Interesting paper on The Swedish Model with regards to prostitution

I recently discovered an awesome blog about prostitution. It is run by a former prostitute, or “retired call girl” as she calls herself. The blog is called The Honest Courtesan and is very much worth reading. The author is clearly a clever person who rightly hates the modern feminists, or neofeminists as she calls them. Im ok with that term. Alternatives are gender feminists, third wave feminists.


Anyway, i was reading a couple of blog posts and stumbled upon this paper: The Swedish Sex Purchase Act: Claimed Success and Documented Effects (mirror)

There is no abstract, but the Introduction works as well:


Sweden’s criminalization of the purchase of sexual services in 1999 is said to be a unique
measure: to only punish those who buy sexual services, not those who sell them. However this
alleged uniqueness is questionable, and for several reasons. There are a number of other laws
and regulations against prostitution, which effectively make Swedish prostitution policy
similar to those countries in the world that attempt to reduce or eradicate prostitution with
legislative means. Another reason the claim to uniqueness is doubtful is that one must
examine more than the wording of a law or policy model (“it is only those who buy sex who
are being punished”) when analyzing it – one has to consider the actual consequences. For
instance, a law against the purchase of the services offered in massage therapy, psychotherapy
or sexual health counselling would obviously not only punish the buyers, but also carry
negative consequences for those who offer the services. Therefore, to only focus on one of
several prostitution laws, ignore its consequences and call this a “unique” policy model is
either ignorant or a deliberate deception.

But there are some aspects of the Sex Purchase Act that can be said to be unique. One such
aspect is the way it has been justified by policymakers.

The Sex Purchase Act was introduced by feminist policymakers who argued that prostitution
is a form of male violence against women, that it is physically and psychologically damaging
to sell sex and that there are no women who sell sex voluntarily. Furthermore, it was claimed
that if one wants to achieve a gender-equal society, then prostitution must cease to exist – not
only for the above-mentioned reasons, but also because all women in society are harmed as
long as men think they can “buy women’s bodies”.2
If the ban would have adverse effects for
individual women who sell sex, or if it violates their right to self-determination would not
matter. The gender-equal symbolic value of the Sex Purchase Act is more important.3
radical feminist-inspired view of prostitution has existed in the West since the 1970s, but has
not been applied at state level before. In Sweden, it was first embraced by the Social
Democratic government in 1998, and later by the Liberal Alliance Government in 2006.

Another unique aspect of the Sex Purchase Act is how persistently the ban, or the “Swedish
model”, has been marketed. One of the stated aims from the very outset was to export it to
other countries.4
Both governments, authorities, political actors and Non Governmental
Organizations (NGOs) have devoted time and money to market it internationally. Pamphlets,
websites, articles, books and movies have been produced and lobby activities have been
conducted towards the European Union (EU) and the rest of the world with the help of this
material and via workshops, seminars and debates.5
Countries considering changes in their
prostitution laws, have subsequently turned to Sweden for inspiration.

At the core of the marketing campaign has been the stated success of the Sex Purchase Act. It
is said to have reduced prostitution and trafficking for sexual purposes, to have had a deterrent
effect on clients, and to have changed societal attitudes towards prostitution – all this without
having any negative consequences. Most recently these claims were stated in the 2010 official
evaluation of the Sex Purchase Act, and repeated by Minister of Justice Beatrice Ask in an
article for CNN.6
The problem with these claims is that if they are carefully investigated they
do not appear to be supported by the available facts or research. As soon as the official
evaluation was published, it was also criticized from several directions.7
In the consultation
process following the publication of the evaluation, the critique was especially harsh from
those referral bodies who conduct prostitution research, and those working with health and
discrimination issues (when law amendments are proposed in an official inquiry the report is
circulated for consultation before it undergoes further preparation).8
The criticism has
primarily been focused on the evaluation’s lack of scientific rigor: it did not have an objective
starting point, since the terms of reference given were that the purchase of sex must continue
to be illegal; there was not a satisfying definition of prostitution; it did not take into account
ideology, method, sources and possible confounding factors; there were inconsistencies,
contradictions, haphazard referencing, irrelevant or flawed comparisons and conclusions were
made without factual backup and were at times of a speculative character. 9

In this report we will focus on the conflict between the stated success of the ban and the lack
of data that can back up these claims. Because, when reviewing the research and reports
available, it becomes clear that the Sex Purchase Act cannot be said to have decreased
prostitution, trafficking for sexual purposes, or had a deterrent effect on clients to the extent
claimed. Nor is it possible to claim that public attitudes towards prostitution have changed
significantly in the desired radical feminist direction or that there has been a similar increased
support of the ban. We have also found reports of serious adverse effects of the Sex Purchase
Act – especially concerning the health and well-being of sex workers – in spite of the fact that
the lawmakers stressed that the ban was not to have a detrimental effect on people in

The authors of this report have researched different aspects of the Swedish prostitution policy
over several years. One of us has also conducted field work among people who sell sex in
This particular report is based on research we have conducted in the context of a
larger project conducted through the University of Leiden, the Netherlands. It is written with
an international audience in mind, the reason being that there appears to be a large demand for
knowledge regarding the actual effects of the “Swedish model” – knowledge that is based on
Swedish research but not filtered through the official discourse. To our understanding, the
research presented here has not previously been compiled and translated into English.

We will begin this report by providing an overview of the laws and regulations surrounding
prostitution, move on to discuss the documented effects of the Sex Purchase Act and end with
a brief conclusion. “

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