Lying with numbers (Kat Banyard Edition)

In a rather desperate screed that is apparently an extract from a book that she is flogging, sex work abolitionist Kat Banyard suggests that:

On average, a woman was paid for sex by 76 men each week.

Exactly how many active sex-workers there are in the UK is unknown but estimates range between 50,000 and 100,000 – and all come with various caveats attached. The most widely quoted figure is 80,000, an estimate from 1999 for the European Network for HIV/STD Prevention in Prostitution (EUROPAP) project and was derived by Hilary Kinnell.

In a 2006 census in New Zealand (the only country where sex work has been fully decriminalised), 0.285% of the female population declared themselves to be active prostitutes. According to a 2015 report from the Office for National Statistics the estimated female population of the UK in mid 2014 was 32,803,100. Assuming a similar percentage of sex workers as New Zealand this gives us an approximate figure of 93,500.

Sex work is a broad brush term that covers everything from cam and phone girls, strippers, dancers, some masseuses, dominants as well as the obvious. If we assume that only the latter category are what Kat meant by ‘paid for sex’ then we would need to reduce our estimates to match. With, once again, no way of knowing what the ratio is I’m going to make an assumption that its 50%. I would, frankly, imagine it to be higher but let us be as generous to Kat as we can.

If we apply that 50% to the oft-quoted Kinnell number then that’s 40,000 women each being paid by 76 men a week or somewhere around 3 million commercial sex encounters a week… or almost 10% of the current male population of the country. Replace that 40,000 figure with 25,000 (50% of the lowest estimate) and you have 1.9 million transactions per week (or approximately 6% of males). Does anyone seriously think that this is the case?

Thus Kat Banyard is, to put it politely, talking utter rubbish… but then what else can you expect from someone who thinks that all sex work is violence against women?*

* Quite how this is the works in instances where men pay other men for sex escapes me.


  1. Stephan Loy says:

    Looking at this from the level of the individual sex worker, 76 customers a week amounts to more than 10 a day, every day, no weekends off, no holidays. That in itself sounds like an improbable load, hardly time left during the week for doing laundry or taking the occasional coffee. More seriously, does it seem credible that any individual businessperson could see that density of business sustained? As anyone who has ever done retail can say, you spend a great amount of time slumping behind that counter wishing someone, anyone, would walk through your door. It’s got to be the same for prostitutes, I’d imagine.

    • Misanthrope Girl says:

      2 to 4 clients on average a day would be a more reasonable assumption. Throw in days off as well and most probably won’t see more than a dozen a week, if that.

  2. patently says:

    Or there’s one bloke who is really, properly utterly knackered by the end of the week.

  3. James Higham says:

    It’s a very grey area what paying for sex actually entails.

    • Misanthrope Girl says:

      As I mentioned within the post… and why I also gave her the benefit of the doubt in an attempt to bring the final number closer to the realms of believability.