Many were husbands and boyfriends; just over half were either married or in a relationship with a woman

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Many were husbands and boyfriends; just over half were either married or in a relationship with a woman

Darren was young, good-looking and bright; I asked him how often he thought the women he paid enjoyed the sex

Seven hundred men were interviewed for the project, which aimed to find out why men buy sex. Photograph: Christina Griffiths/Getty Images/Flickr RM

Seven hundred men were interviewed for the project, which aimed to find out why men buy sex. Photograph: Christina Griffiths/Getty Images/Flickr RM

‘I don’t get anything out of sex with prostitutes except for a bad feeling,” says Ben. An apparently average, thirtysomething, middle-class man, Ben had taken an extended lunchbreak from his job in advertising to talk about his experiences of buying sex. Shy and slightly nervous, he told me, “I am hoping that talking about it might help me work out why I do it.”

The reasons why many men pay for sex are revealed in the interviews that make up a major new piece of research

I, too, was hoping to understand his motives better. Ben was one of 700 men interviewed for a major international research project seeking to uncover the reality about men who buy sex. The project spanned six countries, and of the 103 customers we spoke to in London – where I was one of the researchers – most were surprisingly keen to discuss their experiences.

The men didn’t fall into obvious stereotypes. They were aged between 18 and 70 years old; they were white, black, Asian, eastern European; most were employed and many were ­educated beyond school level. In the main they were presentable, polite, with average-to-good social skills.

Research published in 2005 found that the numbers of men who pay for sex had doubled in a decade. The ­authors attributed this rise to “a greater acceptability of commercial sexual contact”, yet many of our ­interviewees told us that they felt ­intense guilt and shame about paying for sex. “I’m not satisfied in my mind” was how one described his feelings after paying for sex. Another told me that he felt “disappointed – what a waste of money”, “lonely still” and “guilty about my relationship with my wife”. In fact, many of the men were a mass of contradictions. Despite finding their experiences “unfulfilling, empty, terrible”, they continued to visit prostitutes.

I interviewed 12 of the men, and found it a fascinating experience. One told me about his experience of childhood cruelty and neglect and linked this to his inability to form close ­relationships with anyone, particularly women. Alex admitted sex with ­prostitutes made him feel empty, but he had no idea how to get to know women “through the usual routes”. When I asked him about his feelings ­towards the women he buys he said that on the one hand, he wants ­prostitutes to get to know and like him and, on the other https://hookupdate.net/de/spicymatch-review/, he is “not under ­delusions” that the encounters are anything like a real relationship.

“I want my ideal prostitute not to behave like one,” he said, “to role-play to be a pretend girlfriend, a casual date, not business-like or mechanical. To a third person it looks like we’re in love.”

I felt compassion for Alex. No one had shown him how to form a bond with another human being and he was searching for something that commercial sex was never going to provide.

But another of the interviewees left me feeling concerned. “I don’t want them to get any pleasure,” he told me. “I am paying for it and it is her job to give me pleasure. If she enjoys it I would feel cheated.” I asked if he felt prostitutes were different to other women. “The fact that they’re prepared to do that job where others won’t, even when they’re skint, means there’s some capability inside them that permits them to do it and not be disgusted,” he said. He seemed full of a festering, potentially explosive misogyny.

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