Academic journal article International Journal of Men's Health

Gay and Bisexual Male Escorts Who Advertise on the Internet: Understanding Reasons for and Effects of Involvement in Commercial Sex

Academic journal article International Journal of Men's Health

Gay and Bisexual Male Escorts Who Advertise on the Internet: Understanding Reasons for and Effects of Involvement in Commercial Sex

Article excerpt

Keywords: male commercial sex work, gay and bisexual, Internet-based male escorts, health needs

The growing research on male commercial sex work has approached this topic in various ways. Social scientists have drawn a number of distinctions among this population of sex workers with regard to nomenclature, research perspective and orientation, and research foci. For instance, there exist a number of terms to denote sex work among males, such as "hustler," "kept boy," "body worker," or "escort." While each term refers to a profession in which an exchange of some form of sexual activity occurs for some sort of payment or compensation, differences in nomenclature often also denote more subtle differences, such as in type of clientele, specific sexual acts that take place, method used in attracting clients, and the nature of the relationship between the sex worker and his client. Therefore, differences in terminology often indicate differences in typology. Researchers have consistently noted differences among these varied categories of male sex workers (Allen, 1980; Browne & Minichiello, 1996; Estep, Waldorf, & Marotta, 1992; Minichiello et al., 2000; Parsons, Bimbi, & Halkitis, 2001; Price, Scanlon, & Janus, 1984; Vanwesenbeeck, 2001; West & de Villiers, 1993).

Earlier studies from a sociological perspective focused on the deviance aspect of male commercial sex work (Klein, 1989; Luckenbill, 1984; 1986; Sagarin & Jolly, 1997; Salamon, 1989), asserting the negative aspects of an illegal and thus stigmatized profession. However, recent efforts have examined male sex work in a less negative manner, emphasizing the business aspects of a rational vocational choice and thereby viewing male sex work in a less criminal fashion by focusing on the legal and sociopolitical aspects of the industry (Browne & Minichiello, 1996; Minichello, Marino, Browne, & Jamieson, 1998; Vanwesenbeeck, 2001).

While there are a number of studies on male sex work that have originated from a sociological perspective, much of the research on this topic is psychologically oriented. Earlier studies have sought to examine the reasons for entry into such a profession, most often by citing some form of psychopathology or negative upbringing (Price et al., 1984; Sagarin & Jolly, 1997; Simon, Morse, Osofsky, Balso, & Gaumer, 1992; West & de Villiers, 1993). Some of these studies examined personality and social characteristics of male sex workers using various standardized measures (Cates & Markley, 1992; Earls & David, 1989) while others theorized on this subject using a clinical focus (Caukins & Coombs, 1976; Ginsburg, 1967). Many of these efforts focused on adolescent hustlers, men not of legal age who usually solicit sex on the streets. These young men tend to come from impoverished, dysfunctional, or chaotic families where parental fighting, drug abuse, and other forms of familial pathology are present (Caukins & Coombs, 1976; Sagarin & Jolly, 1997). It is this difficult family background that is often cited as the reason why some young male adolescents run away from home and turn to sex work as a way to support themselves, and overall these street-based male sex workers have been documented to suffer from problems with their physical and psychological health (Coleman, 1989; West & de Viliers, 1993; Price et al., 1984).

Other researchers have asserted the importance of intrapsychic variables regarding entry into and continuance of male sex work. For instance, research has found that some men enjoy the work (West & de Villiers, 1993) and view it as exciting (Cates & Markley, 1992). In one study of male hustlers, while nearly half stated that a benefit of their work was sexual pleasure, some viewed hustling as addictive or otherwise psychologically damaging (Calhoun, 1988). It has also been suggested that a reason for entering a sex work profession is the need for some psychological fulfillment such as affection or to fill some emotional void (Cates, 1989; Cates & Markley, 1992; Caulkins & Coombs, 1976). …

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