Equally Safe - challenging men's demand for prostitution: consultation

Consultation seeking views on how best to challenge men’s demand for prostitution in Scotland, reducing the harms associated with prostitution and supporting women involved to exit.

4. Challenging Men's Demand for Prostitution


The Scottish Government published research into prostitution in 2017.[35] This research demonstrated there was little consistent or reliable information being sourced about men who purchase sex, including their backgrounds and reasons for buying it.

This lack of evidence is particularly pertinent in the case of indoor prostitution. On-street prostitution by its nature, meant that service providers often came into contact with or had awareness of the buyers. The rise in off-street prostitution has led to purchasing sex becoming less publically visible, and the ability for buyers to arrange purchase with the use of smartphones and the internet, negating their need to frequent historic "red-light" areas.

A number of support services in Scotland are able to engage with women in on-street prostitution and collect data and information through direct observations and engagement through outreach work, programmes and online scoping exercises. If prostitution moves indoors, services have limited mechanisms to observe and record the demand, risks and reality of prostitution.[36]

Due to the hidden nature of prostitution, data recorded by police provides limited information on the men who come into contact with the justice system. Information available as part of the Recorded Crimes in Scotland[37] is limited to crimes collectively recorded as "crimes related to prostitution". This grouping includes crimes associated with buying, as well as with selling sex.

Available information on men who purchase sex in Scotland

A study, "Challenging Men's Demand for Prostitution in Scotland"[38] interviewed men who had self-presented as having purchased sex.

This research found that men's age in relation to their first involvement with women involved in prostitution was 14 to 49 years old. 37% had first bought sex between the ages of 18 and 20 years old.

52% of men interviewed had purchased sex before the age of 21, and 74% by 25 years old.

These indicative ages are supported by research data from the Sandyford Clinic in Glasgow. The Sandyford Initiative provides regional integrated sexual health services for people in the west of Scotland from their Glasgow base. Information was gathered from men and women who were newly presenting to the genitourinary medicine and reproductive health services in Glasgow via the Sandyford health screen (SaHS) - a staff administered questionnaire. Their data[39] suggested that if a man had not purchased sex by 25 years old, then he would be less likely to do so in the future.

Attitudes of Men

Research presented by the Challenging Men's Demand for Prostitution in Scotland report, suggested that acceptance of the purchasing of prostitution has contributed to the harmful attitudes around violence against women and girls.[40] This report suggests that some men's self-held belief of superiority to and entitlement of sexual access to women have been associated with men's violent behaviours towards women.

During the 2017 research[41] conducted by the Scottish Government, attitudes on prostitution were explored.

Some respondents spoke about the possibility of demand for prostitution being increased or enabled by longer-term social causes such as the normalisation of prostitution within certain parts of culture, including stag parties, pornography and the sexualisation of women in the mainstream media. Structural gender inequality and its impact on economic and sexual exploitation was also cited by interviewees as possible contributing factors, as were the factors influencing vulnerable and disempowered members of society including young people, people from "looked after" backgrounds, and people from deprived economic backgrounds and immigrant communities.

Educating Men

The Challenging Men's Demand for Prostitution in Scotland report also suggested that young men may benefit from education related to prostitution, in a similar vein to education programs around the harms of drug use and supporting young people to feel able to resist peer pressure.

They describe the goal of any such "prostitution prevention" educational programmes as being to "shift cultural attitudes about prostitution so that there is a cultural taboo against men who buy sex and cultural respect for men who make the choice not to buy sex."

Curriculum for Excellence

Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) is the national approach to learning and teaching for young people aged 3 to 18 in Scotland. It provides significant flexibility, within broad national guidelines, for teachers to develop lessons which best meet the needs of individual learners, including teaching young people about prostitution. Teachers, head teachers and other professional educational practitioners are best placed to decide what is taught in Scotland's schools.

Relationships, sexual health and parenthood (RSHP) education is an integral part of the health and wellbeing area of the school curriculum in Scotland. This aspect of the curriculum is intended to enable children and young people to build positive relationships as they grow older and should be presented in an objective, balanced and sensitive manner within a framework of sound values and an awareness of the law on sexual behaviour.

It is for schools to decide how they deliver RSHP education, based on the needs of the children or young people in their classroom. To support teachers in the delivery of RSHP education, an online, nationally available teaching resource for RSHP education was published in September 2019. This resource includes up-to-date content that can support teachers to deliver high quality and age and stage appropriate RSHP education across the entire 3-18 age range of CfE.

This resource includes content to support teaching of topics such as prostitution and paying for sex, in the senior phase (S4-S6). These learning intentions are for pupils to learn about prostitution in terms of the law, social attitudes and harm to individuals. The intention is also that prostitution is framed as sexual exploitation. In addition, in the third/fourth level (S1-S3), there are opportunities for young people to learn about abuse and relationships which covers grooming, sexual exploitation, partner control, coercion and violence. Also romantic and loving relationships and, at senior phase, there are further opportunities to discuss the relationships young people want.

The messages offered in the RSHP resource reflect the messages of the document Key Messages for Young People on Healthy Relationships and Consent, a resource for professionals working with young people. This messaging will be consistent with the wider messages of the Equally Safe strategy to prevent and eradicate violence against women and girls.

Further and Higher Education

The Scottish Government is clear that university and college campuses should be safe places for students to live, work and study free from gender based violence. It is important, therefore, that consideration is given to the experiences of those within Further and Higher Education, in particular, to the experience of students to fully understand the drivers to prostitution, address the harms associated with it and challenge demand.

The Delivery Plan for Equally Safe included a specific action to work with universities and colleges to ensure the provision of a safe environment for students and staff through learning and on campus action, utilising learning from existing practice, relevant recommendations for improvement, and learning from the "Equally Safe in Higher Education" project on further and higher education.[42] Action on ensuring Equally Safe is embedded in these institutions is led by the Equally Safe in Colleges and Universities Working Group.[43]


Question 4. What measures would help to shift the attitudes of men relating to the purchase of sex? Do you have any examples of good practice either in a domestic or an international context?

Question 5. Taking into account the above, how can the education system help to raise awareness and promote positive attitudes and behaviors amongst young people in relation to consent and healthy relationships?


Email: vawgconsultations@gov.scot

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