Is Paying for Sex a Disease?

Many U.S, jurisdictions send men to “John Schools” for treatment.


Like many folks, I will admit that I have been to traffic school. That’s where you get a speeding or traffic ticket, and are offered an option to attend a course of driving safety, as a means to get the ticket dismissed.
This makes sense, right? It gives more information and safety awareness to people on the street, including people like me, who sometimes have a lead foot.
When I attend driving school for speeding, coursework never suggests that my tendency to drive too fast is a disease–but in “john schools” around the country, men are being taught exactly that, that their desire to purchase sex is evidence of a sex addiction and a disease needing treatment.
In recent years, there has been a shift from prosecuting the (mostly female) people charged with prostitution, solicitation, and selling sexual encounters, to charging the (mostly men) people who attempt to purchase sex.
In 2010, data from the U.S. DOJ shows that 43,000 women were arrested for prostitution-related charges, compared to only 19,000 men, leading to legitimate criticisms that this reflects sexist and misogynistic social and legal attitudes towards females. 
In New York, “Operation Flush the Johns” in 2013 led to the publication of 104 men’s pictures after they were arrested for “patronizing a prostitute.” The arrests included two physicians, as well as numerous lawyers, including one 79-year-old attorney. Their names and pictures were then published in a local newspaper, sending shockwaves through families, businesses and clinics. This effort was part of an attempt to publicly shame these men (not all public interventions use shame, though this is an often criticized element), a strategy used across the country in an effort to suppress the demand for sex for sale. 
John school curricula typically includes information about the laws against sex work, as well as information about the exploitation experienced by many involved in sex work. "It is about changing attitudes," Jacquie Aitken, a director of a John school in Canada said. "We have to look at the attitudes of the people who are purchasing and their understanding of what purchasing sex means." 


Most John schools are based on a model developed in 2008, called the “First Offender Prostitution Program” or FOPP, implemented in 2008 in San Francisco, and included these elements: 
Prostitution Law and Street Facts, focusing on the legal consequences of subsequent offenses and addressing johns’ vulnerability to being robbed or assaulted while involved in prostitution.
Health Education, describing the elevated risk of HIV and STD infection associated with prostitution, and stressing that many STDs are asymptomatic and/or difficult to detect and have long term negative impacts on health.
Effect of Prostitution on Prostitutes, focusing on numerous negative consequences for women serving as prostitutes, such as vulnerability to rape and assault, health problems, drug addiction, and various forms of exploitation.
Dynamics of Pimping, Recruiting, and Trafficking, featuring discussions of how pimps and traffickers recruit, control, and exploit women and girls for profit, and the links between local street prostitution and larger systems of human trafficking.
Effect of Prostitution on the Community, describing the drug use, violence, health hazards, and other adverse consequences that co-occur with street prostitution.
Sexual Addiction, focusing on how involvement in commercial sex may be driven by sexual addiction, and where help for this condition can be sought.



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