Archive for July, 2014

BOOK REVIEW of MALE SEX WORKERS and Society

Friday, July 18th, 2014

I have reviewed an advance copy of “Male Sex Workers and Society”, edited by Victor Minichiello and John Scott. I believe it is the first book that has been published describing MSWs historically and in modern times in various parts of the world. It deals with society’s attitude towards male sex works from ancient times to the present; to write a comprehensive work on this subject would be a monumental task requiring many volumes.

The editors collected the research literature that was available to them. This leaves out a lot of pertinent information. For instance, in Europe, it describes society’s attitude in Ireland but not in the United Kingdom, and in Germany, it deals with foreign workers but not with native Germans. It almost lets the reader believe that all male sex workers in Germany are foreigners. However, this is the first attempt to cover so many diverse cultures on as a research project. Unfortunately, even countries that border each other treat male sex work differently.

MSWs are not a particularly good subject for research. Because of the straight and gay disapproval of MSWs, many of the latter tend to lie, especially about their income. In theory, if a barista can earn three times more per hour as a MSW than at his regular job, that would be enough economic justification to become a sex worker, if *he* doesn’t mind it. However, many MSWs will allege that they make a small fortune. That, they believe, will justify their new profession.

I am quite familiar with the income of MSWs since I have lent them money countless times, against future assignations. (Regulars do not want to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs and have an AAA credit rating with their customers – better even than the credit rating of the U.S.) Having been fortunate to also become their friend this borrowing has continued even when they became my emeriti sex workers.

I commend the editors for having included chapters describing male sex work on various continents and with different traditions and laws. The Moslem world was left out of the collection, which is a pity. However, research in these countries would be next to impossible, endangering the researcher and the interviewees. The authors also describe at length the enormous changes that modern technology (the Internet and the cell phone) have made in the profession of MSWs.

A few personal observations: On page 167 Scott, one of the editors, points out “[that ]the deviant status of the client and the MSW positions both [present] . . . a threat to the social order. It is extremely rare, however, for non-street-based MSWs to report client perpetrated-violence. “ In the vast majority of cases, the clients are the victims of such liaisons. The MSWs are usually younger and in better physical shape than their clients, and if homophobia enters the picture they are likely to be the homophobes. In 1997, a high society MSW serial murderer by the name of Cunanan went on a murder spree of his clients, ranging from Los Angeles to Miami, ending with the killing of designer Gianni Versace. In the end, he committed suicide. The reason for this rampage has never been discovered.

In Latin America, the authors mention pimps for whom the MSWs work. Adult MSWs in Latin America would never, under any circumstances, need or want the services of a pimp. It would be an insult to their machismo to be unable to take care of themselves. Lately, due to the Internet, sex-working agencies have been established in most, if not all, Latin American countries. However, these agencies are not pimps. When I wrote my book about Costa Rica (“Pura Vida: A Travel Guide to Gay and Lesbian Costa Rica”) I was privileged enough to be allowed into a room where MSWs changed into drag before plying their trade in the streets of San Jose. While they were walking dressed as women, they often met “straight” men who paid to be screwed by them (go figure!). Even masquerading as females, these MSWs would not dream of giving part or all of their earnings to a pimp who would offer “protection,” and certainly they would not do it out of love for the creep. In the many countries I have visited, I have never encountered a single pimp for MSWs.

On p. 229: “ [I]t does appear that MSW as a population are more vulnerable to mental health problems.” Relatively short interviews with MSWs are not likely to reveal that because of mental health problems (and drug addiction) the MSWs entered this profession, at least in relatively affluent countries. It has been my observation, often based on a long acquaintance with MSW, that for many complicated reasons they became sex workers because of their mental problems. Many do not have the discipline or the inclination to work regular hours, be subjected to supervision, and deal with customers and co-workers day in day out. A MSW may start his working day in the late afternoon or even later and can afford to drop a “john” if he dislikes him. During short encounters, the mental problems of sex workers do not matter as much to the client as during eight hours five days a week regular position.

Male Sex Workers is a book worth reading if one is interested in the subject, though it needs some revisions, which, I am sure, will appear in a second edition. The following is a link to the book:   http://www.cup.columbia.edu/book/978-1-939594-00-6/male-sex-work-and-society