By Amy Dalrymple
Forum News Service
One in four men thought women engaged in prostitution make a lot of money to keep for themselves.
One in five thought it was OK for men to pay for sex if they had unmet needs.
Nearly every man thought prostitution would not harm his relationship as long as his significant other didn’t find out.
All of those attitudes shifted dramatically after the men attended a “John School,” a court-ordered class for men convicted of buying sex in the Twin Cities.
Men who attend the Offenders Prostitution Program, offered by Breaking Free in St. Paul, often are not aware of the dynamics of prostitution and sex trafficking, said Lori Stee, director of public policy and education for the nonprofit.
“They don’t understand that it’s a multi-billion dollar business and women are sold like drugs or any other commodity,” Stee said.
The men are surveyed at the beginning and then again at the end of a daylong class that includes presentations from a survivor of sex trafficking, as well as remarks from a victim’s father. The course also discusses the legal implications and potential health risks of prostitution.
“It’s not intended to beat men down, to shame them, but none of the presenters pull any punches either,” Stee said. “They keep it real, very graphic.”
Before the class, nearly one in four thought that a woman in prostitution was able to tell a customer no if she doesn’t want what he wants, according to survey results from the 2013-14 annual report. After the class, none agreed with that statement.
Similarly, a third of men said prostitution is harmless sexual activity between adults. That fell to just 4 percent after the class.
Men pay $750 to Breaking Free, and the money goes to fund direct services to sexually exploited women and girls. Breaking Free works with St. Paul police to monitor the re-offense rate of the men. The program reports a 96 percent success rate, but Stee said they have an extremely limited ability to track that.
“And so few are caught,” Stee said of johns. “They could be out every night of the week and not getting caught somewhere.”
Breaking Free also collects demographics on who the first-time prostitution offenders are.
“It’s a complete cross section of young, old, educated, high-income, low-income, predominantly white but probably proportionate to the population,” Stee said.