The analysis of global sexual economies has emerged as an important part of a wider feminist project to re-imagine the boundaries of what constitutes the ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ of globalisation and capitalism. Emphasising the importance of such an agenda, the article argues that continued understandings of commercial sex as ‘women’s work’ place male and transgender bodies on the outside rather than the inside of the analysis of global sexual economies. Highlighting the need to address this gap in contemporary theorising and empirical analysis, the article then offers an illustration of research into male sex work through discussion of how male escorts in San Francisco negotiate the complex meanings and practices surrounding gender, sexuality and political economy.
This article draws from qualitative interviews with 18 South American male sex workers in Dublin, exploring how their use of the gym and new social media has created alternative spaces for the conduct of commercial sex. The interviews reveal how sex workers alternatively use escort specific sites in conjunction with mainstream dating apps like Grindr, offering greater flexibility and control over how they are self-defined within the sex industry. These male sex workers become known for their presence in gyms and clubs within the small gay community offering potential clients a real-time embodied interaction. Social media, like Instagram, offered the men in this study a further platform to share part of a choreographed online world with thousands of followers presenting new economic opportunities. The men trade access to their bodies and to their taste in designer commodities and lifestyle to interact with followers who can financially contribute to dictate the format of the photos available for private or public consumption.
The 1889 “Cleveland Street Scandal” in London, which exposed a male brothel offering telegraph boys to elite men for sexual services, has long been recognized and evaluated as a window into late Victorian homoerotic subcultures and regulatory legislation. By focusing on the telegraph boys’ contribution to the scandal, particularly their roles as information service providers in relation to the broader ideologies associated with telecommunications work in this period, the scandal takes on new meanings for queer history. It reveals the relationship between queer urban encounters and the growth of clandestine communications surveillance in Britain and opens up possibilities for re-prioritizing service labor in historical accounts of queer interactions and subjectivities.
Editorial – Blurred Lines: The Contested Nature of Sex Work in a Changing Social Landscape, Laura Connelly, Laura Jarvis-King and Gemma Ahearne
Saving us from penetration – ponderings from a trans rentboy, Jet Young
Between the Sex Industry and Academia: Navigating Stigma and Disgust, Gemma Ahearne
Yeah, they’ve started to get a bit fucking cocky …’ Culture, Economic Change and Shifting Power Relations within the Scottish Lap-Dancing Industry, Billie Lister
Victor or victim? Foregrounding the independent escort experience outside of the polarised debate, Rae Story and Glen Jankowski
Direct sex work in Great Britain: reflecting diversity, Jane Pitcher
The changing landscape of Scottish responses to sex work: addressing violence against sex workers, Emma Smith
Contested spaces: Exploring the intersections of migration, sex work and trafficking in South Africa, Rebecca Walker and Elsa Oliveira
The ‘Rescue Industry’: The blurred line between help and hindrance, Laura Connelly
Photo Essay Tony Stone
The invisibility of men and boys in scholarly discussions of the global sex trade was analyzed through a sample of 166 recent articles published in social science journals. Most failed to acknowledge the existence of male sex workers at all. When male sex workers were discussed, they were assigned considerably more agency than female sex workers, the chief danger ascribed to them was HIV rather than violence, and the question of their sexual orientation was always addressed, whereas female sex workers were always assumed heterosexual. The results are discussed in the context of world system theory, Orientalism, and heteronormativity.
Full text available for free at academia.edu
Related readings: A research project on student sex work in Germany from 2010.
Although the overwhelming majority of male prostitutes work through agencies or by placing their own ads, most studies of male prostitution focus upon young men who work on the street. Remarkably, these studies seldom identify the dynamics of poverty and street-level violence as important elements of their examination. Investigations of male sex work-few though they are-focus almost exclusively upon sexual aspects of “the life.” Despite the importance of these networks in shaping the contours of street life, and often in enabling one’s very survival, the primary research focus has remained on questions of sexual identity, sexual practices with clients, and sexual abuse as a causative factor. Meanwhile, studies that do examine the dynamics of male street life typically do not examine questions of prostitution or other issues related to sexuality. A dominant theme within this literature consists of specifying the social mores of the most aggressive and socially problematic participants within street society, particularly gang members and drug dealers. The dissimilar nature of these images relates directly to the political projects of the dominant culture, which, in a very general way, seeks to “rescue” (reintegrate) deviant white youth, while controlling and excluding deviant youth of color. The political aim of reintegrating runaways into middle-class trajectories has the effect of authorizing certain discourses regarding their behavior on the streets, while marginalizing or completely disallowing others. This article seeks to examine and challenge these trends of representation.
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