Sexuality & Culture

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

Male prostitution has been a field that many researchers have avoided during the last decades. So the editors wanted to present a “state of the art”-research book about history, presence, cultures and problems of male prostitution in the Western world. The book is organized in four chapters: historical overview, advertisement, social aspects, and examples from outside the US. This last part shows the greatest problem of this book: Authors and Editors believe in the concept that the situation in the US reflects all about the Western hemisphere. This is wrong. Prostitution’s ban outside Nevada, many local interdictions, and the widespread propaganda by churches and prayers— more influential than in any other country in the Western world— make the US a special object of research, but definitely not an archetype for research about male prostitution in Western world.

Mark Friedman’s essay about history gives a good insight . Ancient greek vases, roman marble boys, contemporary descriptions of prejudices and working policies are presented, even the camp instrumentalisation of “antique nudity” by German photo grapher Wilhelm Gloeden. But then he jumps from antique times into 17th century, and the reader doesn’t get information about conditions in non Western countries (e.g. India). In Kervin Kay ’s contribution about sex work in “modern times”, you may get information about conditions in some US cities. The most impressive essay in the first part of the book is Russel Sheaffer’s work about male prostitution in movies from the beginnings over Fassbinder “Querelle” to modern queer cinema. But his look o n the whole Western world is just a glimpse. Authors in the second and third chapters concentrate on the US. The articles are quite interesting, but they just give a view on conditions in some parts of the US.

Especially worth mentioning are essays by Trevor D. Logan about economical contexts and empirical study about “average consumers” by John Scott, Denton Callender and Victor Minichiello. Logan brings discourses over hegemonical masculinity, economic correlations/relations, characteristic symbols of physiological attraction and real pays for the boys together. Scott and colleagues believe that the average consumer isn’t the one everyone might believe. Not an old, lonesome guy out of community, but good looking guys. A nice idea, but it seems, they just got the upper class men, who can afford a regular Nevada call boy—in a country, where prostitution is mostly forbidden, you just get results that aren’t comparable to the whole Western world, with the exception of Sweden maybe. Unfortunately, Scott, Callender and Minichiello don’t come to this point. Even Heide Castaneda, who is writing about migrant prostitution in Germany, doesn’t mention the fact that prostitution is legal there. But despite this communication problem between US researchers and reality East of East port and south of San Diego, all the essays are well written, easy to understand and all contributors offer great lists of literature. Reader s who are uncertain about technical terms get a good glossary, and the index is professional. But at last, again, they just give an insight to cities in the US. Ironically, authors and editors conform to the key prejudice of the religious right, that of believing that “sin” is happening in the cities but not on the flat land.

Reviewed by Florian Geor Mildenberger