Sex workers are not just stigmatised, they are also stereotyped. Till very recently, it was a widely held belief that it’s just females who are involved in professions like commercial sex work, escorting and other job profiles which are part of the sex industry.
This stereotype, however, has been dismantled in the past few decades, with men making their presence felt in the field too.
Though it can’t be said that the business of male escorts is a recent trend, it can be said with certainty that wider internet penetration has enabled people to solicit male escorts, bringing the subject into the popular arena.
This has also led to better acceptance of male escorting and the people involved in the business.
A male sex worker in the US., who goes by the name David-SF, talked about the legality of escort services in the US. in a blog on the website, aboutmaleescorting.com, which advocates and breaks the stigma around the profession.
“Much about what I write will come from my experience in a place where commercial sex work is still against the law, so we call it ‘selling time’,” he writes. He states that while prostitution is illegal in most parts of the country, escort agencies use the phrase “selling time” to provide services for consenting adults.
It is also important to understand that escorts do not always engage in sexual activities with their clients. They cater not just to people who are sexually oriented toward being straight but also people of other sexualities as well.
Not just escort agencies, but websites around the world bring escorts closer to their clients. An article by aboutmaleescorting.com gives an insight into the scale of the online market. Results of a study of such websites suggested that most were independent and not affiliated to escort agencies, and a large number of them catered to male escorts soliciting male clients, with many sites for female clientele and couples.
Rentboy.com, founded in 1996 is said to be the first male escort ad-listing website; similar sites like Rentmen.com have also popped up. Rentboy, one of the most popular of its kind, especially in the U.S., got about 500,000 unique visitors a day in 2014.
The owner of Cowboys 4 Angels, a US based escort service that specifically caters to female clients, Garren James, in a video on New York Post said he was always looking for new faces to join his company.
A former male escort himself, James stated he screened all the prospective escorts or gigolos himself to ensure they had the ability to survive in the competitive industry, where female clients “expect the best” for the money they paid.
Male escorts working for the company might earn a few thousand dollars in the initial days, but pay can go up to $40,000 a month later. Many men get into the profession part-time to pay for their expenses.
The website started becoming popular in 2009, and claimed to sell companionship and not sex. James, in an article for Cosmopolitan in 2015, said whatever happened between two consenting adults behind closed doors is never a part of the original agreement.
Tommy, an escort with the website, talked about his experiences with female clients and what they sought from an escort. “Women hire me for different reasons. I think that they want somebody who will really pay attention to them, who’s really listening. She’s telling her husband about her day, and he’s watching Sports Center or doing his fantasy football picks,” he says.
“I think maybe that’s part of the reason I’ve done so well. I’m able to really care about their lives and where they’ve been. For the most part, my pipeline is all repeat clients,” Tommy adds.
Tommy also revealed that his attempts at dating women who were not his clients did not go too well as many would not accept that he was an escort; his travel and long working hours did not work in his favour either.
Another escort, Ryan James, clarified a few things about the profession in an article in Sydney Morning Herald. He denied the popular belief that he was in the profession because of a high libido.
“Guys with really high sex drives all want to be escorts and they make terrible escorts. As soon as they’re with a client they’re not particularly attracted to, they fail,” he says, adding that escorts need to have “the ability to get enjoyment from pleasing someone else.”
Meanwhile, gay escorts also revealed details about their jobs in a 2014 piece for the Huffington Post. A typical client, according to the rent boys interviewed by the website, would usually be a working professional in his 30s or 40s, who is either gay or bisexual and has no time or interest in dating and identified publicly as straight. However, each escort had different types of clients.
Many also said they had also masqueraded as clients’ boyfriends at fancy galas.
However, all accounts state that the job is not easy, with long working hours and a demanding clientele. The stigma attached to it makes it no easier.
As Professors John Scott and Victor Minichiello, authors of the book “ Male Sex Work and Society” and founders of aboutmaleescorting.com put it, “Male sex workers face a double stigma because same-sex relationships are stigmatised and sex work is stigmatised.”by Gayathri Anuradha
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