Friday, June 01, 2007

Christians and paying for sex

(Post #7 in a series)
One of the questions on the General Social Survey gets at paying for sex. It asks if the respondent has ever paid for or been paid for sex. Below I present the percentage "yes" answers to this question by religious affiliation.

This is a useful question for the issue of there being a social desirability bias in answering sex questions. Whereas people vary widely in their attitudes toward premarital sex and pornography, it seems that far more people have negative attitudes toward prostitution.

12%, non-active Black Protestant
11%, Jewish
11%, non-active other religion
11%, no religious affiliation
9%, non-active Mainline Protestant
9%, active Black Protestant
9%, non-active Catholic
8%, active other religion
7%, non-active Evangelical
6%, active Catholic
5%, active Mainline Protestant
4%, active Evangelical

This provides a slightly different pattern of findings than the some of the previous posts. Any thoughts about it?

As before, I define active as attending church services about once a week or more.
N = 17,026


Gary S said...

My dominant reaction is surprise that it's this high. This is saying that you walk into any typical evangelical church service on a Sunday morning, and 1 in 25 people have paid for or been paid for sex in the past year? 1 in 17 at a Catholic Mass?

Another observation is that differences by relgion are less (even in terms of odds ratios) than with the pornography question, suggesting that the pornography questions could be capturing both behavior and social desirability whereas this question is primarily tapping into behavior.

As always, interesting stuff!

Brad Wright said...

Yes, it does seem high. I wonder if some respondents interpreted the question differently than straight prostition?

André said...

Is this an answer to two questions or to one question on the survey?

Knumb said...

Hmm... did the survey control for paying one's spouse for sex?

/just asking
//no commentary on the KnumbKnut household

Benjamin said...

I am also pretty surprised at how high that is... strikes me as a stat that seems so off as to not be trusted...

What is your explanation Brad?

Jay Livingston said...

Everyone's surprised that the numbers are so high. But if you looked only a males, the percentages would probably be much higher, maybe almost double.

And then there's the Clintonesque "depends on what the meaning of 'pay' is." Clinton himself, whether or not he had actual sex with that woman, paid the price, though not the price the Republicans wanted him to pay.

Brad Wright said...

I believe that it's one question with two versions--one asked of men (pay for) and one for women (paid for).

As for other meanings, I too thought of the "pay for" in terms of negative consequences. "Yeah, we had sex, but did I ever pay for it afterwards."

Still, I'm not sure what to make of the levels of this...

David Weakliem said...

Here's an alternative explanation: perhaps Brad made a mistake. I know that's hard to believe, but hear me out. I checked the GSS codebook and didn't find any questions about paid sex in the past year, but did find this: "Thinking about the time since your 18th birthday, have you ever had sex with a person you paid or who paid you for sex?" About 8% said yes, 91% no, 1% refused to answer or said they didn't know. There is a big difference between men and women (16% vs. 2%). So I think think the numbers in the original post referred to "ever" rather than "in the last year," and in that case they seem plausible.

Brad Wright said...

Thank you for catching that, David. Totally my goof in misreporting the question wording.

Given the huge gender variation I'll redo the analysis for just men.

Still, that seems like a pretty high average number for men, 1 in 6 men have paid for sex?

Matt W. said...

Further considerations:

This is a self-report survey. Even when it is totally anonymous (and the responder believes it fully to be), can we trust the numbers? Christians, among others, have been known to "lie" by answering how they should respond rather than by their actual experiences. I've experienced this at seminaries that require MMPI's and 16pf's to help to judge for ministry fitness. Psychologists say that there is a "Christian lie factor" on these tests, just as I have described.

Is it possible they are higher than what we see given that we could plausibly expect there to be under-reporting rather than over-reporting?

Secondly, if the question is "paid for sex ever", some respondents could plausibly say "yes" and be referring to their pre-Christian lives.