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Social factors complicate life for hookers and johns Even in our supposedly equal and enlightened society, women and men experience a whole host of social phenomenon in vastly different ways, perhaps none more than sex addiction. If a woman is addicted to sex, she can feed her addiction by finding men at a bar to take home, falling quietly within societal norms that are widely accepted, considered harmless and even celebrated.

"A really attractive sex addict has her pick," said sex therapist Cory Hrushka.

But while male addicts will have sex with an unattractive woman, things don't work out the same when it comes to women and unattractive men, he added. Male addicts often pick up a prostitute, a move that harms communities, strains the tax-funded legal system, risks their physical health and fuels the addictions that many sex-trade workers suffer.
The different realities for men and women point to how social and psychological factors above simple sex drive combine when it comes to buying sex, say two sex addiction experts.

Edmonton sex therapist Doris Vincent estimates 12 per cent of sex addicts are also addicted to paying for sex, while Hrushka believes up to half of the men who buy prostitutes may be addicts.
"When I was at john school, a third of them thought they might have had a problem," said Vincent, who has spoken about sexual behaviour and addictions at the Edmonton-based school.
In what's formally known as the Prostitution Offender Program, eligible men caught buying sex who choose to participate in the school's day long course learn about the health risks of their behaviour and hear stories from people and communities victimized by the sex trade.
Just as the school's approach sways away from traditional punishment, Vincent said she participates to reach those whose sex addiction is the root of prostitute buying.
"I'm hoping to show them that there are people who can help, not just scorn and shame," she said.
Sex addicts have often been exposed to pornography from as young as six years old, said Vincent, and become shocked at the sexual sights before they are able to understand.

"As with all addiction, the root is trauma," she said, noting how the images "alter their normal sex development."
Widespread use of the internet, where porn is widely accessible without parental supervision, is a concern for that very reason, the therapist added.

Children often get frustrated not knowing how to deal with emotional problems like stress, Vincent said, and may turn to pornography, often accompanied by masturbating, as an escape.

"It begins to be used as a drug (and) alters the brain chemistry at some point."
Of course, that's not to say that any child who comes across their dad's copy of Playboy once or twice will turn into a sex addict, just as someone who has the odd drink won't necessarily become an alcoholic.
Vincent said the danger is with repeated exposure to porn, where the viewer needs to see increasingly shocking images and then suffers withdrawal, setting up an addictive cycle.

With such distorted images imprinted in their mind, an addict de-links sex with intimacy, and will have trouble forming normal, healthy relationships.

"Someone addicted to sex can't be sexually aroused by someone they care about," noted Vincent.
Hrushka cited one married male client he has worked with who was buying sex three times a week for 20 years while on runs as a trucker, without his wife finding out.

Most sex addicts have been exposed to pornography, but the therapist also cited figures that 97 per cent of treated US addicts have been emotionally abused, 81 per cent had suffered sexually abuse and 72 per cent have been abused psychologically.

"A higher percentage of individuals who develop sex addiction were sexually abused, but it's not a guarantee" that the abused will be addicts, he said, adding that many sex addicts are also hooked on alcohol or drugs.

Both therapists agreed it's generally true that men have a higher sex drive than women.
"Testosterone is a factor," said Hrushka, noting how higher estrogen counts in women lead to more desire for "cuddly" contact, with less of a focus on orgasms.

"But the biggest organ is your mind," he said. "Men and women are chasing different things."
For sex addicts, Vincent said, a lot of women get addicted to romance, fantasizing and masturbating, often turning to the internet to find some online partners who will pursue them.

"It's more about excitement and anticipation [and] the feeling of being in love," said the therapist. "An orgasm is not part of it. Some are looking for the excitement of the chase, to get a high and escape."

He said sometimes the addicted women chase love through sex, while men chase intimacy through sex, and both get frustrated when sex doesn't automatically bring it about.

Male sex addicts buy sex to create what Vincent called "simulated intimacy," or for no-hassle sex that doesn't need to have an accompanying relationship.

Some of the men who buy sex are excited experimenting with something different, with the uncertainty or risk.
"They spend more time cruising (for street sex-trade workers) then with the prostitutes themselves," she said.
"Guys usually being on the street would have higher rates of addiction," added Hrushka.
He said treatment for the condition, which runs from mild to severe, can include cognitive therapy, or having the addicts change their beliefs.

Vincent forwarded the Edmonton numbers of Sexaholics Anonymous (988.4411) and Sex Addicts Anonymous (429.9886) for those afflicted.

She said addicts should check if their therapists have a policy to keep information confidential, and to not forward what they're told on prostitution-related activities to the police unless a life is at risk.
But addicts nonetheless form only a portion of those buying prostitutes, meaning that simply putting people in therapy can't be seen as a catch-all solution for those looking to cut buying sex by curbing demand.

When asked if it was normal to buy sex or if normal people do it, Hrushka countered that "normal" is a relative term.
Some johns come from an ethnic or economic-class sub-society where prostitution is considered acceptable, he said, just as mistresses are less taboo in other countries.
"There's still some of that around," said the therapist.

Some men don't have the social skills or attractiveness to get into a relationship, Hrushka said, or find that being a virgin into their 20s, 30s or 40s is unbearably out of sync with popular societal notions.
Social beliefs can come into play even when it comes to attitudes about pleasuring oneself through masturbation versus buying sex, said Hruska.

"People say 'there's no way I'm touching myself-that's someone else's job,'" he said, noting that other men can't take the time or effort to form a relationship in their current situation and buy sex to quickly and cheaply fulfill their sexual needs.

"I work with a lot of single guys on the rigs who have a lot of money," he added, "but not a lot of time."
But Hrushka stressed it was not only blue-collar workers buying sex, mentioning how he's dealt with lawyers, businessmen and even church ministers.

Johns can have a self-centred attitude, thinking they can do whatever they want, with money often giving a sense of power, the therapist notes.

"It's about the domination, to make them do what you want," said the therapist. "Some guys say, 'I feel like getting laid, and instead of going to the bar, I can get what I want.'"
Last year, the executive director of Prostitution Awareness and Action Foundation of Edmonton noted the number of men buying sex who are abusive, calling violence part of prostitution.

In a foundation video, she talked of how some sex-buying men are lonely, curious or say they want to help the woman by paying her for food or a place to stay.

Hrushka said higher-income men often buy their sex from escort agencies, while those with lower incomes pick the cheaper street prostitutes.

"The internet has created a big shift," he said, pointing to webcams and the availability of online sex and sex-buying sites.

Because women are generally less physically strong then men, Vincent said women may fear the risk of buying from the street, and there's also the social stigma.

"I imagine it's terribly embarrassing for a women to buy sex," she said.
The diverse factors behind sex-buying is reflected by the prostitution awareness foundation's website statement that it's "working towards long-term solutions to the complex issues central to prostitution."
The group, which runs the john school, has put up billboards asking, "When you buy sex, who really pays," reminiscent of an anti-drunk-driving public-education campaign.

When asked how to curb the buying of sex, Hrushka cautioned that many people are squeamish and shy talking about sex, an act that is not harmful by itself.

"We're dealing with a market economy," he adds, when asked if buying sex will ever stop. "Money rules. Whatever you want can be bought."




About Alberta Alberta is home to some of the cleanest and safest major cities in the world.
Alberta is situated in Western Canada. To the West, Alberta is bounded by the Rocky Mountains along the British Columbia border; to the East, the flat prairie of Saskatchewan. Alberta has experienced phenomenal growth in recent decades, adding the attractions of the large urban centres of Edmonton and Calgary to its already popular resort destinations of Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper.


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