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Dr Jay Levy, Researcher and Consultant, Discusses the Outcomes of the Criminalisation of the Purchase of Sex in Sweden

Dr Jay Levy conducted research in Sweden over several years on the outcomes of the criminalisation of the purchase of sex. His research and political interests include outcomes of sex work legislation and discourse; outcomes of drug legislation and discourse; feminist theory, gender theory, and queer theory; harm reduction, HIV/AIDS, STI, and blood-borne infection policy and law.

Some of his relevant work includes:

Levy, J., forthcoming, Criminalising the Purchase of Sex – Lessons of the Swedish Model (Routledge)

Levy, J., Swedish Abolitionism as Violence Against WomenSex Worker Open University (SWOU) Sex Worker’s Rights Festival, Glasgow , 6 April, 2013 (published online)

Levy, J., Impacts of Swedish Criminalisation of the Purchase of Sex on Sex WorkersBritish Society of Criminology Annual Conference, Northumbria University, 3-6 July, 2011 (published online in English and French (translation))

“In the Booth with Ruth – Dr Jay Levy, Researcher and Consultant” Produced by Matthew Lynch ( Music by Carmen Caserta (

  • Dr Jay Levy’s interview on his book Criminalising the Purchase of Sex: Lessons from Sweden can be read here.
About Ruth Jacobs (296 Articles)
Author of Soul Destruction: Unforgivable, a novel exposing the dark world and harsh reality of life as a drug addicted call girl. The main storyline is based loosely on events from my own life. In addition to fiction writing, I am also involved in journalism and broadcasting, primarily for human rights campaigning in the areas of sex workers' rights, anti-sexual exploitation and anti-human trafficking.

7 Comments on Dr Jay Levy, Researcher and Consultant, Discusses the Outcomes of the Criminalisation of the Purchase of Sex in Sweden

  1. Very interesting interview, and thought-provoking as well. There has been much talk about the “Nordic Model” being a viable solution to the issue of sex work. I say “issue” rather than “problem,” because there is a wide range of disagreement regarding WHETHER sex work/prostitution is a “problem.” Certainly trafficking and underage predation are problems, but what about the person who, for one reason or another, relies on selling sex for mere survival? In that case, criminalizing “johns/punters,” although it does “clean up” the streets, also puts an incredibly vulnerable population in a desperate financial state, puts themselves and their children at risk of dire consequences. Sweden, unlike many countries, does have a liberal welfare system that should catch these disenfranchised sex workers, but I don’t know enough about that. The critical point that Dr. Levy made is that the lack of a social services net that would make life possible for would-be exited prostitutes actually puts them in higher-risk situations than they were previous to the laws. It looks to me as if Sweden (and other countries) would be much better off directing the funds they now spend on policing the streets into social support programs that would give current sex workers a choice about how they could possibly learn to support themselves otherwise. Thanks, Ruth, for this amazing video.

    • Thank you Laura, yes the money spent on policing should instead be spent on harm reduction and outreach with the offering of services to exit for those who do want that. How does anyone think manipulation, threat and coercion are going to help women leave the sex trade? Even if someone wants to leave the industry, there’s no trust established in those dynamics, only fear, and for many of us who have been in there, we’ve suffered abuse in the past, so people trying to control us again is not going to work for us. The law also has not reduced trafficking, so they need to look at that as a separate issue to prostitution, which it is, and address it with appropriate laws. I see the conflation of sex trafficking and sex work as extremely dangerous to both victims of sex trafficking and sex workers xxx

  2. George Cholmondeley // June 16, 2014 at 11:55 pm // Reply

    From a purely liberal point of view, why should the state interfere in the reasons why people have sex?

    Surely the only responsibility of the state should be to make sure both parties have a free choice? The various arguments, trying to present the need to earn a living or the fact that money changes hands at all, as some kind of coercion, are tacitly supporting such a viewpoint.

    I find it alarming that many of those who profess to be feminists work so hard to dictate to women what they can and cannot do. In many cases the same people who would say “my body, my decision” in support of abortion then deny the same choice when it comes to something that they disapprove of.

    Prohibition is not protection, it merely brushes the suffering and abuse out of sight…

    • Thank you for your comment George, I completely agree with you. Prohibition does not work for anything as the past has proven with alcohol, and the failed war on drugs that still has not been replaced with a harm reduction strategy, which does work. And as you say prohibition is not protection and brushes suffering and abuse out of sight, the Swedish model has proven that.

    • That is certainly a logical argument, one that is espoused by many, and easily defended. As a pro-choice feminist who has also spent time on the street, I would counter that the vast majority of sex-for-money exchanges are not truly consensual in the sense that we understand the word. Sex-for-money transactions in which the seller is selling out of desperation, to feed her or his children, in order to procure the basic necessities of life, for a myriad of reasons including but not limited to lack of skills for any other job, or a history of sexual abuse resulting in reliance on learned behaviors to earn a living….there are many, many ways that freely negotiated sex-for-money is not really consensual. True, there may be an absence of force in the way we understand the word; but absence of force does not mean “consensual”.

      • Definitely for most women money is the motivating factor to selling sex. Poverty needs to be addressed. Here in the UK there are estimated 80,000 people in prostitution, most of whom are in poverty and 70% are single mothers. While we wait and hope poverty will be ended, which it could be with Unconditional Basic Income, the immediate need for people selling sex is to make it less dangerous, and sadly the Swedish model does the opposite, but decriminalisation and the Merseyside hate crime model are what works xx

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