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1 in 10 British men say they have paid for sex

11% of men in Britain report having ever paid for sex and 3.6% report doing so in the past five years, according to the latest findings from the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal).

The study of 6,108 men, published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections, found that single men aged 25-34, in managerial or professional occupations and those who reported high numbers of sexual partners, were the most likely to say that they had paid for sex. Men who reported binge drinking once a week or more or taking hard drugs in the past year were also more likely to pay for sex.

14.1% of hard drug users reported paying for sex in the past five years, as did 15.7% of men with more than five sexual partners in that time, both considerably higher than the 3.6% population average for the same time period.

Study co-author, Professor Kaye Wellings, who leads Natsal for the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: "In our in-depth interviews with young male clients, they tell us that for them, paying for sex is a recreational activity on stag weekends, football trips and lads' nights out; not necessarily an experience to be repeated, but one to be added to the sexual repertoire.

"For some men, visiting a sex worker is part of being accepted by the group, more a 'badge of honour' than something to be ashamed of. The settings are those in which men find themselves clubbing and pubbing, so that inhibitions are easily lost."

The findings come from the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles, conducted between 2010-2012 by researchers from UCL, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and NatCen Social Research. 6,108 men aged 16-74 and representative of the British population, answered questions about paying for sex in a computer-assisted self-interview. The study focused on men as the proportion of women who reported paying for sex was around 0.1%.

Men who pay for sex reported an average 31.6 lifetime sexual partners, more than twice the male population average of 13.6, however, among men who pay for sex, the majority of their sexual partners are unpaid as only 18.4% of their lifetime partners are paid.

Even after adjusting for the fact that they had more sexual partners, men who paid for sex in the past five years were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with an STI during this time. Men who pay for sex made up 15.6% of all reported STI diagnoses in the entire male population in the past five years.

Among men who reported ever having paid for sex, 62.6% had done so outside the UK at least once, most commonly in Europe and Asia. This may be driven by 'hotspots' such as Amsterdam and Bangkok. Among men who reported paying for sex in the past 5 years, 29.9% had new foreign sexual partners in that time.

The study was led by UCL and funded by the Wellcome Trust and Medical Research Council.

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