Control and condoms in commercial sex: client perspectives


E.W. Plumridge, Department of Public Healthand General Practice, Christchurch School of Medicine, PO Box 4345, Christchurch, New Zealand


Indepth interviews were recorded with 24 clients of female sex workers to explore their perspectives on the control of commercial sex encounters. The men saw the encounter as falling into three phases, only the first of which - the decision to have sex - was under their control. Subsequent phases - the negotiation of services and the performance of sex - they argued to be under worker control. The men considered that they acquiesced in worker control because they saw themselves as respectful of a woman's right to control her body and because they considered themselves attentive to workers’ sexual pleasure. At the same time, this acquiescence was considered to exculpate them from any responsibility for safer sex practice. Thus while the men argued they were consistent condom users, they held their partners responsible for ensuring this consistent condom use: women supplied condoms, and were held accountable for any condom failures.

The discourse of these men therefore functioned both to present clients benignly and to exculpate them from any responsibility for ensuring the safety of the commercial sex encounter.