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Research: Mapping the Demand

Sex Buyers in Minnesota

At the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, we know that to solve a community problem, you must first understand it. And there are few community problems less understood and more shrouded in shadows than sex trafficking.

First-of-its-kind research on sex buyers

Mapping the Demand: Sex Buyers in Minnesota is key to creating targeted strategies to disrupt the sex trafficking market and end the demand.

We want Minnesota to be a state that we can all be proud of where everyone can live in safety. To do that, we must all be part of the solution. The Women’s Foundation of Minnesota invests in targeted strategies to disrupt the sex-trafficking market, end the demand, and decrease violence and sexual exploitation.

The Women’s Foundation of Minnesota commissioned and funded this research conducted by the University of Minnesota’s Robert J. Jones Urban Research and Outreach Engagement Center (UROC). The report is a follow-up to Mapping the Market for Sex with Trafficked Minor Girls in Minneapolis (2014), also funded by the Women’s Foundation, which charted the overall market for juvenile sex trafficking within communities in one city. This 2017 report studies sex buyers statewide.

Read the press release.

Research Mapping the Demand Summary Cover | WFMN

This report deepens our understanding of Minnesotans who pay for sex.

The goal of this study is to help close a significant gap in research, practice, and policy related to sex buyers and provide empirical evidence to support action. We sought to understand who they are, where they live and purchase sex, how they approach the marketplace for sex, and what they seek to purchase.

The study builds on findings from “Mapping the Market for Sex with Minor Trafficked Girls in Minneapolis” which documented the processes – rooted in exploitation, violence and manipulation – through which a supply of trafficked girls is developed and brought to the marketplace by sex trafficking operations. “Mapping the Demand” provides a critical next step for understanding the market for sex in Minnesota by focusing on sex buyers in Minnesota.

Sex buying is hidden, illegal, highly stigmatized, and often dangerous. Research is difficult because there is currently no way to generate a representative sample of people who purchase sex. Therefore, the research team used a mixed-methods and community-based approach to surface stakeholder knowledge across jurisdictions, professions, geography, and experience.

Aided by more than 150 qualitative interviews of law enforcement, prosecutors and social service personnel in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin, the report examines the demographics of Minnesota’s sex buyers, their buying tendencies, and methods of entry into the marketplace. The market includes victims of sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation.

This study is an important step in developing a knowledge-base that will help end sex trafficking in Minnesota and beyond.

Findings Include:

  • Sex buyers are predominantly middle-aged, white, married men from across the whole state of Minnesota, which is representative of Minnesota’s general population.
  • Sex buyers typically do not purchase sex in their hometowns—a finding particularly prevalent in small towns and rural areas. Instead, most buyers travel between 30 and 60 miles to purchase sex, with traveling often done during the work commute or over the lunch hour.
  • Sex buyers in Minnesota are not necessarily purchasing a person or sex act, but rather a sexual experience that is shaped by the power and control derived from their purchasing power.
  • A significant portion of sex buyers do not know whether the person they purchase sex from is a trafficked individual or not. The way most buyers enter the marketplace is designed to obscure transactional mechanisms and create a veil between trafficking operations and sex buyers.

To be successful, we must educate and engage boys and men as leaders in this movement, and commit to a future of safety, opportunity, and respect for all girls and women in Minnesota.

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