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Many scholars have investigated the attitudes, beliefs, motives, and behavior of male clients of female sex workers. However, few have examined individual differences in major dimensions of personality expressed by men who purchase prostitution compared to those who do not.
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Although several evolutionary psychologists have studied prostitution and those involved in sex work, to our knowledge, none have explicitly considered the utility of an evolutionary personality perspective in trying to understand why particular men pay for sex. In the current mini-review, following other researchers, prostitution is described principally as a form of short-term mating sought primarily by men. We argue that the socially aversive traits embodying the Dark Tetrad narcissism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and sadism may characterize certain male clients of female sex workers, particularly those consumers expressing the motives of desiring exciting and novel sex with women who are treated with contempt, perceiving prostitution in a business-like manner with little emotional involvement, and seeking to dominate and control sex workers who are viewed as vulnerable and subservient.
The traits of the tetrad may also be more prevalent among men who purchase sex from female sex workers in outdoor e. Direct prostitution e.
This is contrasted with indirect prostitution, wherein the exchange of money for sex may not be the main source of income e. However, the terminology describing prostitution is a hotly contested matter among scholars Benoit et al.
The dark tetrad and male clients of female sex work
Prostitution has been practiced across a myriad of different cultures since ancient times in sex-specific ways, whereby men have tended to be the primary consumers of sex work services offered by women and men Dylewski and Prokop, In the last decade, an increasing amount of scholarly work has been devoted to studying male clients of female sex workers discussed in Milrod and Monto, Many researchers have studied the role of individual differences in attitudes, beliefs, motives, and behavior among men paying for direct and indirect forms of prostitution in comparison to those who do not pay for sex Pitts et al.
But few have directly assessed differences in major dimensions of personality i. Several scholars have approached the topic of prostitution using the framework of evolutionary psychology Burley and Symanski, ; Buss and Schmitt, ; Salmon, ; Prokop et al.
However, to our knowledge, none have explicitly considered the utility of an evolutionary personality perspective in studying male clients of prostitution, which is the focus of the current mini-review. Evolutionary psychologists have emphasized how personality dimensions influence both mate preferences i. Because individual differences in personality impact fitness-relevant outcomes and show a high degree of inter-individual variability, heritability, and developmental stability, it is fruitful to consider their potential adaptive value Nettle, ; Buss, From the perspective of life history theory, personality traits in human and non-human animals are argued to embody resource investment trade-offs e.
This life history framework has been applied to personality traits deemed to be socially desirable across cultures, such as honesty-humility avoidance of manipulating others; Lee et al. The Dark Tetrad is a four-variable model of personality that is characterized by ego-centrism and grandiosity i. However, researchers have cautioned that the application of life history theory to human personality has become fractioned from its theoretical origins in ecology and evolutionary biology Nettle and Frankenhuis, The fast—slow continuum of life history has also been criticized by some who argue that these strategies do not operate on a single continuum Holtzman and Senne, Scholars have further contended that the evolutionary processes that lead to differences between species in life history Darwinian evolution are not the same as those that lead to differences in psychological traits among members within a species e.
Nonetheless, academics maintain that a life history framework is useful for understanding variability in personality traits in human and non-human animals Wolf et al. In research, the traits of the tetrad have been associated with, to varying degrees, an earlier sexual debut Harris et al. Individuals expressing higher levels of the Dark Tetrad personality dimensions are also more likely to engage in aggression Paulhus et al. Deficits in affective empathy i. It has been argued that to feel empathy for another, it is necessary to perceive that others have minds like our own i.
Failing to attribute minds to others can result in not seeing other people as fully human i. These dynamics may be especially apparent among those with elevated levels of Dark Tetrad traits Bastian, Evolutionary scholars have argued that prostitution qualifies a form of short-term mating because it tends to involve an explicit exchange of goods e. researchers have shown how several non-human animals exchange material resources for sexual opportunities and vice versa.
Female purple-throated carib hummingbirds Eulampis jugularis trade sex for access to feeding sites that are vigilantly guarded by more dominant males Wolf, Female chimpanzees Pan troglodytes provide sex in return for calorie-rich meat from males that hunt Gomes and Boesch, Although money is a human cultural artifact, brown capuchin monkeys Cebus apella are capable of learning the validity of symbolic currency and may trade tokens for sex Chen et al.
These studies highlight how prostitution is not unique to humans and that monetary transactions can be understood from an evolutionary perspective. Cross-culturally, men who pay for sex report having more sexual partners than men who have never purchased sex Pitts et al.
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Male clients also tend to report an earlier sexual debut than non-clients Schei and Stigum, ; Ompad et al. Furthermore, male clients of prostitution express more permissive attitudes toward extramarital sex, they think about sex more frequently, report a higher frequency of masturbating Monto and McRee, ; Monto and Milrod,and access pornography more often than men who do not pay for sex Monto and McRee, ; Farley et al.
Male clients have further been shown to engage in more sexual risk-taking and have a higher likelihood of acquiring and transmitting sexually transmitted illnesses than non-buyers Ward et al. Compared to men who have never bought sex, male clients also display less empathic accuracy i.
Purchasing sex has also been associated with rape myth acceptance among men Cotton et al. Across samples of arrested offenders and non-offenders from different cultures, a very consistent set of reasons regarding why men purchase sex from women have been identified McKeganey, ; Xantidis and McCabe, ; Vanwesenbeeck, ; Cotton et al. However, caution should be exercised when trying to extrapolate findings from offenders to non-arrested male clients of sex work because these individual differ in important ways e.
These key general motives include: wanting novel, exciting, and forbidden sex with a variety of female sex workers who are treated with contempt to satisfy their sexual urges; seeking specific sexual acts that dating or romantic partners are unwilling or unlikely to provide; perceiving sex in a business-like manner without emotional involvement that is less complicated than dating and romantic relationships; a desire to dominate and control female sex workers who are perceived as vulnerable and subservient; and seeking comfort, companionship, love, and intimacy.
The ethical maze of prostitution
The described in this section support the idea that a majority of male clients of female sex workers express heightened short-term mating proclivities, but that the motives guiding a subgroup of men purchasing prostitution may actually al long-term mating effort e.
Few researchers have directly assessed major dimensions of personality among male clients of female sex workers. In Zimbabwe, men who had ly been clients of prostitution reported higher levels of impulsivity, pleasure seeking, and ego-defensiveness Wilson et al. Australian male clients of brothels purchasing services from female sex workers expressed higher levels of sensation-seeking i.
Xantidis and McCabe also found that male clients espousing motives in line with viewing sex as a business transaction, were ificantly higher in sensation-seeking than customers seeking romance and companionship. American men who bought prostitution services reported heightened levels of hostile masculinity, which is argued to be a personality profile embodying hostility and cynicism toward women, and attitudes that justify aggression toward and the domination of women Farley et al.
Among American men arrested for prostitution, those who endorsed inaccurate beliefs about prostitution e. There are several lines of evidence discussed in the preceding sections that support the argument that the Dark Tetrad personality characteristics may be relevant in understanding why certain men pay for sex.
Like many male clients of prostitution, individuals higher on the Dark Tetrad traits tend to express a penchant for short-term and impersonal sex Holtzman and Strube,; Jonason et al. These findings also suggest that the Dark Tetrad may be especially prevalent among men expressing particular motives, including exciting and contemptuous sex with a variety of sex workers, commodified and business-like sex, and the desire to have power over and to control sex workers see Figure 1 for predicted relations. Conversely, the traits of the tetrad may not as clearly typify men seeking sex workers for specific acts due to unfulfilled desires from their partners.
The prevalence of the Dark Tetrad dimensions is likely even more diminished among men who buy sex for the purpose of companionship, intimacy, and love.
Figure 1. Hypothetical expression of Dark Tetrad traits along a scale from 1 low to 7 high among male clients of female sex works by motive and type of prostitution service. It is also possible that male clients of outdoor sex work e.
This is because outdoor sex work is characterized by elevated risk, danger, illegal substance use, and the exploitation of women who are more often the targets of violence on behalf of clients Lowman, ; Lowman and Atchison, ; Sanders, ; Milrod and Monto, Indeed, many men who seek female sex workers through internet sexual service providers for indoor prostitution report avoiding outdoor sex workers for these reasons Milrod and Monto, Male clients of indoor sex work tend to be older and buy sex for the purpose of companionship, love, and intimacy in comparison to men who pay for outdoor prostitution services Milrod and Monto, It is important to consider evidence that could falsify the predictions delineated in the section.
The personality trait of honesty-humility shares a negative association with each Dark Tetrad trait Lee et al. Therefore, if honesty-humility is positively associated with the motives of exciting and contemptuous sex, commodified sex, or power and control, evidence would run counter to our predictions.
Similarly, if men who buy sex in the form of outdoor prostitution express greater honesty-humility than clients who buy sex using indoor services, this would also contradict our proposition. In future research, it will be important to examine major dimensions of personality, such as the Dark Tetrad traits, among clients, as well as the type of prostitution service they are accessing.
Furthermore, many investigators do not assess whether men who have paid for sex have ly been arrested for solicitation of prostitution, which precludes an examination of this potentially confounding variable Monto and McRee, ; Monto and Milrod, It is also important for researchers to consider the role of random responding when studying variables with values that are not centered around the middle of response scales, such as narcissism and psychopathy Holtzman and Donnellan, Failure to take random responding into for these kinds of variables can lead to inflated and biased effect size estimates, which can contribute to inaccurate inferences about statistical.
In the current mini review, we argue that an evolutionary personality perspective can shed unique insight into the personality characteristics of male clients of female sex work.
Given that men who display higher levels of socially deviant personality traits e. These relations may be particularly apparent among male clients espousing specific motives e. Nonetheless, there is a dearth of research on the personality characteristics that typify men who buy sex from those who do not.
Empirical work on this topic is important because it can be used to better inform lawmakers, health professionals, and sex workers regarding the kinds of men who purchase sex, as well as the risks and dangers associated with involvement in particular kinds of prostitution.
AD took the lead role in determining the focus of the submission, conducting the literature review, and writing the manuscript.
TV and SA provided important guidance in helping to writing and editing the manuscript in preparation for submission. All authors contributed to the article and approved the submitted version. The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest. Bastian, B. A dehumanization perspective on dependence in low-satisfaction abusive relationships. Baughman, H. Four shades of sexual fantasies linked to the Dark Triad. Baumeister, R.
The intrinsic appeal of evil: sadism, sensational thrills, and threatened egotism. Benoit, C. Prostitution stigma and its effect on the working conditions, personal lives, and health of sex workers. Sex Res. Book, A. Buckels, E. Behavioral confirmation of everyday sadism. Burley, N. Google Scholar.