Dear john

Dear john,

You may not remember me but I remember you.

As part of a research project on prostitution more than a decade ago, I stood on the corner of two London, Ontario streets to see if you’d stop and try to buy sex from me. There was nothing in my demeanor or dress that invited you to stop. I was just standing there, dressed for a cold winter night in a puffy coat, snow pants, winter boots, hat and scarf. Yet, because you believe all women exist to fulfill your pornified fantasies, you pulled over.

You offered me money for oral sex. I was stunned — not stunned because of the offer, but because there, in the middle of the back seat of your car, was a child’s car seat. Like many johns, you were a father to a young child. You were also likely a husband to the mother of your child.

I imagined your wife at home. Maybe she’d just come home from work, making money to help you raise your child. Your first priority, though, was you. So instead of going home to be with your family or help the mother of your child, you sought out a woman to pay for sex. While your wife was likely at home preparing your dinner, waiting to share time with you, you were pulled over looking for oral sex.

I’ve met a lot of men like you — men who complain their wives won’t have sex with them or that they won’t give them the kind of abusive, violent, dispassionate sex men like you demand. You tell people your wife “has let herself go,” “is always tired,” “just wants to be with the kid,” “won’t perform oral sex.” You demean your wife in order to justify actions that cannot be justified.

Maybe your wife is at home cleaning, cooking, and raising your child in order to make your life more comfortable. Maybe there are money issues. Maybe she’s still on maternity leave, or maybe she decided her low-paying job didn’t make it worth paying for childcare. You both agree money is tight but why should that worry you? Why use money for diapers, formula, or food when you can buy human flesh with it — when you can satisfy yourself by exploiting a girl or woman because you believe it’s your right as a man?

You’re one of those guys who says he’d never pay to have sex with an underage girl or trafficked woman, but you have no interest in knowing the truth. Ignorance is bliss, right? Anyway, in your mind, it’s a turn on to imagine that she might be underage or that you can do what you want with her, consequence-free. Power and control supports your masculinity.

Paying is really the only way you feel in control. You’re the guy no woman wants to be intimate with. In truth, you hate women or you wouldn’t treat them the way you do. To those you exploit, you are a nobody — another loser with a wallet. You might think you’re a stud, but the women you pay to have sex with are disgusted by what you do and by the fact that you have to use financial coercion in order to convince anyone to be near you. To them you are an unpleasant passing moment, someone forced on them because they have no other choice.

Your child, the one who would have sat in that car seat a dozen years ago, is now about 12 or 13. I think about your child sometimes and wonder if she’s a girl. She’d be close to the age of some of the girls you’ve paid to fulfill your fantasies with — the girls you’ve debased. Imagine if it was your daughter.

It’s illegal Canada for men to pay women and girls for sex. So, my goal is to make you famous. I want to see newspapers across the country publish the names of men like you, the men who pay for sex. It’s already beginning in some Canadian cities. I wonder how you will explain to your wife, children, friends, family, and employer why you do what you do; why are you paying to have sex with young girls and women?

Imagine what it will be like to see your name appear in public after you’re arrested for buying sex.

And if that doesn’t scare you, try picturing a guy just like you doing what you love to do: paying to have sex with your daughter.

Megan Walker is Executive Director of the London Abused Women’s Centre.

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  • Cangle

    Thank you thank you for this amazingly CLEAR description of the great Invisible Obvious going on here.

    Out them. Publish pictures. NAMES. At least that might make them think twice before buying their neighbor’s sister or daughter.

  • Meghan Murphy

    How can a man truly be “kind and caring” if he thinks it’s ok to pay women for sex? That doesn’t seem very “kind and caring” to me…

  • Hannah

    Similar to the Ashley Madison hack, I felt so sorry for the women who had their personal lives made so public but I really do think johns need to be outed for the sex offenders they are. A lot of the time that would be the first time their families become aware of their habits. It really should only reflect badly on them and it’s so telling about our society that people will still gossip about women when the men in their lives do horrible things.

    • Armordog99

      The problem is when someone cheats, male or female, a lot of people will look at the spouse and think what did they do or not do to contribute to it. I don’t think that is the case most of the time when a man cheats.
      Of course studies show that men and women cheat for different reasons. Read an article during the whole Clinton-Lewinsky thing that referenced a study whose results showed that 92% of women that cheat plan on leaving their current relationship but only 12% of men plan on leaving. Also when women cheat they are more likely to say they are in love, where men are just doing it for the sex.

      • omphaloskeptic

        Actually, most men who cheat report that they are not doing it primarily for the sex. In a recent study, only 8% listed sexual dissatisfaction as the main reason they cheated. Nearly half said the primary cause was emotional dissatisfaction.

  • Hannah

    The whole “what if it was your mother/daughter/wife” thing always bothered me. This should be wrong because those women are human beings, period. Not because of their relations to other men.

    • cynicalleftist

      I agree with what you are saying. In my opinion, sometimes we need to use examples of girls and women men already see as human as opposed to existing to be sexually used and abused to get this through to men (as well as some women who see prostituted women as others). We shouldn’t have to, but men don’t see all women as human beings.

  • Hannah

    You talk about how monogamy is overrated then talk about their wives? You do realize getting married is promising to be monogamous right? And even if they have another agreement, buying people is not ok and I am not ok with living in a society that says it’s ok. It’s slavery. Look at how women in legal brothels are treated – they are only allowed outside for a minimal amount of time and otherwise have to be available for men. Sounds more like how people treat cattle, not humans. Not to even get started on the concept of choice and that the way we are influenced by society. Even worse, most prostitutef women are there out of desperation. Would you call that a free choice?

    I don’t really know why I’m bothering, your comment shows no actual knowledge on the subject or any critical thinking.

    • omphaloskeptic

      Is that unusual? In most jobs, employees have set hours in which they’re expected to be on duty to perform their job, and have only limited break times.

  • Tangelo

    There is not a single john out there who is kind and caring. Kind and caring is not using your cash to coerce someone into “sex” with you who does not want it. That’s rape.
    As for danger …johns are the ones who hurt, rape, rob and kill women and children. in any other situation, if a man was hurting women and children, we would expect his arrest and jail time. Why do you want johns to get a pass?

  • cynicalleftist

    “Don’t pretend to have knowledge or some special stance on something you
    aren’t actually apart of and have zero real life experience in. It’s
    dangerous and oppressive.”

    Don’t pretend to have knowledge about the backgrounds of the commenters here or how we know what we know. In my experience, feminist abolitionists, by and large have *some* connection to the sex trade, whether that’s a history in the trade or having friends or family that were prostituted.

  • Applejack

    Prostitution is male violence against women. Men who pay to rape women are NEVER kind and caring. What an awful thing to say.

    As Sophie Poole said:
    “Did everyone’s brain fall out? What is the only reason money is ever paid for sex? BECAUSE THAT SEX IS UNWANTED. The idea a man could even fathom enjoying unwanted sex with a woman who is repulsed by him is actually psychopathic. It is a human right to never have sex when you don’t want to. There is only one word for somebody who enjoys paying to inflict a sex act on a woman who does not want it—rapist.”

    Prostitution is a human rights violation. Prostitution is dangerous and oppressive. Johns are rapists.

    Men who rape under-age and very young poor women (the majority of prostituted women) deserve to be criminalized, punished and their names and pictures made public. They are vermin.

  • Brilliant, but the dude likely wouldn’t care about the “what about your daughter?” argument because if he’s a pedophile he’s probably abusing her too.

  • Meghan Murphy

    I see. So by your standards, marital rape didn’t really exist until a few decades ago? And it still doesn’t exist in some places?

    • Armordog99

      No, I believe marital rape does exist. When a wife says no and a husband then still has sex without her consent it is rape. The poster had said that unwanted sex is rape and I was pointing out the fact that a lot of wives (and to some extent some husbands) have sex when they don’t want to. They still give consent, but they don’t really want to have sex. In my relationship this has happened to me once (I didn’t want to and she did so I gave in and we did) and a whole lot of times with her saying no and me talking her into it.

      • Meghan Murphy

        But your definition of rape is solely based on ‘society’s definition’… So by your logic, marital rape is fine so long as ‘society’ deems it fine.

  • Tired feminist

    “Not all johns”
    “Not all porn”
    “Not all men”

    Seriously, can’t you guys give it a break?

  • Tired feminist

    Marital rapist detected

  • omphaloskeptic

    Just a quick correction: It was the legislature who decided to criminalize johns, not the courts. The Supreme Court of Canada struck down the existing prostitution laws in late 2013, in the case of Canada (AG) v Bedford. Parliament responded by passing laws making it a crime to buy sex. The constitutionality of these new laws has not yet been assessed by any courts, so far as I know.

    It is possible the new government will reassess the prostitution laws and decide to change them again. We’ll have to wait and see how much of Harper’s criminal law legacy the Trudeau government decides to dismantle. (My off-topic hope is that they will, at the very least, get rid of some mandatory minimums, allow judges the discretion to waive the victim surcharge fee in cases of indigence, and bolster the availability of alternatives to jail in appropriate cases.)

  • omphaloskeptic

    I wouldn’t agree that sex addicts have no shame. In fact, distress/shame about their sexual behaviour, and the sense that it is out of control and harming their lives, is characteristic of sexual addiction. There isn’t an official list of diagnostic criteria for this proposed (but currently unofficial) disorder, but I’ve never seen a proposed set of criteria that fails to include the person’s subjective sense of distress over their own behaviours.

    • Ang

      The sex addicts that I have encountered on a daily basis tends to not feel shame or distress over their own behaviors and choices. They tend to blame a third party for being responsible. It is a diagnosed disorder/ addiction in the u.s. There are even therapists that get two more years of studies to receive certification to treat the addicts and the victims.

      • omphaloskeptic

        By unofficial, I mean that it has not yet been made a specific disorder in the DSM, although symptoms of that may fall into one of the catchall “not otherwise specified” buckets.

        I am interested to hear more about the addicts you encounter and the context in which you encounter them. Are they receiving treatment for their sexual behaviours?

        • Ang

          Yes, under treatment of a CSAT-S certified therapist. Usually they are also going to group meetings that are at a church or SA meeting also. Professionals in the field usually do not recommend independent groups for recovering sex/porn addicts. If an addict is in treatment the groups tend to jeopardize recovery more then help due to see addicts use the meetings to find the next “fix”. Also, most sex/porn addicts are usually told to go to therapy by a life partner or family member either that person threatens to leave or press legal charges.

        • Ang

          Yes they are under the treatment of a CSAT-S therapist. They attend individual and group.

  • omphaloskeptic

    No woman has any obligation to have sex with her spouse. Of course she doesn’t. If she won’t have sex with him, he’ll just have to deal. I agree with you 100% about that.

    How do you propose he deal with it, though? It seems you condemn him for discreetly getting sex elsewhere, and you condemn him for masturbating to depictions of sex (pornography). What do you propose he do instead?

    • Tired feminist

      This is his problem, not ours. What makes you think feminism should care about men’s hurt feelings?