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Researching the demand side of trafficking

Antonios Papantoniou - Maria Papantoniou-Frangouli,
. ,

. . . , 2010, . 283-303.


1. The Identity of the Research

This article is based on a transnational empirical study on the demand side of trafficking in women for sexual exploitation, co-financed by the European Commission under the framework of the AGIS Program. This study started in December 2005 and ended in October 2007. We are very much indebted to Professor Calliopi D. Spinellis, for providing us with her valuable assistance at the very start of this research project, when confronted with problems that put into risk its further development.

Under the acronym DeStoLi, the research was planned as a cross-national and cross-regional comparative investigation and was conducted in three countries (Greece, Cyprus, Germany) (1) and in different sites in each country (2). The authors of this article were responsible for the coordination.

The research project comprises: a) a desktop research on the legal and institutional settings and the situation concerning trafficking and demand in each country; b) a field research conducted through qualitative interviews, constituting the main component of the overall investigation.

In this short contribution we will try to present the problematics of the topic, the efforts to overcome the relative research problems and difficulties, the methodology proposed as well as selected findings of the field research highlighting common aspects of the demand in the participating countries.

2. The Problem

Since the decade of the nineteen-nineties a strong political interest has been developed concerning trafficking, which has been ideologically linked to illegal migration, transnational crime and security. Subsequently, funding opportunities emerged for small and short-term studies to help combat trafficking. These researches were oriented towards the political and ideological interests of their granting agencies and had to respond to the pressing need for information required for developing anti-trafficking policies. As a result a discussion was initiated, a discourse developed and the research interest in trafficking was triggered, though the consequences were negative for the scientific investigation of the phenomenon, given the focus, the themes, the methods used and the quality of these studies. In this respect, Salt and Howgarth comment that the development of research methods on trafficking remains in its infancy (3), while Kelly observes that these researches were strategic, but not necessarily 'thoughtful' and that the dominant tendency was to conduct what social researchers call 'quick and dirty studies' (4). Interestingly enough, at this phase, and until the first years of 2000, demand for trafficked women did not constitute an object of research.

Demand for sexual services, and in particular demand for trafficked persons, constitutes one of the least researched aspects of sexuality internationally. Many researchers mention that until recently, research on prostitution and trafficking as well as the relative anti-trafficking policies and the public discourse, have focused their interest and attention either on the issue of prostitution or the prostitutes themselves and have largely ignored the 'invisible', 'faceless and nameless' (5), but basic agent in the overall process, that is the 'client' (6). In the research on trafficking, the interpretation that long prevailed was that the 'cause' of trafficking is the girls themselves who are naive enough to trust everyone too much, or who are of loose morals (7). What finally dominated -also among decision makers- was to conceptualize girls as 'victims', without any agency. Part of the most recent research developed exactly against this assumption (8).

It was only under the pressure of feminist movements, International Organizations, and NGOs, and the influence of the Scandinavian sociological research that has been always interested in the role of men as clients in prostitution (9), that the 'client' entered the scene. Nevertheless, the shift in the focus of the research and in the attribution of responsibilities did not free research from prejudices and preconceived ideas: The majority of the research regarding the client starts from a reductionist approach of prostitution and demand, both understood as expression of masculine power, of violence against women, or misogyny. Moreover, in these investigations only one component in the process of demand is identified; in fact there are certain researchers who, from the entire chain of those involved in the process of trafficking (recruiters, traffickers, travel agencies, pimps, eventually collaborating officials, brothel-owners, bar-owners, drivers, etc.), charge the client -the ultimate consumer- with the largest share of responsibility, putting forward that it is, after all, the clients of prostitution, who, for the most part, finance the entire business and sustain the trafficking in women and girls by demanding new and exotic 'products' (10).

In our research, demand is understood as a complex and multi-dimensional process that has to be studied taking into account the synergy of three basic components: the clients, the above mentioned profiteers involved in the process of trafficking, and the social and cultural context that favours, tolerates, legitimizes, normalizes and supports the development of demand and trafficking or eventually counteract it. Under these conditions, the practice of all actors involved, individual and institutional, micro and macro, should be studied and understood not in isolation, but as interrelated and in interplay and as part of broader configurations.

In the frame of the above, our particular methodological choice has been to study demand as perceived, projected in the fantasies, dreamed, felt, lived and, of course, narrated by the clients themselves in the frame of interviewing. We are concerned with the lived and felt (11) experiences of the clients as clients; with the interpretative Understanding (Verstehen) (12) of the contextualised factual' or 'intended' subjective meaning of the more or less conscious or perceived, and more or less rationally motivated behavior (13) of consumers; with the wholeness of the encounter, as it manifests itself in the different local, regional, and global socio-cultural settings, rather than with discrete variables and their interconnections.

Our research aspires to shed some light on this 'invisible' and misunderstood client and the equally debatable activity of demand. Questions that have preoccupied the research team have been such as the following:

Who are, finally, those 'mysterious' clients?

What are the motivations of the heterosexual client in visiting prostitutes, including forced prostitutes?

What does the client actually desire and want to buy and what does he really buy or receive?

What meaning does he attribute and which fantasies does he connect with his demand?

What does all this mean for the relation of the client with the trafficked women?

How does all this relate with the drastic changes that gender relations have undergone?

What are the influences of globalization, the dominance of the neo-liberal market economy and morality as well as consumerism in the development of demand and trafficking?

What is the impact of demand as a collective practice on local society and on the very forces that have contributed towards its development, be they traditional or post-modern globalised ones?

3. Methodology

3.1. A Qualitative Research

It is obvious that the above cannot be satisfactorily answered, but only with the assistance of the instruments of the qualitative research. Qualitative research is the best way for the researcher to be informed and learn about the 'lived experience' of the participants. The qualitative inquiry offers a unique occasion to the researcher to discuss his questions with the respondents, to clarify his eventual doubts, and to challenge the interviewee to reflect on the motives, meanings and justifications of his/her own behaviour. As Nunkoosing observes, the qualitative interview invites and persuades individuals to think and to talk -that is, to discourse- their needs, wants, expectations, experiences, and understanding at both the conscious and unconscious levels (14). In relation to our research with its specific target group, the qualitative inquiry is also chosen as the most appropriate interview technique to encourage people to talk about issues of such a sensitive and private nature as those related to sexuality, to the purchase of sexual services and to using the services of trafficked women, that constitutes moreover an illegal activity.

Naturally, making clients talk is one aspect; the other is how they talk: The respondent might use defensive tactics leading to false information about himself. But what is of interest to us and what is pursued in the frame of a qualitative research is not the truthfulness of what is being said, but the authenticity of the discourse, and it is this authenticity that we must retain and interpret. In any case, we should always keep in mind that what the subject of the research tell us is a construction, a product of our encounter with him/her in the frame of a specific interview situation, and what he/she says at a certain moment might differ to what he/she would say at another moment in the frame of another interview. This constitutes the worry of all the researchers of human experiences.

For the production of our data, we have conducted semi-structured, in depth interviews with open-ended questions directed to the participants' experiences, feelings, beliefs, meanings and convictions about trafficking, trafficked women, commercialized sexual services and demand. Interviews were conducted with the support of an 'interview guide' developed on the basis of the main themes appearing in the research design. The actual questions presented to respondents were formulated on the spot during the course of the interview.

The interviews were conducted with clients and a limited number of key informants. The total number of interviews is 141. The interviews have been analyzed with the assistance of software for qualitative analysis: Nvivo 7 and Atlas.ti.


3.2. Researching a 'hidden population'

Research in the field of human trafficking and particularly on the demand side of trafficking, which is the case in this study, is confronted with several difficulties. The most challenging are: a) difficulties in sampling the target population because of the absence of a sampling frame; b) difficulties in locating the clients-interviewees and the eventual refusal of the research subjects to participate in an interview and talk about their experiences openly and in a sincere way.

Concerning the first difficulty: The nature of demand for sexual services by trafficked migrant women as a 'covert', socially non-, or not always, acceptable, illegal or stigmatized activity, renders clients a 'hard-to-reach', or 'hidden population' (15). A hidden population is a subset of the general population whose membership is not readily distinguished or enumerated; that is for whom size and boundaries are unknown and for whom no sampling frame exists (16). Because of this diffuse and unobserved character, it is impossible to create a random sample or obtain a representative one and not easy to locate members of this population (17). Therefore, studying and researching groups of hidden populations requires approaches different from those commonly used for more easily observable populations (18).

Such different approaches are not only possible, but also appropriate in a qualitative inquiry. Indeed, as in qualitative research it is neither the exploration of the average experience nor the statistical representativity that are pursued, but the in-depth knowledge of the issue under investigation and the detection of all possible variations, random sampling is not the appropriate sampling technique. Qualitative researchers seek in general 'valid representation' with rather different sampling techniques such as 'purposive sampling' (19), 'snowball sampling' (20), 'convenience sampling' (21) or 'theoretical sampling' (22).

In our research we have opted for a combination of purposive sampling (23) and snowball sampling (24).

Purposive sampling was used for selecting the research sites that is the areas and localities where the research was to be conducted. The criterion was to include sites with different cultural, geographic and demographic characteristics, of different degree of urbanisation, with different previous experiences concerning the offer of sexual services, different experiences concerning migration and trafficking.

Concerning participants (clients and key informants) we have used a combination of purposive and snowball sampling. The requirement of combining the purposive with the snowball sampling emerged given the nature of the task group as a hard-to-reach population. The logic behind using snowball sampling is that persons who are members of a hidden population know further persons in their social environment -'milieu'- who engage in the same behaviours as this particular sub-population type. Thus snowball sampling remains the best method available when trying to reach populations that are inaccessible or hard to find (25). As far as the purposive character of sampling participants is concerned, we aimed at individuals with the best possible relative knowledge, different types of experiences as clients and the willingness to speak openly about it.

However, the unquestionable usefulness of a chain recruitment of participants into the study is not without drawbacks. People usually propose people that they know well, and who share their own views. Thus the researcher is in danger of becoming captive to a small cycle of similar people and thus of seeing the horizon of his/her research become very much restricted. In order to avoid the eventuality of an overrepresentation in the sampling of participants from the same social milieu with corresponding under-sampling of other categories of the population, and in order to achieve a reasonable coverage of the heterogeneity in the population of interest, access to more segmented groups with differences in age, education, economic situation and social strata in which they belong should be attempted and achieved. As an appropriate technique to achieve this, we elected to start parallel snowball chains from different localities, social milieus, social groups and groups of men with different demographic characteristics, using different interviewers. In each discrete snowball chain, the process continues until the sample has become 'saturated'; that is new respondents fail to provide information that differs from that already obtained from previously interviewed research subjects.

The second difficulty relates to the type of data to be collected, which has to do not only with the sexual and intimate sphere, which is of a highly personal and sensitive nature, but in addition with the seeking 'clandestine' sexual services by trafficked persons that constitutes a stigmatised, illegal or even criminal behaviour. It is evident that strong privacy concerns and the desire for secrecy may lead many respondents either to give unreliable answers or even to refuse to cooperate and discuss such a sensitive issue in a face-to-face encounter with an unknown researcher, much less to enter into a detailed and in-depth discussion as required in the frame of a qualitative research.

This problem was dealt with by recruiting as interviewers social scientists who, beyond their academic qualifications and research experience, were indigenous, intimately familiar with the local social milieu and recognised and accepted among the targeted population. This meant that for each research site and milieu, different researchers-interviewers had to be traced, a procedure that was complex and time consuming. We have, however, been compensated for these inconveniences with the effective overcoming of the difficulties expected to arise from the lack of trust and confidentiality between the interviewer and interviewees.

4. The Demand

4.1. Point of View

Demand does not take place in a social and cultural vacuum. Demand is embedded in a normative framework, is influenced by the conception of the nature of man and his (sexual) needs as well as the understanding(s) of woman, is framed by the permissibilities (as well as prohibitions) concerning sexual behaviours, and at the same time expresses in its specific manifestations the general orientations of society.

The social and cultural context in which demand is manifested in the contemporary societies -be it rural areas or modern mega-cities- is to a large extent shaped by the values and cultural choices developed through the process of globalisation of culture and economy and promoted through the new media and the new information technologies. In the frame of this process, traditions, values, attitudes and everyday practices are imbued and transformed so as to reflect, to a greater or lesser extent, the emerging 'hybrid culture', ruled by an individualistic ideology (Bauman's 'individualized society') (26) in which personal choices seem to proliferate.

Concerning interpersonal relations and intimacy, changes and transformations in values and attitudes have led to the questioning, but not to the disappearance, of the traditional patriarchal structures, to an alteration of gender roles and of the economic and reproductive duties and obligations, and to a crisis, not only in the relationships, but also in the self-understanding and the identity of the sexes. These developments are described in an interesting way by Giddens in his book The Transformation of Intimacy. One of the main characteristics of the new understanding of intimacy, according to Giddens, is the decline of romantic love and the emergence of what he terms 'plastic sexuality' (27). Bauman evaluates the changes as an 'erotic' and 'cultural revolution', consisting of the emancipation of eroticism from sexual reproduction and love, and of the freedom to seek sexual delights for their own sake (28). What in the past used to be classified as 'sexual disorder', 'perversion' and 'the heresy of libertinism', has risen to the level of cultural norm: an eroticism 'with no strings attached', untied, unbridled, let loose... free to enter and leave any association of convenience, but also an easy prey to forces eager to exploit its seductive powers (29).

This erotic revolution is accompanied by an intense commodification and commercialisation of bodies (30), sex, and sexualities (31), which goes hand in hand with another feature of the post-modern society, the almost globally adopted consumer culture. In the consumer society, ruled by the market principles of supply, demand, capital accumulation and the values of a 'market morality' (32), consumer needs are ' culturalised ' (Baudrillard) (33) ; that is they are not any more necessarily linked with the object consumed, but created as 'needs for the difference', as needs that come to satisfy in the first place 'the desire for social meaning' through the consumption of a 'commodity-sign'. The post-modern man does not consume only goods and services, but also 'signs' and 'communicators' of difference, in order to demonstrate his status as a marketable commodity.

The new understandings of sexuality: instrumentalisation of sex, its shifting towards an 'episodic' sexuality (34), externalization of sexuality, reification of emotional relationships (35), the upgrading of bodily pleasures, and the quest for sensation, all of them being central to contemporary consumer culture, create the conditions for a resurgence and reinforcement of purchased sex.

4.2. The meaning of Demand

The population of clients is large, invisible and heterogeneous and currently has expanded to comprise men of all ages and of all socio-economic strata, independently of education and profession. This proliferation of purchased sex, though partially explained through the sexualisation and even 'pornification' of culture, still remains something of a paradox: the 'erotic revolution' having provided men -as well as women- with ample opportunities of sexual experiences for free, why should so many men so frequently have recourse to the prostitute? This is to be understood in the frame of the new meanings and new functions that demand has acquired in a changing and unstable world, and also in the frame of global processes, such as migration. In the following we will try to shed light on this, as far as space allows.

Traditionally, demand was based on the 'naturalization' of the sexual needs of man and the purchase of sex -depending of course on the cultural and societal moment- was a practice indulged, rather than accepted, constituting simultaneously an underground activity and an expression of masculinity and masculine power (36) Changes in attitudes in the direction of viewing the purchase of sex as a consumption activity and the ' culturalisation ' of needs have allowed the practice of demand to become ' normalised ' and be raised to a sign and significator. Consequently, it is no more a behaviour in which one is reluctant to participate, but a practice that can be demonstrated openly: A middle-aged man can take a 'two meters tall' blond East-European girl for coffee at the village square and show off without worries, or a man can ostentatiously exhibit his 'masculinity', as this has been processed and redefined in the frame of post-modern society; that is, not as assertion of sexual power, but as the capacity of 'consumption' of an unlimited number of women.

The 'sexual release' dimension of demand certainly persists in current practices; however, it is far from constituting the dominant meaning of demand, as all researchers in the field testify (37). Moreover, even in cases where demand consists strictly of sexual release, its modalities, as well as the grounds of its restriction to that dimension, are defined by the post-modern patterns of behaviour: This type of sex is compared to fast food, scholars talking of McDonaldization (38) of the sexuality or McSexualisation (39). That is, demand being ruled by the methods used by McDonald's to rationalize its services: 'efficiency', that is 'choosing the optimum means to a given end'; 'calculability, that is assessment of outcomes; 'predictability', that is to know what to expect in most settings and at most times; and 'control' over eventual uncertainties and unpredictabilities. Expressing this spirit a Cypriot respondent says that a girl is ordered at home in the same way that one orders a pizza. This modality serves men who want to avoid the 'hassles of a relationship' or do not feel the need for a closer relationship with a girl. Clients might still be interested in a contact with a woman with intimacy involved, but opt for paid sex instead, because they want 'no strings attached'. In this case, in their encounter with the prostitute they would like to simulate conditions of a relationship; they choose a girl they are attracted to, there must be chemistry, as they say, and sometimes they follow certain rituals in order to make it seem like a date. The contact, however, remains short and without any other activity involved beyond sex and an eventual drink and a short discussion of politeness.

What, however, has been elevated to the utmost characteristic of demand is its function of compensating for what the man does not have and desires to experience, albeit at the virtual reality level. The pursuit of satisfaction of psychological needs, of distraction from problems and of release of tension through purchased sex is age old, but had not been accorded sufficient attention until recent research on demand. Moreover, it has currently become even more opportune, due to the fragilisation of men in the frame of current processes: economic restructuring and the flexibilisation of labour in the frame of a globalised market have rendered the man insecure in his traditional role of worker and breadwinner, while changes in the 'gender order' (40) have been even more painful for the man and difficult to respond to. As many authors mention, man feels actually that his hegemonic position is at stake. A Cypriot client expressed it in particularly strong terms: (frequenting prostitutes) is a desperate way, according to my opinion, to exhibit that we are still men, that it is us who are the head of the family and that we can do whatever we want and that the woman is enslaved and follows us in our wishes.

Thus, sex workers are now called to respond to challenges such as the above in addition to their more traditional role, and seem to do quite well. A German client says the best prostitutes are those, who can perfectly sell an illusion, while another comments that foreign prostitutes are the best at creating illusions. In a situation of virtual reality, men want to compensate for the losses in real life, to forget for a moment the negative aspects of their lives and of their personality (old age, ugliness, low prestige). Some, for instance, want to assert their 'grandiosity' which they believe is not sufficiently recognised by the others: (in his contact with the prostitute) he thinks to be someone, that he becomes a lord, that he is above all others, while he does not understand that the opposite is the case-illusion. For these functions to be fulfilled it is necessary to have both the collaboration of a girl that is competent and knows how to enhance the self-esteem of men, and a prostitution venue, such as a bar or cabaret, that provides the possibility of more relaxed contact with the girl. The point to which bars have become places of illusion is expressed by the observation that at the other side of the bar you can tell lies and believe them yourself. Men also seek in such places to experience situations they are missing in real life, for example they go to the bar to 'fall in love'.

For a considerable number of clients the eroding effects of the emancipation of women for their self-esteem has led them to a kind of misogyny and talk about women as demanding, exploitative, and even as 'predatory'. They reject them - frequently after being first themselves rejected- and prefer the prostitute, the relationship with whom is by definition a relationship where women are not opposed to men and are not antagonistic to them, but on the contrary they try to show by all means their full acceptance and admiration (41). A client in Corinth goes as far as to say that it is preferable to marry a prostitute than a regular woman that will simply be after your money and will exploit you; while the prostitute is interested in money too, but she will be satisfied with less and will show some concern for the man.

While clients exhibit a traditional self-understanding as men, their desires bear the impress of post-modern culture. For some, this leads to contradictory and unrealisable demands from women: they would like a woman to be at the same time sufficiently sexually liberated for an 'one-night stand' and at the same time to be caring for the man in the way the 'women of the fifties' were. This view was represented by a group of young Athenians who, between serious and joking, made reference to importing brides as a solution. Others follow the path of the compartmentalization of their lives: there is a clear distinction between what they do -and not only in sex but also in entertainment- with their wives and with the prostitute. The most interesting paradox is that presented by young men, who, puzzled and intimidated by the approaches and proposals of the girls of their age, instead of seizing the opportunities offered 'run to the prostitute', according to the evidence provided by a client-high school teacher. A young respondent in Astros expresses this intimidation and resentment of the boys, commenting with bitterness that we have turned from hunters to the 'hunted'.

Furthermore, reference should be made to the phenomenon of the 'scarcity' of women in the Greek countryside (42), particularly in Peloponnesus: Women tend to leave the small places towards the cities, while men, bound to their farms or to other family business, stay behind. However, even the women that remain become very choosy; they will not relate to -much less marry- a shepherd or a farmer, or someone who does not come up to their expectations. Thus, for large numbers of men the prostitute remains the only outlet for sex, company and even marriage, and the only opportunity for compensating for their feelings that have been hurt by 'regular' women.

4.3. Perceived relationship

Whatever the reason a client patronises a prostitute, be it for entertainment, for company, or for covering deeper psychological needs, it remains a relationship of 'bounded authenticity', as Bernstein put it (43), that is with emotions that are pursued in the frame of the encounter being bounded in time, in space, completely erased thereafter and without consequences. In this frame the 'other' is used instrumentally and does not count.

Both in traditional as well as post-modern culture, it is easy to find elements to support such an attitude. However, what is impressive is the extent to which it is to the orientations of the market place and consumer society that clients turn in order to construct their relationship with the prostitute. Clients perceive the encounter as an economic transaction that escalates from a relation of provision of services to the commodification of the other, even to the point of its turning into an object and merchandise.

In the discourse of clients and the rationalization of their behaviour, the principles that regulate market transactions can be clearly traced. As Prassad says, the market does not function outside a moral framework; it is just a different one. Among the principles regulating market transactions, the most basic ones are: the individual autonomy; the democratic equality; the principle of contractual justice; indifference of the system to its non-economic attributes.

Our clients conceive themselves as consumers of sexualized services. As consumers, they feel they have a right to the services provided, a right considered as unalienable, and to which everyone must have access under the democratic principle. Thus, no law can deprive them of that. One interesting example is that provided by a respondent -bar owner- who, in order to illustrate the widespread feeling among the male population that everyone deserves access to girls, mentions the example of a poor farmer worker who, in the absence of cash, wanted to exchange balls of clover for the services of girls, insisting that he cannot be excluded from what all others have access to. What is of further interest in this example is the juncture between the pre-modern and the post-modern, expressed through a claim legitimized in the frame of post-modern neo-liberal market but pursued through modalities and means characterizing a pre-modern exchange economy.

In the transaction with the prostitute all four principles are to be identified: Clients consider that in the situation of purchased sex, the two parties enter as autonomous participants, each pursuing his/her own interests and consequently no exploitation is involved -at least as long as each party keeps with its contractual obligations. The girl is constructed as somebody that is voluntarily there and that can enter and exit at will. The fact that the girl is there because she needs the money is enough for the client to consider that she enters the transaction for her own interests. Thus the clients, by explaining that they behave in a polite way to the girls, by referring to them as girls and even 'ladies' and not prostitutes and stressing that I pay for the services I receiver or I pay what has been agreed upon want to communicate that they have fulfilled their obligations that go no further. The overall rationale is explained in the following extract: they might not want to do it, but for the services they offer they are paid. It is not something they do without pay, or that it is exploitation. At least not from me. I pay for them to offer to me certain services. This is a purchase of good. The non-relevance of non-economic attributes in the frame of this commercialized transaction is illustrated by a client in Komotini: it is the same situation as when you enter into a taxi, you expect him to drive you where you want to go, you do not ask about the driver.

An additional implication of the laws of the market and of consumerism is that the consumer bears no responsibilities for the 'product'. The consumer sees himself as involved only at the last stage of the production process, that of consumption, and feels no responsibility for what happened at the previous stages -the story of the girl being thus irrelevant. A typical reaction relative to the responsibility of the client is: the client, why is he to blame?.

Pushed to its limits, the morality related to contractual justice takes the form of a paradox: Clients say that the relation with the prostitute is morally more acceptable than sex with a 'regular' woman. With the prostitute the situation is straightforward; each enters the situation knowing what each is to expect, while with a girl in a real-world situation the man will have recourse to deceptive means, eventually false promises, to bring her to bed.

A 'harder' version of the consumerist model is one that no longer sees the service provided by the woman as the object of the economic transaction, but the woman herself turned into the product to be purchased: Clients simply consider it (the woman) as an object... as a product that is offered to them at a certain price at a specific establishment (Cypriot client). Even more categorical is a client in Corinth who, responding to the question concerning the penalization of clients, suggests that the woman offering sexual services has been reduced to a product, is not considered as a person, it has passed to the average consciousness that it is a products. Human laws cannot apply in her case: have you ever heard about laws about cars; No! This is because cars are objects, not people. Here we have fully entered the commodification and reification of humans, the phenomenon that people are increasingly becoming their own consumables, things that can be bought and sold by other peopled.

Few take the argument even further, considering that, since a woman is 'bought' they can do whatever they want with her:

I: And you can ask from this woman anything?

R: Anything

I: Anything?

R: Yes, you have her bought, you do whatever you want.

The above has been a very schematic presentation of the relative attitudes of clients, almost an ideal typical one (Weber). Of course reality is much more varied and there are also those clients who have a very human attitude towards the girls, as well as those -surprisingly very few- who consider them as whores and for that reason worthless. Furthermore, real life transcends what people intend and plan. Thus in a serendipitous way, the client might fall in love, become hooked on the girl and be exploited by her. On the other hand, there are also authentic marriages that have started with a purchased sex relationship.

4.4. The client and the trafficked

The demand presented by our respondents is a demand developed under the impact of migration and trafficking. It is the influx of foreign women offering sexual services that has provided the opportunities for sex, has made sex accessible to almost everyone and has changed its character from the brothel-like service by an unattractive prostitute to an exciting experience of beautiful and exotic girls that provide 'holistic services'. The phenomenon has been less impressive in Germany, than in Cyprus, where men went nuts, and in Greece where, as one respondent in rural Rodhopi commented: ...(as) they saw these Russian girls, beautiful, glowing... their eyes popped out in amazement.

However, the visible expansion of demand and the sustaining of trafficking as preconditions for the availability of girls could not take place without the complicity of the individual and of society at all its levels. At the local level, respondents refer to their society as a 'closed society', meaning for them a society based on the exchange of services and mutual support, where everyone knows what the other does, but this still remains a secret. In this frame, an activity such as trafficking, from which many benefit, either as consumers or as profiteers, will remain disguised; a discourse will be held around it rationalizing the practice and presenting it in a socially acceptable manner. For example, some respondents come to the support of the establishment owners, explaining that the restriction of liberties and the eventual 'punishment' of the girls is to be attributed to the responsibility they bear towards the girls -they want to protect them-or towards the 'provider', to whom they have to return the girls, 'safe and sound'. Thus, if there are responsibilities to be allocated, these are shifted further away from the visible and neighbouring 'entrepreneur' to the remote and unidentifiable 'provider'.

The same type of evidence comes from the piece of secondary research conducted by the partner of the Democritus University on local press articles, where the right of men to satisfy their sexual needs, but also to pleasure, appears paramount. The girls are called the 'girls of joy' and no mention whatsoever is made to the criminal dimension of the phenomenon or to trafficking.

We could go on to speak about corruption and complicity at the level of institutions and institutional practice: In Cyprus, for instance, the disposition of the law and the relative institutional practice that foreign girls are allowed to come with a six-month artist's visa to work in the cabarets constitutes the major ground on which prostitution and trafficking are sustained. The 'artistes' are not supposed and not allowed to prostitute themselves; nevertheless, it is a common knowledge that this and only this is their function and the reason that they are brought to Cyprus.

Evidently, it is at the level of the client that the efforts to deny and conceal trafficking are expected to be paramount:

The perception of girls -whether they are trafficked or not- is defined on the basis of the experience of clients, obscured by the confusion prevailing among the general public concerning what trafficking is, but primarily on the basis of their interests. Both the perception of the relation of the client to the girl, discussed in the previous paragraph, and the perception of the girl herself are constructions at the service of the interests of the client in the first place. Concerning the issue of trafficking, a general remark to be made is that the consideration of the girl as trafficked is not 'functional' either for the interests or for the self-esteem of the clients and does not serve appropriately the meaning they want to attribute to their demand (see paragraph 4.2).

The general tendency among clients is to perceive the girls in the frame of global migrations. The common interpretation is that they have come to us because they need money and they might have a family to support. This is sometimes combined with the idea that girls have developed consumerist aspirations under the impact of globalised culture, which constitute the incentive for (sex)migration. Few believe that they are 'greedy', that they like their job because they earn well and even that they enjoy it. Girls are seen as having agency and very rarely as being forced or trafficked. Trafficking is equated to prostitution; whatever negative aspects they observe in the condition of girls, they assimilate them to their condition as prostitutes. Under no circumstances are girls regarded as victims of one person -the trafficker- who lured, deceived and brought them to another country. Clients believe that there are more factors at play. This is illustrated by the insightful account of a client who, though neither educated nor well-disposed towards the girls, said that if girls (from Eastern countries) are exploited, this is to be understood in the frame of a system that includes communism (initial deprivation), capitalism (creation of aspirations), the trafficker and the client.

Further to the general predispositions of the clients already discussed, in the following we present some of the more concrete reasons for and conditions under which the client denies, or rarely admits, the existence of trafficking as well as the associated reactions to trafficking and the trafficked:

- Abstraction is made of reality. Customers aim at experiencing a pleasurable time and will make abstraction of anything that goes in the opposite direction. A Cypriot client says that of course they know, how could they not ', but 'they choose not to know. Even when a girl complains, some clients have the tendency to reject what she says as a technique to take advantage of the client.

- Respondents bring the attention to the fact that the client might not recognise the signs of violence and coercion, as they are not obvious: pimps take the necessary precautions and the girls are required/forced to conceal them and be agreeable to the client. In any case, establishments offering sexual services are -according to respondents- places of illusion and deception and one has to be very sober, attentive and willing, to see the truth behind the scene.

- There are cases that clients who pick up a girl for sex give in to the complaints of the girl and their refusal to have sex and allow her to leave, frequently paying her the due amount.

- No preference for trafficked girls has been put forward. Nevertheless, there are clients who are ready to take advantage of the vulnerable situation of trafficked girls: For example, clients threaten the girls to tell to the bar owner if they do not behave. One respondent alone, and under pressure by the interviewer (from the Democritus University), admitted that what he, as well as the other clients preferred, are the girls that are 'easy' meaning the girls that are afraid of their employer and consequently yield to any demand of the client.

- Few clients would be ready to do something if they become aware of a case of trafficking. This is the responsibility of others: there are specialised authorities for that, such as the police. If these authorities do not do their job well and let establishments to work with trafficked women, this is not the fault of the client who frequents them. We have had almost only rhetoric replies by clients who said that if they ever encountered a trafficked girl, they would do something if they could, for example find her a job. Some clients stated that they would do nothing, because the result would be for the girl to be deported, something against the will of the girls; because the police is corrupted; because they are afraid of the criminal networks you can find yourself the next day in the ditch; because they do not want to take the risk to be exposed publicly or to their family. In fact, it is only when a client falls in love with a girl that takes action. Such cases are not as rare, and we had them even among our respondents.

5. Concluding Remarks

In the above, focusing on the client, we have tried to sketch those findings of our research that, mutatis mutandis, are applicable to all the countries participating in the project. In the national reports specificities and variations that appear between countries, but also within each country and region, are presented in all detail. However, as already stressed, demand is a complex and multi-leveled process; purchase of sexual services constituting but only one of its dimensions. The activity of criminal networks, of various profiteers and stakeholders, of states and state officials that constitute interconnected components of the same configuration, is of equal importance. Without neglecting or underestimating the criminal character of the activity, all particularly of those who 'manage' the demand and make a profit out of it, the researcher of demand should always bear in mind that in the post-modern era of global sexualisation of the culture and culturalisation of the sexuality and in a consumer society, in which paying for sex is normalised and understood as a legitimate form of leisure and entertainment, it is easy for 'the flowers of evil' to grow. Problems such as trafficking, demand, the crisis in the gender relations, the crisis in masculinity and identity, in short all these ' globalised intimate troubles', are linked to the entire cultural, historical, social and economic context and should be understood as 'systemic' and 'structural' problems, the tangible manifestations of which are nothing but symptoms and indicators of a much broader cultural crisis. The interpretation of these symptoms as the causes of the crisis, that is, as causes of themselves, constitutes a simplistic misunderstanding leading to partial and ineffective measures to combat trafficking and demand.


1. In the project participated: a) the integration Centre for Migrant Workers - KSPM (Athens-Greece), being the coordinating organization; b) the Institute of Criminological Studies of Democritus University of Thrace (Komotini -Greece), the field research being coordinated by the Lecturer Dr. A. Sykiotou ; c) the NGO Symfiliosis (Nicosia-Cyprus), the field research being co- ordinated by Dr. N. Trimikliniotis ; d) the organization Context e.V. (Frankfurt, Berlin - Germany), the field research being co- ordinated by Chr. Howe and c) the Churches' Commission for Migrants in Europe- CCME (Brussels-Belgium), responsible for the dissemination of the results.

2. The research has been conducted in totally 15 field sites. In Germany, cities with a long history of prostitution (Frankfurt am Main, Hamburg, Berlin and Dortmund) have been selected with main focus on Frankfurt, the renowned city of brothels. In Cyprus, the research has been conducted in the large urban centres of Nicosia and Limassol, as well as in the rural and semi-rural areas located in the broader districts of these large cities. In Greece, using geographical and socio-cultural criteria, we have decided to conduct the research in two different regions, the Northern-East part of Greece (City of Komotini and rural Rodhopi area) and Southern Greece (City of Corinth, town of Astros -both in Peloponnese -, and the capital city of Athens). The significant geographical distance rendered it necessary to select a second partner for the field research in Northern Greece, that being the Democritus University of Thrace, while KSPM conducted the field research in the area of the South.

3. Salt, John and Howgarth, J. (2000) "Migrant Trafficking and Human Smuggling in Europe: A Review of the Evidence", in POM (ed.) Migrant Trafficking and Human Smuggling in Europe: A Review of the Evidence, pp. 11-113. Geneva: IOM.

4. Kelly, Liz- (2002) "Current Research on Trafficking of Women and Children for Sexual Exploitation Within Europe ", EU /IOM European Conference on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Human Beings: A Global Challenge for the 21st Century, pp. 1-48. Brussels.

5. Høigård, Cecilie and Finstad, Liv. (1986) Backstreets: Prostitution, Money and Love. University Park, Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University Press.

6. Bell, Laurie (ed.) (1987) Good Girls/Bad Girls: Sex Trade Workers and Feminists Face to Face. Toronto, Canada: Women's Press, - Chapkis, Wendy. (1997) Live Sex Acts: Women Performing Erotic Labor. New York: Routledge, - Chapkis, Wendy. (2003) "Trafficking, Migration, and the Law. Protecting Innocents, Punishing Immigrants", Gender & Society 17(6): 923-937, - Delacoste, Frederique and Alexander, Priscilla. (1998) Sex Work: Writings by Women in the Sex Industry. San Francisco: Cleis Press, - Hughes, Donna M. (2000) "Men create the demands; Women are the supply: Lecture on sexual exploitation". Valencia, Spain: Queen Sophia Center Against Violence, - Hughes, Donna M. (2004) "The Demand: Where Sex Trafficking Begins", A Call to Action: Joining the Fight Against Trafficking in Persons. Rome, Pontifical Gregorian University: US Embassy and the Holy See, - Hughes, Donna M. (2006) "Sex Trafficking: Supply and Demand", Sexual Trafficking: Breaking the Crisis of Silence. Carolina Women's Center: Rhode Island University, - Peng, Yen- Wen. (2007) "Buying Sex: Domination and Difference in the Discourses of Taiwanese Piao-ke ", Men and Masculinities 9(3): 315-336, - Plachy, Sylvia and Ridgeway, James (eds.) (1996) Red Light: Inside the Sex Industry. New York: powerHouse Books, - Weitzer, Ronald John (ed.) (2000) Sex for Sale: Prostitution, Pornography, and the Sex Industry. New York and London: Routledge.

7. Marttila, Anne-Maria. (2003) "Consuming Sex - Finnish Male Clients and Russian and Baltic Prostitution", Gender and Power in the New Europe, the 5th European Feminist Research Conference. Lund: Lund University.

8. Andrijasevic, Rutvica. (2004) "Trafficking in Women and the Politics of Mobility in Europe ", Faculteit der Letteren, p. 252. Utrecht: Universiteit Utrecht.

9. Mansson, Sven Axel. (2001) "Men's practices in prostitution: the case of Sweden ", in Pease, B. and Pringle, K (eds.) A Man's World? Changing Men's Practices in a Globalized World. London: ZED Books. See p. 136.

10. Hughes, Donna M. (2000) "Men create the demands; Women are the supply: Lecture on sexual exploitation". Valencia, Spain: Queen Sophia Center Against Violence, - Marttila, Anne-Maria. (2003) "Consuming Sex - Finnish Male Clients and Russian and Baltic Prostitution", Gender and Power in the New Europe, the 5th European Feminist Research Conference. Lund: Lund University.

11. Sherman, Robert R. and Webb, Rodman B. (2001) "Qualitative Research in Education: A Focus", in Sherman, Robert R. and Webb, Rodman B. (eds.) Qualitative Research in Education: Focus and Methods pp. 2-21. London: Routledge.

12. For Max Weber the notion of Verstehen (Understanding) is not associated with some sort of inner-understanding or with acts of empathy; it is rather an act of rational interpretation. Weber's concern is not with action whose meaning can be immediately apprehended, but with action the meaning of which is highly variable and which can be understood only by relating the action to its context through interpretation.

13. Weber, Max. (1968 [1904]) "Die Objektivitat sozialwissenschaftlicher und sozial-politischer Erkenntnis", in Winckelmann, Johannes (ed.) Weber, Max: Gesammelte Aufsatze zur Wissenschaftslehre, pp. 146-214. Tubingen: J.C.B.Mohr (Paul Siebeck), - Weber, Max. (1968 [1913]) " liber einige Kategorien der verstehenden Soziologie ", in Weber, Max (ed.) Gesammelte Aufsatze zur Wissenschaftslehre, pp. 427-474. Tubingen: J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck).

14. Nunkoosing, Karl. (2005) "The Problems with Interviews", Qualitative Health Research 15(5): 698-706.

15. Spreen, Marinus and Zwaagstra, Ronald. (1994) "Personal Network Sampling, Out-degree Analysis and Multilevel Analysis: Introducing the Network Concept in Studies of Hidden Populations", International Sociology 9(4): 475-491.

16. Griffiths, P., et al. (1993) "Reaching hidden populations of drug users by privileged access interviewers: methodological and practical issues", Addiction 88(12): 1617-1626, Wiebel, Wayne W. (1990) "Identifying and Gaining Access to Hidden Populations", in Lambert, Elisabeth and Nida, Y. (eds.) The Collection and Interpretation of Data from Hidden Populations pp. 4-11. Rockville: U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

17. Abdoul-Quader, Abu S., ct al. (2006) "Implementation and Analysis of Respondent Driven Sampling: Lessons Learned from the Field", Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicin 83(7): 11-15.

18. Tyldum, Guri and Brunovskis, Anette. (2005) "Describing the Unobserved: Methodological Challenges in Empirical Studies on Human Trafficking ", International Migration 43(1/2): 17-34. See p.18.

19. Wengraf, Tom. (2004) Qualitative Research Interviewing. Biographic, Narrative and Semi-Structured Methods. London - Thousan Oaks - New Delhi: Sage Publications. See pp 95-105.

20. Atkinson, Rowland and Flint, John. (2001) "Accessing Hidden and Hard-to-Reach Populations: Snowball Research Strategies", Social Research Update (33): 1-4.

21. Richards, Lyn and Morce, Janice M. (2007) Readme First for a User's Guide to Qualitative Methods. Thousand Oaks - London - New Delhi: Sage Publications. See p. 194.

22. Charmaz, Kathy. (2003) "Grounded Theory: Objectivist and Constructivist Methods", in Denzin, Norman K. and Lincoln, Yvonna S. (eds.) Strategies of Qualitative Inquiry, pp. 249-291. Thousand Oaks, London, New Delhi: Sage Publications. See pp 99-122.

23. Purposive sampling is sampling with a purpose in mind. The target cases are usually predefined according to specific criteria. In purposive sampling we choose groups, settings and individuals illustrating features or processes we are interested to study or promising that the studied processes are there most likely to occur. The logic of the purposive sampling consists in that it allows us to choose information-rich cases for in depth analysis. See: Denzin, Norman K. and Lincoln, Yvonna S. (eds.) (2000) Handbook of Qualitative Research. Thousand Oaks, London, New Delhi: Sage Publications, - Patton, Michael Quinn. (2001). Qualitative Research and Evaluation Methods. Thousand Oaks-London-New Delhi: Sage Publications, - Silverman, David. (2001) Interpreting Qualitative Data: Methods for Analysing Talk, Text and Interaction. London - Thousand Oaks - New Delhi: Sage Publications.

24. Snowball sampling is defined as a strategy or a technique used for locating research subjects fulfilling predefined criteria and is especially useful when trying to identify members of a hidden population. The starting point is to identify some one(s) who meet the predefined criteria and ask him/them to nominate other individuals, who also meet the criteria (chain recruitment).

25. Trochim, William M. K. and Donelly, James P. (2007) The Research Methods Knowledge Base. Mason, Ohio: Atomic Dog Publishing.

26. Bauman, Zygmunt. (2001) The Individualized Society. Cambridge: Polity.

27. Giddens, Anthony. (1992) The Transformation of Intimacy. Sexuality, Love & Eroticism in Modern Societies. Cambridge: Polity Press.

28. Bauman, Zygmunt. (1998) "On Postmodern Uses of Sex", Theory, Culture and Society 15(3/4): 19-33. See pp 21 f.

29. Featherstone, Mike. Ibid. " Love and Eroticism: An Introduction ", (3-4): 1-18.

30. Wilkinson, Stephen. (2003) Bodies for Sale: ethics and exploitation in the human body trade. London, New York: Routledge.

31. Jyrkinen, Marjut. (2005) " Commercialising Bodies, Sex and Sexualities", Kön och Makt inom Prostitution och Pornografi. On mediebevakningen och hur genusforskningen kan bidraga. Rapport från Nordisk journalistkurs, pp. 77-93. Talin, Estland, - Jyrkinen, Marjut. (2005) The Organisation of Policy Meets the Commercialisation of Sex: Global Linkages, Policies, Technologies. Helsingfors: Swedish School of Economics and Business Administration, Helsinki.

32. Prasad, Monica. (1999) "The Morality of Market Exchange: Love, Money, and Contractual Justice", Sociological Perspectives 42 (2): 181-213.

33. Already since 1970 Baudrillard had spoken about the societ é de consommation and had underlined that one of its central characteristics is the culturalisation of needs. In an economy which is not based on scarcity but on overproduction, when the need for a specific product is not evident it must be actively stimulated by means of advertising and marketing strategies. Thus the needs in the consumption society are not necessarily linked with the object, but are produced and created as needs for the differences as needs that come to satisfy in the first place the desire for social meanings through the consumption of a commodity-sign. This is the reason that in the consumption society satisfaction can never be fulfilled. Baudrillard, Jean. (1996 [1970]) La societ é de consommation, ses mythes, ses structures. Paris: Gallimard.

34. Giddens, Anthony. (1992) The Transformation of Intimacy. Sexuality, Love & Eroticism in Modern Societies. Cambridge: Polity Press. See pp 117 ff.

35. Connel, Robert William. (1987) Gender and Power: Society, the Person and Sexual Politics. Stanford: Stanford University Press. See p 157 and 161.

36. Bourdieu, Pierre. (2007) H . A : . See pp 58-59 and 107.

37. Hughes, Donna M. (2004) "The Demand: Where Sex Trafficking Begins", A Call to Action: Joining the Fight Against Trafficking in Persons. Rome, Pontifical Gregorian University: US Embassy and the Holy See.

38. Plummer, Ken. (2003) Intimate Citizenship: Private Decisions and Public Dialogues. Seattle & London: University of Washington Press.

39. Jyrkinen, Marjut. (2005) " Commercialising Bodies, Sex and Sexualities", Køn och Makt inom Prostitution och Pornografi. On mediebevakningen och hur genusforskningen kan bidraga. Rapport från Nordiskjournalistkurs, pp. 77-93. Talin, Estland.

40. Connel, Robert William. (1987) Gender and Power: Society, the Person and Sexual Politics. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

42. . (2008) " . ", (The Greek Review of Social Research)(A 125): 41-68.

43. Bernstein, Elisabeth. (2001) "The meaning of the purchase: Desire, demand and the commerce of sex", Ethnography 2(3): 389-420. See p. 402.

44. Turnbull, Katie. (2006) " Britain, Consumerism and the Sexualisation of Relationships", Gown, Graduates' own, The University of Cambridge Magazine for Graduate Students (7): 5-7. Seep. 6.

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