Prostitution is not a new topic. It’s relevant in all ancient and modern cultures. Some people claim it was the first profession women had outside of the home. When one thinks about a prostitute they almost always instinctually envision a female: perhaps she´s standing on a dark street corner, casting prolonged glimpses at the cars that pass her; while wearing a fetched coat and platform boots that reach her thighs… or maybe, she is a he. Although it seems nonexistent and practically invisible, male prostitution is real – as real and active as female prostitution.
This is what I have learned about it in Canada:
A study conducted in 2006, in the province of Saskatchewan, where researchers interviewed 40 males working in the sex trade revealed that 85 per cent were of aboriginal heritage. Three quarters of them had a history of being sexually abused before getting involved in the sex trade, (a common statistic found in female prostitution), while 80 per cent started to work as prostitutes before the age of 18 and continued to do so for an average of nine years.
The study showed it was not easy to collect data on the subject and that most people were “shocked” to discover that male prostitution even existed.
The report’s Author, Sue McIntyre, said, “Some people are uncomfortable talking about it so it tends to fly under the radar. There’s a bit of homophobia that gets connected to it [too]. Where for young women, most of their activity is heterosexual, and for some reason that makes people not as uncomfortable.”
So why does the profession of a man having sex for money seem wrong, but normal for a woman? Is it tied to homosexual prejudice or, are we just so desensitized by women sexualizing themselves for some kind of capital gain (ex: entertainment media) that we think it´s okay?
History can lead us to believe that prostitution is a strictly female occupation as its origins are closely connected to the advent of brothels. Records of these domiciles where women preformed sex services date back to 4,000B.C. in Greece, Rome, India and China. No such societal turning point or historic indicator can be related to the onset of male prostitution… and after trying to find research on the subject, it seems as though it formed out of nothing, for no reason, at no determined point in time.
This leads us to draw our own conclusions as to when and why men decide to join the prostitution business and what the distinctions between male and female prostitution are.
One can believe males become prostitutes for the exact same reason women do: they feel it is their only option to make a living. There is a certain level of personal despair associated to both the men and women who choose to get involved in the trade sex as the act of prostitution seems (when not authorized and controlled by law) seems personally violating, vile and virulent.
The difference between male and female prostitution can be noticed almost instantly when trying to research the topic as males in the sex trade is a far less studied subject. Informal male prostitution is also less visible: we don´t typically see, in our immediate society or media, men scantily clad in the streets offering themselves for money. Homophobia is another factor that makes female and male prostitution unequal as women do not endure this judgment at the same rate a male prostitute may: a female sex worker is not assumed to be homosexual.
When one thinks about a prostitute they almost always instinctually envision a female. Perhaps this is a result of an archetype created in media that has shaped and defined our (visual) definition of “a prostitute”… or perhaps, we´re not paying enough attention to the male form of prostitution.
Post written by Clarissa Watson / Canada
References cited: CBC News, 2008
Picture taken from Flickr with a Creative Commons Attribution License from Wonderlane