Publication - Research and analysis

Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 2014: Attitudes to violence against women in Scotland

Published: 25 Nov 2015
ISBN:
9781785448003

This report presents findings from the 2014 Scottish Social Attitudes survey on the attitudes of the Scottish public to the following forms of violence against women: sexual violence, domestic abuse (physical, verbal, mental and emotional), sexual harassment and commercial sexual exploitation.

Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 2014: Attitudes to violence against women in Scotland
6. Commercial sexual exploitation

6. Commercial sexual exploitation

The final chapter of this report examines attitudes to commercial sexual exploitation, which is categorised as a form of violence against women by the Scottish Government and defined in the Equally Safe strategy as:

‘a wide range of often linked sexual activities which (typically) men profit from or buy from women and which objectify and harm women’ (Scottish Government, 2014a)

How wrong do people think different types of commercial sexual exploitation are?

Respondents were asked to consider four different types of commercial sexual exploitation. In each case they were asked how wrong they thought participation in such activity was, using a slightly different seven point ‘wrong’ scale to that which has so far featured in this report. In this case, 1 represented ‘Always wrong’ and 7 ‘Not wrong at all’.

The questions were as follows: ‘How wrong do you personally think it is for…’:

  • ‘…a man (18 or over) to pay for sex with a woman, or is it not wrong at all?’
  • ‘…an adult (18 or over) to read magazines that feature topless women, or is it not wrong at all?’
  • ‘…a group of men (18 or over) to go to a strip club to watch naked women, or is it not wrong at all?’
  • ‘…an adult (18 or over) to watch pornography at home, or is it not wrong at all?[5]

As Table 6.1 shows, these behaviours all generated rather different patterns of response. People in Scotland were most likely to think that paying for sex was wrong. As many as 34% thought paying for sex was ‘always wrong’, while just 10% thought it was ‘not wrong at all’. Next most likely to be regarded unfavourably was an adult watching pornography. Those who thought this was ‘always wrong’ (21%) were balanced by an equal proportion who said that this was ‘not wrong at all’. In the remaining two cases, rather more people thought the behaviour was ‘not wrong at all’ than thought it was ‘always wrong’. While 14% said that going to a strip club was ‘always wrong’, 22% thought that it was ‘not wrong at all’. Meanwhile, just 8% thought that reading a magazine that featured topless women was ‘always wrong’, while as many as 30% believed it was ‘not wrong at all’.

Table 6.1: Whether people consider different forms of commercial sexual exploitation to be wrong or not

Man pays for sex with woman Adult watches porn at home Group of men go to strip club Read mag. with topless pictures
7 Always wrong 34% 21% 14% 8%
6 14% 10% 8% 7%
5 11% 9% 11% 10%
4 13% 14% 16% 15%
3 9% 10% 13% 12%
2 7% 13% 14% 16%
1 Not wrong at all 10% 21% 22% 30%
Don’t know/ Refused 1% 1% 1% 1%
Weighted bases 1433 1433 1433 1433
Unweighted bases 1428 1428 1428 1428

Base: All those who completed the self-completion

All the questions reported in this chapter have been analysed by gender, age, income, education, whether people held stereotypical views about gender roles and how religious people are. The question on religion asked ‘How religious would you say you are?’, with possible answer options of ‘very religious’, ‘fairly religious’, ‘not very religious’ and ‘not at all religious’. For the purposes of this chapter, we have created a category of ‘not at all religious/no religion’, by combining the responses of those who chose ‘not at all religious’ at this question and those who had identified as having no religion in response to an earlier question.

Prostitution and paying for sex

As stated above, 34% of respondents thought paying for sex was ‘always wrong’, while just 10% thought it was ‘not wrong at all’. Two other questions were asked about paying for sex. First, respondents were asked to what extent they agreed or disagreed with the statement: ‘Most women who become prostitutes (also known as sex workers) could easily choose a different job if they wanted to’. One reason for including this question was to ascertain whether those who thought paying for sex was wrong might take that view because they thought that women who become sex workers do so because their financial and employment circumstances have left them with little alternative.

Table 6.2 shows that there was a fairly even spread of responses to this question, with 37% agreeing or agreeing strongly that ‘most women who become sex workers could easily choose a different job if they wanted to’ and 34% disagreeing or disagreeing strongly.

Table 6.2: To what extent do people agree: ‘Most women who become sex workers could easily choose a different job if they wanted to’

Sex workers could choose a different job
%
Agree strongly 15%
Agree 22%
Neither agree/ disagree 27%
Disagree 26%
Disagree strongly 8%
(Don’t know) 1%
(Refusal) *
Weighted bases 1433
Unweighted bases 1428

Base: All those who completed the self-completion

Those who thought that sex workers could easily choose a different job were more likely to regard paying for sex as ‘wrong’ (46%) than those who did not think sex workers could choose a different job (29%). The reasons for this are not clear but it suggests that those who were opposed to prostitution did not necessarily do so because they think that women are forced by their circumstances to become sex workers. However, further research would be needed to explore the relationship between views on paying for sex and views on the level of coercion experienced by sex workers.

The survey also contained a question on whether paying for sex should be against the law (Table 6.3 ). Around 3 in 5 (59%) thought that paying for sex should ‘probably’ or ‘definitely’ be illegal, a proportion that matches the 59% who gave it a score of 5, 6 or 7 on the wrong scale. However, this still left a sizeable minority of 39% who thought it either ‘probably’ or ‘definitely’ should not be against the law.

Table 6.3 Do you think it should or should not be against the law for someone to pay for sex?

Definitely should be against the law 26%
Probably should be against the law 32%
Probably should not be against the law 30%
Definitely should not be against the law 9%
(Don't know) 3%
(Refusal) *
Weighted bases 1433
Unweighted bases 1428

Base: All those who completed the self-completion

*Percentages do not add up to 100% due to rounding

How do attitudes towards paying for sex vary between groups?

Women (38%) were somewhat more likely than men (30%) to think that paying for sex is ‘always wrong’. They were also more likely – 41% compared with 34% – to think sex workers could easily choose a different job. Equally, women (62%) were more likely than men (54%) to think that paying for sex should ‘probably’ or ‘definitely’ be against the law. Research shows that men are more likely than women to have ever paid for sex (Jones et al., 2014), and this may partly explain why they were somewhat less likely to think that paying for sex is wrong.

Being ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ religious was the only other factor that had a significant relationship with believing that paying for sex was ‘very seriously wrong’. As many as 44% of those who described themselves as ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ religious thought that paying for sex was ‘very seriously wrong’, compared with 32% of those who described themselves as ‘not very religious’ and just 29% of those who were ‘not at all religious’ or had no religion. Those who are religious were also more likely both to believe that sex workers could easily choose a different job and to believe that paying for sex should be against the law. As many as 44% of those who described themselves as ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ religious agreed or agreed strongly that sex workers could choose a different job, compared with just 31% of those who were not religious. Meanwhile, Figure 6.1 shows that 64% of ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ religious individuals supported the criminalisation of prostitution, compared with 54% of those with no religion.

Figure 6.1 Whether it should or should not be against the law for someone to pay for sex by religion

Figure 6.1 Whether it should or should not be against the law for someone to pay for sex by religion

Base: All those who completed the self-completion

See Annex A, Table 6.6 for bases.

Those on lower incomes were more likely than those on higher incomes to think that sex workers could choose a different job. Half of those in the lowest income group agreed that ‘Most women who become prostitutes could easily choose a different job if they wanted to’, compared with just under a quarter (24%) of those in the highest income group.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the relationship between income and education, those with lower levels of educational qualifications are also more likely to view sex work as a choice. Figure 6.2 shows that 60% of people with no formal qualifications agreed with this proposition whereas only 24% of graduates responded this way.

Figure 6.2 ‘Most women who become prostitutes (also known as sex workers) could easily choose a different job if they wanted to’ by education

 

Figure 6.2 ‘Most women who become prostitutes (also known as sex workers) could easily choose a different job if they wanted to’ by education

Base: All those who completed the self-completion

See Annex A, Table 6.5 for bases.

Those with stereotypical views about gender roles were also more likely to agree that ‘sex workers could easily choose a different job’. No less than 54% of those who held stereotypical views about gender roles agreed with the statement, compared with 25% who did not.

Although for the most part the views of younger and older people were not significantly different from each other, younger people were, perhaps surprisingly, more likely than those in the two oldest age groups to say that paying for sex should be against the law. As Figure 6.3 shows, 69% of 18 to 29 year olds said it should be illegal, whereas the equivalent Figure amongst those aged over 65 was 57%.

Figure 6.3 Whether it should or should not be against the law for someone to pay for sex by age

Figure 6.3 Whether it should or should not be against the law for someone to pay for sex by age

Base: All those who completed the self-completion

See Annex A, Table 6.6 for bases

Pornography

Table 6.1 above showed that people’s views on how wrong it is for adults to watch pornography were fairly evenly distributed. While 21% said doing so was ‘always wrong’, the same proportion said it was ‘not wrong at all’. SSA 2014 also included a further question on pornography. This asked to what extent respondents agreed or disagreed that: ‘You shouldn’t try to stop teenage boys from watching pornography that shows people having sex (not just actors pretending to do so); it is just a normal part of growing up’.

This second question also elicited a relatively even spread of views. While 37% disagreed with the statement, 30% agreed, and a further 32% neither agreed nor disagreed.

Attitudes to the two questions on watching pornography showed fairly similar patterns by demographic group. In each case, women, older people and those who regarded themselves as religious were more likely to view it negatively and less likely to view it as a normal part of growing up.

Twice as many women (28%) as men (14%) thought that an adult viewing pornography at home was ‘always wrong’. There was a similar, if less pronounced, pattern in attitudes towards a teenage boy watching pornography (see Annex A, Tables A6.2 & A6.8).

As Figure 6.4 shows, those aged 65 and over (44%) were far more likely than those aged under 30 (6%) to say that viewing pornography was ‘always wrong’. Again, there was a similar pattern in people’s responses to the question about teenage boys watching pornography (see Annex A, Table 6.2).

Figure 6.4 Whether thought ‘always wrong’ for an adult to watch pornography at home by age

Figure 6.4 Whether thought ‘always wrong’ for an adult to watch pornography at home by age

Base: All those who completed the self-completion

See Annex A, Table 6.2 for bases

No less than 36% of those who said they were very or fairly religious said that an adult viewing pornography at home was ‘very seriously wrong’, compared with only 12% of those who were not religious. Meanwhile, only 26% of those who were very or fairly religious said they agreed that you should not try to stop teenage boys watching pornography, whereas 33% of non-religious respondents did so.

Other forms of commercial sexual exploitation

In the last section of this chapter, we return to the questions on whether a group of men going to a strip club and an adult reading magazines featuring topless women were seen as wrong. Table 6.1 above showed that in both instances relatively few people thought the behaviour was ‘always wrong’, while rather more regard these activities as ‘not wrong at all’ – 22% said men going to a strip club was ‘not wrong at all’ and 30% said this about adults reading magazines featuring topless women. Thus, in this instance, we illustrate how attitudes varied between different demographic groups by exploring the views of those who said the behaviour was ‘not wrong at all’.

In both cases, attitudes again differed by gender and how religious people felt, together with age. For example, whereas 27% of men said going to a strip club was ‘not wrong at all’ only 18% of women did so. Nearly 2 in 5 (39%) of those who were not religious at all thought that reading a magazine featuring topless women was ‘not wrong at all’, compared with 23% of those who were ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ religious. Meanwhile, as many as a half (50%) of 18 to 29 year olds saw nothing wrong with reading magazines containing topless women, whereas only a quarter (25%) of those aged 65 and over did so (see Annex Tables A6.3 and A6.4).


Contact

Email: Alison Stout