Negotiating Professional Identities: Male Sex Workers in Slovenia and the Impact of Online Technologies

Abstract

This article presents selected results from the first exploratory study on male sex workers in Slovenia. Drawing on nine semi-structured interviews with self-identified male sex workers, who sell sex predominantly to (gay) men, and starting from Altman’s (1999) suggestion to understand sex work as a continuum ranging from sex work as a profession to casual or accidental encounters, it discusses three themes recurring in the interviews: (1) entrance into sex work; (2) relationships with clients and occupational strategies; and (3) use of technology for sex work. The male sex workers’ narratives are clustered along the distinctions between the “devoid-of-choice-oriented” and “business-oriented” male sex work, pointing to the somewhat blurred professional/private relations of the business in the context of post-socialist Slovenia. Entry into sex work is narrated at the crossroads of poor socioeconomic circumstances as a trigger, as exemplified in past studies, and a career decision-making, as noted by the recent studies. The distinction also runs along the lines of types of relationship male sex workers establish with their clients; while the first group describe relationships as turning into friends-like and moving beyond sexual encounters, the second group keep their contacts with clients as strictly business relations. This distinction can also be read in the context of the use of online technologies: although all our participants have used the internet to obtain clients, the business-oriented ones have thoughtfully worked on creating and updating their online profiles to make them as appealing to potential clients as possible, while the “devoid-of-choice-oriented” have reverted to only using a mobile phone, counting on “word of mouth” promotion of their work.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    All real names are changed in order to guarantee anonymity of our participants. The excerpts from the interviews are “translated” from spoken to written language, focusing primarily on the narrative, rather than linguistic specificities.

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Correspondence to Roman Kuhar.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Author Roman Kuhar declares that he has no conflict of interest. Author Mojca Pajnik declares that she has no conflict of interest.

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Kuhar, R., Pajnik, M. Negotiating Professional Identities: Male Sex Workers in Slovenia and the Impact of Online Technologies. Sex Res Soc Policy 16, 227–238 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13178-018-0330-4

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Keywords

  • Male sex work
  • Sex business
  • Online technologies
  • Internet
  • Slovenia
  • Post-socialism