ON THE STREETS
and Progress in Research
David S. Bimbi, PhD (candidate)
City University of New York
SUMMARY. The body of research on male sex workers (MSWs) in the
social science literature has evolved concurrently with the research that
de-pathologized homosexuality. Unfortunately, the majority of studies
focusing on MSWs have been dominated by paradigms that dehumanize
David S. Bimbi is a doctoral student at the Graduate Center, City University of New
York, and The Center for HIV Educational Studies and Training (CHEST), Hunter
College, City University of New York.
Mr. Bimbi has worked in the field of behavioral HIV research since 1996. He is cur
rently finishing his dissertation on male sex workers. The author wishes to thank his
mentors, Dr. Jeffrey Parsons and Dr. Vita Rabinowitz, for their support and feedback;
the reviewers for their constructive comments; the outstanding librarians and archivists
who assisted in locating some difficult to find primary sources cited in this article; and
lastly, friends and acquaintances in sex work who encouraged him to undertake this
area of research. Correspondence may be addressed to David S. Bimbi, Center for
HIV/AIDS Educational Studies and Training, 250 West 26th Street, Suite 300, New
York, NY, 10001.
[Haworth co-indexing entry note]: “Male Prostitution: Pathology, Paradigms and Progress in Research.”
Bimbi, David S. Co-published simultaneously in Journal of Homosexuality (The Haworth Press, Inc.)
Vol. 53, No. 1/2, 2007, pp. 7-35; and: Male Sex Work: A Business Doing Pleasure (ed: Todd G. Morrison and
Bruce W. Whitehead) The Haworth Press, Inc., 2007, pp. 7-35. Single or multiple copies of this article are
available for a fee from The Haworth Document Delivery Service [1-800- HAWORTH, 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
(EST). E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org].
Available online at http://jh.haworthpress.com
© 2007 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.
the researched. Psychopathology, social deviance and, with the advent
of HIV, MSWs as “vectors of disease,” framed research questions. Fur
ther, many researchers have focused on typologies of MSWs, reporting
respective associated characteristics. However, the knowledge gained
by past research was often a product of the places MSWs were sampled;
social scientists relied heavily on street MSWs, although other places
and venues for sex work existed. What has been learned through this
narrow focus has often been generalized to all men engaged in sex work
resulting in stigmatization, stereotyping, and demonization. In the past
decade, two important developments related to the field of sex work
have been introduced. First, researchers have embraced a new paradigm
that respects MSWs’ personal motivations for sex work. Dominant
among these motivations is the view of sex work as a job and, hence, a
valid source of income. Second, the Internet has emerged as a new venue
for sex work; a venue to which researchers are just beginning to turn
doi:10.1300/J082v53n01_02 [Article copies available for a fee from
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KEYWORDS. Male sex work, research, psychopathology, deviance,
PARADIGMS, PROBLEMS, AND PROGRESS
IN RESEARCH ON MALE SEX WORKERS
Many people in western cultures are familiar with the euphemism
“the world’s oldest profession.” Typically, the picture that emerges in
the mind’s eye is that of a female prostitute (Van der Poel, 1992). How
ever, recorded history has documented that the world’s oldest profes
sion also has been practiced by males as well since the time of the
Romans and Greeks up through Victorian England, and to the present
(Perkins & Bennett, 1997). Scott (2003) observes that early scientific,
medical, criminal, and religious works were focused on female sex
workers and their role in spreading sexually transmitted diseases. Pass
ing notice was made of male sex workers (MSWs) but they were not
examined in depth.
Academic publications have examined male prostitution retrospec
tively utilizing historical sources (Kaye, 2003; Weeks, 1981), but a similar
8 MALE SEX WORK: A BUSINESS DOING PLEASURE
examination within the social sciences has not been conducted. Further,
when male prostitution has been studied scientifically, researchers
may have had their “objectivity” influenced by prevailing cultural atti
tudes toward homosexuality (Kaye, 2003; Weeks, 1981).
Published findings have been sensationalistic and often narrowly
focused (Robinson & Davies, 1991) and, as a result, have further stig
matized male prostitutes who also must contend with the stigma of ho
mosexuality (as the vast majority provide sexual services to other males)
(Weeks, 1981). Hoffman (1972) suggests that researchers have lost
compassion for their fellow human beings and often view male prosti
tutes as “exotic” members of a subculture or “as merely objects of study”
(p. 17). Luckenbill (1984) comments that, “for the most part, researchers
have examined the causes of male prostitution, the types of male prosti-
tutes, their sexual identification, and the means for treating them”
(p. 338). Lastly, the term prostitution has become so laden with stigma
that contemporary researchers, such as Vanwesenbeeck (2001), have
abandoned the term, opting instead for the expression sex work to
describe any practice that involves the exchange of money for human
sexual behavior such as direct sexual activities; sexual stimulation, as
in the case of erotic dancers; and sexual performance in adult erotic
photography and videography.
Similarly, specific to the case of male sex workers, the vernacular
term hustler has developed negative connotations and is actually de-
rived from the Dutch word for “turning something over and shaking the
coins out” (White, 2003). In the Joy of Gay Sex, a book written by gay
men for gay men, Silverstein and Picano (2003) reinforce this connota-
tion by stating that the term sex worker is simply a politically correct
term for hustler. The authors also present the “characteristics” of male
sex workers, which are given without citations or discussion of any pub-
lished data. In this otherwise sex affirmative reference book, assump
tions are made about male sex workers that may stigmatize them within
the gay community.
In one of the first social science publications on the topic of male sex
work, a case study was presented in which the individual is described as
psychopathic (Freyhan, 1947). Soon after, MSWs were described as de
linquent youths in need of help (Reiss, 1961). The delinquency para
digm of male sex work was prevalent in the literature from Reiss’ first
publication into the 1980s when reports of different motivations for en
gaging in sex work began to appear (Luckenbill, 1985; Weisburg,
1985). Van der Poel (1992) concludes that the literature on male sex work
has often been based on a cause-cure assumption and typically relies on
On the Streets 9
samples that are formed after involvement with the police, different
public agencies, and/or social service organizations, with which the re
searchers themselves are associated.
In the early 1990s, the delinquency paradigm gave way to a focus on
disease, as had been the case for more than a century of research into fe
male sex work (Scott, 2003). The emergence of the human immunodefi
ciency virus (HIV) and the behaviors related to its spread, specifically
injection drug use and homosexual sex, facilitated this shift. Injection
drug use was not addressed in terms of the harm it may pose to the sex
worker himself, but only as a transmission route for HIV. Investigators
began publishing research on injection drug-use among MSWs, HIV
prevalence among MSWs, and unsafe sex among MSWs. This created a
new paradigm of male sex work: “vector of transmission for HIV infec-
tion,” a description which first appeared in the title of an article by
Morse, Simon, Osofsky, Balson and Gaumer (1991). Heading into the
1990s, the a priori hypotheses for research questions into male sex work
were thus: MSWs had psychological problems and backgrounds that
contributed to delinquency; they abused illicit substances; and engaged
in sexual activities that fostered the spread of HIV.
The historical context of the past 40 years of publications on male sex
work shaped this paradigm. Research into male sex work as well as homo-
sexuality began to enter scientific publication and discourse simulta-
neously. Kaye (2003) suggests that this intersection first emerged culturally
at the turn of the century when the increasing prevalence of gay men of-
fering working class men money for sex led to societal prohibitions on
all homosexual activity and persons.
Up until the 1980s, the vast majority of research on MSWs was com-
posed of samples of self-identified or presumed heterosexuals. As re-
searchers started to explore new recruitment strategies, diverse samples
of MSWs began to appear in the literature. Ironically, it was the advent
of HIV that led to the reappearance of gay men in samples of MSWs. The
inclusion of gay men also uncovered a new paradigm: engaging in sex
as a legitimate source of income. Further, researchers began to present
sex work as a rational vocation by focusing on the legal and socio-politi
cal aspects of the industry (Browne & Minichiello, 1996a; Minichiello,
Marino, Browne, & Jamieson, 1999).
Tiby (2003) states that because police focus on the streets, this one
particular form of sex work has come to constitute how all MSWs are
perceived. Van der Poel (1992) offers a much stronger critique, suggest
ing that the design of the sample(s) has often amounted to fabrication of
results due to researchers not addressing flaws in methodology and
10 MALE SEX WORK: A BUSINESS DOING PLEASURE
issues of generalizability. It is doubtful that much of the early research
on MSWs would be approved as ethically and scientifically sound un
der contemporary standards. Further, Van der Poel (1992) concludes
that male prostitution has a dangerous reputation precisely because
researchers have selected young males from the “fringes of the world of
prostitution” and that the young men sampled have been “renounced by
the profession” or have never been part of it (p. 272). Salamon (1989)
argues that the role of the escort and the activities of the escort agency
have remained unclear because the focus has been on street prostitution.
It has become obvious that the body of research on male sex work
over the last half a century demonstrates how paradigms of male sex
work within the social sciences emerged from specific samples of MSWs,
research designs, and a priori assumptions. The purpose of this article is
to review the published research which conveys the paradigmatic shifts
that have occurred as a result of changing methods and approaches to
social scientific inquiry into male sex work. Further, this article will reveal
that previous paradigms have been neither supplanted nor replaced;
however, a less narrow and ultimately deeper understanding of the phe-
nomenon of male sex work has emerged as researchers expanded their
focus and, at times, permitted MSWs to express their opinions regard-
ing their involvement in sex work.
THE FIRST PARADIGM EMERGES:
MSWS ARE PSYCHOPATHOLOGICAL
During the 1940s, homosexuality as a mental illness was the para-
digm held by psychologists and psychiatrists. It was in this context that
the first two academic publications on male sex work in the United States
appeared in 1947. A case report by Freyhan (1947) describes the subject
as a young man arrested for soliciting other men for sex near a naval
base while dressed in a U.S. Navy uniform. The man then was institu
tionalized and came to the attention of the author who describes him as
mentally dull and egocentric and reports that the young man expressed
no guilt or shame about his sexual attraction to men. He was diagnosed
as psychopathic and a lobotomy (the preferred treatment for homosexu
ality at the time) was recommended as an appropriate course of action.
Homosexuality, but not prostitution, was the problem to be addressed.
That same year, Butts (1947) reported on a convenience sample of
young, street-based MSWs who were never aware that they were part of
a research study. Butts (1947) observed 128 MSWs, interviewed 38
On the Streets 11
several times and reported on a final sample of 26 (who had sufficient
data for analyses). The author (Butts, 1947) describes four of these young
men as “fixed inverts” (homosexuals) and refers to the sexual services
provided by the sample as including “all forms of perversion” (p. 675).
Regardless, he depicts the sample as “victims of circumstance” and mal
adjusted, unhappy boys. The young men were from low-income, over
crowded homes (but they did exhibit “good table manners” during the
interviews which took place over meals paid for by the author) and
spent much of their free time on the streets engaged in delinquent be
haviors, such as panhandling, petty theft, and sex work. The author cau
tions that these were young, mostly heterosexual youths in need of
intervention before they became seduced into the homosexual sub
culture. Clearly this argument was influenced by the dominant cultural
belief that engaging in homosexual behavior would make one homo-
sexual. Butts (1947) presents a solution to this problem: these young
men should be institutionalized rather than punished, as the former
might allow many of them to achieve a normal, happy, useful life. Ironi-
cally, while homosexuality was pathologized and classified as a mental
disorder at this time in history, for the next several decades, the focus
would not be on homosexual sex workers. “Normal” men (i.e., hetero-
sexual men) who engaged in sex work due to purported “deviance” and
the psychological correlates and consequences of sex work drove re-
MSWs who acknowledged their homosexuality rarely appeared in
the literature, for reasons directly related to sampling biases and the sta-
tus of homosexuals during the concurrent time. Weisburg (1985) argues
that early research often stated that MSWs were not homosexual and
overcompensated with hyper-masculine images. In addition, Weisburg
(1985) observes that homosexuality as a pathology informed most early
research and, therefore, it is quite possible that researchers communi
cated their biased attitudes toward homosexuality to their subjects who
then were less likely to admit to being gay. The trend to focus on conve
nience samples that were assumed to be heterosexual (or self-identified
as heterosexual) continued until the 1980s when research reports sam
pling other places where male sex work occurred began to appear in the
An early example of this trend is Reiss (1961), who utilized a conve
nience sample of young men incarcerated in youth institutions through
out the state of Tennessee. He reported that the young men were motivated
to engage in sex work by delinquent peer norms learned on the streets.
He further detailed how, as a means of protecting their heterosexual
12 MALE SEX WORK: A BUSINESS DOING PLEASURE
identity, the young MSWs were often threatening and, at times, violent
with the older homosexual men who solicited them. It is unclear,
however, if these behaviors were part of the heterosexual MSWs’ erotic
allure to potential clients and, therefore, exaggerated for reasons other
than distancing oneself from homosexuality.
Using ethnographic methods, which did not always involve the author
disclosing his status as a researcher, MacNamara (1965) observed and
casually interviewed 103 MSWs on the streets in seven American cities.
While never explicitly describing the sample as homosexual, MacNamara
(1965) is the only researcher during this time to refute the prevailing
beliefs that homosexuals as well as MSWs are psychopathological:
[I]f we were to ignore the sexual proclivities and way of life and
observe them as only teenagers ...itwould be difficult indeed to
labelthegrouppathological...Aretheymaleprostitutes as a result
of some neurotic, psychopathic or psychotic syndrome? Quite likely
not. (p. 204)
MacNamara (1965) clearly concludes that entering into male sex work
is driven by socio-economic and not psychopathological factors. How-
ever, similar to Reiss (1961), he does describe the MSWs as being from
deprived family backgrounds characterized by paternal rejection, alco-
holism, brutality, and poverty.
On the contrary, Ginsberg (1967) dismisses social factors and sug-
gests that psychodynamics drive entry into sex work. As a participant
observer, he studied the street sex work scene in the tenderloin district
of San Francisco. He reports that he informally struck up conversations
with approximately 30 MSWs and became very familiar with about 12,
until a small group of “more hostile hustlers” learned of his true identity
and became antagonistic. Ginsberg (1967) presents seven case histories
from the sample and details at length that sexual behavior (i.e., engag
ing in homosexual prostitution) is different from sexual orientation as
most of these men self-identified as heterosexual. Ginsberg (1967) fur
ther stresses that gay men in the neighborhood, as well as clinicians who
have written informally on the topic, often strongly believe that such
heterosexually identified MSWs will eventually become gay. The case
histories, according to Ginsberg (1967), revealed that MSWs did not
come from “broken” homes, but rather “crippled” or “muted” homes.
Lastly, he concludes that psychological drives led these MSWs into sex
work based upon their family histories:
On the Streets 13
Should parental wishes be ambivalent, vague, contradictory, either
covertly or overtly, the child may never really understand who
interpersonal relations are not learned and integrated as part of the
self, regression to, or continued attempts at communicating in,
known secure (that is infantile) ways may be the outcome ...To
reduce anxiety, unhappiness, and other unpleasant symptoms, he may
adopt an available mode of behavior to the end that his existence
(identity) will have meaning . . . the occupation [male sex work]
provides built in avenues to satisfy earlier inculcated affectional
and aggressive needs (p. 180).
In other words, engaging in sex work allows MSWs to fill unsolved
needs stemming from their childhood and simultaneously permits them
to use clients as substitutes for expressing anger and resentment held
toward their parents.
In their sample of MSWs on the streets in San Francisco and Seattle,
Deisher, Eisner and Suizbacher (1969) viewed masculine gender role
presentation as an indicator of heterosexuality. The authors note the
difficulties they encountered attempting to contact young MSWs due to
their “own ineptness and lack of social skills appropriate to this particu-
lar subculture” (p. 937). With the assistance of personnel from the staff
of a social service agency, 63 MSWs were eventually interviewed. The
authors report that most of the sample were looking for work other than
prostitution, although they were characterized as being of average intel-
ligence and lacking in social and occupational skills.
This study also
asked participants about recreational drug use. Drug use was reported
by half of the sample; however, as this rate was lower than anticipated,
the authors suggest that participants may not have been honest about
this matter (Deisher et al., 1969). Hoffman (1972), commenting on the
research to date on adolescent MSWs, suggests the young men in previ
ous studies were lying (or deceiving themselves) about being homosex
ual. Luckenbill (1984) adds that many hustlers claim only to engage in
active fellatio with clients to maintain the appearance of heterosexuality
among their peers and clients; however, their actual sexual behaviors
are unknown. Coombs (1974) compared a sample of 41 MSWs to a
group recruited from the same coffeehouse and bar in southern Califor
nia. Coombs (1974) reports that MSWs had a higher frequency of early
homosexual seduction followed by a reward than the comparison group,
and then concludes that such positive reinforcement led these young
(assumed-to-be) heterosexual men into sex work. Further, Coombs
14 MALE SEX WORK: A BUSINESS DOING PLEASURE
states that many of these young men exhibited personality traits such as
immaturity, poor judgment, inadequate personality, hypersensitivity
about rejection, and a “total unwillingness to take criticism” (p. 789).
Caukins and Coombs (1976), in a subsequent publication, posit that
MSWs were hostile to clients because they resented having to depend
on them, which was compounded by the need of the MSW to protect his
heterosexual identity, an issue first raised by Reiss (1961).
Sagarin and Jolly (1983/1997) expanded on the psychology of the
heterosexual MSW. They argue that in heterosexual prostitution, the
stigma is on the sex worker; in male prostitution, the stigma is on the cli
ent for his homosexual desires. They further add “there is a great degree
of evidence that homosexual prostitution results in large amounts of ho-
micide, assault, and robbery and, for that reason alone, it constitutes a
social problem” (p. 25). Nonetheless, the authors discount the pathol-
ogy paradigm by proposing that most acts of prostitution can be ex-
plained more clearly in economic and social terms. In addition, they
suggest that the struggle to rationalize engagement in sex work could
lead to pathology that was not present initially. Further, they maintain
that the emergent pathology does not result from one being defined in
the first instance as pathological, but rather from being defined as evil
(i.e., homosexual). Similarly, Satterfield (1981) suggests that hetero-
sexual young men who drift into same sex relationships through sex
work might experience an identity crisis over their sexual orientation by
Price (1984) reported on a sample of 28 young MSWs recruited from
a social service agency for runaways and street youth in Boston. Hetero-
sexual MSWs in the sample are specifically described as violent and
alcohol-abusing. They also are characterized as being abusive in their
relationships with women. Such behaviors could be a manifestation of
the issues described by Sagarin and Jolly (1983/1997) and Satterfield
Based upon the previous literature, Earls and Helene (1989) employed
a quasi-experimental design in their study of street youth from eastern
Canadian cities. They hypothesized that MSWs would be heterosexual
and more frequently report: family backgrounds characterized by phys
ical, emotional or sexual abuse; earlier sexual experience; early expo
sure to prostitution through peers; and higher levels of depression and
lower levels of self-esteem. The authors employed ethnographic obser
vations of the streets on which MSWs were known to work to verify that
a potential participant was a sex worker before approaching him about the
study. The authors indicated that this was a necessary step, as engaging
On the Streets 15
in sex work had not been verified in previous samples other than by
self-report. They recruited 50 MSWs and 50 youths (all heterosexual)
from arcades to be used for comparison.
The findings were mixed. There were no significant differences be
tween MSWs and the comparison group in reported rates of verbal and
physical abuse; however, MSWs did report witnessing more violence
between their parents and substance use within their immediate family.
MSWs did report earlier sexual experience, but were actually exposed
to sex work later than the comparison group. The assumption of hetero
sexuality was not supported; only one-third of the MSWs self-identified
as exclusively heterosexual. Lastly, the authors found no significant dif
ferences in self-esteem, but did find that the MSWs were significantly
more depressed. The authors stated that this depression might have re-
sulted from being gay in a homophobic society, dissatisfaction with the
self for being a sex worker, or as a side effect of cocaine use (MSWs
reported higher rates of use than the comparison group).
Similarly, Boyer (1989) employed a quasi-experimental design in
Seattle in 1980, comparing 47 young MSWs to a group of 50 delin-
quents. The MSWs were contacted for involvement in the study by out-
reach workers, probation officers, and case managers; during fieldwork
by the author; and at a youth detention center (wherein those arrested for
prostitution were identified and recruited for the study). Refusal rates
and breakdown by recruitment source were not specified. MSWs re-
ported significantly more physical, psychological and sexual abuse.
Further, among the MSWs, 36.3% of gay youth (who comprised 51.1%
of the total sample) reported sexual abuse with someone at least 10 years
older than themselves compared to 14.2% of the heterosexual youth
(29.8% of the sample).
Boyer (1989) states that prostitution continues
the victimization of those who were abused sexually; however, the au-
thor offers no explanation for why sexual abuse was higher among the
Simon, Morse, Osofsky, Balson, and Gaumer (1992) further at
tempted to investigate the question of personal factors in a sample of
MSWs from New Orleans. Convenience sampling was utilized to recruit
the MSWs with quotas set for less than 25 years old/over 25 years old,
white/non-white, and injection drug user/injection drug non-user. The
authors administered the Symptom Check List (SCL-90) (Derogatis,
1977), and utilized data from two published normative samples (non-
patient and patient for this measure) for comparison purposes. The
MSWs’ scores on the SCL-90 fell between the two other groups. The
psychological symptoms the MSWs reported were personal inadequacy,
16 MALE SEX WORK: A BUSINESS DOING PLEASURE
dysphoria, suspiciousness, and social alienation. The authors attributed
these symptoms to an understandable response to the often chaotic and
dangerous environment in which they work. Similar to Earls and Helene
(1989), Simon et al. (1992) reverse the argument–moving from patho
logical persons who pursue sex work to pathology possibly resulting
from engaging in sex work.
Others have explored the “effects” of sex work on the individual.
Calhoun and Weaver (1996) utilized chain referral sampling, via an
informant, to recruit 18 MSWs (aged 13 to 23) in an unnamed, me
dium-sized, southern city during 1984. The authors suggest that the
non-homosexually identified sex worker engages in stigma manage
ment (Goffman, 1963) to conceal his involvement in homosexual activ-
ities. Heterosexual MSWs will not tell others about their involvement
with sex work, disguise their source of income, and restrict the time they
spend on the street. However, West (1998) reports that, in the case of
gay-identified MSWs, the ease at which they enter into sex work is, per-
haps, due to the fact that they are already stigmatized as homosexuals so
the stigma of sex work has little or no meaning. Another view of gay and
bisexual MSWs managing stigma was reported by Koken, Bimbi, Par-
sons and Halkitis (2004). In their sample of 50 gay and bisexual MSWs
in New York City (recruited through their Internet-based advertise-
ments), many of the men in the sample did not feel stigmatized as sex
workers because they believed that sex work is normative in the gay
community and that for many gay men being offered money for sex is
flattering and ego-boosting.
By the close of the 20th century, the pathology paradigm had evolved
from being located within the sex worker to being located within sex
work itself (Calhoun & Weaver, 2001; Earls & Helene, 1989; Simon et
al., 1992; West, 1998). The paradigm shifted from the strictly psycho
logical to the social psychological and began to take into account the in
teraction between the person and the situation (i.e., heterosexual men
engaging in sex work may develop pathological symptoms due to a ho
mosexual threat to their identity [Caukins & Coombs, 1976; Sagarin &
Jolly, 1983/1997]). Unfortunately, the interaction was only examined in
one venue for sex work; namely, the streets. Further, the underlying as
sumption of the pathology paradigm (i.e., pathological persons engage
in sex work) has not been diminished by the person to situation evolution.
Thus, the view of MSWs as pathological still directs much research
(Roy et al., 2002; Weber et al., 2001).
On the Streets 17
THE SECOND PARADIGM:
TYPOLOGICS OF MSWS
The first scientific article singularly on the topic of male sex work
appeared in Germany (Scheinmann, 1929). The article entitled “The psy
chology of the male coquette” described two types of MSWs. Normal
men who temporarily engage in sex work for money during hard times
and coquettes who are driven by psychic drives (homosexual impulses)
toward sex work because they enjoy the sex and long to find a same sex
relationship. This early publication gives a harbinger of the later trend
of categorizing MSWs. However, due to sampling men on the streets,
only one type of MSW, the delinquent (Butts, 1947; Deisher et al.,
1969; Reiss, 1961) was described in the literature for several decades.
Utilizing an ethnographic approach, Ross (1959) followed 2 MSWs
on their working rounds for numerous hours and interviewed one addi-
tional MSW in depth. Ross (1959) describes three types of MSWs on
the basis of the location of their sex work activities. The street hustler is
usually a teen-aged boy who finds older male clients on the streets until
he reaches, or appears to reach, legal age for entry into bars at which
point he is called a bar hustler. The callboy does not solicit potential cli-
ents in public settings, but maintains a clientele who call him when his
services are wanted. Although Ross’ (1959) study appeared in an ob-
scure publication (The Journal of Student Research), it was clearly in-
fluential; many later researchers would describe these categories as
types and attempt to differentiate subtypes within and across categories.
Caukins and Coombs (1976) reviewed the types reported by Ross
(1959) and expanded the description of callboys to include several fea-
tures. Callboys are attractive in looks and physique, dependable, “well
hung,” sexually versatile (active and passive anal/oral sex), and willing
to engage in any sexual practice for the right price. How callboys meet
clients was not described in detail. Caukins and Coombs (1976) argue
that a hierarchy of sex work exists, with street hustlers occupying the
lowest level with the lowest pay, followed by bar hustlers, call boys and
finally kept boys. This last type may be described best as the homosex
ual equivalent of a kept woman; he trades sex with one man for room,
board and, perhaps, cash and gifts. This hierarchy clearly reflects a con
tinuum based upon venue and working conditions. Street-based MSWs
work outside, exposed to the elements, whereas callboys work in their
own home or the client’s home or hotel room. This hierarchy also is
based upon perceived level of safety and income as reported by MSWs
in a later study (Luckenbill, 1986). Caukins and Coombs (1976) infer
18 MALE SEX WORK: A BUSINESS DOING PLEASURE
that talent plays a factor in male sex work; the “best” MSWs rise through
the ranks, from street hustler to, hopefully, a kept boy. This publication
solidified the frame of categorizing MSWs based upon venue of sex
In 1973 the American Psychiatric Association declassified homosex
uality as a mental disorder. At this time, gay men and lesbian women were
becoming increasingly visible as a social group and a community, and
gay-identified young men began “appearing” in samples of MSWs.
The result of sampling both heterosexual and homosexual (or bisexual)
MSWs in the same studies was sexual orientation becoming the basis of
description for many sub-types, some of which were not viewed as sex
workers at all by researchers.
For example, Allen (1980) argues that delinquents engaging in pros-
titution on the streets are not really MSWs, but mostly heterosexual
young boys from housing projects with ineffectual parents. Other re-
searchers similarly reframe sex work engaged in by economically and
socially disadvantaged youth. Van der Poel (1992) labels delinquents
pseudo-prostitutes who engage in sex work as part of gang or group re-
lated activity. Their motivations for sex work are criminal in essence:
defrauding clients, robbery, blackmail and gay bashing. Visano (1991)
states that rough trade (violent heterosexual street-based MSWs), simi-
lar to delinquents, also are engagers in petty crime (e.g., panhandling,
stealing, drugs, welfare fraud); they are not part of the world of street
prostitution and only operate in it. In contrast to Allen (1980), Price
(1984) argues that runaways often engage in survival sex; they are sim-
ply trying to earn money to take care of their basic needs. DeGraaf,
Vanwesenbeeck, Van Zessen, Straver, and Visser (1994) add that en-
gaging in sex work to support a drug habit may be viewed as another
form of survival sex. The premises of the above statements raise a re-
flexive question. Are these young men delinquents and runaways who
engage in sex work or are these sex workers from disadvantaged
backgrounds and circumstances?
After Caukins and Coombs (1976) described the basic categories or
types of MSWs, Allen (1980) generated typologies based upon charac
teristics of the sample rather than venue. Utilizing key informants for a
snowball sampling strategy, Allen (1980) reported on a diverse sample
of 98 MSWs from Boston (interviewed from 1974 to 1977). In addition
to this change in sampling strategy, the Kinsey sexual orientation scale
was administered to the participants. The result was a very detailed
typology partitioned by full and part time MSWs, each of which had
On the Streets 19
Full time street and bar hustlers are described as gay and bisexually
identified runaways. Full time callboys are those who place advertise
ments in gay-oriented magazines and newspapers or work for escort
agencies. This group also includes kept boys, who are portrayed not as
MSWs, but as houseboys available sexually for older male patrons in
exchange for a place to live. For part-time MSWs, the first subgroup are
described as gay-identified young men who drift in and out of sex work
(on the street, bar or escort agency) as they need extra money. The sec
ond subgroup are delinquents, a category which Allen (1980) does not
consider to be sex workers; rather, they are young men who pretend to
be prostitutes in order to receive sexual gratification from their custom
ers (via fellatio) and then steal their money.
Allen (1980) also reports that, regardless of type, most MSWs are in-
troduced to sex work by peers, as had been reported in research using
samples of delinquents (Reiss, 1961). The author contends that young
gay MSWs are often throwaways who leave their parental home due to
conflict over their sexual orientation as well as other factors such as
parental substance abuse. In addition, Allen (1980) identifies a type of
MSW who is hard to find as its members work mostly underground
because they suffer the most harassment on the street: drag MSWs who
dress as females to attract clients. Price (1984) also mentions this type
of sex worker in her sample of 28 male street youth recruited from a
social service agency in Boston.
Other types reported by Price (1984) are the permanent street hustler,
described as mostly white, bisexually identified (or confused), heroin
using young adults, who lead a loner lifestyle, have no stable residence,
and often travel between cities for sex work. A subtype of this group is
the macho type, who are similar to heterosexual MSWs described previ-
ously. Straight types are predominately white, local young men who
abuse alcohol, are violent, and view themselves as superior to other
MSWs because they are not homosexual. Flirters are early adolescents
(aged 12-17), mostly minority youth still living at home and attending
school, who engage in sex work to experiment with drugs and their
sexuality. They engage in hustling to become part of the peer group of
other very young hustlers. They are further characterized as immature,
boisterous, rowdy, and less furtive than other types of MSW. From this
description, these youth appear similar to delinquents described in
past research; however, they are clearly homosexual.
The last two types detailed by Price (1984) are distinct from the others
because they engage in sex work solitarily and do not associate with
other MSWs. Periodic hustlers engage in sex work only as needed to
20 MALE SEX WORK: A BUSINESS DOING PLEASURE
provide supplemental income. They are mostly white and college-aged,
although some secondary school-aged youths will engage in sex work
during the summer months. The final type, solitary hustlers, are charac
terized as possessing no social skills and having long psychiatric histo
ries. Some are psychotic and they tend to scare off most potential clients
except those seeking abusive sex.
Weisburg (1985), stressing the importance of sampling and noting
the varied forms of bias in earlier work (i.e., samples from institutions,
small samples from only one geographic area, etc.), surveyed 79 young
MSWs recruited by agency staff at social service programs across the
United States. The author reports these young men came from a variety
of family situations, with the only common characteristic being some
form of instability in their living situation. Weisburg (1985) classified
MSWs according to their self-reported motivations for engaging in sex
work. Situational MSWs are mostly heterosexual and engage in sex
work occasionally for extra cash. Habitual sex workers are similar to
Allen’s (1980) part-time delinquent type: They are heterosexual, innercity
street youth who engage in other crimes such as drugs and robbery.
Weisburg (1985) also noted that young heterosexual men are more
likely to engage in sex work on the street and that young gay men are
more likely to engage in sex work in gay-identified spaces.
neighborhoods, the MSWs are portrayed as older “pros” which Weisburg
(1985) labeled vocational. These MSWs are mostly gay-identified and
view sex work as their job. Lastly, avocational MSWs are young gay
men who engage in sex work part-time to supplement their income.
This type is only differentiated from the situational MSW by sexual
orientation and both are similar in description to Price’s (1984) periodic
hustler. Weisburg (1985) noted, as did Caukins and Coombs (1976),
that some MSWs in the sample ascended in the hierarchy to eventually
become callboys. Although vocational and avocational MSWs reported
engaging in sex work in gay-identified spaces, such as bars and streets
in gay neighborhoods, they were more likely than their heterosexual
counterparts to attempt to become callboys by placing advertisements
in local gay publications.
Rather than assume survival sex, or sex work as part of overall delin
quent behavior, Weisberg (1985) asked the participants directly about
their motivations for engaging in sex work. The majority of the sample
provided monetary reasons (87%); however, sex (27%) as well as fun
and adventure (19%) also were mentioned. While the types of MSWs
described by Weisburg (1985) may be similar in many respects to the
On the Streets 21
types described by Allen (1980), this categorization scheme is based
upon the MSWs’ own view toward sex work and their sexual identity.
In a sample of 26 MSWs in Chicago recruited by a graduate student
with contacts in the gay community, Luckenbill (1984, 1985) examined
the issue of sex work venues (e.g., street, bar, etc.) and how the men en
tered into sex work. His primary questions were what conditions led to
entry into sex work and did certain paths of entry facilitate regular in
volvement? The sample was mostly white, engaged in sex work in bars
(although some occasionally did work for escort services), came from
working class backgrounds and had not finished high school. Ten were
gay, twelve bisexual and four heterosexual. None of the sample reported
coercion into sex work, but two paths of entry were identified: defensive
and adventurous involvement.
In the former, financial desperation was identified by 15 young men
from poor and troubled homes (and who were out on their own before
the age of 18). Within one to six weeks after leaving home, they encoun-
tered sex work in various ways (i.e., cruising and meeting MSWs, or be-
ing offered money by older men). Survival sex was the motivation for
most; however, four viewed sex work as a superior job and source of in-
come. Gay and bisexual young men moved into full-time sex work soon
after entry because of the money and sexual pleasure it afforded and
also because they perceived sex work as an acceptable occupation.
In the other path of entry, individuals took advantage of an attractive
opportunity to earn money and acquire sexual satisfaction. The 11
young men in this category inadvertently made contact with their first
clients (i.e., they were unknowingly in an area where MSWs congre-
gate) and were not motivated by survival sex. Most fully expected to en-
joy the sex at the time of entry, were gay-identified, and had already had
same-sex experiences. Among this group, nine moved into full time sex
work when they finished school or after they decided sex work was
preferable to other forms of work they had tried. Those not moving into
full time sex work viewed it as a good source of supplemental income.
Later studies have supported these observations documenting similar
routes to entry (Calhoun, 1992; Uy, Parsons, Bimbi, Koken, & Halkitis,
Reporting on a sample of MSWs from San Francisco, Waldorf,
Murphy, Lauderback, Reinarman, and Marotta (1990) describe callboys as
not one ‘type’ but several types; the only similarity being that clients
contact the MSW through the phone. The subtypes include call book
men who work by referral and a client book, erotic masseurs, models
and escorts, as well as porn stars that advertise their services. Due to a
22 MALE SEX WORK: A BUSINESS DOING PLEASURE
sampling strategy that did not target youth (as was the case of Allen
; Luckenbill ; and Weisburg ), the authors report
that call book men are older than hustlers and have more education.
Further, the authors describe the differences in family background
between call book men and hustlers in terms of class, rather than family
dynamics; call book men were more likely to be from middle class fami
lies. Robinson and Davies (1991) report similar characteristics among
their sample of callboys in the United Kingdom. They also detail a new
characteristic of callboys; specifically, half of them had disclosed to
their friends that they were sex workers. Supporting the findings of
Weisburg (1985), these men viewed sex work as a job they chose to take.
West (1998) adds that, in addition to having higher education and view
ing themselves as better than rentboys (the UK’s vernacular equivalent
of a hustler), they often employ legitimate business techniques, such as
taking credit cards.
Based upon previous research, Van der Poel (1992) suggests there
are three types of MSWs (as well as a fourth mentioned previously,
pseudo-prostitutes, who are not viewed by the author as sex workers).
The typology is based upon the intersection of two factors: socialization
and criminality. Hustlers are characterized as loners who belong to no
social groups and who, for reasons not explained, distrust other MSWs.
They also engage in other criminal activities for day-to-day survival.
Occasionals, similar to avocationals described by Weisburg (1985), en-
gage in sex work as needed. They range from young men who consent
to be paid for sex in non-sex work environments to young men, gay and
straight, who will appear on the fringe sex work scene or within sex work
environments in gay-identified spaces. The last type, the professional is
described as being “part of the world of prostitution”; these individuals
socialize with each other, are well informed and career-minded.
Using this typology, Van der Poel (1992) conducted ethnographic re
search in Amsterdam (1984-1986) which included formal interviews
with 62 MSWs and informal interviews with an additional 200. Van der
Poel (1992) reports that professional MSWs require social as well as
sexual skills because they must operate differently depending upon the sex
work venue. Professionals who occasionally seek clients on the street
capitalize on being a new face on the scene. As soon as they are aware
that their novelty is fading, they will move to another street location or
sex work venue. Professionals employed in organized male prostitution
(i.e., brothels) must possess sufficient language and social skills needed
to succeed with a mostly tourist clientele.
On the Streets 23
Similar to Waldorf et al. (1990) and Robinson and Davies (1991),
call boys in Amsterdam work independently by seeking clients through
advertisements and are able to prolong their career past the age of thirty.
Van der Poel (1992) states that professionals working as callboys are
confronted with a mainly gay-identified clientele who often see the
same MSW repeatedly, which may lead to one-sided emotional in
volvement. The professional callboy must be able to navigate such situ
ations in order to preserve the financial nature of the relationship;
otherwise, he will lose the client or acquiesce to lower fees or no fee at
all. Lastly, Van der Poel (1992) describes the top whore, an extension of
the kept boy type (Caukins & Coombs, 1976). These professional
MSWs serve only the upper classes. They must possess the skills re-
quired to socialize publicly with a client who enjoys being seen in the
company of an attractive young man. They are professional opportun-
ists who find clients among the circles of the “homo-chic.”
Van der Poel (1992) and earlier researchers (e.g., Allen, 1980;
Caukins & Coombs, 1976; Luckenbill, 1985, 1986; Weisburg, 1985)
clearly added more depth to the understanding of the phenomenon of
male sex work than the previous three decades of study. Regardless of
differences in the rationale behind categorizing MSWs within each
sample, a fuller picture of male sex work emerged through these publi-
cations and those that followed. First, MSWs work in a variety of places
and venues. Second, it appears that sex work among males is motivated
by (1) overall delinquent behavior, (2) economic factors (e.g., financial
hardship, desired extra income, a drug habit, etc.), (3) sexual adventure,
and (4) professional choice. Third, motivation for engaging in sex work
appears to vary as a function of sexual orientation. Heterosexual MSWs
are primarily motivated by delinquency and survival sex. Gay and bi-
sexual MSWs also may engage in survival sex (particularly young
throwaways); however, for some of these individuals, fun and sexual
pleasure were identified as salient. Lastly, many gay MSWs have a pro
fessional attitude towards sex work, regardless of how they find clients.
Additionally, in the hierarchy of sex work, the lowest paying form
(finding clients on the streets) is usually engaged in by heterosexual
youth whereas the highest form of sex work (professional callboy) is
performed by older gay males (DeGraaf et al., 1994).
Integrating the findings reported in the 1980s, Coleman (1989) proposes
a theoretical model of sex work for male adolescents. Predisposing factors
(i.e., early disruption of psychosexual and psychosocial development)
interact with situational factors (i.e., family environment and related
psychodynamic influences) which then lead to the type of sex work
24 MALE SEX WORK: A BUSINESS DOING PLEASURE
entered (e.g., street, bar, etc.). Improved sampling, quasi-experimental
designs and the input of MSWs themselves led to the development of a
theory of sex work.
A study to support this theory would require sam
pling a broad cross section of sex workers from different venues for in
depth interviews. Unfortunately, such a study is yet to be reported. Per
haps, interested researchers have not found the required support (i.e.,
grant/university funding). While this may be very likely, historical events
also shifted the research questions posed about male sex work.
THE THIRD PARADIGM:
SEX WORKERS AS VECTORS OF DISEASE
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) emerged as a public
health threat that dramatically changed the focus of research agendas re-
garding MSWs and homosexuals in general. MSWs themselves were
no longer of interest as persons but as a group connected to the spread of
HIV. The critiques of past research went unnoticed, new findings were
overlooked, and research continued as it had previously, mostly focus-
ing on convenience samples of MSWs found on the streets. Earlier re-
search had described only briefly the sexual practices of MSWs (e.g.,
heterosexual MSWs only reporting insertive fellatio), but with the ad-
vent of HIV more detailed data were collected. The literature on male
sex work noticeably increased in the early 1990s with research agendas
focused explicitly on HIV.
The paradigm shift to sex workers as a public health problem is most
evident in an article titled “The male street prostitute: A vector for trans-
mission of HIV infection into the heterosexual world” (Morse et al.,
1991). In 1991, Morse et al. first published data on a convenience sample
of 211 MSWs from the streets of New Orleans that would be the focus
of many other articles (Morse & Simon, 1992; Morse, Simon, Balson,
& Osofsky, 1992; Simon, Morse, Balson, Osofsky, & Gaumer, 1993;
Simon et al., 1992). The sample described in these publications was
reported as 20% gay-identified, 41% bisexual, and 39% heterosexual.
Of those MSWs with female sexual partners, often sex workers
themselves, 74% reported not using condoms. Needle sharing was re
ported by 24.7%. Unprotected anal receptive sex with clients was re
ported by 54% and 67% reported unprotected anal insertive sex. It
should be noted that 10 of 15 clients interviewed for this study reported
insisting on unsafe sex with MSWs, which may partially explain these
high rates of unprotected sex. Reviewing all of the articles as a whole
On the Streets 25
reveals that the “vector” had three routes of transmission: female part
ners of heterosexual MSWs, needle-sharing partners, and, potentially,
clients. Morse et al. (1992) articulate their argument about vectors of
transmission as follows:
Customers of male prostitutes most of whom described themselves
as heterosexual and bisexual and who also report not using con
doms with their female partners, potentially function as vector[s]
of HIV transmission from male prostitutes to their female partners
and into the more mainstream heterosexual population. (p. 356)
Although this publication (Morse et al., 1992) makes it clear that HIV
transmission is a multifaceted phenomenon, MSWs became stigmatized
as “typhoid Harrys” (Parsons, Koken, & Bimbi, 2004). A similar paradigm
occurred with female sex workers in the 19th century (Scott, 2003).
It remained preeminent, despite numerous publications from 1990 to
the present day reporting that MSWs, regardless of type or venue, use
condoms more frequently with male clients than with their casual male
sex partners (Belza et al., 2001; Bimbi & Parsons, 2005; Boles &
Elifson, 1994; Davies & Feldman, 1999; Estcourt et al., 2000; Estep,
Waldorf, & Marotta, 1992; Hickson, Weatherburn, Hows, & Davies, 1994;
Pennbridge, Freese, & MacKenzie, 1992; Pleak & Meyer-Bahlburg,
1990; Viera de Souza et al., 2003; Weinburg, Worth, & Williams,
2001). Thus, the HIV risk among MSWs appears to be related to non-sex
work factors such as casual sex (Allman & Myers, 1999; Weber et al.,
2001), injection drug use (Bower, 1990; Estep et al., 1992; Waldorf &
Murphy, 1990; Waldorf et al., 1990; Williams et al., 2003) and sexual
compulsivity (Parsons, Bimbi, & Halkitis, 2001). Prestage (1994),
commenting on gay-identified MSWs, states that research has demon
strated consistently that MSWs are well educated about HIV, perhaps
due to consistent exposure to information about the disease within the
gay community. Indeed, Parsons et al. (2004) report that many of the
MSWs in their sample of 50 Internet-based male escorts in New York
City attempted to educate their clients about the risks of unprotected sex
and refused clients seeking unprotected sex (Bimbi & Parsons, 2005).
However, the idea that sex work constitutes a significant means by
which HIV is spread into the heterosexual community continues to
drive many research questions and the stigmatization of MSWs contin
ues as a result.
26 MALE SEX WORK: A BUSINESS DOING PLEASURE
THE NEWEST PARADIGM: SEX AS WORK
In 1983, Sagarin and Jolly,
authoritatively took the position that
prostitution is not a form of work. In the case of homosexual prostitu
tion, they stated “although it is sex for pay, it almost defies description
as prostitution because it is generally not pursued as an occupation”
(p. 23). The authors emphasize that professionalism when applied to
other fields refers to a long and often difficult period of apprenticeship,
development of special skills, peer review of one’s abilities, standards
of entry, etc. Lastly, they suggest that based upon such criteria, “the idea
of prostitution as a profession is not to be taken seriously, and much
would be gained if the concept (the world’s oldest profession) could be
dropped out of language and thought” (p. 28).
This is in direct contrast to the view of sex work as a job reported by
many MSWs (Luckenbill, 1985; Robinson & Davies, 1991; Weisburg,
1985). In addition, studies have described “professionalism” in sex
work. Visano (1991) reports that gay MSWs strive to maintain a profes-
sional level of involvement with clients. Van der Poel (1992) observes
that professional MSWs have a socially enforced professional code
among themselves that dictated appropriate behaviors with clients and
each other. These findings directly challenge the statements of Sagarin
and Jolly (1983/1997) and clearly support the notion that, at least,
among some gay MSWs, sex work is a profession.
While the perspective of “sex as work” was reported by MSWs in
past research, it was with the publication of the text Sex work and sex
workers in Australia (Perkins, Prestage, Sharp, & Lovejoy, 1994) that
this new paradigm emerged in the social science literature. Calhoun and
Weaver (1996) extend the paradigm to include the concept of rational
choice. In their study, MSWs reported the benefits and costs of engag-
ing in sex work. Benefits include financial gain, sexual pleasure, control
of work schedule, and affection. Liabilities mentioned are fear of arrest,
potential violence, having sex with undesirables, and not being paid for
services. The authors surmise that the decision to engage in street pros
titution is a complicated process that involves the weighing of the
perceived benefits against the perceived risks.
The paradigm of sex as work became visible in social service agencies
when various organizations across the United States convened and
formed the Coalition Advocating Safer Hustling (CASH) (Boles &
Elifson, 1998) with the purpose of educating MSWs about HIV. How
ever, the MSWs involved demanded to be included in the process and had
their own agenda for the organization: They wanted CASH to teach
On the Streets 27
MSWs how to be better sex workers. Due to such conflicting goals, CASH
lasted only a short time. Recently, in the United Kingdom, social service
providers have elicited from MSWs what they want from such agencies;
many programs include helping those who choose to remain in sex work
to become better sex workers (Gaffney, 2003). Additionally, men formally
employed in the sex industry have created Web sites on the Internet with
similar goals such as www.hookonline.org, which was founded in 1998.
Contemporary researchers continue to employ the sex trade as work
paradigm. Perkins and Bennett (1997) report that among MSWs in Aus
tralia, full time gay and bisexual MSWs hold professional attitudes, and
self-identify as sex workers. However, the authors note that heterosex
ual MSWs engage in survival sex and that their concentration in particu-
lar areas of street prostitution leads to this group appearing larger than it
is in actuality.
Browne and Minichiello (1996b) as well as Parsons et al. (2004) re-
port that the MSWs in their samples develop a work orientation to sepa-
rate work sex from personal sex; reject the stigma of sex work; use their
bodies as a resource that allows them to capitalize on male sexual privi-
lege; and engage in safer sex. Minichiello, Marino and Browne (2001)
report that in another sample of escorts and street-based MSWs in three
Australian cities, two thirds of the sample had positive attitudes about
being a sex worker.
The sex as work paradigm also has led to new forms of research such
as the analyses of escort advertisements (Pruitt, 2003). Cameron, Collins
and Thew (1999) factor analyzed 211 print advertisements for MSWs in
London in order to identify common types of marketing. Results indi-
cated that two major marketing tactics were employed to attract clients:
promoting kink services (which was associated with older MSWs and the
mention of manliness) and promoting oneself as “new.” The latter type
often stressed youth and attractive physiques in their advertisements.
With the advent of this paradigm, the stigma associated with being a
sex worker appears to be diminishing in the gay community (Weinstein,
2001; White, 2003). This is evidenced by escort Web sites throwing
parties for members of the gay community to socialize with MSWs that
post on the sites (Love for sale, 2004). Many publications with a gay
male readership have featured how to articles on “becoming an escort”
(Liberman, 2001); how the Internet has facilitated escorting (Weinstein,
2001); and how male pornography actors have legitimized sex work
(Weinstein, 2002). Other publications, however, have taken a more
conservative view, warning about the risks involved in sex work (Von
28 MALE SEX WORK: A BUSINESS DOING PLEASURE
The concurrent emergence of the sex as work paradigm and the intro
duction of the Internet have created a new venue. This phenomenon has
clearly affected male sex work. White (2003) observes anecdotally that
street sex work appears to be dying out in his neighborhood: indeed,
research suggests that most MSWs are now moving to the Internet
(Gaffney, 2003). The MSWs interviewed by Parsons, Bimbi and Koken
(2003) suggest that the Internet actually facilitates escorting. The ano
nymity of the Internet permits men to offer other men money for sex in
non-sex work related chat rooms and Web sites. Many of the MSWs in
Parsons et al.’s (2003) sample explained that they were introduced to
sex work through this medium. Social service providers (Akeret et al.,
2002; Terrence Higgins Trust, 2002) and police (Tiby, 2003) also report
that the explosion of the Internet has hampered traditional outreach
efforts to street-based MSWs.
However, the Internet as a venue for sex work has yet to be investi-
gated fully. It is clear that within the Internet itself, male sex work occurs
in many sub-venues reflecting the diversity of interaction modes avail-
able on the web. Chat-rooms, personal Web sites/homepages of sex
workers, online escort agencies, bulletin boards, and escort-finder Web
sites all have become part of Internet-based male sex work. Further, the
proliferation of Internet use across all social classes and the many dif-
ferent ways in which it is utilized by MSWs may indicate that not all
MSWs who use the Internet are the same. Chat-rooms and bulletin
boards may be the Internet equivalents of the streets because it costs
nothing other than the initial computer and Internet service, or the fee at
an Internet café. Anyone with Internet access can enter a gay chat room
and start to look for clients. Gaffney (2003) reports that young MSWs in
London can now be found in Internet cafes and the street scene appears
to be dying out. In contrast, escorts post their ads on Web-based escort
finder sites for a monthly fee or maintain personal Web sites and domains
which can be costly. Differences and similarities among MSWs who
reach clients via the Internet have yet to be investigated and described in
published social scientific research.
The other aspect of male sex work that warrants investigation is the
personal sex lives of MSWs. As discussed previously, it has been re
ported that MSWs are less likely to use condoms with their casual part
ners than with their clients. It also has become clear across studies that
MSWs engage in sexual risk-taking in rates higher than gay men in
general (Allman & Myers, 1999; Weber et al., 2001). While researchers
On the Streets 29
have explored the factors related to sexual risk with clients, factors re
lated to sexual risk with casual partners are, for the most part, ignored
completely. Clearly, two new areas of inquiry into the phenomenon of
male sex work await the attention of social scientists. Paradigms have
shifted and will continue to do so with cultural and historical changes.
An awareness of the history of research on male sex work and its atten
dant problems with methods, samples, overlooked places, venues, and
persons will permit more paradigms to emerge, resulting in a fuller under
standing of the world of male sex work.
1. In a later publication, Gandy and Deisher (1970) describe attempts to vocation
ally rehabilitate 30 of these young men through job placement and training. Successful
MSWs and those described as having psychopathic personalities rejected the authors’
2. The remainder of the sample in Boyer’s (1989) study self-identified as bisexual.
3. It should be noted that non-scientific sources identified other types of MSWs
4. Boyer (1989) suggests many young gay and bisexual MSWs engage in sex work
as a means to achieve a gay identity because they lack social outlets outside of bars and
clubs (which they cannot enter until they are 21). They are restricted to the streets
where they can have social interactions with other young gay men, discover sex work,
and enter the gay community. Earls and Helene (1989) argue that the higher prevalence
of gay youth in sex work may be due to increased societal acceptance of homosexual-
ity, leading MSWs to disclose their true sexual identity; further, they suggest there sim-
ply may be more young gay men entering sex work.
5. Visano (1991) also describes this segregation by sexual identity; gay MSWs
occupy distinct territories near gay bars and baths and heterosexual MSWs wandering
in were viewed with suspicion, perhaps due to fear of competition as well as violence.
One gay MSW in Visano’s (1991) sample reported working among straight hustlers
and having to hide his homosexuality in order to avoid being beaten up.
6. Up until this time, past research was atheoretical and based upon a priori
7. The article by Sagarin and Jolly was republished in 1997 in its original form and,
thus, did not incorporate any research findings reported in the interim.
8. Hookonline has experienced problems with affordable and reliable servers will
ing to host the site. The site also relies on volunteer submissions to consistently update
the content with new features (S. Lujtens, personal communication, March 23, 2005).
Akeret, R., Hincziza, U., Vandenbroucke, B., Vriens, P., Okoliyski, M., Lukasik, R.,
Georgescu, M., & Kohler, D. (2002, July). Survey about male sex work on the Internet.
Paper presented at the XIV International AIDS Conference, Barcelona, Spain.
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