A former prostitute has called a report advising that prostitution should be decriminalised "ludicrous and offensive", for claiming that the sex trade will never end because men's need to buy sex is "ineradicable".
The 'Supply And Desire' research from the right-leaning think tank calls for Britain's £4 billion sex industry to be completely decriminalised. It says that "all attempts to regulate prostitution are ineffective, ill-informed and a waste of public money" and that women working in prostitution would be safer if laws prohibiting the business were removed.
Currently, it not illegal to sell or buy sex, but running a brothel, working as a group of prostitutes, soliciting on the street or any other third-party involvement in prostitution is illegal.
The report rejects what it calls the "feminist myth" that men and women have an equally strong desire for sex, saying that surveys from around the world show that men have a far greater desire for sex.
It claims that men have double the sexual desire of women, which creates a "sexual deficit" meaning that men look to pay for sex. As women get more independent, the report argues, this "deficit" is increasing as woman are now free to decide not to have sex or relationships. Therefore, it argues, "Male demand for sexual entertainments of all kinds is thus growing, and ineradicable."
The report adds that the demand for prostitution may have increased as people have become richer because "economic growth drives demand for luxuries" and sex is seen as a luxury.
Its author, Catherine Hakim, told The Huffington Post UK that after analysing over 30 sex surveys she had found "the imbalance of sexual interest between men and women, leading to the seriously high and continuing and inevitable demand for the sex industry, which therefore I conclude is never going to be eradicated."
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She added that moral objections or campaigns against prostitution would make no difference to its growth: "It's going to continue regardless. You don't stop people eating because you say there are moral grounds for staying an average weight. If there's an obesity epidemic, you don't stop people eating by telling them it's not a good idea to eat excessively: they carry on. This is no different. The moral thing just doesn't come into it. Human behaviour is human behaviour."
But Diane Martin, who survived trafficking and prostitution and is director of Dovetail which advises government around the sex trade, told HuffPost UK: "Prostitution is violence against women and girls, an industry based on a foundation of inequality and an abuse of human rights.
"The idea that men have no control over their sex drive is ludicrous and offensive. Anyone with the most basic understanding of prostitution and the sex industry knows that sex is not the fundamental driver, power and entitlement are."
"The report says that 'Economic growth drives demand for luxuries,'" she continued. "Here again we see women described as inanimate goods and learn that 'the distinction between amateur and professional sexual encounters is becoming increasingly blurred.'
"As a survivor of supposed 'high class' prostitution and being trafficked to an overseas prostitution ring, I can tell you that what is blurred is your eyesight after you've been battered and the blur of one man after another doing exactly what he wants regardless of your saying no."
"Removing ethics from being part of the study mirrors the practice of the sex industry itself; where women are stripped of both clothes and dignity and viewed as an expendable and interchangeable commodities.
"This reports reads like a charter for pimps and male sex buyers; offering them even more justification than they already give themselves that buying women's bodies is a need that must be met.
"The author describes prostitution laws as "outdated, misinformed and redundant" the very words I would use to describe the theories and recommendations in this report."
Critics slammed the IEA report for not addressing the ethics of prostitution, but Hakim explained a recent study from the institute had done this in detail. She added: "I'm a social scientist, so I write as a social scientist: I write about the facts. I'm not a priest and so I don't write about ethics, it's not my interest and it's not my area of expertise."
Emily Sawyer, a campaigner for LIFT, which calls for prostitution to be recognised as a form of violence against women, said she disagreed that men's demand for buying sex was "ineradicable".
"I don't think that you can make sweeping statements about men's sexuality. Living in a patriarchal society, women's sexual agency has not been encouraged as much as men's has. Women are seen as the objects rather than the agents, and that's how we have come to this situation. To say that men have an uncontrollable sexual desire is actually suggesting that men are incapable of self control, and that's quite insulting."
She believes that demand for prostitution could go down in future: "It could increase of decrease with legal and cultural changes. In Sweden, where they have decriminalised the women but criminalised the buyers [which is the approach LIFT supports] demand for prostitution has gone down."
She added that the report made negative suggestions for women in prostitution and for feminism: "The report says that women's economic independence means that men are looking for sex outside relationships, but the answer is not for men to pay for sex, because that means they are having sex with women who are often vulnerable and disadvantaged.
"It's only a minority of men who pay for sex and the rest of them seem to find other ways to satisfy these urges.
"There's no black and white in these arguments in research," she added. "Different countries have found different results in changing their rules around prostitution: in Iceland, which has been a pioneer of making the sex trade illegal, gender equality is higher than in many other countries. In 2013 an LSE report found that legalising prostitution actually increases human trafficking. But there isn't a final answer to these issues yet."
"But what we can see is that many women in prostitution experience depression, anxiety and PTSD, so there is much evidence that working as a prostitute, whatever your circumstances are, has a detrimental effect on your mental health."
Kat Banyard, a spokesperson for End Demand, an alliance of organisations calling on the Government to adopt the 'Sex Buyer Law' which would make it illegal for people to buy sex, said:
"As the Crown Prosecution Service recognises, prostitution is a form of violence against women. It is a cause and a consequence of inequality between women and men, not an inevitable fact of life. The overwhelming majority of those who end up in the prostitution trade are highly vulnerable and suffer acute harms as a result.
"The prostitution trade, and the trafficking of women in to it, is underpinned by the principles of supply and demand. A minority of men currently feels entitled to sexually exploit women and girls by paying for sex acts. Without their demand there would be no ‘supply’. That demand is not inevitable: during the 1990’s the number of men who pay for sex almost doubled. If demand can grow it can also shrink, and that is exactly what has been shown by countries such as Sweden and Norway where the Sex Buyer Law has been adopted."