I don't remember much about sex education in 10th grade, other than anxiety about what topics I might have to discuss with peers. But I do remember a woman who came to our private, secular school to talk about "chastity." She kept me enthralled as she explained we had been deceived by adults to believe that sex was an inevitable part of adolescence. She said, "You have power over your own desires. You are not a victim of your own urges but can make responsible choices." Her message was old-fashioned even 20 years ago, and the sex-ed teachers didn't approve. But as a girl trying to make sense of both the desire for sexual intimacy and the desire to wait for sex until marriage, her message of self-control was liberating.

I thought of her words upon reading a recent study about men who purchase sex. In the study, clinical psychologist Melissa Farley and a team of researchers interviewed 201 men in the Boston area about their sex-buying habits and their attitudes toward women. One hundred of the men were "non-sex buyers," and 101 were "sex-buyers." Farley's study is unusual because it deals exclusively with men's attitudes about buying sex, whereas most research within the field has focused on selling sex (i.e., prostitutes). And, while most studies of "johns" only identify behaviors among men who buy sex, this study involves a control group of "non-sex buyers" who correlate to the sex buyers in age, education, and income level. This study (overview here) distinguishes between men who buy sex and those who do not. Yet it also underscores the prevalence of men seeking sexual stimulation outside of intercourse with a willing partner.

The report concludes that men who buy sex are different from those who do not: "The common myth ...

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