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toomuch

What Percentage Of Men Use Sex Workers: The People Who Know

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The long thread about what percentage of men pay for sex, or will do at some point in their lives didn't really come to a consensus, which won't surprise anybody. I hear what profman says about calibration based on studies of people's honesty under various survey conditions. I don't trust the accuracy of those studies, because they're not about prostitution. I think the particular nature of the subject matter may change people's behaviour in unpredictable ways. However, there is one group of people who genuinely have the power to test these surveys to find out just how reliable they are: search engine operators. Think about Google for example. We have a few numbers without Google:

* Fraction of men admitting to paying for sex in survey

* Fraction of men who find WGs online vs. those who find them elsewhere, e.g. in local papers (presumably WGs have some sort of handle on this number)

Somebody with full access to Google's search logs, a telephone (to find WG's addresses), lots of patience, and sufficient programming skill has:

* Fraction of Google users who search for WG websites

* Fraction of those users who go on to visit google maps and search for the WG's address

* Fraction of Google users who use google maps

* Fraction of Google users who search for GUM clinic websites

* Fraction of those users who go on to visit google maps

These sorts of numbers can be used to cross-calibrate each other, to start to answer questions like: How many users who visit WG websites actually go on to visit them in person? Google maps searches are a better-than-nothing proxy for that - especially if you phone some WGs, get their addresses, and correlate the results with the search data. How likely are google maps users to avoid using google maps if they're searching for something sensitive? GUM clinic searches can help answer that question. Obviously you have to get very systematic when you start asking questions in this way: you must rule out many different sources of error by formulating hypotheses and testing them against the data in imaginative ways.

The research doesn't have to be exhaustive - you don't have to phone up every WG in the search data set to find out with reasonable confidence what percentage of men who search for that WG go on to use google maps to look at their address. The information you get is still quite indirect, and there are obviously potentially significant sample selection issues: e.g. are google maps users representative of the general population? On the other hand, there is a big difference between results that rely on people's honesty about prostitution matching their honesty about other subjects, and results that test that assumption against hard data. Out of all that effort you eventually get a more reliable - if still imprecise - estimate on what proportion of men pay for sex.

Of course, add in ** and you've got even more specific data to cross-check and recalibrate against everything else.

The search engine world was shaken up by the AOL search data release 5 years ago, so obviously Google won't release search data:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AOL_search_data_scandal

Still, maybe they allow some social scientists to go in and do their research on site?

I'd be fascinated to know the answer to this question.

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the AOL data from 5 years ago is still out there, so you have no excuse not to start digging!

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does the purple site not have any numbers of bookings made, how many emails between possible clients and girls etc

the best numbers would be to get the figures from wg's but that wont happen will it?

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the AOL data from 5 years ago is still out there, so you have no excuse not to start digging!

  1. Obviously it would need a full-time academic working on it
  2. Data isn't current, so couldn't correlate addresses found via other routes (phone) with map data
  3. No google maps data anyway (obviously)
  4. USA data only
  5. I think AOL did content filtering, so as far as naughty searches go, it only includes stupid people, not the population in general

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does the purple site not have any numbers of bookings made, how many emails between possible clients and girls etc

the best numbers would be to get the figures from wg's but that wont happen will it?

You're probably right re purple site and WGs having the best numbers.

I hardly see the purple site going in for academic research - unlike Google, who always have public interest projects on the go, and do fund research. I guess the purple site could decide it's in their interest if they some day learn they're going to be shut down by some government who tell everybody that it's just a tiny minority of nasty men who do this.

As for WGs, I can't think of a practical way of doing that. The main obstacle would seem to be finding a way of avoiding double-counting of men who visit many WGs.

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Now I think again, maybe this isn't how we'll find out. Maybe we'll find out when somebody walks out of Vodafone with the call records of 10 million users on a USB stick and posts them on the internet. Or when somebody writes some malware and publishes the location records, search histories, and call logs of a million smart phones. You know it's going to happen!

When they get correlated it's even better: imagine having both bank statements and search histories. Not so hard to guess what that 150 quid withdrawal was for at that point.

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