While attitudes about sex work vary, a growing public interest in commercial sex trafficking has led to renewed interest in prostitution law enforcement and prosecution.
Some adult sex workers work willingly, but others are victims of trafficking and coercion, substance abuse, trauma-induced mental health issues, and basic living need deficiencies. For this reason, progressive criminal justice approaches focus less on prosecution of sex workers and more on helping exploited and desperate sex workers get the help they need.
John Schools focus on end-demand or “Nordic” models to reduce prostitution by focusing law enforcement on buyers of sex services. This model is popular in parts of Europe, Canada and growing in popularity in the US. The theory behind end-demand programs is that reducing the demand for commercial sex will reduce the supply of sex worker activity.
Historically, John School programs involved classroom instruction—typically tied to police or prosecutor diversions or court alternative sentencing—with Johns paying attendance fees to fund the programs. These fees were often times also used to help fund law enforcement personnel for sting operations, and sometimes used to assist in funding social service programs for sex workers, like trafficking rescue operations, substance abuse treatment, and basic shelter services.
However, the high overhead of staffing and scheduling classroom instructions often meant little funds left for law enforcement or sex worker treatment, leading many John Schools to abandon operations unless grant or other funds were made available.
Many of these programs also had questionable curricula. Some focused on publicly shaming Johns to family, friends and employers. Some used pseudo-scientific concepts such as “sex addiction” to imply Johns had less accountability for their actions. Some, in the interest of saving money, actually mixed sex buyers and sellers in the same treatment classrooms, effectively creating a commercial sex marketplace!
The net result of many of these John School programs was often an increase in societal harm, destroying the reputations and lives of otherwise law-abiding citizens and driving sex work further underground into more dangerous conditions—all without providing tangible learning outcomes for sex buyers or funds to help those sex workers who needed it.
Focus on Harm Reduction
To design a successful John School program, we need to first focus on actual societal harms related to prostitution. These likely include:
Clients committing coercive and abusive acts against sex workers, including physical and sexual violence
Pimps and other third parties exploiting and abusing sex workers
The objectification of sex workers and a culture that objectifies all women
The spread of sexually transmitted diseases
Negative effects on the psychological and relationship health of everyone involved
Negative effects of street prostitution on communities, including zones where men harass and solicit all women (not just sex workers), public sex occurs, debris like used condoms accumulates, and property values decrease because of the stigma and negative reputation of the area
So an effective harm reduction program would include five distinct goals:
Protecting religious values and family integrity
Protecting the health of sex workers and the public
Preventing violence against sex workers
Preventing the objectification of women and commodification of sex
Preventing the economic exploitation and oppression of sex workers and of women generally
The online (eLearning) delivery of John School programs offers several advantages over traditional classroom treatment options. Program interventions are easy for police, prosecutors and courts to implement and assign to Johns. It provides anonymity to those taking the course, ensuring that collateral damage to families, reputations and careers aren’t part of sentencing. And online delivery provides self-paced and self-guided learning, ensuring optimum treatment efficacy and pandemic safety to participants.
Perhaps most importantly, online John School brings the curriculum to students at a much lower cost than classroom staffing and scheduling. This means that much more program fee revenue can be allocated to address societal harms, including towards law enforcement to fight true sex trafficking activities and toward social programs that help sex workers in need.
The Advent John School
Coming soon, Advent will release our online John School as part of the Advent eLearning platform. The course was developed by Dr. Amy Hasinoff, professor of Communication at the University of Colorado Denver, and author of other Advent courses for Harassment, Revenge Porn and Juvenile Sexting.
The course focuses on teaching Johns more about sex work to change their thoughts and behaviors and works toward harm reduction. The curriculum includes:
Dynamics of sex work and workers, including legal frameworks, sex worker health and safety, and recognizing signs of sex trafficking and coercion
Sexual health and consent, including prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, healthy sexual attitudes, and sexual consent as it relates to commercial sex activity
Root causes and helpful resources for problems relating to sex, including attitudes about gender norms, slut-shaming and stigma, objectification and rape/sexual violence, and the role of online technology in these issues
The course includes both required and optional text and video components and will take students seven to eight hours to complete at an eighth grade reading level or above. The course can be completed on most internet-enabled phones, computers or tablets, and browser and closed-captioning technologies allow for language translation and assistive technologies.
To Get Started
To learn more about Advent distance treatment programs and eLearning management platform, including demonstrations and reviews of our content, please email us today at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact your AdventFS sales representative. For a complete catalog of online programs, visit www.adventelearning.com.