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CAASE Releases Report about Online Johns' Message Boards

The Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE), the lead agency for the End Demand Illinois campaign, published research today about online message boards where men discuss buying sex in Illinois. Johns on these boards detail where they are buying sex from women and girls, how they evade law enforcement and what law enforcement efforts deter them. Trigger Warning: This report contains quotations with explicit content, including descriptions of sexual violence. Download the full report here.

A note to members of the media: For interviews with the author, please contact kristin@caase.org or call 773-244-2230 ext. 3.

Researcher Lara Janson worked with the CAASE for more than two years on this report, ‘“Our Great Hobby”: An Analysis of Online Networks for Buyers of Sex in Illinois.’ Janson focused her research on the exchange of information among men who post on a website called the USA Sex Guide. Some of the findings include:

  •  Johns created more than 2,600 posts about buying sex in Illinois in the three-month period studied.
  • Men in the Illinois forums of the USA Sex Guide discuss buying sex in venues throughout the state, both on the street and in seemingly legitimate businesses like massage establishments and strip clubs.
  • Johns post about buying sex in communities throughout Illinois. During the three-month period researched, Chicago had the most posts, with Rockford, Melrose Park, Washington Park, Lombard and Bloomington ranking next with the most numbers of posts.
    • Johns describe how these online forums facilitate buying sex. Whereas in the past men who bought sex learned about strategies and dangers of buying commercial sex primarily through their own personal trial and error, johns today can learn from the successes and failures of other men. 
  • They discuss buying sex from women and girls who are potentially minors, victims of trafficking or under pimp control.
  • There are many descriptions of violence perpetrated against women and girls in the sex trade, either by the johns themselves or by pimps or others.
  • Johns discuss law enforcement efforts to curb prostitution. Their remarks show which efforts are effective in deterring them from buying sex, and others that are not:
    • When law enforcement conducts “reverse stings” that target men who buy sex, it creates energetic discussions among johns about whether or not to continue buying sex.
    • Conversely, law enforcement policies that target prostituted women and girls or primarily men of color who buy sex do not appear to deter the men on these boards from purchasing sex.

CAASE believes that this research can inform more effective ways for law enforcement and communities to address the demand for prostitution. “If we want to adequately and effectively reduce the demand for paid sex, and thus reduce violence against prostituted people, we need to first understand what motivates men to purchase sex,” said Rachel Durchslag, Executive Director of CAASE. “Lara Janson’s report highlights, through johns’ own words, how specific law enforcement responses to prostitution do deter men from purchasing sex.” This report was created in partnership with Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children and with support from Demand Abolition and Lovelight Foundation. 

The Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE) is a nonprofit addressing the culture, institutions, and individuals that perpetrate, profit from, or support sexual exploitation, including sexual assault and the commercial sex trade. Its work includes prevention, policy reform, community engagement, and legal services. To learn more, visit www.caase.org or call (773) 244-2230 ext. 3. # # #

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The End Demand Illinois campaign is shifting law enforcement's attention to sex traffickers and people who buy sex, while proposing a network of support for survivors of the sex trade.

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