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New study to focus on people who buy sex

Advocates say action is needed to make sex work safer

The attitudes, beliefs and experiences of people who buy sex are the focus of a new study being done by a researcher through Burnaby, BC’s Simon Fraser University.

But at least one sex-trade advocate is questioning the need for yet another study.

Chris Atchison hopes the work will address the concerns of people who purchase sex and those raised by various community groups, health agencies and legislators.

“Our goal is to provide people who buy sex with a safe and secure venue for sharing their attitudes, opinions and experiences without fear of judgment, persecution or prosecution,” Atchison’s call for questionnaire submissions says.

However, Vancouver prostitution rights activist Jamie Lee Hamilton doubts the work will be representative of reality.

“As long as the act of sexuality is criminalized, people won’t be forthcoming,” she says. “I’m at a loss to see how that really helps.

“I could fill up a one-bedroom apartment with all the studies and research and questionnaires that go on around this issue,” Hamilton says.

“We need to move more into the area of actively making it safe.”

The survey asks a variety of questions about personal sexual behaviour and attitudes to prostitution.

The study covers buying services from sex trade workers who are male, female and transgendered.

It also lists “other” with a request for specification as to what that is.

Further, it asks for information on the preferred age of sex workers, where buyers find them, alcohol or drug consumption. And it asks the buyers if they worry about sex workers’ drug use.

The study also examines how open buyers are with others in their lives — spouses, partners, doctors, clergy etc – about buying sex. And how long buyers with regular sex partners/spouses have been with their partners.

Health wise, it approaches HIV/STD knowledge and condom usage.

On a geographic basis, the study examines if sex was bought in Canada or overseas.
In a section on victimization, the questionnaire asks about theft, being ripped off and physical violence on either side of the transaction.

The study also asks about the buyers’ knowledge of soliciting and prostitution laws.
Atchison is currently completing his doctoral dissertation in the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto. He could not be reached for further comment.

His dissertation research critically examines the nature of the gendered power relations that exist between the buyers and sellers of sex within the domain of heterosexual prostitution.

Hamilton suggests a better study might be on how the criminalization of sex has been detrimental to the well-being of society.