A story on CNN.com
has highlighted a "john school" in Nashville: a one-day program for first-time offenders busted for hiring prostitutes. There are about 50 similar programs around the country, and our local chapter is likely as average as the next. Single men, married men, older men, younger men, black men, and white men were all described as being in attendance.
Only open to men buying sex from an adult, the program is staffed by city officials and volunteers, healthcare workers and former prostitutes involved with the Magdalene House
program. It's held in a church, and the way the article describes it, it seems that shame is the only consequence the johns understand. Some men were not able to look directly at a former prostitute as she told her story of childhood rape, and recidivism rates drop sharply when their names are added to a registry. (Nashville's program publically displays their mug shots, though there are no statistics available regarding the re-offense rate of program participants specifically.)
Conversations about prostitution are more than conversations about sex. We're talking about victimization, autonomy, abuse, and loneliness. Prostitution is not a victimless crime, because for every man or woman that enters the profession willingly, there are far more people suffering from abuse and addiction with no clear way out. The johns mentioned in the story are equal parts pitiful and frustrating. Even the man who seems to get it, who feels remorse for his crime, is quoted as saying, "These girls are somebody's daughters. I have a daughter."
They are somebody's daughters. But they are also grown women who have always been seen as belonging to someone other than themselves.