New research from the University of Minnesota may help the fight against sex trafficking by telling us more about who the customers are.
The U of M center that released its findings Wednesday says their study is the first of its kind. It's based on more than 150 interviews with law enforcement, prosecutors, and social service workers
Who are they?
The researchers found those who pay for sex are predominantly middle-aged married white men who come from all parts of the state.
Women do purchase sex but in much lower numbers, the study says.
The buyers have money to spend and in many cases they are prominent members of the community. The executive summary of the study, which is called Mapping the Demand: Sex Buyers in the State of Minnesota, says sex buyers include: businessmen, doctors, lawyers, dentists, judges, professors, police officers, correctional officers, pastors, executives, truck drivers, manual laborers, farmers, and sailors.
They travel 30-60 miles
Instead of paying for sex in their hometown, these men typically travel elsewhere for it.
The men usually do the traveling as part of their work commute or on their lunch hour, the research found. Dr. Lauren Martin, who led the study, tells MPR News: "A lot of people might presume that sex buying is something that happens at night, at bars or something, But we really see it anchored around that workday."
Most of the buyers use the internet to arrange their encounters, the study says, but some solicit prostitutes directly – often on the street, at transit hubs, or in parks.
What are they paying for?
The report (you can read the whole 121 pages of it here) says the buyers are not paying for a sex act as much as for a sex experience.
They use their purchasing power to shape that experience, which is sometimes built around sexism, racism, or ageism. In terms of how much power and control the men exert, there's a range that extends from acting out fantasies to domination to violence to attempted murder.
Super Bowl's arrival focusing attention
In advance of the Super Bowl coming to Minneapolis in February, the U of M has also researched sex trafficking associated with the game.
While there is a spike in trafficking, they found it's pretty short-lived and is generally similar to the increases that occur around other big events.
The Women's Foundation of Minnesota, which paid for the new U of M research, says "We remain focused on ending sexual exploitation in Minnesota 365 days a year."