Prostitution in Canada: What is Demand?

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This blog post continues our series about prostitution in Canada. Our last blog post explored the question “what is prostitution”. Today, we focus on demand.

Our guest author for this post is Hennes Doltze, Program Manager for Diversion Programs at the Salvation Army Correctional and Justice Services in Winnipeg. When an individual is arrested for purchasing or attempting to purchase sexual services, they may qualify to attend the Diversion Program. The program aims to educate offenders about the harms of prostitution and the sex industry.

What is demand, and how does it drive prostitution?
Demand is when men pay money, give gifts, or provide needed items in exchange for sexual services. This can happen virtually (through pornography, online sex, etc.) and in real life (e.g. hotel and street prostitution). By seeking these sexual encounters whether it is online or in person, they create a market that in return creates more degrading and violent forms of sex.

Men who pay for sex seek intimacy, sex with no strings attached, or thrill and variety. They mostly do this with without any considerations for the woman’s feelings and wellbeing. They are sometimes also abusive or violent.

Without demand, would prostitution exist?
If there is no demand, there would be no “supply” meaning:

  • there would be far fewer women and girls and boys being pulled into prostitution
  • it would also make it far less interesting and profitable for traffickers and pimps to force vulnerable people into it since there would be no money to be made

Demand is the driving force of prostitution, not the “sellers” e.g. the women and girls who are exploited through it.

Who are the buyers of sex?

In our work, we see men from all backgrounds. We have young and older people, from 18 years old to 80 years. They come from all ethnic, national and cultural backgrounds. We have men who have lived in Canada all their lives and we have newcomers who have only been here for a couple of months. The one common factor is that they are all men. That’s why the demand for prostitution is absolutely a male issue.

Is demand inevitable?
Demand is not inevitable but takes time and effort to reduce. It requires a change of culture, primarily amongst men. The best way to address and reduce demand is:

  •  helping boys and young men develop a healthy sense of masculinity and sexuality
  • educate boys and men about the harms of sexual exploitations and all of its forms (pornography, prostitution, online exploitation, etc.) through discussions in high schools, universities, etc.
  • criminalizing the purchase of sexual services and enforcing it , prosecution and education (e.g. Prostitution Offender Programs)
  • for men to hold other men accountable and become champions for this cause
In our work, many participants have an eye-opening experience when they realize the impact of their participation in the sex industry. We have seen many men make changes in their lives and not be involved in prostitution anymore.

The view that demand perpetuates prostitution is a core principal of Canada’s current prostitution laws, which are embodied in the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (or PCEPA). Our next blog will explore PCEPA – what it is, how it works, and how it has been integrated into our judicial system since its inception in 2014.

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