Skip to main content

Women are Victims, Men Make Choices: The Invisibility of Men and Boys in the Global Sex Trade

Abstract

The invisibility of men and boys in scholarly discussions of the global sex trade was analyzed through a sample of 166 recent articles published in social science journals. Most failed to acknowledge the existence of male sex workers at all. When male sex workers were discussed, they were assigned considerably more agency than female sex workers, the chief danger ascribed to them was HIV rather than violence, and the question of their sexual orientation was always addressed, whereas female sex workers were always assumed heterosexual. The results are discussed in the context of world system theory, Orientalism, and heteronormativity.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Alexander, P. (1987). Prostitution: A difficult issue for feminists. In F. Delacoste, & P. Alexander (Eds.), Sex work: Writings by women in the sex industry. San Francisco: Cleis Press.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Bell, S. (1994). Reading, writing, and rewriting the prostitute body. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Bittle, S. (2002). When protection is punishment: Neo-liberalism and secure care approaches to youth prostitution. Canadian Journal of Criminology, 44(3), 317–350.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Butler, J. (1993). Bodies that matter: On the discursive meaning of sex. NY: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Calhoun, T. C., & Weaver, G. (1996). Rational decision-making among male street prostitutes. Deviant Behavior, 17(2), 209–227.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Carter, D., & Dalla, R. (2006). Transactional analysis case report: Street-level prostituted women as mental health care clients. Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, 13(1), 95–119.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Coleman, E. (1989). The development of male prostitute activity among gay and bisexual adolescents. Journal of Homosexuality, 17(1–2), 131–149.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Connell, R. W. (1995). Masculinities. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Dalla, R. (2002). Night moves: A qualitative investigation of street-level sex work. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 26(1), 63.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Davidson, J. (2002). The rights and wrongs of prostitution. Hypatia, 17(2), 84.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Davies, M., & Rogers, P. (2006). Perceptions of male victims in depicted sexual assaults: A review of the literature. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 11(4), 367–377.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Dodge, M., Starr-Gimeno, D., & Williams, T. (2005). Puttin’ on the sting: Women police officers’ perspectives on reverse prostitution assignments. International Journal of Police Science and Management, 7(2), 71–85.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Dorais, M. (2005). Rent-boys: The world of male sex trade workers. McGill-Queens University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Edlund, L., & Korn, E. (2002). A theory of prostitution. Journal of Political Economy, 110(1), 181.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Estes, R. J., & Weiner, N. A. (2001). The commercial sexual exploitation of children in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Farley, M. (2004). Bad for the body, bad for the heart: Prostitution harms women even if legalized or decriminalized. Violence Against Women, 10(10), 1087–1125.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2006). Unified Crime Reports.

  18. Finkelhor, D., & Ormrod, R. (2004). Prostitution of juveniles: Patterns from NIBRS. Washington, DC: Office of Justice Programs.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Finlinson, H., Colon, H., Robles, R., & Soto, M. (2006). Sexual identity formation and AIDS prevention: An exploratory study of non-gay-identified Puerto Rican MSM from working class neighborhoods. AIDS and Behavior, 10(5), 531–539.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Flowers, R. B. (2001). Runaway kids and teenage prostitution: America’s lost, abandoned, and sexually exploited children. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Friedman, M. (2003). Strapped for cash: A history of American hustler culture. San Francisco: Alyson Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Hernandez-Truyol, B., & Larson, J. (2006). Sexual labor and human rights. Columbia Human Rights Law Review, 37(2), 391–445.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Huda, S. (2006). Human trafficking in Lebanon. Forced Migration Review, 25, 36.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Hunter, M. (2002). The materiality of everyday sex: Thinking beyond prostitution. African Studies, 61(1), 99–120.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Hwang, S., & Bedford, O. (2003). Precursors and pathways to adolescent prostitution in Taiwan. Journal of Sex Research, 40(2), 201.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Itiel, J. (1998). A consumer’s guide to male hustlers. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Kesler, K. (2002). Is a feminist stance in support of prostitution possible? An exploration of current trends. Sexualities, 5(2), 219.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Lawrence, A. (1999). Suburban hustler: Stories of a high-tech call-boy. New York: Late Nite Press.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Leichtentritt, R. D., & Davidson, B. A. (1996). Young male street workers: Life histories and current experiences. British Journal of Social Work, 35(5), 483–509.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Letiche, H., & van Mens, L. (2002). Prostitution as a male object of epistemological pain. Gender, Work and Organization, 9(2), 167–185.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Leuchtag, A. (2003). Human rights sex trafficking and prostitution. Humanist, 63(1), 10.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Levine, P. (2003). Prostitution, race and politics: Policing venereal disease in the British empire. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Lofstrom, J. (1998). Scandinavian homosexualities: Essays on gay and lesbian studies. New York: Haworth Press.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Luke, N. (2006). Exchange and condom use in informal sexual relationships in urban Kenya. Economic Development & Cultural Change, 54(2), 319–348.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Mameli, P. (2002). Stopping the illegal trafficking of human beings. Crime, Law and Social Change, 38(1), 67–80.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Matthews, F. (2006). The invisible boy: Revisioning the victimization of male children and teens. Ottawa: Public Health Clearinghouse of Canada.

    Google Scholar 

  37. McKay, C. (1999). Is sex work queer? Social Alternatives, 18(3), 48–53.

    Google Scholar 

  38. McKeganey, N. (2006). Street prostitution in Scotland: The views of working women. Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy, 13(2), 151–166.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. McNamara, R. (1994). The Times Square Hustler: Male prostitution in New York city. Westport, CT: Praeger.

    Google Scholar 

  40. Miriam, K. (2005). Stopping the traffic in women: Power, agency and abolition in feminist debates over sex-trafficking. Journal of Social Philosophy, 36(1), 1–17.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Mirkin, H. (1999). The pattern of sexual politics: Feminism, homosexuality and pedophilia. Journal of Homosexuality, 37(2), 1–24.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Moffatt, P., & Peters, S. (2004). Pricing personal services: An empirical study of earnings in the UK prostitution industry. Scottish Journal of Political Economy, 51(5), 675-690.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Murray, S. (1997). The will not to know: Islamic accommodations of male homosexuality. In S. Murray, & W. Roscoe (Eds.), Islamic homosexualities (pp. 14–54). New York: New York University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  44. New York Anti-Violence Project (2006). National hate crime report. New York: NCAVP.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Nielsen, J., Walden, G., & Kunkel, C. (2000). Gendered heteronormativity: Empirical illustrations in everyday life. Sociological Quarterly, 41(2), 283–296.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Parrado, E., Flippen, C., & McQuiston, C. (2004). Use of commercial sex workers among hispanic migrants in North Carolina: Implications for the spread of HIV. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 36(4), 150–156.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Pateman, C. (1988). The sexual contract. Cambridge: Polity Press.

    Google Scholar 

  48. Pedesen, W., & Hegna, K. (2003). Children and adolescents who sell sex. Social Science and Medicine, 56, 135–147.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Pettersson, T., & Tiby, E. (2002). The production and reproduction of prostitution. Journal of Scandinavian Studies in Criminology and Crime Prevention, 3(2), 154–172.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Pochagina, O. (2005). The sex business as a social phenomenon in contemporary China. Far Eastern Affairs, 33(4), 86–102.

    Google Scholar 

  51. Popova, D. (2006). Trafficking in women, female migration, and identity. Social Development Issues, 28(3), 70–86.

    Google Scholar 

  52. Prestage, G. (1990). Sex work and sex workers in Australia. Sydney: University of New South Wales Press.

    Google Scholar 

  53. Quiroga, J. (2000). Tropics of desire: Interventions from Queer Latin America. New York: New York University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  54. Ratnapala, N. (1999). Male sex work in Sri Lanka. In P. Aggleton (Ed.) Men who sell sex (pp. 213–222). Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  55. Rekart, M. (2005). Sex-work harm reduction. Lancet, 366(9503), 2123–2134.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Rinaldi, A. (1998). Gay? We don’t have that here. New Statesman, 127(4396), 17.

    Google Scholar 

  57. Roscoe, W., & Murray, S. (2004). Boy-wives and female husbands: Studies of African homosexualities. London: Palgrave-Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  58. Said, E. (1979). Orientalism. Revised edition, 2003. New York: Penguin Books.

    Google Scholar 

  59. Sanders, T. (2005). It’s just acting: Sex workers’ strategies for capitalizing on sexuality. Gender, Work and Organization, 12(4), 319–342.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  60. Saphira, M. (2001). Commercial exploitation of children. Auckland, New Zealand: ECPAT.

    Google Scholar 

  61. Savin-Williams, R. C. (2006). The new gay teenager. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  62. Scott, J. (2003). A prostitute’s progress: Male prostitution in scientific discourse. Social Semiotics, 13(2), 179–191.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  63. Svedin, C., & Priebe, G. (2007). Selling sex in a population-based study of high school seniors in Sweden: Demographic and psychosocial correlates. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 36(1), 21–32.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  64. Tan, M. (1999). Walking the tightrope: Sexual risk and male sex work in the Philippines. In P. Aggleton (Ed.), Men who sell sex (pp. 241–262). Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  65. Tani, S. (2002). Whose place is this space? Life in the street prostitution area of Helsinki, Finland. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 26(2), 343–359.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  66. Timpson, S., Ross, M., Williams, M., & Atkinson, J. (2007). Characteristics, drug use, and sex partners of a sample of male sex workers. American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 33(1), 63–69.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  67. U.S. Department of Justice. (2007). Bureau of justice statistics. http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/.

  68. Van Brunsuhot, E. (2003). Community policing and “John schools.” Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology, 40(2), 215–232.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  69. Wallerstein, I. (2004). World-systems analysis: An introduction. Durham: Duke University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  70. Weber, M., Gerth, H. H., & Mills, C. W. (1958). From Max Weber. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  71. Weitzer, R. (2000). Why we need more research on sex work. In R. Weitzer (Ed.), Sex for sale: Prostitution, pornography, and the sex industry (pp. 1–16). New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  72. Whitaker, R. (1999). Assuming the position: A memoir of hustling. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows Press.

    Google Scholar 

  73. Whitam, F. L. (1992). Baijot and the callboy: Homosexual-heterosexual relations in the Philippines. In S. Murray (Ed.), Oceanic homosexualities (pp. 231–248). New York: Garland.

    Google Scholar 

  74. Wiegman, R. (2006). Heteronormativity and the desire for gender. Feminist Theory, 7(1), 89–103.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  75. Wong, W., Holroyd, E., Gray, A., & Ling, D. (2006). Female street sex workers in Hong Kong: Moving beyond sexual health. Journal of Women’s Health, 15(4), 390–399.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  76. Yegenoglu, M. (2005). Colonial fantasies: Towards a feminist reading of orientalism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jeffery P. Dennis.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Dennis, J.P. Women are Victims, Men Make Choices: The Invisibility of Men and Boys in the Global Sex Trade. Gend. Issues 25, 11–25 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12147-008-9051-y

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12147-008-9051-y

Keywords

  • Heteronormativity
  • Masculinity
  • Prostitution
  • Sex workers
  • Trafficking