Findings of Microsoft-funded study on illegal sex trade released at Mount Royal University


CALGARY — Researchers with Mount Royal University and The Hindsight Group shed light on the dark side of technology by releasing findings from a survey of men who were ordered to attend Prostitution Offender Programs also known as “John schools.” The project explored how technology enables customers of the illegal sex trade across the prairie provinces.

A total of 51 first-time offenders from Edmonton, Saskatoon and Winnipeg participated in the confidential survey, using clicker devices to enter their responses.
Some of the key findings include:

  • 66% of respondents watched online pornography by the age of 15
  • 67% of respondents viewed online sites before venturing out to purchase sexual encounters
  • 58% of respondents said the Internet has made it more difficult for them to quit paying for sex

The responses were collected between June and December of 2012 through four separate group sessions. Since then, the researchers have spent considerable time compiling the results before releasing their findings during a day-long discussion on technology’s impact on sexual exploitation held at Mount Royal University on March 13.

“There is a dark side to technology in that it makes it easier to access sexually expletive websites. Now the question is, ‘How do we use technology to encourage boys and young men to challenge negative attitudes toward women which are accepted in society today?’” said Dawne Clark, co-director of Mount Royal’s Centre for Child Well-Being.

Mount Royal was one of six institutions — and the only Canadian university — to receive a $30,000 grant from Microsoft to fund the research.

“Microsoft Research was pleased to collaborate with Mount Royal and The Hindsight Group. The researchers’ ability to work with a network of victims and Johns helped us better understand the extent of the issue. As we continue to dig deeper, we feel confident that the insight we gained will help us devise technology-driven solutions,” said Rane Johnson-Stempson, Principal Research Director Microsoft Research.

The researchers hope they’ve laid the groundwork for further investigation into prevention models that curb the demand for sex trade workers.

In a five-page white paper report submitted to Microsoft, the research team recommended that a technological-based intervention program be developed, tested and implemented to address the demand side of sexual exploitation.

“We believe we could prevent a number of men from becoming consumers of the sex trade if they understood the reality of the trade, why persons end up in the trade, and how they, as consumers, both affect others and are themselves impacted by the trade,” said Sue McIntyre, founder of The Hindsight Group.

Source Mount Royal University