KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Sex sells, and Kansas City men are buying online by the thousands, according to a new study by researchers at Arizona State University's School of Social Work.
The study used dummy ads on Backpage.com to estimate the number of men buying sex online in 15 major US cities. Of the cities surveyed, Kansas City had the second highest percentage of men buying sex online per capita, at 14.5 percent. Only Houston had a higher percentage, outpacing Chicago, Miami and Las Vegas.
The study estimated that 106,624 men in the metro area had paid for sex with someone they met on the Internet.
Read the study | http://bit.ly/17nhASD
"You have to have a preliminary understanding of the size of the problem," said Dominique Roe, the study's author. "All we know about the demand side comes from John schools."
The founder of one of those John's schools, Kristy Childs of Veronica's voice, said she wasn't surprised by the large number of Johns in the metro, or the growing preference from those who pay for sex, to do so online.
"The Internet is the new street, and it has been for quite some time," Childs said. "What I have found is through my own experience, guys will use both venues."
Childs and Lorraine Holden, another Veronica's Voice employee and a former sex worker herself, explained that the men who pay for sex tend to defy stereotyping: They come from every racial, economic and social background. The only common denominator is a willingness to pay for sex, and the financial means to do so.
They said those buying sex from escorts who advertise online often pay more than men who pick up women on the street – perhaps believing they were paying for a less-exploitative or more anonymous experience. Holden said neither is true.
"They believe that someone who is using the Internet is more willing, but that's not always the case," Holden said. "Anyone being prostituted is being exploited. We kind of established a long long time ago that people shouldn't be bought and sold, but that's not necessarily true today."
Some critics of the study, including Childs, said that by focusing on only one online site that hosts sex ads, they may see distorted results. But even critics in the law enforcement community agreed, noting the high demand for prostitution serves an important purpose.
"There's more demand," Holden said. "And that's why there is a supply. If there was no one there to buy sex, no one would sell it."