Sex customers in Norway 2002.

Author:Traeen, Bente


How many Norwegians have bought sexual services? Which background factors are associated with buying sex, and to what extent do sex customers use condoms? Our analyses are based on data from a questionnaire survey among a representative sample of 10,000 Norwegians aged 18-49 years in 2002. The response rate was 34%. The results showed that 13 % of the men and 0.3% of the women reported they had bought sex at some point of time in their life. Among men, experience of buying sex was related to birth cohort, marital status, attitudes and use of pornography. A total of 70 % of the male sex customers reported having used condoms at the most recent occasion of buying sex. There was an association between condom use during intercourse with a prostitute, and the number of years since the sex was bought. It seems sex customers have become better condom users over time.


The most common form of prostitution worldwide is the heterosexual. Most of those who sell sex are women, and most of the buyers are men. In the rare reversed cases the transactions are often heavily camouflaged (presents, sex tourism, etc). According to Baumeister & Vohs (2004), the female sex drive is more influenced by socio-cultural and situational factors than male sex drive. Men thus have a lower erotic plasticity than women. This makes sex a female resource, and men seek sex from women. Male sexuality has no exchange value, but men give women other resources in exchange for sex. In this way, women become those who sell, and men become the buyers. These principles apply to prostitution, which is an obvious form of sexual exchange (Baumeister & Vohs, 2004). However, to what extent do men buy sex from women?

Only a few studies on buying sex based on representative population samples exist. An early Norwegian survey from the beginning of the 1980s among a random sample of men showed that 13% reported having bought sex from prostitutes (Prieur & Taksdal, 1989). Other researchers have compared self-reported experience of buying sex in males in different European countries between 1989 and 1992 (Leridon, van Zessen & Hubert, 1998). They found significant variation in the reporting. In Great Britain 6.6% of the men reported having bought sex (Wellings, Field, Johnson & Wadsworth, 1994), rising to 9.9% in Finland, 11.3% in Norway, 14.3% in the Netherlands, 18.7% in Switzerland, and 38.6% in Spain. In Sweden in 1996, 12.7 % of the male population, and none of the female reported having paid for sex (Mansson, 2000).

In the 1996 Swedish study, about 30 % of the men with experience buying sex reported they had bought sex only once, and about 25 % claimed they had bought sexual services on two to three occasions (Mansson, 2000). A total of 8% of men reported they had bought sex more than 20 times, and 2% claimed they had bought sex more than 50 times. This minority group contributed to raise the mean number of times having bought sex to 5.7, while the median was 2 times. Experience of buying sex was most frequently reported in the middle-aged group. Every fifth man in the age between 35 and 65 years reported he had bought sex. Furthermore, experience of buying sex was associated with number of sex partners in life. A minority of Swedish men was characterized as particularly sexually active, meaning having had more than 50 coital partners. In this group, 43% reported having paid for sex. The researcher concluded that these findings contradicted the hypothesis that buying sexual services functions as a substitute for an ordinary, non-commercial, sex partner. Buying sex seemed to be only one component of several in an active sex life among a small group of men with multiple partners.

In a later Swedish study it was found that men who bought sex mainly lived, or had lived, in permanent relationships (Mansson, 2000). More sex customers than non-customers had experienced divorce, often several times. The researcher interpreted this as a sign that sex customers change their partners more often than others, and may find it difficult to establish, or maintain, stable long-term relationships.

In a 2000 review of the literature, it was concluded that sex customers mainly constitute a group of middle-class men seeking satisfaction and excitement (Allgeier & Allgeier, 2000). The reasons for buying sex were varied. Some men claimed they had physical or emotional problems that made it difficult for them to find an ordinary partner. Other customers were married men who sought variation and novelty without having to become emotionally involved with the partner, men who because of their job were away from their home for longer periods of time, men who sought a kind of sex they could not or would not ask their permanent partner to participate in, and men who thought that only "bad girls" truly are interested in sex.

Australian researchers found that sex customers named four aspects of buying sex as important (McKeganey & Barnard, 1996). These aspects were the possibility to have sex with several different women, the possibility to seek out experience with women that have special physical features, the excitement in doing something socially unacceptable, and the limitation of the sexual meeting in terms of time and emotional involvement. In another study the personality characteristics of male sex customers in Melbourne and their motivation for buying sex was addressed (Xantidis & McCabe, 2000). Comparing sex customers and non-customers they found no differences between the groups in terms of age, education, marital status or professional status. The researchers also studied the degree of masculine and feminine traits in gender roles, and the degree of sexual and social ability, among the men. They found that the sex customers generally scored lower on the femininity dimension and...

To continue reading