A John Comes Forward: “I don’t see them as people”

Translated from Norwegian

Original published by Martin Gedde-Dahl on www.nd.no on 06 February 2014

A John Comes Forward

Father of two Ottar Stangelang buys sex without feeling any shame.

-If the money doesn’t go to her, at least she got herself some good dick, says Ottar’s friend and laughs loudly and hoarsely at his interjection into the conversation.

Ottar disagrees. He has no illusions about having given the more than 200 – a number he later has doubts about as it is “impossible to keep count” – women he has bought sex from any pleasure.

–I know she gives as little of a damn about me as I give about her, he says.

We are at Grei café in Skippergata, a few blocks further out towards the docks than proper folks normally go. The address was the 1838 site of Henrik Wergeland’s courtship of his would-be wife Amalie Sofie. Today the place serves as the local pub for Oslo’s prostitutes. Meeting here was one of the conditions Ottar had for appearing as a sex buyer with his name and photo: “If it’s to be done, it must be done right.”

“Right” in this context means beer and fernet in a locale mostly populated by Eastern European-looking women in worn bubble jackets.

The initial background was finding a sex buyer’s reply to Danish ex-prostitute Tanja Rahm’s blog entry “To those who buy sex” which was published in Aftenposten and read by more than 500,000 Norwegians over the course of only a few days. Even though the subject is given many column inches and attention in a series of debate shows on TV and radio, there is a group that has remained unheard for the most part: the actual addressee of the text, the sex buyer. 13% of Norwegian men state that they have bought sex, but so far none of them have come forward and answered the accusations. Ottar wants to give “the sex buyer” a face.

I read the introduction aloud: “Dear sex buyer. If you think I ever felt attracted to you, you are terribly wrong.” Ottar responds with a roar of laughter.

– Who is she talking to? Haha! A sum of money gives me “wham-bam”, miserable sex and unloading. Nobody goes from you feeling pride.

– Surely there are some? Some prostitutes offer a so-called “girlfriend experience”.

– When it comes to feelings I prefer the real deal. But yeah, sure, there are probably those who dig stuff like that. That’s what she doesn’t get: people are different, there’s no such thing as the sex buyer. The same goes for whores, by the way: they are individuals with unique feelings, thoughts and opinions.

He takes a short break, sips his beer and adds:

– But I’m sure as hell not interested in them. They’re not people in my eyes.

Before you write him off as a monster, let me specify: Ottar Stangeland appears to be a good guy. Polite, bright, funny and well-spoken. You would probably like him, at least when he’s not talking about prostitution. You would hardly reject him as being especially evil or stupid, at least not as some kind of social deviant or as somehow incapable of telling right from wrong. The father of two from Stavanger is, on the whole, pretty normal. Aside from some stories of drunk debauchery, a slightly more colorful group of friends and a few more things weighing on his conscience than average. Yes, and a more passionate relationship with buying sex, an interest he has had since he was on a guys’ trip to Denmark at age 17 and paid for sex for the first time.

– We knew there were whores there and we had our minds made up that here we would fuck something that’s not white – try something new! – so we got Thai from the shop. It was a revelation. A hell of a lot better than that fake courtship in the city. I saved myself hours of lying and spending money for maybe being allowed to touch a tit.

Is the reason that you buy sex that you dislike the pickup situation?
– I’ve never had any trouble getting by, but when I pull ladies in the city, I feel like I’m selling myself. I see it from a whore’s perspective, if you will. I’m completely aware that she’s lying, because I do it myself.

 You think buying sex is more honest than one night stands?
– Yes, and you end up spending roughly the same. We can also see it from the other side. You know the saying “all women are whores”? It’s an over the top statement, but there is some truth to it. To stand at the bar and rake in drink after drink from guys who are lying to get to sleep with you – that’s a form of whoring. Just like so many other things people do.

Ottar asks me to clarify that he is currently in a relationship and doesn’t avail himself of prostitutes (“beyond faithful” as he phrases it). He only buys sex when he is single, and preferably abroad. As the singer of the punk band Haggis and with his job as a travel journalist, among others for the men’s magazine Alfa, he has accumulated many days of travel, he says. And wherever he travels, there are temptations.

– They’re everywhere, in different shapes – and I try everything. Street whores, brothels, or whatever there is. I have no preferences.

Don’t you have any criteria? Some say they only buy sex from women who aren’t being exploited.
– Haha! If you want to be sure of that, you have to stop buying sex – and many other things people buy without thinking about it. It’s not my responsibility to ensure the well-being of people I don’t know. I take care of my nearest. The whole point with the whoring is the distance. You buy a service, and done.

And you manage to distance yourself?
– Yes. But I understand that it can be horrible. I have daughters myself, and I wouldn’t wish this profession on them for anything in the world. It’s just the men who sit and grin, the women don’t have it so damn great. That Danish one should walk a few meters in real whore’s shoes. Look at the girls who stand out here teeth chattering waiting to be taken along in those rape vans. Fucking hell. The whole thing is on the shady side, but that’s the stuff that’s really dark.

The reason they are standing out there is that there is a sex market, though. If you agree that they have a horrible life, how can you not feel some responsibility?

– And your clothes are most likely made by small Indian children’s hands. You can say stuff like that about anything. Everything can be dragged into a moral abyss by telling horror stories. That mentality of “if I don’t do it, someone else is going to do it” – well, that is actually the case too. Should we all, like, quit it, then? Stop buying whores?


– That’s a utopia! Like the war on drugs, it’s impossible to win. It’s much better to do it like in Portugal. Let them pay tax! It’s gotta be better for them to become a part of society than to live with fifty other girls in an apartment where they are beat on by some Nigerian baron or something.

Could a happy industry exist? Or is that an inherently boring thing?

– From what I know about women, I don’t think it’s possible to separate sex and feelings one hundred percent. Not over time, and continue to be happy.

You don’t believe in the sex-loving happy hooker?

– She does exist, but she’s the exception that proves the rule.

Ottar’s friend is more optimistic, and starts dishing out about women he knows who thrive in selling sex. Completely ordinary mothers of toddlers who make a year’s earnings by going on a summer tour in a trailer.
– It’s those who are independent and have full control that are happy.

Ottar interrupts.

– They thrive when they’re raking it in, yeah. It’ll be like this for many whores: do they like the men? No. Do they like the job? Meh. Do they like the money? Haha, you bet they do!

What do you think about girls who sell themselves? Do you look down on them?

– Absolutely not! You have a tough profession there, all respect to those who can do it. I know I said I don’t see them as people, but I actually think they are worth as much as everyone else. What I mean is that I don’t see them as my people. I don’t behave towards them like people.

Ottar speaks quickly and animatedly. Every sentence opens up new associations and thoughts that don’t always lead to a conclusion. A parallel between buying sex from trafficking victims and clothes produced with child labor subtly glides into experiences with Colombian street prostitutes and ends in a rant against the Swedish justice minister, Beatrice Ask, who recently came down hard against hash after having been fooled by a false report of a hash overdose with a deadly outcome.

– I mean, she knows nothing! And people like that are supposed to tell us what’s right and wrong. People who haven’t lived a day in their lives. Those who yell the loudest about morals are those I trust the least.

“From the top down” people, he calls them. “Those who declare themselves judge over other people’s actions but don’t want to show their own weaknesses.”

– The only things that are black and white are the keys on the piano, says Ottar.

– At least I’m honest about that shit.

Reason, Emotions and Buying Sex in Norway

Translated from Norwegian
Original published by Joacim Lund at aftenposten.no on 04 February 2014

 de  German version

Reason, emotions and buying sex

The law against buying sex is an emotional subject. Has it become a fit of moralist panic?

The law against buying sex is condemnable, says Bent Johan Mosfjell of the online magazine Liberaleren. It takes away our agency over our own bodies.

Aksel Braanen Sterri was of the same opinion when he wrote about the surrogacy debate in Morgenbladet one year ago:
“When you sell your time and your labor force, you sell a limited part of your agency over your body and its functions to your employer,” he wrote.

That sounds logical. A carpenter offers his physical labor for money without it being prohibited to buy his services for that reason. What is the difference between him and a prostitute if it isn’t morals?

“The happy hooker”

There are examples of women who thrive in prostitution. Their poster girl in recent years, Hege Grostad, has been given much space in the media. When the Danish former prostitute Tanja Rahm expressed a diametrically opposed (and more representative) view of prostitution in Aftenposten, Grostad called her a moralist.

Technical knockout. The moralist card trumps most debates. Presumably that is why even the Prime Minister is now using it.

Prime Minister is bluffing

“I want to stress that the law against the buying of sex was not a law we introduced for moralist reasons (…). It was not because we got up on our high horse and said that buying sex is wrong or something like that,” said Solberg at the Norwegian parliament’s Q&A hour last Thursday.

A spectacular political bluff. Contributing to a change in attitudes was and is one of the most important objectives of the law. It’s right there in black and white in the introduction to the hearing minutes. For a good reason.

Laws affect morals

University of Oslo researchers Andreas Kotsadam and Niklas Jakobsson wrote this in their 2011 article “Do laws affect attitudes?”, in which they examined Norwegians’ views of the law before and after the law against buying sex was introduced. The young population’s views of buying sex had become more negative; the same applied to the population of Oslo, where prostitution is most visible.

In Norway, the law has worked in a very short time. In Sweden, where there are 15 years of experience with the law, the population has bigger moral qualms when it comes to the purchase of sexual services. According to an official Swedish report (SOU 2010:49), 70 percent where against criminalization in 1996 while 70 percent were for it in 2008.

Signaling effect

The debate around the law against buying sex is complicated. It is perfectly legitimate to discuss to what extent the law is working toward its objectives (experiences from Sweden and international research indicate that it’s working) and who is affected (the law is connected with efforts by the authorities to provide support measures that will get people out of prostitution).

All this should be evaluated. But it’s also a debate about values. The law against buying sex signalizes that purchasing sexual services can never become the same as hiring a carpenter, and that feelings and views belong in this debate. Moralism? Pshaw. Morals? Yes – and yes, please.

Vernunft, Gefühle und Sex-Kauf in Norwegen

Übersetzt aus dem Norwegischen
Veröffentlich im Original von Joacim Lund, aftenposten.no am 04.02.2014

gb English version

Vernunft, Gefühle und Sex-Kauf

Das Gesetz gegen Sexkauf weckt starke Emotionen. Ist daraus ein Anfall moralistischer Panik geworden?

Das Anti-Sexkaufgesetz ist verwerflich, meint Bent Johan Mosfjell im Online-Magazin Liberaleren. Es nimmt uns das Recht auf Selbstbestimmung über unsere Körper.

Aksel Braanen Sterri war derselben Meinung, als er vor einem Jahr in Morgenbladet über die Leihmutter-Debatte schrieb:
„Wenn man seine Zeit und seine Arbeitskraft verkauft, verkauft man einen begrenzten Teil seiner Selbstbestimmung über seinen Körper und dessen Funktionen an den Arbeitgeber“, meinte er.

Das hört sich logisch an. Ein Tischler bietet seine körperliche Arbeitskraft gegen Geld an, ohne dass es deswegen verboten wäre, seine Dienste zu kaufen. Wo liegt der Unterschied zwischen ihm und einer Prostituierten wenn nicht in der Moral?

„Die glückliche Hure“

Es gibt Beispiele von Frauen, denen es in der Prostitution gut geht. Deren Frontfrau der letzten Jahre, Hege Grostad, findet in den Medien viel Gehör. Als die dänische ehemalige Prostituierte Tanja Rahm eine völlig entgegensetzliche (und repräsentativere) Ansicht über die Prostitution in der Aftenposten veröffentlichte, nannte Grostad sie eine Moralistin.

Technischer KO. Die Moralistenkarte ist in den meisten Debatten Trumpf. Scheinbar ist das der Grund, dass jetzt sogar die Ministerpräsidentin dazu greift.

Ministerpräsidentin blufft

„Ich möchte betonen, dass das Gesetz gegen den Sexkauf kein Gesetz war, das wir aus moralistischen Gründen eingeführt haben (…). Es war nicht weil wir uns auf ein hohes Ross geschwungen und gesagt haben, Sex zu kaufen sei falsch oder etwas in der Art“, sagte Solberg in der Fragestunde des norwegischen Parlaments vergangenen Donnerstag.

Ein spektakulärer politischer Bluff. Eines der wichtigsten Ziele des Gesetzes war und ist ein Beitrag zur Änderung der Einstellung. Schon im Vorwort des Anhörungsprotokolls steht es schwarz auf weiß geschrieben. Aus gutem Grund.

Gesetze beeinflussen die Moral

Das schrieben Andreas Kotsadam und Niklas Jakobsson, Forscher an der Universität von Oslo, 2011 in dem Artikel „Do laws affect attitudes?“, in dem sie die Einstellung von Norwegern zum Thema Sex-Kauf vor und nach der Einführung des Gesetzes gegen den Sex-Kauf untersuchten. Die junge Bevölkerung hatte eine negativere Haltung gegenüber dem Sex-Kauf. Dasselbe galt für die Bevölkerung von Oslo, wo Prostitution am sichtbarsten ist.

In Norwegen hat das Gesetz in sehr kurzer Zeit Wirkung gezeigt. In Schweden, wo es mit dem Gesetz gegen Sex-Kauf bereits 15 Jahre Erfahrung gibt, hat die Bevölkerung große moralische Bedenken, was den Kauf sexueller Dienstleistung angeht. Und einem staatlichen schwedischen Bericht (SOU 2010:49) zu Folge waren im Jahr 1996 70 Prozent gegen die Kriminalisierung während 2008 70 Prozent dafür waren.


Die Debatte um das Gesetz gegen Sex-Kauf ist kompliziert. Es ist völlig legitim, darüber zu diskutieren, inwieweit das Gesetz bezüglich seiner Zielsetzungen funktioniert (die Erfahrungen in Schweden und internationale Forschung deuten darauf hin, dass es das tut) und wen es betrifft (das Gesetz steht von behördlicher Seite im Zusammenhang mit Hilfsmaßnahmen, die Menschen den Ausstieg aus der Prostitution ermöglichen sollen).

All dies muss evaluiert werden. Aber es ist auch eine Wertedebatte. Das Gesetz gegen den Sex-Kauf signalisiert, dass der Kauf sexueller Dienstleistungen niemals dasselbe sein kann, wie das Anheuern eines Tischlers, und dass Gefühle und Einstellungen in der Debatte etwas verloren haben. Moralismus? Pah. Moral? Ja – und ja, bitte.