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Bellwether Citizens: The Regulation of Male Clients of Sex Workers

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Dangerous and discriminatory new provisions against sex workers' clients have repeatedly been put before parliament in England and Wales. Female ministers keen to punish clients of sex workers eagerly supported the Bill. However, while sex work has become a rights issue it is no longer just about women's rights. Diverse and multiple sexualities and working practices see gay, trans or bisexual workers selling sex to a diverse range of lesbian, gay, trans, and straight clients who may be able-bodied or disabled. This article critically examines the regulation of clients of sex workers, explores the current legislation against them, and reviews recent research evidence. The ideas that inform policy will be discussed along with the various policy approaches. The latest move to criminalize clients in the Policing and Crime Bill 2009 will be discussed along with the spectre of trafficking, used to scapegoat clients by a government which has undermined civil liberties and the fundamental concepts of a free society.

[A]nyone indulging in sexual activity is entitled to a degree of privacy especially if it is on private property and between consenting adults (paid or unpaid)

                          Mr Justice Eady 1

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: School of Psychology, Birkbeck, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX, England., Email:

Publication date: 2010-03-01

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