The world’s oldest profession? Probably not, but it’s probably pretty high on the list and it makes for a good quote. Sex work is, however, one of the most misunderstood and maligned of all the professions, and male sex work is certainly an object of particular scorn even within the industry.

Male sex workers, as a group, are the object of a number of inaccurate fantasies, as well as narrowly construed and largely negative stereotypes, such as, “Guys become prostitutes because they’re too dumb to get a ‘real job’” or “They do it to support a drug habit.” People, even within the LGBT community, target male sex workers with some of the same talking points that have been used against us: “They must be self-hating victims of sexual abuse. They have low self-esteem. They are walking petri dishes of yet uncatalogued STDs.”

From porn and high-end escorting to old-fashioned prostitution, the realities of male sex workers are as complex and diverse as you can imagine. Male sex workers come from nearly all walks of life and economic strata, and their interests and personalities vary as widely as those of any large group of men might, as the research in Male Sex Work and Society (2014), coedited by researchers John Scott and Victor Minichiello, demonstrates.

Now, Scott and Minichiello, armed with their scholarly research, are seeking to engage the public imagination via their new website, Me, Us & Male Escorting (aboutmaleescorting.com). They hope that this forum will allow industry advocates to challenge ignorant misconceptions, and to also lobby for the decriminalization of sex work through an on ongoing series of engaging and informative blogs/videos and other resources, from first-hand accounts by male sex workers to scholarly research.

Scott and Minichiello intend “to create an innovative forum of collaboration between researchers, writers, sex workers, sex work organizations, and the media to further support the development of an ethically operated and entrepreneurially responsible business enterprise in society.”

Inaugural blog posts include "The Professionalization Of Male Escorting," "Women Who Buy Sex: Challenging Popular Prejudices," and two blogs written by male escorts, "Male Escorting: What It Takes To Make It Work" and "The Benefits Of Prostitution To Society." A forthcoming blog will discuss the differences between legalization and decriminalization and highlight the benefits of decriminalizing sex work.

Me, Us & Male Escorting offers resources of value to everyone from male sex workers to their friends, families and romantic partners, to government agencies and the general public. "Male sex workers face a double stigma because same sex relationships are stigmatized and sex work is stigmatized," the site’s founders explain. They hope that by guiding a more informed discussion around the issue, the stigma can be eased and progress can occur.

In the Southeast, where LGBT stigma is high, fueling rising epidemics of STIs, including syphilis and HIV, the practical benefits of this sort of advocacy makes the work even more necessary. “What the research shows very clearly,” Minichiello explained, “is that criminalization forces the sex work industry to be less open and for both clients and sex workers to operate in less safe environments in terms of exploitation, violence and higher reported levels of STIs….”

"We need the government to come on board and see this as work," said Scott. "That makes it better for the sex workers who can manage their health and safety and if sex work is decriminalized better in terms of making it easier for people to pay tax and follow all the regulations like all other occupations."

From a health perspective, Minichiello added, “What we know from studies reported in the medical science research literature is that decriminalization of sex work can reduce HIV by 30 per cent and some studies show higher figures. Decriminalization creates an environment of providing better education to both clients and sex workers, creating more responsibility and accountability for self-care, and better access and interactions with health providers.”

They do believe the atmosphere is ripe for this kind of advocacy. “There is a changing public attitude towards supporting a more open transparent sex work industry, including in the southeastern US states,” Minichiello said, “and sex work organizations and public health experts are working with community and political leaders to better inform them about the benefits of decimalization of sex work. The reality is that sex work exists, and will always exist. The responsible question now is what are the conditions to make this work more safe and professional for both clients and escorts.”

In addition to the website, aboutmaleescorting.com, the soon to be released Me, Us & Male Escorting companion Android app, MALES, will allow both male and female clients to search a directory of over 300 escort websites in 60 countries.

 

 

 

 

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