Sex, price and preferences: accounting for unsafe sexual practices in prostitution markets
Unsafe sexual practices are persistent in prostitution interactions: one in four contacts can be called unsafe. The determinants of this are still matter for debate. We account for the roles played by clients' preferences and the hypothetical price premium of unsafe sexual practices with the help of a large dataset of clients' self-reported commercial sexual transactions in Belgium and The Netherlands. Almost 25,000 reports were collected, representing the whole gamut of prostitution market segments. The first set of explanations consists of an analysis of the price-fixing elements of paid sex. With the help of the so-called hedonic pricing method we test for the existence of a price incentive for unsafe sex. In accordance with the results from studies in some prostitution markets in the developing world, the study replicates a significant wage penalty for condom use of an estimated 7.2 per cent, confirmed in both multilevel and fixed-effects regressions. The second part of the analysis reconstructs the demand side basis of this wage penalty: the consistent preference of clients of prostitution for unsafe sex. This study is the first to document empirically clients' preference for intercourse without a condom, with the help of a multilevel ordinal regression.