The Johns Book Review

TAT Quarterly Book Review

Kylla Lanier, TAT Deputy Director

The Johns by Victor Malarek

           Our focus has always been on the prostituted woman … we are scandalized by her … we have judged, hated and blamed her for her exploitation. She has been the subject of films, books, scathing editorials, the butt of jokes and the victim of cruel pranks and evil crimes. But what about the men who buy her? We have justified their crimes by saying “boys will be boys,” “prostitution is the world’s oldest profession,” “men have needs,” and “it’s a victimless crime.” We have ignored them largely because our focus has been misguided … we have focused on the exploited versus the exploiter, and that is simply what a buyer is … an exploiter. He makes up the demand in the market of commercial sexual exploitation. Without him, the marketplace would dry up. He needs to be understood, if for no other reason, than to stop him.

            In his book, The Johns, Victor Malarek peels away the masks that buyers of commercial sex wear. He helps us get to know them -- the lonely men, the ones seeking a “girlfriend” who has no mind of her own, the demanding men, the misogynists, the sadists, the “saviors,” the pedophiles, those who see themselves as victims and the men who think this is what normal men do.

            He shares real dialogue from john websites where justifications for their actions are strengthened, where advice is given on how to avoid the law and guilt, where stories are swapped and tips shared. He asks personal questions in one-on-one interviews with life-long johns and discovers their rationale, their MO, and the consequences for their participation. He travels to top sex tourism locales and paints a vivid picture of those being sold … but also of the buyers with their snide sense of entitlement who pay to rape those less fortunate.

            There are chapters that disturb the reader. But more disturbing than reading these vile acts is to realize these things are being acted out on the bodies of women and children around the world. We must look at the revolting side of this -- instead of continuing to whitewash it, as we have done in our society for so long. These are humans being bought and sold by people who feel they are entitled to do whatever they feel like doing, because they have money to do it. They view women as commodities. Some seek out poor, vulnerable women; others look for children and teens in places where natural disasters occur, traveling to locations after earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis to take advantage of those who are in desperate need. This is the reality.

            It is interesting to note that when human trafficking was discussed among johns, the vast majority made excuses for their own behavior and then blamed the victim. As one flippant john said, “We don’t always get to do what we want to do. We all make choices. Unfortunately the choices offered aren’t always what we would like them to be. If I don’t see a chain on a person’s leg, then I know they have a choice.” Page 103

            Another said it this way, “I didn’t think much about their situation. I only thought about my situation.” Page 114

            The Johns is a must read for those who want to understand the driving force behind prostitution and sex trafficking. For those who have made excuses for buyers of sex or who believe prostitution to be a victimless crime, this is the book for you. It is chocked full of insight and first-hand accounts that lend credibility to the conclusions drawn. Malarek’s analysis throughout the book and his absolute non-acceptance of a societal norm that tells men that buying women is tolerable gives the reader hope and shines a light in a dark place. I highly recommend this book to our audience.