Exploring available knowledge and evidence on prostitution in Scotland via practitioner-based interviews

Exploration of available knowledge and evidence on the scale and nature of prostitution in Scotland based on practitioner-based interviews.

Question 5 Demand

  • What is the scale and nature of the demand for prostitution services? (With a specific focus on the number of people who pay for sexual services, the demographics of clients and the reasons for paying for sex).
  • How do clients access prostitution (adverts web, newspapers or otherwise)?

Main findings

  • There was little consistent or reliable information about men who purchase sex - their backgrounds and reasons for buying it.
  • Police data is limited to information about 'kerb crawling' and other prostitution related offending and is therefore a limited and partial picture of the numbers of men who come into contact with the criminal justice system.
  • This evidence gap was particularly notable within the selling of indoor prostitution. In previous times support services might come into contact with the buyers, but the change to indoor prostitution has led to a greater amount of personal discretion and buyers can arrange meetings from smartphone apps and the internet, without needing to go into red light areas.
  • The police have made estimates, from 'open source' research based on online advertisement websites to provide general estimates of the numbers of people who may be involved in prostitution, who sell sex. These may include duplication, or fake accounts but recent investigation [15] showed there were around 1800 adverts for sexual services across 4 main websites in Scotland in a single day, the majority of whom involved women. An earlier (2014) figure based on more extensive scoping work conducted by the National Human Trafficking Unit, with support from Police Scotland's Prostitution Working Group and associated partners into Commercial Sexual Exploitation in Scotland identified approximately 3000 adverts for escorts across 10 websites. Although estimates of supply may in theory provide indications of demand, these numbers are very rough approximations and may not include all of the methods people use for advertising services nor estimations of the number of people who may use these services.
  • Apart from the immediate demand for prostitution, some people spoke about the possibility of this being increased or enabled by longer-term social causes such as the normalisation of prostitution within certain parts of culture, such as stag parties, pornography and the sexualisation of women in the mainstream media.
  • Questions about the scale and nature of demand therefore require more detailed research.


Email: Justice Analytical Services

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