The client identity; exploring the lived experiences of commercial sex consumers under decriminalisation

Ms Shannon Mower1
1Victoria University , Wellington, New Zealand

In 2003, New Zealand became the first country to decriminalise sex work. The Prostitution Reform Act (2003) removed the criminality previously associated with the sale of sexual services and approached sex work from a human and labour rights framework. Under this framework, commercial sex is managed according to pre-existing labour laws and is regulated in a manner similar to other commercial business. While research has indicated that this regulatory approach has had exceedingly positive effects on sex workers, decriminalisation in New Zealand has received extensive speculation as the international stage is fraught with debate regarding the “acceptability” of sex work. The majority of speculations are focused on the clients of sex workers within this legal context, despite there being no current research on this specific population. As academics, we lack an integral insight into the experiences of those who purchase sex in New Zealand, meaning these speculations merely surmount to anecdotal claims. The current qualitative, interview-based research addresses this gap and constitutes the first academic investigation, driven from the clients’ perspective, into the experiences of those who seek commercial sex under the legal framework of decriminalisation. The main themes which will be explored during this presentation will involve locating the significance of purchasing sex within the lives of clients and the extent to which purchasing sex constitutes a part of their identities.


Shannon is a Criminology student from Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. Her broader research interests encompass gender, sex work and the differing legal frameworks used to regulate commercial sex, with a specific focus on the worker – client relationship and the lived experiences of those who purchase sex. Shannon is currently completing her Masters thesis, which unpacks the nuanced client experiences of purchasing sex under decriminalisation in New Zealand.



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