Why Men (Don’t) Buy Sex: Purity Moralization and Perceived Harm as Constraints on Prostitution Offending

Jasmine R. Silver, Justin T. Pickett, J. C. Barnes, Stephanie R. Bontrager, Dominique E. Roe-Sepowitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


This study explores the moralization of purity and perceptions of harm as constraints on sex buying among men. Purchasing sex has long been considered an offense against public morality. While personal morality provides a powerful constraint on offending, and people may vary in the extent to which they experience moral intuitions about bodily and spiritual purity, research has so far neglected the role of purity moralization in understanding sex buying behavior. We hypothesize specifically that moral intuitions about purity constrain sex buying by leading people to perceive it as inherently wrong and by eliciting perceptions that sex buying is harmful to prostitutes. We test these hypotheses in a nationally representative survey of U.S. men (N = 2,525). Results indicate that purity moralization is associated with reduced sex buying, and that this relationship is mediated fully by perceptions of sex buying as harming prostitutes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)180-206
Number of pages27
JournalSexual Abuse: Journal of Research and Treatment
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2022


  • perceived harm
  • perceived risk
  • prostitution
  • purity moralization
  • sex buying

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • General Psychology
  • General Medicine


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