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Long-term clients who access commercial sexual services in Australia: Dissociating from stereotypes

Long-term clients who access commercial sexual services in Australia: Dissociating from stereotypes

Sex industry clients are often cast in deviant stereotypes that are fuelled by moral philosophies but not supported by evidence. The aim of this qualitative study was to explore experiences of buying sex from the perspective of long-term clients themselves.

Participants for this online, anonymous study were recruited via online advertisements and through sex workers. A secure data collection tool was used wherein self-selecting volunteers completed a brief semi-structured questionnaire and wrote short narratives regarding their experiences with buying sex, guided by broad open questions. In total 137 people responded to the survey and twenty seven narratives of men who had been buying sex approximately monthly for over one year were included for in-depth analysis using an interpretive phenomenological approach.

The narratives highlighted strategies men employed to distance themselves from deviant stereotypes of clients of sex workers. Each narrative stressed several motivations to buy sex, with seeking intimacy being of greater importance than seeking sexual satisfaction. Other strategies included particular manners of paying and tipping that reinforced ‘good client’ etiquette and integrity, with some men framing payment as a romantic gesture and a mark of respect toward sex workers. Some participants held stereotypical beliefs which were projected on to other clients of sex workers. Almost all participants were reluctant to disclose to others that they bought sex due to stigma.

Examining clients’ motivations to buy sex, views of sex workers and perceptions of other sex industry clients revealed men’s strategies to diffuse internal and external stigma. Due to stigma, sex industry clients are reluctant to disclose their commercial sex activities to challenge current stereotypes. The study paves discussion of ethical sex industry client behaviour, opposing notions that men who buy sex are socially or sexually deviant, and has significance for sex industry law and regulation, particularly in discussions of criminalising commercial sex purchases.

Speakers: Hilary Caldwell
Areas of Interest / Categories: ASSERT 2012, Sex Work, Stigma

ASSERT 2012

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Sexual and reproductive health (S&RH) is a significant health issue for young people with concerns including unplanned pregnancies, rising rates of STIs, increasing incidence of unwanted sex and the impact of social media. Schools, as successful sites for health promotion in S&RH, is affirmed by international research.  Evidence supports teachers being best placed to impact on the sexual health and wellbeing of young people when a comprehensive, whole-school approach is taken linking curriculum and learning within the school environment to the wider school community. Despite strong government direction and excellent curriculum materials many teachers in Victoria remain reluctant to teach in this area.

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Gender variant individuals have often lived traumatic lives due to the attitudes and limited understanding of the people in their environment. Gender variant children have been institutionalised, subjected to aversion therapies and pressured to maintain secrecy and conform to society’s gendered expectations while dealing with bullying and harassment at school. Simultaneously their parents face societal bias and assumptions that allow their children to be marginalized. Understanding the needs of gender variant children and their parents is a necessary step towards the provision of suitable training and interventions for the support of gender variant children into adulthood.

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Research indicates that the escalation of erectile dysfunction in youthful men can be attributed to excessive Internet pornography use. Usage through adolescence and early adulthood, when the brain is at its peak of neuroplasticity and Dopamine levels are at their highest, creates an environment of increased vulnerability to addiction. Excessive use rewires the brain and interferes with the circuits involved in natural satiation mechanisms, resulting in numbed pleasure responses. Some researchers claim that the Internet’s unending novelty gives pornography the potential to become more addictive than drugs, food and gambling.

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Through the use of both quantitative and qualitative data from Australian and United States research, this paper explores polyamorous parenting in relation to schooling. In particular, this paper will focus on how polyparents negotiate the implications of heteronormative monogamy/coupledom as defined and upheld through the educational systems their children are attending. The research shows that polyparents are extremely reluctant to disclose their family structure to school officials, student welfare workers, teachers and other parents in school communities. There appear to be two major barriers to disclosure: a) the fear of legal/student welfare interventions, and b) social stigmatization and harassment of themselves and their children. 

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Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) is a qualitative research methodology which is concerned with understanding personal lived experience. According to Reid, Flowers and Larkin (2005), this methodology is particularly well suited to the field of sexual health and sexuality as it moves beyond disease and deficit focused approaches and complements the traditional biomedical discourse. For sexual health practitioners, the applied focus of this research methodology also lends itself to the development of sexual health resources and potential interventions.

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This study responds to significant issues related to the problematic nature of perceptions of sexuality in Australian society. It also explores the extent to which the students’ view of sexuality can be influenced through a sexuality education program delivered at tertiary level. An investigation of the literature, comprehensive interviews and feedback from students identified the factors which form the perceptions of sexuality that students have by the time they reach young adulthood and enter the sexology class. The study supports the considerable body of anecdotal evidence that has been gathered over thirty years in the award winning Department of Sexology at Curtin University.