Part 2 of this series, coming Thursday, February 5, will address how power and control dominate the lives of men who buy sex. This post originally appeared on redtentliving.com, a community of women from across the world reading, writing, reflecting, and responding to one another daily as we re-frame what it means to be feminine.
I sat with a man named Jeffrey who had been arrested on charges of soliciting prostitution. He is one of Seattle’s tens of thousands of johns. In our first session together, Jeffrey remarked, “Friday afternoons are always the most difficult for me to control myself. I am not sure why, but it usually turns out to be the day I end up with a prostitute or an escort.” Buyers of sex tend to be addressed at this point through a moral framework, which is largely ineffective from a treatment standpoint because it fails to explore how the johns’ current behaviors serve as a map to help us understand the geography of their past. A similar example: one often overlooked point about the Somali pirates who are now notorious for terrorizing ships off their coast is that they used to be fishermen until their waters were stolen by foreign fishing vessels (the U.N. estimates almost $300 million worth of seafood is stolen each year from their coastline). We look to the past not to find excuses for reprehensible behavior, but because narrative holds the key to unlocking destructive patterns and implementing all future change.
I asked Jeffrey what Friday afternoons have meant for him historically. “Like in childhood?” Jeffrey asked. I nodded my head in agreement. “Well, my mom would usually leave my older brother and me home alone on the weekends because she needed to work her second job—we were dirt poor. My brother would be stoned out of his mind and I don’t know, I usually just rode my bike around the neighborhood. I remember cruising through my neighborhood trying to find girls that I knew from middle school. I would ride around for hours, even after it got dark, just to see if I could get ‘that look’ from a classmate.” Twenty years later, Jeffrey’s Friday afternoon ritual, unbeknownst to him, was essentially the same. The mountain bike became an SUV, and a mother with a second job was now a spouse whose job at a concert venue required her to work weekends.