Out In Jersey

Book review: Male Sex Work and Society, edited by Victor Minichiello and John Scott

Boy prostitution is a subject every gay man is familiar with to one degree or another – if not as a client, then as an observer. In gay culture one remains a “boy” well into one’s 20s, so we are not here discussing underage sex.

There is a substantial literature on various aspects of the subject and a great deal of highly varied opinion. Whatever you think of it, it has been part of every civilization since the dawn of recorded history. Ancient Romans, Japanese samurai and Persian mystics all wrote odes to the beauty and skills of their favorite youthful practitioners of the arts of Eros.

In “Male Sex Work and Society,” Dr. Minichello and Dr. Scott have brought together a 428 page, thoroughly researched and lavishly documented collection of studies and essays by various scholars, examining pretty much every aspect of the matter, from statistical analysis of the offerings of workers, the preferences of clients, the financial aspects and the health risks, to analysis of the trade in China, Africa, Russia and elsewhere, as well as in the United States.

Topics such as “Marketing Sex Work,” the sociohistoric context, cultural factors and so on are discussed, comprising what is probably the most comprehensive study of the subject yet put in print.

In the post-Stonewall era, new ways of thinking and speaking about male sex work have emerged, challenging older perspectives which have viewed male “prostitution” as deviance and pathology. The complexity of the issues involved and the historical and cultural variations in male sex work have come to be viewed in more dynamic terms. Aspects such as female clients and upper income forms such as private escort services have changed older understandings of the scope of the business and now attract scholarly attention.

This very definitely is a serious and scholarly work. It is one that should be of considerable interest to social workers, psychologists, therapists, counselors and academics in relevant fields. For these fields the book becomes almost a one-stop shop for everything you need to know about the subject. For the general reader who may have an interest in the subject, it is important to note the various contributions in the book are well written, readable and accessible. For the most part, you don’t need a degree in social work to understand what the authors are telling you.

We must conclude that this is an important work, a serious contribution to queer studies and a valuable tool for professionals.

Reviewed by Toby Grace