Clients of prostitutes or sex workers are sometimes known as johns or tricks in North America and punters in the British Isles. In common parlance among prostitutes as well as with others, the act of negotiating and then engaging with a trick is referred to as turning a trick. Female clients are sometimes called janes, although the vast majority of prostitution clients are male in almost all countries.
There are many terms for tricks, including whoremonger, sex-buyer, UK slang such as punter, terms for those in a vehicle such as kerb crawler, as well as Caribbean slang terms for female clients of gigolos such as milk bottle, longtail, yellowtail or stella.
The term tricks is sometimes associated with North America and while punter is associated with the term for sex workers' clients in the British Isles. These slang terms are used among both prostitutes and law enforcement for persons who solicit prostitutes. The term john may have originated from the frequent customer practice of giving one's name as "John", a common name in English-speaking countries, in an effort to maintain anonymity. In some places, men who drive around red-light districts for the purpose of soliciting prostitutes are also known as kerb crawlers.
According to Megan Lundstrom of Free Our Girls, 80% to 90% of clients are married men. 55% of tricks are married or cohabiting according to a study by Health and Social Life. 61% of tricks are unaware that one could contract an STI from being fellated.
According to Melissa Farley, executive director of Prostitution Research & Education, 60% of clients wear condoms. A survey in Georgia found that 83% of clients would be deterred from purchasing sex if they were outed (named and shamed) on billboards which included photos and names. According to a study by Shared Hope International and Arizona State University, 21.6 percent of tricks had professions commonly perceived as one of a position of authority or position of trust such as law enforcement, attorney or military personnel.
In Canada, the average age of a trick is between 38 and 42 years old who has purchased sex roughly 100 times over their lifetime. Roughly 70% have completed university or college and earn over 50,000 Canadian dollars a year. According to a detective with the Edmonton Police Service, 15% of tricks seek pedophilic or hebephilic interactions with sex workers below the age of consent, and a significant proportion of tricks have issues such as poverty, drug and alcohol addiction or mental illness.
The affordability of prostitution varies widely from region to region. The prices are lowest in areas where it is legal due to competition within the sex trade that seeks to court both sex tourists and local johns. TIME Magazine has described Germany as the "Cut-Rate Prostitution Capital of the World", in reference to the low prices.
When the clientele of prostitutes in a specific locality begins to attract modest amounts of newcomers of a middle-class or upper-class status, the subsequent cost hike sometimes makes sex work services unaffordable for local prospective johns. In jurisdictions where penalties for buying sex are high, fines dished out to tricks can also put low-income clients of prostitution in financial ruin.
Maltreatment and victimization
When interaction between tricks, the clients of prostitutes, and sex workers occurs in countries where brothels are illegal, the prostitution trade usually transpires in areas with high amounts of crime, a predicament that puts tricks at risk of becoming victims of crime, or becoming entangled in the crime in some other manner. According to Atchison, a sociology instructor at Simon Fraser University and founder of John's Voice, tricks are verbally abused, robbed and physically assaulted at a rate of 18%, 14% and 4% respectively. In Ireland, there was a significant increase in physical attacks on sex workers by tricks after the passing of laws banning the purchase of sex. Tricks also sometimes fall victim to extortion, scamming and blackmail.
The manner in which tricks were viewed has varied throughout human history depending on location and era. in some periods of history, tricks were viewed as enablers of an evil practise, viewing them as furthering a trade which enabled infidelity and easing the breaking of covenants between committed partners. At other times, particularly during times of war, or other events which segregated the sexes, there would be increased sympathy for tricks, particularly if servicepersons threatened to severe their genitals or castrate themselves to attain anaphrodisia if prospective tricks were chastised. In contemporary times, tricks are sometimes viewed as enablers of human trafficking and child trafficking due to boosting their demand. Females tricks have been purported to be viewed less negatively than male tricks, possibly due to a perception of novelty that produces curiosity rather than moral judgement.
The manner in which tricks are treated by the law varies widely by jurisdiction and country. The laws which are most stringent against tricks have gradually been referred to as the Swedish model, which is also called the Nordic model or Sex Buyer Law. This is in reference to the law passed in Sweden in 1999 wherein the buyer, rather than the seller of sex is penalized. Although Sweden was the first country to criminalize tricks rather than prostitutes, many countries have since adopted this Swedish system, with Norway following suit in 2008 and Iceland adopting this model in 2009. Some analysts have argued that this law criminalizing tricks rather than prostitutes is peculiar in Western as well as other legal systems, claiming that throughout Western history, there is no precedence of a purchaser of a controversial service committing a greater infraction than the purveyor.
A law passed in Israel at new year's eve 2018 which would ban the buying of sex would come into effect in a year and a half. The law, which was proposed by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked in June 2018, would include fines. In 2018, France increased the penalty against buying of sex to a fine of up to 1,500 euros ($1,700). In Italy, a fine of up to 10,000 Euros was proposed in 2016 for frequenters of prostitutes.
In Norway, tricks can not only be fined, but can also serve up to 6 months in prison.
In Germany, visitors of sex workers are forced by law to wear condoms.
In St Petersburg, Russia, a law was drafted which would pardon tricks from heavy fines or jail sentences if they married the sex worker they interacted with.
In Greater Sudbury, Ontario, another form of deterrent used against tricks is the seizure, towing and impounding of vehicles used for soliciting sex workers.
Notable campaigners against the criminalisation of tricks include Irish law graduate Laura Lee. In some nations where prostitution is legal such as the Netherlands, rather than being viewed as accessories to human trafficking, tricks are called on to join efforts to eradicate its practise by being asked to look out for signs of abuse. In France, some opposition to the fining of tricks have come from sex workers unions such as Strass, who argue that initiatives to fine tricks makes sex work more dangerous as it forces the trade to go underground and due to increased secrecy and less transparancy.
In 2018, Pope Francis described clients of prostitution as criminals. In the U.S. state of Arizona, some police forces have adopted fake online advertisements which are police generated in order to lure prostitution clients.
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