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Reforming the Swedish Sex Purchase Law


The Swedish Sex Purchase Law is based on a radical feminist notion that eliminating sex trade will reduce women’s oppression in society. We do not share that conclusion. Instead, the act increases inequality, social stigma and social problems for an already marginalized group of people. We want to replace the radical feminist elimination target with a rights perspective. A number of efforts to improve sex workers conditions must be deployed.

The rights perspective

Sale and purchase of sexual services is part of a sexually liberated and affirming community, and provides a richer sexual life for many. As Internet usage has grown it seems to have become more common to experiment with having sex in various ways, involving getting paid or paying for it. In particular, young people seem more inclined to accept the notion of trading sexual services. It is not uncommon that one and the same person will be buying and selling sex. Many see it as a way to extend the sexual opportunities and to enrich their sex life. Male homosexual sex trade is especially unproblematic.

Contempt for the ”whore”

But there are also problems. Historically, sex trade has often been tainted by strong stigma, discrimination and marginalization. We share the radical feminist view that sex work in such conditions is degrading and unacceptable in a modern society.  Historically, this has led to devaluation and oppression of sex workers.

Oftentimes, sex work has been a female profession, performed by people in the poorer sections of the population, and the contempt that affects low status professions and poverty in general has been enhanced with additional contempt for ”unchristian” behavior, ”adultery” and ”promiscuity”. We see, like radical feminism, a link between the ”contempt for the whore” and a general derogatory attitude towards women in society.

Sex workers’ rights

Our understanding of how the situation should be improved, however, differs from radical feminism. We believe that the proper way to deal with problems in the sex trade, the social stigma and the marginalization that many sex workers are exposed to, is to adopt a rights perspective.

We want to work to strengthen sex workers’ conditions and status, and raise society’s tolerance and respect for them. Sex workers must be granted the same rights as everyone else. To deal with ”contempt for the whore”, it is the contempt that must be fought, not the ”whore”.

From a rights perspective, we want to work for the following.

  • Improve conditions and status of sex workers. Sex workers have not forfeited their human rights. These include the right to the highest attainable standard of health care, social services, employment, freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
  • Reduce discrimination and stigmatization of sex workers. This means, among other things, that society’s public institutions accept, tolerate and respect sex work.
  • Oppose all forms of forced and involuntary sex trade. Buying sex in cases where sex workers are put under coercion or slavery should be criminal.
  • Decriminalize all parts of sex trade (except where coercion exists).
  • Helping those who want to leave the industry, there must always be alternatives.

In addition, we work towards the following goals, even if it does not involve sex work per se.

  • There must be enough drug rehabilitation sites for all drug addicts. (Sweden lags far behind in this regard – there is an absence of thousands of such slots today.)
  • A social safety net that works, so that no one is forced into sex work (here Sweden has come quite far).

The inhumane elimination policy

Radical Feminism, on the other hand, has a goal of completely eradicating sex trade from society. Here we call this the elimination target. But the resulting policy, to counteract sex workers’ rights, has grave consequences. The sex purchase and procurement laws – the criminalization of clients and business partners – has unsurprisingly made the situation worse for sex workers.

This applies particularly to those most vulnerable – the street prostitutes. The law has scared away the ”better” and ”nicer” customers from the street. Those who are left are the ”worse” and more dangerous. Concern about violence is greater. Competition has intensified and prices have fallen. Sex workers must therefore take more customers to earn the same amount of money. They also have to do things they otherwise would not have liked, such as having sex without a condom. They are more at the mercy of the dangerous customers because they can not afford to deny them as before. The situation on the street is more stressed. The negotiation between sex worker and the client must be sped up, making it more difficult for the worker to determine whether the client is dangerous.

Failed policies

The procurement law forces landlords to cancel rental contracts (for housing or other sites) if they learn that sex trade is going on. This makes it difficult for sex workers to work indoors and some are therefore forced to work in cars, caravans or outdoors in hidden places. Some sex workers rent rooms in hotels, but this is illegal as well, and they must therefore be careful to not be discovered. Sex workers have been evicted from their homes, forced to pay usury rents, forced to move on short notice and over all been at the mercy of the landlord’s discretion.

This causes stress and high costs in terms of facilities, fittings and repeated movals. Anyone who takes part of their income commits a procurement crime. This affects family and economic relationships. Anyone who is a family or business partner of a sex worker can be convicted. Sex workers can not cooperate as business partners, hire security services or in other ways conclude agreements to facilitate their work. They become more lonely, isolated and vulnerable to potentially threatening clients.

Benevolence or hypocrisy?

Radical feminists argue that their elimination policy is well-meaning, and that it improves the situation of sex workers. They can come to this flawed conclusion because they have ideologically decided that all sex trade is degrading, and should be treated as ”patriarchal exercise of power”, ”sexual exploitation” and ”men’s violence against women”. But this view is absurd, whether it is male or female sex workers we are talking about.

In fact, anyone should be able to distinguish between selling sexual services under agreement and under reasonable conditions on the one hand, and to be humiliated, forced, sexually exploited or being beaten on the other. This is however not taken into account – it is simply decided that sex workers are already in the worst possible situation. In this way, radical feminists can without remorse take any action whatsoever to eliminate sex trade from society. In their opinion, the result for sex workers can only be positive.

A multi-faceted world

Sex workers is in fact a very heterogeneous group, working with different types of sex work, under different degrees of job satisfaction, voluntariness, discomfort or frustration – and this distinguishes them in no way from those working in other industries. Some charge money as escorts (some of whom use the Internet to advertise, some do not), in connection with sex parties, at strip clubs, massage parlors and so on.

Sellers and buyers

Here we find men and women who do not have to sell sex because of drug abuse and poverty. They do it simply because they like it and get something out of it. Others do it because they can make good money relatively quickly, or that they find the work to be quite free compared to a regular nine-to-five job. Many testify to good solidarity among colleagues. Some feel bad or suffer, and want to quit and do something else.

Why buy sex, then? Some men say they do it because it is easy and simple. After a separation, it may be a way to regain self-esteem. It can be a way to break boredom during lonely, long nights in hotels. Remarkably many prefers to pay an escort for  ”the girlfriend experience” instead of having a steady relationship. They want to be able to choose when they have company and are willing to pay to have it so.

Gay sex trade

In the case of homosexual sex trade, SOU 1995:15 notes that it is largely non-existing among women. Regarding men, they write that ”it is difficult to distinguish between regular homosexual contacts and contacts for prostitution purposes, partly because the homosexual prostitution is characterized by discretion and invisibility. […] Prostitution can be said to be relatively common in the male homosexual culture.” They also point out that the act can sometimes be a mix of business and the seller’s own sexuality.

On RFSL’s website you can read that ”when gay people connect in public places it is often confused with prostitution. Neither the police, prosecutors, social service authorities, politicians or the media has the skills needed to distinguish male prostitution from other sexual encounters without between men in public places.”

New forms

Some say it is exciting to experience this way to have sex at some point in their lives. Some wants to realize a fantasy that the partner does not want to take part in. Then of course there also those who live in sexually dead relationships, where a separation would be more devastating than to occasionally buy sex. One can never force ones partner to have sex or go in therapy.

There is also a growing number of people selling and buying sexual services in a less traditional manner. Examples are tactile massage with erotic elements, different forms of couples or sex therapy that involves physical touch, sex courses, tantric courses etc. Such activities can involve ”physical touching” that can be construed as illegal by the judiciary system.


Currently, enhancements of the the sex purchase law are being proposed, to curb and wipe out such phenomena from society. Customers, clients and buyers of ”sexual services” would then risk being sent to jail for one year. The Left Party (V) proposes imprisonment for three years, and similar proposals are under way in other parties. When sex workers collaborate with each other or with external partners to facilitate their activities, these can be convicted of procurement. The Social Democrats have proposed that this offense is replaced with human trafficking (Mona Sahlin, 2010). Anyone who helps a sex worker with a setting up a home page would then be given the same condemning penal value as a principal leader in a human trafficking organization.

There is also a danger in that tougher sentencing does organized crime in their hands. Black mailing schemes may prove to be very profitable. Not only famous people are obvious targets, but also ordinary people can suffer. With photos taken on the sly and threats of police reports or defamation, criminal leagues can recover ”debts” forever. The higher the penalties, the more money can be demanded of the victims.

The humane alternative

It is certainly not unlikely that the sex workers more often than others still are on the lower part of the well-being scale. Sex work is still stigmatized, discriminated against and often exposed to various dangers. The prejudices of society are significant. Many are living a double life, sometimes even before their own families, not to disclose their employment.

Some people live in despair because of drug addiction or poverty. The relatively fast cash can make sex work the least bad option to finance further drug use or resolve financial distress. But the question is: how are these people being helped by the  criminalization of their customers and financial partners so that the situation gets worse?

Would not it be better to arrange treatment for drug addiction? There is an absence of thousands of rehabilitation units today. And must we not examine the social safety net? Does it work so bad so that people prefer sex work before dealing with the social services offices?

But instead, sex workers’ rights are still being worked against, and their problems are ”fixed” using a discriminatory elimination policy. This makes existing problems worse. We believe that these people have not forfeited their rights, and that it is precisely by adopting the rights perspective that the situation of sex workers can – and should – be improved.

Social service must not be conditional

Sex workers must never be pressured, manipulated or forced to leave their jobs. The currently implemented elimination policy is not acceptable whatsoever. Adults who want to sell sexual services must be assumed to be capable of taking that decision, and must be given the same rights and dignity as any other person. Sex workers should be treated with full respect from tax authorities, police, social workers, doctors, gynecologists, psychologists and other nursing staff.  In some of these cases anti-discrimination measures, e.g. in the form of training, is probably needed.

Sex workers who want to change jobs sometimes have trouble finding satisfactory alternatives. It is difficult to find a job if you have to lie about previous work experience. Sometimes there is additionally a drug addiction to cope with. Therefore, assistance in the form of special exit programs may be needed. Employment service offices be aware of such problems, so that sex workers can get adequate service.

The idea of the pure Swedish welfare state

The ”elimination goal” and the resulting discrimination policies gives the state a veto over consensual adult sexual activity. ”Appropriate” behaviour is approved, and the ”displeasing” is thoroughly punished and put to shame. This has unpleasant parallels with the Swedish 1900s dream of the pure welfare state.

The idea was to create a population of high ”quality”, in which deviant behavior would not exist. Homosexuality was criminal until 1944 and was legally defined as a ”perversion” until 1979. Mentally ill were lobotomized until the 60s. Forced sterilization of ”misfits” or ”inferior” elements were carried out for ”social hygiene” reasons. Some were sterilized for ”promiscuous and perverted lifestyle.” The hope was that fewer people predisposed to become prostitutes or pimps would be born in the future.

The right to one’s own body

We do not want to live in an honor culture or in a ”socially hygienic” Swedish welfare state, in which some sexual behaviors are put to shame or criminalized. In a modern society, the right to control her own body must be accorded to each individual person. This compares with the woman’s right to carry out an abortion. An abortion has, in a way, far more serious consequences than sex work, since it comes to extinguish a life, prevent a person from being born. Abortion has historically been both banned and considered deeply shameful. Yet the freedom to carry out an abortion is a natural and obvious right for women today.

Similarly, it should be every person’s right to give or refuse consent to sex, whatever her motives, without discrimination, stigma and marginalization. This power over his or her body must never be owned by either the family, the state, the men or the radical feminism.

Common arguments and discussions

”Who is going to be selling sex?”

A common question among elimination advocates is: ”If we are to have prostitution in the society, who is it then to be selling sex?”. The question incorrectly assumes that society would force anyone to do so. But there is no one who argues that we ”must have prostitution in the society”.

Employment agencies should not assign such jobs to job seekers, just as no one is assigned a job as a porno actor or a strip artist – despite the fact that those branches of sex work are legal today. State brothels is probably not a good solution, just as there are currently neither porn production companies or strip clubs run by the government. But if an adult chooses sex work, shall he or she not be shown the same respect and accorded the same rights as others?

”Would you want your daughter to sell her body?”

”Would you want your daughter to sell her body?” This is another common question. But if an adult woman chooses to sell sexual services, why must it be so terrible for her parents? Even if one personally thinks that sex work seems odd and oneself would not like to be doing it, one must understand and accept that others are different. People are different.

The question expresses a derogatory view of sex work. The ”whore stigma” is amplified, and especially so for women. The son’s possible adultery does not seem to worry as much as the daughter’s, even though among the young, more men than women are selling sexual services. Whose daughter would like her parents to have such a view of her sex work? And why should parents and society in general have any veto over adult women’s sexual activities? Does this not in an unpleasant manner start to resemble an honor culture?

”Selling sex is a form of self-injury”

A common argument from those who want to wipe out sex trade is that sex work is a form of ”self-injury”. They say that sex workers have some mental impairment or disorder. Sometimes it is said that there is a difficult childhood involved, or that abuse must have occurred. Sometimes sex work is also seen as some kind of addictive behaviour, similar to drug addiction, so that sex workers must be helped to get out of it even if they do not want that.

But why should this only concern women who charge for sex? Should not all forms of extensive sexual behavior be included in the concept of sexual self-injury? Would not women who have sex to ”relive the trauma” free of charge have many more horny men on the waiting list than those that charge money for it? So why is a man considered criminal only if he pays money?

The talk about self-injury is nothing more than attempts to reduce or diminish sex workers, silence their voices and reject their ability to make decisions about their own lives. Sex work is an activity, a job, a profession. It is not a substance addiction or self-injury behaviour anymore than other pursuits. Sex workers who actually believe they have mental health problems must receive adequate help when they need it, without being dismissed, pressured to leave their sex work, or otherwise discriminated against. Again, we believe that the right perspective we advocate is the right way to go.

”There are no happy hookers”

The radical feminist rhetoric such as ”there are no happy hookers” further contributes to diminish and reduce of sex workers (although they sometimes can admit that ”a small minority,” perhaps ”one in a thousand”, work without being forced). Supposedly benevolent formulations such as ”no one ‘wants to’ rent out her vagina as a garbage can for hordes of anonymous men’s ejaculations” (Hoigard, Finstad) only contributes to reinforce  the stigma.

It is degrading and distasteful, but also stigmatizing and victimizing. The message is that sex working women’s work is disgusting. That they do not understand what they’re doing. They do not have the ability to decide when, how, where and why they have sex. That no account can be taken of their own subjective experience of their situation. To simultaneously claim  that this protects the rights and well being of sex workers is very badly conceived – or sheer hypocrisy.

”Buying sex is power abuse”

Many believe that prostitution is one expression (of many) of men’s power abuse over women. It is said that men use money as leverage to seize access to the woman and her body. This is misleading. All responsibility is once again placed entirely on the buyer, and the sex worker is portrayed as an object, passive and infantile. Power relations in sex trade are more complex than that.

In fact, the sex worker’s body not for sale, and therefore can not be used at the buyer’s discretion. What is being sold is services, just as is the case in many other professions. The buyer’s money gives an apparent power. But the seller has the real power, as the transaction takes place at his or her home ground. Rules and limits for what goes down is set up by the seller. The sex workers make the money, not the customers. The seller is not being sold, but is selling. To see sex work as a form of oppression is only consistent if you believe that sex in general is a form of oppression.

Slavery and coercion

There are heinous abuses of sex trade where slavery or coercion is involved. This must be put an end to. Urgently. Slavery and coercion in all forms is totally unacceptable, and must be fought by investing the crimes and the tracking down and convicting the perpetrators.

Buying sex if seller is under compulsion should be illegal, similarly how to it is in Finland. We propose a propose on assistance to slavery, supplemented with a ban on negligent assistance to slavery. Anyone who buys sex from a person that is forced into prostitution commits an offense if he knew – or should have understood – the sex worker’s situation. For such crimes severe punishments can be sentenced. This should ensure that the sex buyers are careful to avoid the enslaved sex worker’s market.

Confusing the concepts

To go beyond this and additionally criminalize sex trade between consenting adults only makes the situation worse. Proponents of the sex purchase law confuse such sex trade with coercion, slavery and sexual exploitation of children, in an unfortunate manner. The concepts are thoroughly mixed up.  On the Swedish government’s homepage, we read about ”the work against prostitution and human trafficking” that ”men buy, sell and exploit women and children by prostituting them.” The prohibition laws are meant to ”prevent and combat human trafficking and to protect those, mainly women and children, that are involved or risk becoming involved in prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation.”

Confusing benevolent sex trade with human trafficking and sexual exploitation only works to mask the loathsomeness of the latter. If politicians describe it as the same thing, no doubt in order to express disgust towards all sex trade – forced as well as voluntary – it will perhaps make the voluntary appear worse, but on the other hand slavery and coercion might also appear more benevolent. This results in an unpleasant devaluation of victims’ experience, and erosion of the values saying that we should not inflict each other harm. It would be distasteful to look a victim of slavery – or a sexually exploited child – in the eyes and tell him or her that ”in Sweden, what you have experienced is considered no worse than selling sexual services as a consenting adult”.

Operations go underground

The criminalization of sex-purchase causes an illegal replacement market to appear, which makes operations more dangerous for all involved. The demand does not decrease, but is instead exported abroad, mostly to neighboring European countries and Asia, and is driven underground here in Sweden. Criminal organizations can establish their operations. It becomes more difficult for the buyer to determine whether the seller is forced or works voluntarily. The propensity to alarm the police for those who believe the seller is suffering decreases significantly. There is a risk of retaliation from both the criminal elements and the state. The latter because alarming also means a risk of getting suspected for ”attempted purchase of sexual services” – which is also criminalized.

To combat slavery and coercion by criminalizing all sex buyers is extremely inefficient. Slavery and coercion represents only a very small part of the sex trade in Sweden. Efforts must be focused on tracking down, convicting and punishing the perpetrators of precisely those cases, not wasted on chasing benevolent sex trade. It is likely that the majority of trafficking-victims in Europe works in construction, begging and agriculture sectors. To try to prevent trafficking by introducing a general house-building ban or a giving-money-to-beggars prohibition would be a huge waste of resources that should have been focused  on combatting the actual trafficking crimes.

8 kommentarer till English version

  1. Pingback: Swedish footballers convicted of buying sex « www.harlotsparlour.com

  2. Virginia Johnson skriver:

    Your section ”Why buy sex, then?” is dangerously naive. It must be written by a woman or by a man with no genitalia. Men buy sex because they have to. Amazing you are politicizing about this and have no idea how the human male works. Amazing and downright scary.

  3. Virginia Johnson skriver:

    The dildo was invented to help ”hysterical” women 100+ years ago who needed to orgasm. Their doctors helped them. Today it is the men who need help. But their remedy is often dangerous, very expensive, and criminalized.

  4. Virginia Johnson skriver:

    Sex with a hooker is not about buying anything or owning anyone. It is about the physical and spiritual need for sex and love, something all human beings need. We have sexual surrogates for the disabled in Germany. Here in Sweden you just hate, hate, and more hate.

  5. Virginia Johnson skriver:

    Some oriental societies worship the sex drive, elevate the courtesan to close to deity status. Your Western world is full of hatred of sex and of life itself. And you’re simply not ”cool” enough to ever ”get it”. Sorry but you aren’t.

  6. Larrysnugs skriver:

    снять проститутку в москве – проститутки москвы проверенные, где в москве снять индивидуалку

  7. PeterCar skriver:

    https://job-opros.ru/kak-zarabotat-ot-100-do-1000-rublej-v-den-bez-vlozhenij-deneg/ – Работа в сети интернете, быстро заработать


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