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Sex trade: Do ‘bad johns’ make a good list?

By Basoodler, Dec 13, 2012 | Updated: Dec 14, 2012 | | |
  1. Basoodler

    They’re the worst of the worst.
    Men who go beyond the crime of paying women for sex — ensuring they remain addicted to drugs, partners and the risks of becoming homeless and impoverished.

    The worst of the worst johns — or men seeking prostitutes — also rape, beat, kidnap and, at times, kill sex workers.
    Bad johns, they’re called. Or bad dates. Like other cities, London has its share of bad johns. But unlike other cities, London has failed — despite several years of talk and reports — to create a bad date hotline and bad date list to help sex workers.

    “The idea just kept going into dead space for some reason. I don’t know how else to describe it,” Cass Wender, a support worker at the My Sisters Place shelter, said.
    One possible reason: the division among agencies in London over how to deal with the sex trade.

    • One the one side, those who favour decriminalization of sex workers and focus on harm reduction, such as a bad date list.

    • On the other side, those who believe the sex trade must remain a criminal offence and the focus should be to get women out of it.

    “It colours everything,” Barb MacQuarrie, community director of the Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children at Western University, said of the division.

    “I am concerned about our community response on the bad john list. We have a great deal of difficulty working on supporting sex workers. We can’t find common ground.”
    Although she agrees there’s a divide, Louise Pitre of the Sexual Assault Centre of London thinks in this case agencies dropped the initiative, after considering a 2011 report on the subject, because city hall decided to take the lead.But Pitre said she’s not sure where the proposal sits at city hall. “I haven’t heard what’s going on with that. I’m not really 100% sure where things are.” But there’s no mystery, said Jan Richardson, manager of special populations for London.

    The city spent this year doing preparation work, listening to community agencies in two forums on the sex trade, and will include street-level sex trade workers in a plan on homelessness being discussed next year, she said. Richardson said she expects a bad date line and list will be part of the talks but couldn’t say if one would be created. “It’s not for me to say.” Despite the 2011 report and earlier discussions among agencies, Richardson said more research and consultation is needed to determine if a bad date line and list will be created.

    Meanwhile, in London, at least 240 street-level sex workers, by the police count, and an unknown number of others, continue to work without a central bad date line and list that their counterparts in Toronto, Niagara and Ottawa have.

    The line and list would give sex trade workers a way to report bad johns and share the information, Pitre said. “It puts power into the hands of sex workers to create more safety.” London’s lucky enough to have a police force and officer, Sgt. Lorna Bruce, dedicated to helping sex workers, she said. Even so, many sex workers don’t feel comfortable reporting bad johns to police. A 2011 report for the Sexual Assault Centre made suggestions on how a London bad date line and list would work, and was discussed by community agencies in July 2011.

    “It wasn’t until your phone call that I went, ‘Oh, this has really fallen off the tracks,” Pitre said. “I need to re-open the door to that conversation.”

    Another report, done with the help of My Sisters Place, released in October, also suggested sex trade workers would be helped by a city-wide bad date list and line providing information not only on bad johns, but also on bad drugs.

    My Sisters Place began creating a bad john list about 18 months ago with information from sex workers, largely those who work the streets, that attend the shelter.
    Sex workers generally don’t make frivoulous complaints, Wender noted.

    “It is not one of those things they necessarily care to share, so I usually feel there is truth to the matter.”
    There are only 10 bad johns on the list right now, but Wender suspects there are many more out there.
    “I’m not going to get all the reporting. There are a lot of women who don’t access our services.”

    Wender would like a bad john listed posted on agency websites across the city, constantly updated and available to all workers. “You act like a predator — aggressive, violent, sketchy — that’s how you get on the list,” Wender said. “Certain consumers, because they feel women are objects to be owned, because they paid for it, they think they can do whatever they feel like. There are predators that target sex trade workers because they know they can.”


    • Bad date/john line: 24-hour number sex workers can call to report bad clients
    • Bad date/john list: Descriptions of bad situations and clients, easily accessed by workers

    According to reports:

    • Female sex workers are 60 to 120 times more likely to be murdered than general public

    • Half the cases involving murdered sex workers are unsolved in Canada, compared to 20% of other homicides

    • 74% of female sex workers in Vancouver report customer violence to each other and agencies; only 21% go to police

    • Gives sex workers control over personal safety, increases public and police awareness of dangers of sex work

    According to 2011 London report:

    • Option to be anonymous
    • No direct association with police, but information shared when needed
    • A real person answering the call
    • Counselling availability
    • Agency providing the hotline focuses on safety, not efforts to convince sex workers to leave trade
    • Line creates a bad client list, regularly updated and posted in accessible areas known to sex workers


    • Posted on a door inside the My Sisters Place shelter on Dundas St.
    • About 10 people on it at any time
    • Includes description of the john, vehicle and alarming things he does
    • Includes geographic area he prefers
    • Latest list includes two men seeking teenaged girls
    • If workers agree, or situation serious, information shared with police
    • Police sporadically share bad john information with shelter

    By Randy Richmond, The London Free Press
    Thursday, December 13, 2012 1:05:53 EST PM



  1. BitterSweet
    I live very close to London (Ontario) and this is a very interesting read for me, although it is not largely related to drug news, but nonetheless, drugs do play a part in prostitution, violence, and so forth. To read something like this that is very close to home is shocking but at the same time, only to the naive mind. When I really think about it, just because I don't see these things happening, does not mean they are happening and are very real at that; and I think this is the exact reason this type of issue remains out of the public forum.

    I really agree with punishing "the Johns" more so than has typically been seen throughout history. Prostitution is an enormous subject and there was a thread a while back that I posted in extensively with my thoughts. I'll provide a link to that thread.

    "the Johns" feel like, for a certain price, they can do whatever they want with a person. The mindset is somewhat understandable at face value - a woman is offering herself for some amount of money, but I think by looking at the men who pay these woman and coming up with anonymous hot lines and "bad date lists" really addresses the demand side of buying sex. I think we need to get beyond the masses of just male and female or buyer and seller, and look at each "prostitute" as a person and each buyer as a person who should be treated as he behaves.

    I read a book called "the Johns". Here is a link to it on Amazon: The Johns: Sex for Sale and the Men who Buy it Although not specific to Canada, it really addresses the buyer perspective and how efforts to alter buyer behaviour influences the sex trade. If men know that there is a threat to their identity, to their name - they are more likely to have regard for their actions, otherwise, to them it might seem like a victimless crime in a sense. I think that in general, having some sort of list of "bad Johns" is beneficial for the safety of all women in society who might be vulnerable - maybe a "bad John" is discovered via a sex worker calling in his violent/unusual behaviour - this same "bad John" may not limit his actions to paid sex; women alone at night could be at risk. Just getting those who commit bad behaviour known is one step to preventing it at least.

    The book I just mentioned talks about Sweden's approach to the sex trade (prostitution, whatever one chooses to call it), and I feel like it is a good example of what can work. I am reading an article now, but I don't think I can post it since it was published in 2010 and updated in August 2012, but Sweden's approach is essentially, jail the Johns. It becomes a matter of where the blame is placed for the risks involved in selling and buying sex. It's not so much a moral issue when we try to address it on a societal level, but as an issue for safety, addressing crime, and so forth.

    If you look at countries that have legalized prostitution, often elaborate regulations are put in place but success is somewhat hazy. In the Netherlands, officials shut down vast sections of Amsterdam's red-light district due to infiltration by organized crime. A 2005 report by the European Parliament found that legalized prostitution generally results in higher levels of violence against prostituted women. The status quo in Canada that criminalizes those being sold for sex is somewhat of a similar story.

    Around 1999, Sweden acted differently by punishing those who purchase sex with the mentality that without demand, there wouldn't even be sex trafficking and prostitution. The government also implemented a huge multi-million national action plan to helps those being sold for sex to obtain assistance to exit their exploitation.

    I see that this is largely off topic from drugs but no doubt these sort of action plans that can help sex workers in some way, even help them get out of the life they are living, may address the drug problem. I think it is safe to say many women wind up prostituting to support a drug habit (not all, but many). The longer that "the Johns" can act violently, aggressively, or even commit murder, is just another factor keeping a woman in a life where she sees no way out, remaining trapped in her situation, whether it be from drugs or whatever else.
  2. derpahderp
    It might not relate to the df guidelines-- but imho there have been members in thread posts who've alluded to the fact of perhaps having a tie to the Pro workforce. Personally, this article is good info to that minority of Pros who frequent this site (looking for help regarding an addiction etc).

    Interesting arcticle bas- and I do like the idea of having a network to tell others as a safety pre-caution(kind of like df, and how people come here to read info on their safe use).

    -No ties to this world minus a couple of friends who were/are still in this profession. (And no, I'm not their client or a Pro..)
  3. Basoodler
    This news forum is about drug culture. This article is about an aspect of drug culture, and could be an asset to members. That's why I chose to post it.

    I am glad you guys enjoyed or found it of some value. IMHO there is subject matter that may not directly address drugs themselves but could be valuable to those who use drugs and also very related to the culture.

    For instance Hep C. I will post an article not related to drugs, but is valuable to members with hep c.. or HIV.. abscess care, nutrition and other related materials that go hand in hand with drug users. This is a harm reduction forum.

    (Commenting on the last 2 replies and not the rep)
  4. kailey_elise
    My local needle exchange started their own list a few years back. Needle exchanges are primarily HIV-prevention services, which is why you often see condoms & such available as well.

    Anyway, many of the women (and a number of the men) accessing the services of the needle exchange I'm sure have benefited from this list, that is updated whenever they receive a new complaint. Your experience can be added anonymously via writing it down & leaving it in the drop box, or via an in-person interview with one of the staff members (not that they'd list your name either way).

    However, I think one of the disadvantages in this system, that is obviously addressed by the "bad date list" in parts of Canada, is that the tricks aren't aware that such a list exists in that city. I think publicity about the fact that such a list exists could greatly change the behaviours of those few fucktards who think that because someone has offered their sexual services for a fee, that they can then do whatever they want to the person for said fee. *growl*

    Anyway. Thanks for sharing this article, Bas. :)

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