For many, when asked to describe a sex worker, a woman is usually the image that comes to mind.
Though it’s true the sex worker space has largely been dominated by women for many years, the idea of male sex workers has recently seen a shift in the mainstream, with many people acknowledging the existence of male sex workers.
Research in recent years has also worked to dismantle public perception regarding male sex workers.
According to a BMC public health paper, ‘A new public health context to understand male sex work’ on male sex work, the idea of the male sex worker is not a new phenomenon and can actually be traced back to ancient Greece times.
- Male sex workers in the UK
- Male sex workers worldwide
- Common MSW assumptions
- Male sex work findings
- Potential dangers
- Charities specialising in male sex work
In the UK, the number of men selling sex is becoming increasingly commonplace, with many providing sex services for a range of clients, which include female clients, male clients, and couples.
Male sex workers in the UK
What may surprise some people is that the UK has such a high number of male escorts operating, with the country ranking fifth in the world in terms of volume of male sex workers.
It is suggested that around 80,000 of the 100,000 sex workers in the UK are women. This mean that there are approximately 20,000 male sex workers operating throughout the UK.
Male sex workers worldwide
When it comes to worldwide figures, it’s claimed that there are roughly 42 million sex workers.
A closer look at the figures shows that around 20% of those who identify as a sex worker are men. This means approximately eight million male sex workers operate worldwide.
This growth in the number of men entering the male sex work sphere was looked at in a study, ‘Me, Us and Male Escorting’ by professors Victor Minichiello and John Scott, who compiled an online survey looking at online profiles of male escorts worldwide.
According to the findings, the top five countries with the most male escort profiles (in total 93% of online male escort profiles) were:
Common MSW assumptions
For many people still unsure about what being a male sex worker involves, there are a number of common myths and incorrect assumptions.
The most common belief assumed is the sexual identity of male sex workers – namely that most male sex workers are gay and have a cliental that are predominately men. However, Minichiello’s and Scott’s male escort research proved that this is not the case.
Although their findings found that male escort profiles catering to male clients was the majority, they also found that clientele by gender varied, with some sites seeing male escort profiles only catering to female clients (while others offered services for couples of the opposite sex).
This perception may result from the idea that some male sex workers sleep with other men.
Male sex work findings
Just like female sex workers, male sex workers in the industry are multifaceted. Some men work as sex workers full-time and treat it as their primary income.
Others see clients several times a month, working part-time as a sex worker, while earning a wage in a full-time job elsewhere. Each case is different.
Research on male sex workers did find that they were likely to be more forthcoming when initiating contact online with clients, than female sex workers.
Male sex workers are also more likely to work as a private escort.
This is a contrast to female sex workers, where despite the fact that sex workers seen banding together as a group is illegal, reports have shown that many female sex workers prefer to work in managed groups, primarily for safety and solidarity
As with female sex workers, male sex workers also need to take precautions to avoid dangerous situations, whilst ensuring their safety is a number one priority.
From being duped into meeting with someone who isn’t the person they initially thought, receiving verbal abuse on the job, to physical and sexual assault, male sex workers can too face harm, discrimination, and, indeed danger as women working in this industry.
Worryingly, a sex work report, Beyond the Gaze, revealed that male sex workers are the group most unlikely to report a crime to the police, with 70% admitting to not reporting an incident to law enforcement.
Charities specialising in male sex work
There are charities that are dedicated to supporting male sex workers.
Survivors Manchester has an informative and beneficial website that encourages all male sex workers to get involved for essential support. By creating a warm, friendly, but ultimately safe space, the organisation aims to empower men to enable them to make positive life choices.
The Men’s Room is a charity which works to provide support and guidance to men working in the sex industry. Their mission, to help men through the many challenges they have to face in their lives.
National Ugly Mugs, otherwise known as NUM, strives to make sex workers, both male, and females, safer by providing free incident reports and warnings via an app about potentially dangerous individuals.