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When the Kinsey report on male sexual behavior was published in , it revealed among its then-scandalous findings that up to 69 percent of American men had paid for sex at some point in their lives. Since then, the notion of the "john next door" has been perpetuated in pop culture, and even in some recent studies. But new research drawing on a large-scale nationally representative sample of men shows that frequenting prostitutes is not actually all that ordinary in the United States.
About 14 percent of American men said they paid for sex at some point in their lives, but just 1 percent said they visited a prostitute in the past year , according to the study, which is, in part, based on data collected as part of the General Social Survey by researchers at the National Opinion Research Center.
The researchers also found that the average john doesn't look all that different from the average man who has never paid for sex — clients are more likely to have served in the military, only slightly less likely to be married and white, and only slightly more likely to have a full-time job and be more sexually liberal. More distinct characteristics, however, emerge among avid customers of prostitutes who self-identify as "hobbyists" and post on message boards that review call girls.
Men of this more privileged class that cruise the Internet instead of the sidewalks for sex also have different views about prostitution. Compared with men who have been arrested for soliciting a prostitute, the "hobbyists" are more likely to say that prostitution should be legal, that they would marry a prostitute and that prostitutes enjoy their work, the researchers found.
Whereas the authors of the new study argue that hiring prostitutes is not necessarily an ordinary behavior, they say there's also little evidence to show that it's inherently deviant or linked to psychological deficiencies. That's in contrast to findings by some anti-prostitution groups. The sex-buying men were recruited through ads in newspapers and on Craigslist, and they were more likely than non-sex-buyers to have a prior criminal history, to say they would commit rape if they could get away with it and to have coerced non-prostitute sex partners into sex.