Friday, June 17, 2011

Calling on the hotline ...

The sad story of the Danish government's hotline for men "addicted" to buying sex.

Key bits:
Four ministry employees, working six-hour shifts, two days a week, received an average of 1.4 phone calls per shift. And a significant number of those callers hung-up or didn’t say a word.

The fact is that a lot of men like to buy sex – and they aren’t interested at all in the government’s programme to change that.

Approximately one in ten Danish men over the age of 18 bought sex at least once – often many times – in the last 12 months. Yet of the approximately 200,000 Danish men who bought sex from prostitutes last year, only one in one thousand called the Social Ministry’s hotline.

Moreover, a campaign the ministry ran in 2008 to inform men about human trafficking in Denmark seemed to result in slightly higher number of young Danish men going to prostitutes and massage clinics.

The social affairs minister, Benedikte Kiær, nevertheless, reported in a council meeting that the hotline was “working well”.
Putting aside the obvious waste of money, and the misleading informal performance evaluation by the social affairs minister, the reported fraction of men purchasing sex in Denmark is much higher than comparable numbers in the US. This likely reflects several factors. The first is simply reporting differences. Purchasing sexual services is legal in Denmark and so, presumably, survey respondents are more likely to truthfully report it conditional on having done so. Second, demand may be higher in Denmark as well, both because such purchases are legal (making it less risky both in the sense of law enforcement troubles and in the sense of being ripped off) and because Danes are a much less religious bunch than Americans, so that the average psychic cost is likely lower.

It would be interesting to write down a model of the implications of legal sex work for the marriage market. It should affect the set of marriages that form, the division of rents within marriage, sexual behavior within marriage as well as the duration of marriages.

Hat tip: Lars Skipper

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