A Prostitute’s Progress: Male Prostitution in Scientific Discourse

Scott, John. 2003. “A Prostitute’s Progress: Male Prostitution in Scientific Discourse.” Social Semiotics 13 (2): 179–199. doi:10.1080/1035033032000152606.
This paper examines discourses of male prostitution through an analysis of scientific texts. A contrast is drawn between nineteenth-century understandings of male prostitution and twentieth-century accounts of male prostitution. In contrast to female prostitution, male prostitution was not regarded as a significant social problem throughout the nineteenth century, despite its close association with gender deviation and social disorder. Changing conceptions of sexuality, linked with the emergence of the ‘adolescent’, drew scientific attention to male prostitution during the 1940s and 1950s. Research suggested that male prostitution was a problem associated with the development of sexual identity. Through the application of scientific techniques, which tagged and differentiated male prostitute populations, a language developed about male prostitution that allowed for normative assessments and judgements to be made concerning particular classes of male prostitute. The paper highlights how a broad distinction emerged between public prostitutes, regarded as heterosexual/masculine, and private prostitutes, regarded as homosexual/effeminate. This distinction altered the way in which male prostitution was understood and governed, allowing for male prostitution to be constituted as a public health concern.

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