitchhikers. And the former prostitutes themselves would say this saying that they'd done 'hundreds, thousands of tricks before I met that whacko'.
Because Chris Atchison's solid research so resonated with the anecdotal material of my practice I was impressed with his getting beyond the dialect binary code politically correct ideologies and getting at the diversity of the science of people and the human condition, and perhaps shedding some light on this area of darkness.
I know myself in my work with addiction I've so enjoyed seeing the many women who descended to using their bodies sexually to gain their drugs, not having to do that any more, letting go of the shame of that aspect of their disease and moving on out of the darkness into the light of recovery. Indeed I've enjoyed these 'prodigal daughter' stories of recovery as much as I've enjoyed the 'prodigal son' stories of the men who moved into a world of crime and violence extorting money for their drugs and later in recovery, sharing at AA and NA meetings how they 'don't need to do that anymore'. There's hope in these messages.
I think I heard in Chris Atcheson's research that same level of hope for humanity.

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