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ORIGINAL ARTICLE / ARTICLE ORIGINAL
Men’s demand for prostitutes Pourquoi les hommes recherchent-ils des prostituées ?
S.A. Månsson (PhD, Professor of social work)
School of Health and Society, Malmö university, 20506 Malmö, Sweden
KEYWORDS Heterosexual prostitution; Clients of prostitutes; The whore fantasy; Sexual culture; Gender relations; McSex
Abstract In this article the results of Swedish and other Scandinavian research about prostitutes’ clients in heterosexual prostitution are presented and discussed. The aim is to explore men’s motives for seeking out prostitutes. Five major motivational themes are presented: the whore fantasy, another kind of sex, image of the kind-hearted comforter, images of sex as a consumer product, fantasies of another kind of woman. It is the argument of the author that these themes reflect dominant structures of sexual culture and gender relations in society. Some of them seem to be relatively stable over time with roots far back in history, and others can be conceived as expressions of changing power relations between men and women in present day Western society.
© 2006 Elsevier SAS. All rights reserved.
MOTS CLÉS Prostitution hétérosexuelle ; Clients des prostituées ; Fantasme de la putain ; Culture sexuelle ; Relations entre les sexes ; Commerce sexuel (Mac Donald sexuel)
Résumé Cet article analyse quelques résultats de recherches effectuées en Suède et dans d’autres pays scandinaves sur les clients de prostituées. Le but de ce travail est d’explorer les motivations des hommes qui vont voir des prostituées. Cinq principaux thèmes de motivations sont présentés: le fantasme de la putain, une autre forme de sexe, l’image de la consolatrice au cœur charitable, consommer du sexe, un autre type de femme. Pour l’auteur, ces thèmes reflètent les structures dominantes de la culture sexuelle et des relations entre les sexes dans la société. Certains de ces thèmes semblent être relativement stables, et enracinés depuis longtemps dans l’histoire, et d’autres peuvent être perçus comme des expressions du changement de la relation de pouvoir entre les hommes et les femmes dans la société occidentale actuelle.
© 2006 Elsevier SAS. All rights reserved.
E-mail address: Sven-Axel.Mansson@hs.mah.se (S.A. Månsson). 1158-1360/$ - see front matter © 2006 Elsevier SAS. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.sexol.2006.02.001
and only drawing upon research in a Swedish context has its limitations. from culture to culture. 2003. I limit myself to a discussion of some of the results of Swedish and other Scandinavian research about prostitutes’ clients. et des relations entre les sexes dans la société. qui sont une partie du vocabulaire culturel. dans les rencontres entre les clients et les prostituées. Both in conceptualization and definition it is the female prostitute that has been the subject of research. From this we can conclude that the understanding of what men are looking for in prostitution has to be related to the specific cultural and historical circumstances surrounding men’s sexuality and their demand for prostitutes. Clearly. or rather. however. correspond à la vision la plus sombre que l’homme a de la féminité. as to why men buy sex. 1996. it must deal with men’s motives and demand for prostitutes. For whenever one starts to pose questions about the men. the demand itself has to be investigated. others do not. Pour l’auteur ces thèmes reflètent les structures dominantes de la culture sexuelle. My aim here is not to give a systematic review of these studies. d’une culture à une autre. et s’est rendue disponible. Nous savons que depuis toujours les hommes achètent du sexe. 2000. ou plutôt. Elle s’est exposée. les observations de la recherche scandinave ont des implications générales dans la compréhension du rôle des hommes dans la prostitution. there have been 14.. ces thèmes ne sont pas mutuellement exclusifs. Les motivations — du moins telles qu’elles apparaissent dans le texte — sont des phénomènes linguistiques. Full version Introduction One of the central questions for understanding prostitution must deal with what is bought. Andersson-Collins. earlier hidden aspects of the phenomenon become unveiled. Varsa. And there is evidence that men’s disposition to pay for sex varies strongly from country to country. Un sociologue Finlandais. On peut les diviser en cinq groupes majeurs. Lautrup. l’auteur se concentre principalement sur les résultats des recherches suédoises et scandinaves concernant les clients de prostituées. La prostitution concerne la sexualité masculine et non pas la sexualité féminine. se superposent et parfois se contredisent. ils interagissent. Månsson. Et comme ces circonstances peuvent évoluer. Dans cet article. I do think that some of the observations made in Scandinavian research have some general implications for understanding men’s role in prostitution. il n’y aurait pas de femmes prostituées. permet de discerner plusieurs thèmes. Il y a des preuves que la propension des hommes à acheter du sexe varie fortement d’un pays à l’autre. in the case of heterosexual prostitution. répond que les motivations des gens ne sont pas choisies au hasard mais déterminées socialement. Persson. it was only peripherally. Smette. 1984. Les motivations sont cependant différentes des raisons évoquées. Lyngbye. Hydén. Cependant. Certains de ces thèmes semblent être relativement stables dans le temps et enraciner l’histoire. Only to talk about how a demand can be met. Le but de ce travail est d’explorer les motivations des hommes qui vont voir des prostituées. Only looking at Europe we can see that the numbers range from approximately 10% in one country to 40% in another (Månsson. I will compare these findings to the results from other research in other countries. that is to say. les hommes semblent tous avoir au départ comme idée fondamentale qu’un certain groupe de femmes doit être disponible à leurs besoins sexuels. Pour comprendre les raisons pour lesquelles les hommes recherchent la prostitution. 1998. et pas elle. Sans la demande masculine pour la prostitution. Being a sociologist. cannot illuminate the phenomenon in its completeness. Certains le font et d’autres non. Par conséquent. et d’autres peuvent être perçus comme des expressions du changement de la relation de pouvoir entre les hommes et les femmes dans la société occidentale actuelle. 1990. whenever called for.A. c’est donc elle qui est à blâmer. However. Au contraire. Images and fantasies of the prostitute From the mid-1980s up until today. The common aim has been to try to capture the motives behind the buying of sex. Liée à de l’excitation. Nevertheless. Ces catégories ne sont pas antinomiques les unes des autres et on a pu dans de nombreux cas retrouver plusieurs thèmes dans un même discours (Tableau 1). Prieur and Taksdal. 2000. 1994. Lui est l’innocent socialement respectable et moral. nous pouvons reconnaître facilement le vocabulaire culturel de la prostitution dans les dires des hommes. Sandell et al. more or less extensive. L’image de « La putain ». most of them qualitative studies based on indepth interviews with clients (Borg et al. Järvinen. C’est ainsi que l’argumentation se déroule. et elle est définie exclusivement par une forme de sexualité qu’on peut acheter. Nordvinter and Ström. I . Although the male client occasionally has been visible. In this article. 2005). et les explications données sont modélisées dans des expressions ou des réponses standardisées dont les personnes interrogées se saisissent pour se justifier de leurs actions et de leurs désirs. Månsson and Linders. the demand for prostitutes is a global issue. 1981. L’analyse du discours des hommes qui expliquent pourquoi ils cherchent des prostituées. We know that far from all men buy sex. Scandinavian studies dealing with this issue. il faut se pencher sur les circonstances culturelles et historiques spécifiques autour de la sexualité des hommes. 2001). Indépendamment de la formulation exacte de leurs différentes raisons et motivations. 1981. du mépris et du dégoût. Concrètement.. 1989. et pas lui. 1986. la sexualité masculine et la demande pour la prostitution aussi.88 S. Månsson Version abrégée Cet article analyse quelques résultats de recherches effectuées en Suède et dans d’autres pays scandinaves sur les clients de prostituées. but rather to summarize and present a couple of the most prominent explanations put forward. 1990. L’image de l’homme consommateur n’a jamais été aussi chargé émotionnellement. Some do it. Lantz. Research questions have more often dealt with how and why women enter prostitution.
in some way or other. once having experimented with prostitute-use. However. d’excitation et de mépris. The image of the whore guides men’s manner of relating to women in different situations. which all of them. My hypothesis is that these images in different ways reflect dominant themes of sexual culture and gender relations in society. but while the one is met with respect. References to changing gender relations and loss of power. In fact. Fait référence au sexe comme un marché pour satisfaire différents goûts (le marché du sexe). The explanations put forward in these studies can roughly be divided into five major groups.Men’s demand for prostitutes 89 Table 1 Men’s images and fantasies of the prostitute Images et fantasmes des hommes sur les prostituées The whore fantasy Fantasme de la putain Conveys expressions of contradictory feelings of curiosity. it is well known that secrecy attached to sexual fantasies adds to the arousal in a number of ways. Some clients handle the contradictory feelings of enticement and self-contempt by projecting the image of “dirty whore” on the woman who makes herself publicly available (O’Connell Davidson. while others could be conceived as expressions of changing power relations between men and women in present day Western society.e.. as being both repugnant and attractive at the same time. Typical saying: “She treats me like the man I am”. This experience of excitement is presumably caused by the contradictory character of the sex trade. Another kind of sex Une autre forme de sexualité Images of sex as a consumer product Sexe vu comme un produit de consommation Image of the kind-hearted comforter Image de la consolatrice au cœur charitable Fantasies of another kind of woman Fantasmes pour une autre sorte de femme limit myself to social and cultural factors and avoid psychological explanations. et au besoin biologique des hommes de décharge sexuelle rapide. Closely related to this is the cultural image—more present in some countries than in other—of the whore as a sexual teacher. at least once. Typical saying: “My wife does not want try anything new”. Expression typique “il n’y a pas d’autres femmes pour moi”. In many men. The image of “the dirty whore” adds to sexual arousal. is an element of self-contempt in relation to one’s forbidden or secret impulses. A recent study about Danish clients shows that to the majority (60%) the buying of sex was something they wanted to try. but also enticement. “responsible” for facilitating the transition from boyhood to manhood. et aux handicaps psychiques et incapacités physiques. fear. and to be sexual with a “whore”. The whore fantasy For some clients. à l’âge avancé. many men continue to buy sex. the more likely it was that they would continue to buy sex regularly later on in life (Lautrup. Renferme des expressions de sentiments contradictoires de curiosité. not only contempt. Basés sur les images d’une féminité (et masculinité) réelle et naturelle. Sexual frustration coupled with images of a certain kind of sex which cannot be experienced with non-prostitute women. 1998). Furthermore. L’image de la « sale putain » augmente l’excitation sexuelle. physical and mental disabilities. Referring to sex as a market for different tastes (“shopping for sex”) and to men’s biological need for quick sexual release (“cleaning the pipes”). à la peur. It is repugnant because there . Based on images of a true and natural femininity (and masculinity). Expressions of strong anti-feminist notions. On the contrary. Expression typique “c’est comme aller au Mc Donald’s” (McSex). and the younger they were on the first occasion. the image of the “whore” is sexually exciting in a distinct and very immediate way. there exists a curiosity—at least once—to come into contact with. 2005). At the same time. experience. Expression typique “elle me traite comme l’homme que je suis”. Fait référence à la frustration sexuelle couplée d’images d’une certaine forme de sexualité qui ne peut pas être vécue avec des femmes non prostituées. excitement and contempt. advanced age. Referring to shyness. The “whore” is the most distant of the two. i. Expression typique “ma femme ne veut pas essayer quelque chose de nouveau”. Although. the other is met with contempt. both images—“madonna” and “whore”—objectify women. On a concrete level. they intersect and appear together. no only in prostitution. these themes are not mutually exclusive. in actual encounters between clients and prostitutes. Typical saying: “It is like going to McDonalds…” (McSex). The respondents described the visit to a prostitute as some kind of “sexual experimentation”. resonate on men’s images and fantasies of the prostitute in relation to what she represents and to what she can deliver (Table 1). but at the same time close as a source of erotic dreams and fantasies. Typical saying: “There are no other women for me” Fait référence à la timidité. and in order to understand it completely one must comprehend the complex interplay between these dimensions. In some cases they even contradict each other. Some of them seem to be relatively stable over time with roots far back. I am aware that buying sex has both individual and social dimensions. Références au changement de relation entre les hommes et les femmes et à la perte de pouvoir. (“vider ses génitoires”). Expression d’antiféminisme fort. to see.
easy to come by. 1988). And that is a dangerous position of power (for her). or in other ways degraded. from experiencing himself as potent and feeling alive. What we have here is a commodified perspective toward sexuality. Because. In such cases there is a close connection between sexual inadequacy and violence. not primarily prostitutes. From a historical point of view this is nothing new. 1974). A typical saying is: “My wife does not want to try anything new”. not least in the area of sexuality. the man buys himself the right to be passive and to be “seduced” by the sexually aggressive “whore”. but also to his potential dangerousness. there are situations when men buy the kind of sex that they cannot have with their “private” partners. in his inner world of illusions.90 S. is a typical saying. as a sort of recurrent “cleaning of the pipes”. Obviously. etc. Consequently. Månsson Also the prostitution milieu itself evokes curiosity and excitement. also means that he projects his possible impotence on her. which border “the stroll” in the big cities. British sociologist O’Connell Davidson criticizes what she calls the discourse about prostitution as a form of sexual therapy or healing. Transferring the opportunity to become potent (and sexually released) on to the prostitute. about half of the men assumed a passive role and left it to the prostitute to lead the encounter and take all the initiatives (Stein. who is willing to perform the kind of sex they say that they cannot have with their wives or steady partners. physical and mental handicaps. According to Stein. it is the duty of the prostitute to make him feel potent and to support his sense of being in control. The stepping stone for this perspective is a biologistic (or essentialist) view on sexuality.A. A man who cannot get an erection can become a dangerous man. but also in a deeper sense. In the red light districts or other places where sex trade occurs. It rather refers to men’s own subjective view of what is available on the sex market. In a study conducted by American sexologist Martha Stein on the clients of call-girls. An expression like “there are no other women for me” does not necessarily mean that those who say it in reality have no opportunities for making contact with women. for example the sex clubs and porno stores. as the client sees it. who so openly expose themselves sexually. there is research showing that most clients do not buy exotic or kinky sex. This is probably one of the reasons behind the “success” of the Internet as the new “red light” market. At the same time. the milieu itself functions as an “invitation” to sex. “But behind such narratives there are generally sexual scripts which have as much with vengeance and control as those enacted by any other client”. This is one of the keys to his vulnerability. saying that sex is primarily a bodily need. whose views about gender and sexuality have been shaped by late modern society’s mass-produced images about sexuality in pornography. or the porno advertisements on the web sites of the Internet. expressed displeasure with their wives’ unwillingness to perform this particular act. when possible. in which sex can be compared to a consumer product rather than an aspect of intimate relationships. he uses his power to construct a situation where the traditional sexual roles are reversed. some men pay prostitutes to be sexually dominated by them. to be hurt. Images of sex as a consumer product The clientele of prostitutes today consists of men. The second most requested act was the woman sitting on top of the man. 2005). Image of the kind-hearted comforter Most of the narrative themes under this heading have in common that they express a longing for women. Shutting him out. the man does not surrender to the woman in any real way. says O’Connell Davidson (1998). age. Rather it has been the recurrent cultural theme of an old patriarchal ideology de- . What is displayed here is a power game that is both complex and contradictory. In other words. It is part of a market for different tastes. First of all we are talking about men who do not live in relationships with women or who consider themselves as having great difficulties in making contact with women due to looks. In no other places are women found. may very well end in her being violated or even killed (Månsson. Within prostitution the possibilities seem to be endless—as long as one is willing to pay. compared to how they behave in their ordinary relationships. which demands attention at regular intervals. She argues that presenting the prostitute as a kind-hearted comforter permits the client to tell himself that it is not simply lust but rather his loneliness that makes him seek out prostitutes. This is underscored by the pornographic framework. humiliated. “She exposed herself to me and I could not resist”. men prefer to abandon their socially constructed power position and take a role that allows them to release control and ignore all demands concerning the sexual performance. Many clients. Access and situational circumstances seem to be important factors in explaining men’s prostitute-use. Another kind of sex Men’s fantasies around prostitution often involve encountering a sexually advanced and experienced woman. Interviews with prostitutes sometimes suggest that men’s demands seem to be inspired by what they see displayed in pornography (Månsson. but rather women in general. which is supposed to supply men with sex in all different shapes and forms. it appeared that the act most requested was the woman performing oral sex on the man. not only from the sexual act. Thus the woman’s power connected to her dominant position in the sexual act is only illusory and so is the man’s willingness to release his control. 1981). The availability of prostitutes in combination with the conviction of being anonymous seems to be important factors deciding men’s first visit to a prostitute (Lautrup. Moreover. advertisement and other media. It all seems to depend on who you ask. On the contrary. It therefore appears as though. instead they tend to buy regular intercourse or masturbation (Lautrup. it is interesting to note that some men openly demand a different and more passive sexual role for themselves in their contacts with prostitutes. bullied. 2005). The message is that all is possible. Furthermore. The client simply transfers his urge for potency on to her. especially the older ones. prostitution is often portrayed as something positive. and with no moral obligations. In marketing and the media.
they are pushed back in men’s fantasies (Kimmel. Socialtjänsten. Fruhling M. (Rapport no 124). Prostitution: Beskrivning. It is probably not unreasonable to interpret these reactions as an expression of an obvious feeling of loss and a need to compensate for this through suppressing or misdirecting aggression towards women in various contexts. These are regarded by the men as being close to a “state of nature” (of true femininity). Stockholm: Citysektionen. It becomes clear just by looking at the marketing of these women. I agree with this analysis. Lantz I. According to this view. The Biographical Illusion: Constructing Meaning in Qualitative Interviews. they are part of a cultural vocabulary. It is satisfying. And irrespective of the exact phrasing of the different reasons and motives. He is the socially respectable and moral innocent. 1993). which the actors grasp onto while having to account for their actions and desires (Järvinen. and the explanations given are modeled into standardized phrases or responses. In this respect. Järvinen M. we can easily recognize the cultural vocabulary of prostitution in the sayings of the men. Summing up The aim of this article has been to try to capture the motives behind men’s buying of sex. it is important to recognize that motives are not the same as the objective causes of the phenomenon. Some men react strongly to this development. Borg A. justifying men’s free access to and use of prostitutes. the extension of equal rights to women is experienced as a loss of male supremacy. 6(3): 370-91. According to one man he interviewed. She says: “The sex tourists… are certainly not alone in their disquiet.Men’s demand for prostitutes 91 fending heterosexual prostitution as a natural and unavoidable phenomenon. 2005. Kimmel MS. If it is not allowed to exist. politics and leisure at the same time as they sustained and reproduced the powerful myth that masculinity is all about the exclusive company of men (Tosh. . not he. However. men get together on certain web sites to exchange and trade off information and experiences about their contacts and transactions with prostitutes at home or abroad. but also with contempt and disgust and she is defined exclusively by her sexuality that can be purchased with money. Elwien F. Of Vice and Women. Some of these all male associations on the Internet remind us of older days’ fraternal lodges which used to oil the wheels of friendship. where References Andersson-Collins G. Om prostitutionskunder i Stockholm. going to a prostitute is “like going to McDonald’s. Moreover. Torsken i fittstimmet. Grönwall L. 1994. signifying the whole idea of shopping for a sex partner. wherever she is available. a phenomenon that can be observed through the rising number of “communities” on the Internet. In the late capitalist era this view has found its typical time-bound expression in what Blanchard calls McSex. Shades of Prostitution. 1994). and Latin American women as free and easy (Månsson. Some researchers define it as a functionalist view on prostitution. 1990. 2001). Motives—at least in the way that they appear in my text—are linguistic phenomena. 2001). Around the man as a consumer there are no such emotionally charged images. implying that they themselves have recognized the essential differences between the sexes and that they have accepted their “natural born” roles as comforters of men’s sexual needs. analys. förslag till åtgärder. As Finish sociologist Järvinen argues. 2000). Julia O’Connell Davidson who has studied sex tourism is of the same opinion. there are other expressions of prostitution today which substantiates this line of thinking. Asiatic women are portrayed as loving and submissive. business. et al. These men project their images of a true and natural femininity on the women they encounter on their trips abroad. in which sexual-racist and ethnic stereotypes play a big role. It is not difficult to visualize how these stereotypes can give rise to men’s talk and fantasies about “another kind of woman” as a compensation for the reduction of masculine and sexual power in their own everyday relationships. Stockholm: FOU-byrån. One is what I would call the tightening of homosocial bonds among male clients. Consequently. Expressions of this compensation for loss of power can be seen in sex tourism and the demand for trafficked women. Månsson SA. (Liber). made herself available. African women as wild. most people are looking for a good quick cheap meal. (Rapport no 122). In fact. instead they cling to old notions of men’s dominance over women. Essays on Male Sexuality. Hydén LC. and then you get the hell out of there” (Monto. Järvinen M. That is how the argument goes. 1993. 1990. the modern version of these homosocial alliances on the Internet can probably be regarded as a nostalgic resurrection of gender privilege. thus she is the one to blame. She exposed herself. people’s motives are not haphazardly chosen but socially determined. but they are distinguished by the fact that they attach such an immediate erotic significance to this sense of loss” (O’Connell Davidson. 2000). Fantasies of another kind of woman For many men in the Western World of today. Solitärer: en rapport om prostitutionskunder. En socialpsykologisk studie av manliga prostitutionskunder. prostitution is seen as a timeless institution and as women’s oldest profession. showing strong regressive and anti-feminist attitudes. not she. the resulting sexual frustration of men would lead to an increased number of rapes and other sexual violations (Järvinen. Liljeström R. Qualitative Inquiry 2000. As women advance in real life. “The whore” as an expression of the darker side of men’s image of femininity is connected with enticement. Stockholm: FOU-byrån. New York: State University of New York Press. The Gender of Desire. Stockholm: Publica. And it is probably fair to argue that many men’s compulsive sexual odysseys into prostitution can be seen in light of these changes. they all seem to depart from the fundamental idea that a certain group of women shall be accessible for men’s sexual purposes. Oslo: Scandinavian University Press. it is greasy. They cannot accept the changes. 1981. 2005). De osynliga männen. prostitution is described as a “safetyvalve”.
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