9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN23 Sexuality

2009-09-04 13:30:00 2009-09-04 15:00:00 Friday, 4 September 13:30 - 15:00 Sex Work Building I, 1E10

The burden of policy: health risks and exploitation in the prostitution markets of the Low Countries

The European nations represent an intriguing laboratory of prostitution policies. They basically aim for the same very general goals: quality of life, public health and the fight against exploitation through human trafficking and forced prostitution. However, the repertoire of regulations and policies is diverse and even antipodal. Between the extremes of the far-reaching regulated liberalization of paid sex markets in the Netherlands and the total ban on marketed sexual encounters in Sweden, a whole gamut of different policies exists. It would be a mistake however to reduce the government's regulation and policy of sex work to the national polity. Quite often other governments are important players: in particular the city governments play an important role.

This paper investigates the intended and unintended effects of national and city policies on prostitution markets in the Low Countries. A quite exceptional dataset was constructed based upon the reports of clients of their experiences of encounters in Belgian and Dutch sex markets. Thereby reports of different types of sex work are included: soliciting, window prostitution, escort services, clubs and massage parlours.

The starting point consists of an analysis of the price-fixing elements of paid sexual encounters. With the help of the so-called "hedonic pricing method" the paper retrieves the most important factors determining prices in prostitution. Thereby particular attention is paid to those factors that are either directly created by regulation or policy and to factors that are relevant to policy, such as the presence of certain groups of migrants among sex workers.

The explicit aim is to evaluate the intended objectives and the unintended effects of national and local policies. Thereby the effects for the groups concerned, in particular clients and sex workers, are assessed.