Male Sex Work and Society


Edited by
Victor Minichiello, PhD
John Scott, PhD

Approx 512 pages, including glossary and index
33 full color illustrations
4 black & white illustrations
24 figures & graphs
Cloth, $120 ISBN: 978-1-939594-00-6
Paperback, $50 ISBN: 978-1-939594-01-3

ORDER HEREEnter discount code HPP30




This new collection explores for the first time male sex work from a rich array of perspectives and disciplines. It aims to help enrich the ways in which we view both male sex work as a field of commerce and male sex workers themselves. Leading contributors examine the field both historically and cross-culturally from fields including public health, sociology, psychology, social services, history,
filmography, economics, mental health, criminal justice, geography, migration studies, and more. Synthesizing introductions by the editors help the reader understand the implications of the findings and conclusions for scholars, practitioners, students, and members of the interested/concerned public.
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(since 1/11/17)

Reframing Male Sex Work
Victor Minichiello and John Scott
(since 1/11/17)


(since 1/11/17)
1. Male Sex Work from Ancient times to the Near PresentFree Chapter
Mack Friedman

Mack Friedman reminds us that evidence of same-sex eroticism can be found across history and cultures. When the old cliché about prostitution being the world’s oldest profession is rattled out, we tend to think of females rather than males. However, there is evidence that male and female prostitution have coexisted throughout history. In fact, male prostitution was so entrenched in Rome that male sex workers had their own holiday and paid a tax to the state. Yet Friedman shows how the meanings and values associated with male sex work have varied considerably in various cultural and historical contexts. In the ancient world, for example, those playing dominant same-sex erotic roles had elevated social status.

It is probably safe to say that power and hierarchy have always been influential in the world of sex work, yet recent research has found clear evidence that some of these encounters evolved into romance and love at various historical junctures. A similar point is made in Touching Encounters, the 2012 book by Kevin Walby, which states that, rather than all such exchanges being merely sexual or commercial encounters, an authentic romantic relationship can develop between client and escort. Male sex work is indeed about power and commerce, but it also involves friendship and mutuality. The real psychosocial nature of male sex work is waiting to be fully researched, explained, and shared with the world.

2. Male Sex Work in Modern Times
Kerwin Kaye

Male sex work as a profession has changed considerably in modern times, as have many other occupations. Kerwin Kaye demonstrates the importance of economics, especially class, in understanding the new structure and organizational culture of male sex work that has emerged. Some early aspects of male sex work have remained important, such as its intergenerational nature (difference in age between client and sex worker), which can best be understood through the lens of status and active and passive masculinities. What has changed in modern times is the understanding of the male body; for example, a new eroticization has emerged along class lines, as the male body has been increasingly commodified and given a “market value” as an object of consumption. Nonetheless, older myths regarding the male body, especially relating to race and age, remain important in imagining the real world of male prowess and performance.

3. Representations of Male Sex Work in Film
Russell Sheaffer

What stands out for us in this chapter is the way the images, understandings, and explanations of male sex work through cinematic representations have changed dramatically over time. This evolution highlights the important point sociologists make that subjective definitions and perceptions of a phenomenon play a central role in shaping cultural images. This chapter demonstrates that the male hustler is essentially an outdated cultural image that is no longer relevant in understanding the often dynamic and complex encounters of the male sex worker’s world. While the representation of these encounters in modern films remains largely unaltered, the settings and the language have evolved to reflect the changing definitions of gender and sexualities. In the early films discussed in this chapter, the sex work encounter frequently took place in a public place, such as a restroom, cinema, or seedy motel. We find this ironic, as these are public places, but the phenomenon of male sex work was not yet part of the public discussion or chitchat.

Viewing Midnight Cowboy (1969) was often a grim experience. Late 1960s New York, where the movie takes place, was an alienating and ruthless environment characterized by poverty and urban decay. Hustling is presented in this film as a demoralizing, sleazy, and violent practice. More recent films present a very different picture of male sex work. For example, in the romantic comedy Going Down in La-La Land(2012), a young man goes to Hollywood to act in gay porn movies and becomes an escort. Ultimately he falls in love with a closeted famous TV actor, who in turn falls in love with him. Who would have considered it possible that a romantic comedy about a male sex worker would emerge as a relatively successful popular movie? This contrasts sharply with some of the grim earlier films Russell Sheaffer discusses in this chapter.



4. Advertising Male Sexual Services
Allan Tyler

What Allan Tyler brings to the fore in this chapter is that men selling sex is a big business. Indications are that more personalized and elaborate escort services, such as the “boyfriend experience,” are considered more empowering than other forms of male sex work because they provide greater income, choice, and safety and are gaining an increasing share of the male sex work market. As the sex industry has become much more commercial, male sex workers need to learn how to market their services successfully. Body type, strategic positioning (top/bottom), and penis size are important elements in marketing male sex work, but advertising these attributes successfully requires communication and business skills. As sellers of sex have become more public because of the Internet and text messaging, the male sex industry has become more mainstream. Clients and workers can now connect almost anywhere at any time via the Internet and cell phones to enter into an immediate commercial transaction.

5. Economic Analysis of Male Sex Work
Trevon Logan

Trevon Logan’s analysis reveals a hierarchy of sexual preferences among clients, many of which have a high market value. What we find unique about his analysis is that it demonstrates that certain types of male bodies and sexual practices are objectified and commodified, which is evident in the market values different body types are accorded. This is not unlike what feminist commentators have observed with regard to the female body. Logan demonstrates how sexuality, race, and ethnicity are socially constructed, often symbiotically, and that cultural imperatives play an important role in determining what is and is not attractive to men. There is a market order among male escorts that is reflected in their physical and social characteristics, such as race and ethnicity, which influences sexual exchanges. Race is significant in the way we conceptualize masculinity and the male body, and can be an important indicator of sexual prowess. Blacks, for example, are likely to be perceived as aggressive and dominant sexual partners, whereas Asians are presented as passive. Research on how accurate these perceptions are is still ongoing.

Race-based stereotypes tend to segregate sexual networks, and in so doing may create risk groups that are centered not so much on behavior as on racial categories. Regretfully, targets of stereotyping also may be more likely to engage in risky sex. Logan concludes that technological change has altered the structureand organization of the male sex industry and expanded the market for male sex workers into suburban and rural spaces. These changes have substantially increased the number of male escorts, created new markets for sex work encounters, and extended the reach of male sex work to a much wider potential clientele.



6. Clients of Male Sex Workers
John Scott, Denton Callander, and Victor Minichiello

Despite the expansion of male sex work into suburban and rural spaces, it is not surprising that large cities continue to have high concentrations of male sex workers. These areas also have larger client populations and thus offer an attractive market for male sex workers’ services. These urban spaces are relatively cosmopolitan and thus are often considered more open and tolerant of sexual diversity. The urban client base is not necessarily gay identified, and male sex work can thrive in locations that do not have large gay populations.

With the greater number of escorts in the large cities, we also find greater diversity of race, age, and body build, and a broader menu of sexual services offered. However, the client does not have to live in a large city to access these services. More affluent clients can travel to where the desired sex worker is located or transport the worker to them. The Internet clearly has significantly increased the reach of male sex workers and their potential clients, so that geographic distribution refers not only to a physical space but to the virtual environment. This means that sexual interactions can occur almost anywhere, any time.

Women hiring male escorts is also becoming fashionable in some Western and affluent societies. What motivates women to hire male escorts? Are their reasons similar to men’s? Unfortunately, we have little information about the female clients of male escorts. Gaining such information is vital if we are to fully understand why people use escorts, what this service means to them, and how—through the experiences and perspective of clients—the male sex industry can become more responsible, professional, and responsive. The lack of understanding of clients, both female and male, is a big gap in the research literature. Researchers need to determine what research methods are best suited for this population, such as online surveys, and to develop a relevant research agenda for the study of male sex workers’ female and male clients.

7. Regulation of the Male Sex Industry
Thomas Crofts

As Thomas Crofts shows in this chapter, the regulation of male sex work has been closely bound up with changing conceptions of gender and sexuality. In this respect, male sex work is not dissimilar to female sex work. However, the reasons for regulating male sex work and the targets of regulation have been quite distinct. As we show in chapter 6 (“Clients of Male Sex Workers”), the client often has been associated with intergenerational sex between youth and older men, and homosexuality. However, there has been a recent shift in the regulation of sex work, resulting in its decriminalization in some jurisdictions. This weakening of controls and policing coincides with more liberal attitudes toward same-sex relations. Whereas there has been considerable debate over the regulation of female sex work, such debates are largely absent with regard to male sex work. Does this mean that power and control are less important in our understanding of male sex work? While there is a strong indication that many male sex workers enjoy what they do and that a career in male sex work should not be considered much different from other careers, there is also evidence that some male sex workers are vulnerable to exploitation and that there is great social diversity in the industry in terms of status and reward.

The decriminalization of sex work has placed more demands on sex workers. As the male sex industry is decriminalized and regulated by occupational controls such as income tax reporting, we have seen not only the professionalization of services provided by sex workers but also states dictating protocols and expectations for service delivery. At an informal level, there are high expectations that sex workers will provide quality services and interact with the public in a professional manner. At a formal level, decriminalization may in time require sex workers to be certified to meet health and workplace safety requirements. Technology also has made male sex work at once more visible and more open to informal and formal controls—for example, a sex worker who offers poor services can be shut down in a matter of a few hours through bad reviews. In this way, the market itself plays a greater role in regulating opportunities for male sex workers.

(since 1/26/17)
8. Public Health Policy and Practice with Male Sex WorkersFree Chapter
David S. Bimbi and Juline A. Koken

HIV/AIDS has had a significant impact on how we understand male sex work. The initial ambiguity surrounding HIV/AIDS—Where did it come from? What causes it? Who does and doesn’t it affect?—meant that it could have been characterized in a number of ways, but its being linked to sexually active gay men early in the epidemic meant that it was characterized as a sexually transmitted disease. The link between promiscuity and the risk of contracting HIV led to sex workers being identified as a problematic group—the possible vectors of transmission to the broader public.

Before the HIV/AIDS epidemic, male sex work was rarely considered a public health problem. While sexually transmitted infections had long been associated with female sex workers, health professionals seemed unconcerned about the physical health of male sex workers and their clients. HIV/AIDS changed this, to some degree because at the time it appeared that a more fluid conception of human sexuality had emerged, which acknowledged that sexual practices were not equivalent to sexual identities. Bisexuality was viewed as putting people at risk of contracting the virus because male sex workers were thought to provide a bridge for infection between deviant and mainstream populations.

What stands out for us in reading this chapter, along with some of the others in the book, is the evidence of the benefits in decriminalizing homosexuality and the sex industry. These moves promote proactive public health measures that create safer and more professional interactions between clients and workers, and between these groups and society. Societies that have adopted liberal reforms fare much better on a wider range of indictors compared with societies that remain punitive. The more liberal societies report less violence, safer and more productive client-worker interactions, and the development of a leisure sex industry that is both professional and responsible. In contrast, criminalization tends to drive the sex industry underground and leaves it open to criminal manipulation and poor health standards, which have an impact on everyone. The sex industry need not have such a dark underbelly.


(since 1/11/17)
9. Mental Health Aspects of Male Sex WorkFree Chapter
Juline A. Koken and David S. Bimbi

We are not surprised that some male sex workers and their clients use alcohol and drugs—people do drink and people do use drugs, often to alter their perceptions of their everyday worlds. What surprises us is that people are surprised when that change occurs. Perhaps the association between male sex work and substance abuse supports deeply held prejudice against the idea that a male would freely choose to engage in sex work as an occupation. Rather than seeing using drugs and violence as forms of exploitation, researchers perhaps need to understand what purpose drugs and alcohol play in recreational sexual encounters and what such things say about masculine behavior and power relationships between men. Some of these behaviors may in fact be interpreted as a reaction to the social stigma associated with male sex work. Recent research has found that, with the increasing acceptance of male sex work as an occupation, drug and alcohol use has been decreasing among some escort groups, such as those that offer a “boyfriend experience.”


10. Gay Subcultures
Christian Grov and Michael D. Smith

Christian Grov and Michael Smith paint a vivid picture of early cultures of men who have sex with men (MSM) and their close relationship to male sex work. The history of male sex work closely reflects changes within and changing attitudes toward male-male sexual encounters. Early male sex work occurred in clearly defined spaces, often the underground spaces of cinema, porn arcades, beats, and bathhouses. New information technologies and changing social attitudes have bought male work out into the space of private homes, five-star hotels, organized sex tours, and mainstream cultural venues. These technologies also have allowed greater diversity in terms of services offered and sought. Some researchers have spoken of the new tribalism that has evolved in MSM culture in the last decade. There is now a wide range of highly visible MSM subcultures, which have flourished because of new opportunities for communication provided by the Internet. This has increased diversity and made visible the polymorphous nature of sexual desire, and also created greater opportunity to find peer support in terms of male sex workers’ health needs and general welfare. However, the new “tribalism” also poses challenges in terms of promoting public health. Unlike the early phases of the HIV epidemic, there now are clearly many gay communities to speak to rather than one clearly defined gay community. This noted, there has in fact never been a single gay community. It has always been fluid, contingent, and improvisational, with shifting boundaries and conflicts. This merely reflects the diversity among MSM in terms of how they themselves perceive and live their lives. Post-AIDS researchers have described increased division within gay communities, as men develop diverse responses and sexual expression relative to HIV. Thus the term “tribes” has been suggested as one that accurately describes homosexual sociality. Indeed, there is wide variety among the male sex workers who service MSM and their diverse tastes, once again making male sex work a microcosm that reflects wider changes in MSM cultures and subjectivities.

11. Health and Wellness Services for Male Sex Workers
Mary Laing and Justin Gaffney

What is refreshing about this chapter is that it gives some attention to the issue of exiting sex work, whereas most research on male sex work has been focused on people entering. In terms of what brings people into sex work, most early accounts assumed sex work to be a product of exploitation and economic survival. Only recently has there emerged a professional discourse on male sex work in which it is examined as a rational career choice. Exiting sex work might also be considered a choice. If we can develop a better understanding and appreciation for the factors associated with exiting, it would help service providers deal more effectively with the health and welfare of male sex workers. Exiting sex work also brings into focus the mature male body and mature masculinities. Much of the research on male sex work has focused on the youthful male body and youthful expressions of masculinity, which promotes the idea that male sex workers are typically young men who have been exploited by older clients. The idea that older male sex workers could be desired by younger clients has remained largely unexamined, yet a cursory examination of escort sites from around the globe indicates that men of all ages are engaged in sex work.



12. Male Sex Work in Southern and Eastern Africa
Paul Boyce and Gordon Isaacs

Because male sex work has been closely linked to male homosexuality, official reactions to male sex workers often mirror those to homosexuality. In geographic areas where male homosexuality is actively policed, such as in Africa, a two-tiered approach to male sex work has typically emerged in which clients are punished and the sex worker is subjected to welfare-based interventions and treatment. Prior to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, homosexual acts in Africa were policed on the basis that male sex work typically involved the abuse of younger men by older men. Following the appearance of HIV/AIDS, regulation of male sex work in Africa was instead justified on the basis of a public health crisis. While there were calls for draconian interventions, including the quarantine (essentially imprisonment) of at-risk populations, some public health interventions in Africa adopted a more liberal approach, which relied on individuals and communities to take responsibility for their own health care. Health officials attempted to devise strategies for disease control that included the participation of communities (real and imagined) that the virus affected. This voluntarism approach to the problem of HIV/AIDS was supported by many gay leaders, civil libertarians, physicians, and public health officials, who demanded that education provide the central, if not sole, response to the virus.


(since 1/11/17)
13. Male Sex Work in ChinaFree Chapter
Travis S. K. Kong

Travis Kong’s observations remind us that the stigma associated with male sex work is not only produced by mainstream cultures. Indeed, tongzhi, or gay-identified men, also actively participate in the marginalization of male sex workers. It might be said that so-called money boys, through their inferior status, help to define what is valued and considered normal among homosexual men in China. Kong’s description of the status of money boys reminds us of Gayle Rubin’s influential 1984 essay, “Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality.” Rubin’s essay proposed that sexual practices and identities are organized by a sex hierarchy that is created and reproduced by a variety of discourses and institutions. Married, heterosexual, and monogamous couples who have sex in the privacy of their own homes for (at least officially) reproductive purposes hold pride of place at the top of the hierarchy. Their behavior is rewarded with legal endorsement and privilege, the stamp of mental health and normality, the approval of mainstream churches, and general legitimation as a mature and proper sexual form. Below the married couple in the sex hierarchy, other sexualities are organized in descending order of respectability and legal authorization, ranging from the “good sex” exemplified by the married couple and the “bad sex” at the bottom of the hierarchy, exemplified by “perversions.”

Kong has highlighted how, in the rapidly industrializing Chinese landscape, young men from rural communities have moved to the city and found an opportunity to earn an income. China in fact now hosts one of the largest listings of male escorts on, which indicates that, for many men and women, economic incentives are an important drawing card for entering into sex work. Money boys represent an aspirational occupational group in the market economy of reform China. As with other chapters in this book, current research on male sex work in China acknowledges the agency of sex workers and moves away from earlier presentations of male sex workers as pathological or vulnerable victims of circumstances beyond their control.


14. Male Sex Work in Post-Soviet Russia
Linda M. Niccolai

Marxist and socialist political traditions have often acted as a counterweight to popular understandings of prostitution as a biological or social fact. Marxists have generally studied prostitution in terms of systems of production and related forms of labor and seldom have viewed it as a valid type of work. They instead associated prostitution with alienation, and of being an effect of moral decay or cultural collapse under particular social conditions. Marxists have argued that prostitution would cease to exist in a world free of economic, gender, and sexual exploitation, and thus the problem of prostitution would be solved with the resolution of more pressing political problems. This noted, while Marxists and others on the Left have had much to say about female sex work, they have had very little to say about male sex work.

Male sex work has largely been undertheorized in the social sciences. One reason for this lack of attention seems to be the fact that most male sex work involves adult males and, as such, there is an assumed equality in the exchange, with power relations often ignored. The other issue is the cultural assumption that all sexual experiences involving men are positive and actively sought. Men are assumed to have agency in sexual matters and to make rational choices involving sexual conduct, whereas feminine sexuality is constructed as lacking agency. Therefore, it is easier to present female sex work as an inherently exploitative practice.

Linda Niccolai indicates in this chapter that a highly diverse and growing market for the male sex industry is emerging in contemporary Russia. While the sex work market in Russia is clearly distinct from other regions, there are many parallels elsewhere, especially in terms of the structure and organization of sex work. While some of the chapters in this book provide distinct local examples of masculinity (for example, the chapters on Latin America and China), there are also indications that globalization has produced a greater tolerance and awareness of gendered difference, which has translated into legal reforms and increasing social tolerance toward male sex workers.

15. Male Sex Work from Latin American Perspectives
Victor Minichiello, Tinashe Dune, Carlos E. Disogra, and Rodrigo Mariño

Research on male sex workers brings alive some of the key concepts developed by theorists on masculinity. For example, this chapter shows the fluidity of sexualities, with men often positioning themselves as top, bottom, or versatile, and as offering services only for men or for both men and women. The notion of hegemonic masculinity is also clarified through research on male sex workers, where we find men who do not identify as gay and explain their sexual performance by taking on certain sexual acts, such as being the person who penetrates but is never penetrated himself. These men maintain their masculinity by avoiding sexual acts that can be defined as “whoredom,” which are only performed by clients and never by them. The diversity of body types, from body builder to a feminine hairless body, also illustrates how body types and sexual hierarchies are played and made real in the male sex worker encounter. Not surprisingly, most tops have physiques that embody masculinity, whereas most bottoms have physiques that emphasizes the feminine.

What is striking about the images in this chapter is that many young male escorts openly display their faces and identities in the public domain. This is a significant development: for one, it indicates that some young men are no longer concerned about hiding their work as escorts or their personal identity. This is especially striking in South American culture, given that masculine norms there have tended to be more proximate to hegemonic notions of masculinity, which have largely rendered the male body invisible in public spaces. Social theorists often have spoken of the male gaze, which describes the tendency for cultural imagery to be displayed and consumed from a male viewpoint and thus to present females as subjects of male appreciation. In the images in this chapter, the male body is an object for consumption by men and women, and putting a face on diverse body types makes it clear that a male sex worker can be anyone in our society.

16. Migrant Male Sex Workers in Germany
Heide Castañeda

New information technologies not only have increased the availability of male sex work and made it more visible, they also have opened up clear distinctions between male sex workers, some of whom have been advantaged within the global economy while others struggle. Premium escorts make a choice to deliver services in select cities around the globe, and make informed choices about where they will travel. Contrast this to the workers described by Heide Castañeda, who travel from impoverished places because of their families’ desperate financial situations. They do not offer a premium product and often are seen as undercutting local sex markets. As migrants, they do not have access to health insurance and they struggle to get services because of their low income and noncitizen status. The impression is that they approach this sort of work as transient and opportunistic, and they have little control over their working life and environment. However, they are not powerless and they have made a decision to engage in sex work because they see it as providing opportunities not otherwise available to them.

There has been an inclination in previous literature on male sex work to present disadvantage as a product of the individual’s pathology or of homosexual subcultures. The problems of male sex workers, therefore, were not attributed to social, political, and economic conditions in the wider society. While feminists drew attention to how wider structural conditions, especially patriarchy, influenced the conditions of female sex work, few organizations were willing to champion male sex workers. One issue was that many male sex workers were considered to sit outside both the gay and mainstream communities, and constructions of hypermasculinity, which many male sex workers present in their self-marketing, emphasize qualities such as power, strength, and rationality. Society’s failure to respond to the needs of immigrant workers is clearly articulated in this chapter through the notion of structural violence. We take this a step further to make the following observation: male sex work can be a product of sociostructural disadvantage and at-risk behavior a result of alienating migrant sex workers from access to the public health and welfare services.

17. Male Sex Work in the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland
Paul Maginn and Graham Ellison

In Ireland, as in most Western liberal democracies, the regulatory gaze on sex work is biased in that political, policy, and moral concerns tend to focus on the experiences of female sex workers. Very little is known about the male sex worker population, especially in a heteronormative culture like Ireland’s—North and South—where the church, Catholic and Protestant, has played a fundamental role in shaping societal and political attitudes toward sex and sexuality. This chapter breaks new ground with its empirical analysis of male sex work in Ireland, which draws from anonymized profile data of both male and female sex workers who operate across Ireland. Data obtained from one of Ireland’s largest webbased escort sites provide insight into the scale and composition of male sex workers in terms of the age, nationality, sexual orientation, and sexual preferences of approximately 500 male sex workers and almost 5,000 female sex workers. These data reveal that the geography of male sex workers is by no means an urban phenomenon: a significant proportion of male sex workers provide services to people in rural Ireland. The male sex worker population is contrasted with the female sex worker population, also using anonymized data from the same escort agency, in order to examine the similarities and differences between the two broad segments of the sex worker market. In terms of the regulation of sex work in Ireland, male sex work is rendered virtually invisible within political and policy discourses. This is reflected in recent government reviews and political debate about sex work in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, where the criminalization of sex work and the purchase of sex services are favored.

Future Directions in Male Sex Work Research
Victor Minichiello and John Scott

The male sex industry is a topic that provides both opportunities and challenges for researchers and society. Consistent, reliable data will help us understand more fully the demographic diversity of MSWs and their clients. Additional study will enable society to openly acknowledge that the male sex industry is larger and more widespread than heretofore believed, and that enormously diverse sexualities and sexual practices prevail. Increasing our knowledge of MSWs will help us learn more about the meaning of masculinity in the context of transactional sex and may have a critical impact on our understanding of sexual relations in the context of gender roles. The male sex industry will continue to create considerable challenges in the broader society, and some policymakers are responding creatively to issues related to public health, homosexuality, and the professionalization and commercialization of the male sex industry. One thing is certain: we can confidently say, as this book attests, that the male sex industry—which includes highly diverse men of all colors, shapes, and sizes who sell sexual services—deserves significantly increased funding for future research on the basis of public health alone. We hope this book will open new doorways to that future.

GLOSSARYFree Chapter
Denton Callander, with the assistance of Katherine M. Isaacs
(since 1/28/18)


(since 3/22/17)


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