Male sex workers

This advice is frank and to the point. It is for men who work in the business, as well as men who may be thinking about doing so. The language used to describe sexual acts and services is direct and what some may consider ‘base’. It is not intended to cause offence, but to ensure understanding. This advice can’t answer all questions and cover every eventuality, so we have suggested other sources of information.

If you have any questions, staff at your local project will be happy to assist you. They may not always know the answer or have the information to hand immediately, but they will do their best to help.

While the gay scene can sometimes glamourise male escorts, in reality, society tends to view sex workers negatively. Many people do not recognise sex work as true work, and believe that all sex workers’ are drug-addicted victims who have no choice but to allow them to be exploited by abusive men. The stigma is very real, and can lead to loneliness and isolation. It can be difficult for you to discuss your work with friends, housemates, family and others in your personal life, as they may also hold negative views.

Projects working with male sex workers have found that some male sex workers become victims of violent crime because they are the victims of Homophobic and Trans Phobic hate crime.  They may also be victimised because of their sex working status .

Male rape is still a largely under-reported crime – especially for male escorts. Male escorts are vulnerable to homophobic hate crimes and are often seen as easy targets. Previous cases of serial killers targeting gay men have found that many of their victims have been male escorts. Male sex workers and those involved working as actors in the porn industry are also under increasing pressure to perform bareback services; some projects have found that  linked to this there has been an increase in male rape, with victims not consenting.

Street work and other public sex environments (PSES)

Some sex workers solicit their clients on the street, and give sexual services in cars, hotels or parks. When working on the street you need to decide whether you will go with a client and where you will take them. If your lifestyle is a bit chaotic, perhaps because of drug or alcohol misuse, working on the street may seem like an easy option. You don’t need to rent premises, and there is no ‘employer’. But working on the street is more dangerous, and you are more visible, and, therefore, more likely to come to the attention of the Police. Some sex workers prefer to work in public sex environments (PSEs) rather than the more organised and commercial sex-working scene. PSEs encompass any location, which offers willing participants and opportunity, such as toilets in parks, lay-bys, shops, theatres, town centre’s and rural communities; back alleys near gay bars and clubs; paths by rivers and canals; beaches; car park and truck stops; saunas and swimming pools; trains/coaches and stations; back rooms in bars and porn cinemas; and the street. Some of these places may increase the risk of unsafe sexual encounters, as there is often little discussion about the sex, making negotiating safety with clients more difficult. Other dangers include ‘queer bashing’ or police harassment. In some places, there are established commercial scenes, bars and nightclubs where men selling sex go both to socialise and to look for business. Be careful when working here. Whilst some managers and bar staff may ‘turn a blind eye’ to your activities, others may respond to complaints from other customers, especially if you are having sex on the premises, in case they lose their license to sell alcohol or don’t want to be labeled as ‘a brothel’. You don’t necessarily want to be known as a sex worker as this could make it difficult to get into other venues. If you use alcohol to socialise with clients, over the course of an evening you could get very drunk. This makes it more difficult to negotiate safer sex, and some clients will try to take advantage if they think you are intoxicated. Some bars and clubs (mostly gay), have a secluded area, a room or series of connected rooms, which are poorly lit, and used for sex. These are often referred to as the ‘darkroom’. Darkrooms are areas where men go to engage in anonymous casual sex while using the facilities of the bar or club. As the name suggests, these rooms are dimly lit, making it difficult to work safely. It is difficult to see and assess clients’ genitalia, increasing the risk of exposure to sexual infection such as warts and herpes.

Alcohol and drugs

If you can, avoid using drugs when working. If a client knows you use drugs, or wants to use with you, you are less likely to stay in control. He may also try to pay you with drugs instead of cash, which means you could lose out on money that you might need for rent or to renew your advert. If you are using, then stay hydrated; most drugs dehydrate you, so drink lots of water. Avoid mixing drugs and alcohol, or even drugs with prescription medicines; there may be drug interactions you aren’t aware of. If you are taking HIV medication, check with your clinic doctor before mixing with recreational drugs. Give yourself space/time between hits; remember to enjoy what you have taken and appreciate that some drugs take time to reach their full effect. Try smaller doses. Some sensory enhancing drugs like E Ecstasy), GHB and K (Ketamine) can give more pleasurable effects at relatively low doses – high doses may actually lessen the effect. If you have a bad reaction, seek help immediately; people have died from using recreational drugs. Get medical help and be honest about what you have taken. Avoid mixing stimulants like poppers (amyl nitrates), Ecstacy, speed or cocaine with Viagra: it can cause a sudden lowering of the blood pressure and/or stress on the heart, and has been linked to sudden deaths. Be aware of the source of your supply; buy and use only from trusted dealers. Remember, you don’t know what could be in a drug a client gives you.

If you become unconscious, he could sexually assault you or steal your belongings or, at the least, he could leave without paying. Plan ahead. How you feel about sex when high can be different to when coming down, so make sure you are prepared for sex before taking the drugs. If you are injecting, use only your own clean works, and be careful. Remember that crack is a binge drug that is highly addictive.

Once you start, you may not want to stop, and you may soon end up working just to buy that next fix. If you think your drug use is becoming a problem, or is affecting your work, speak with a sex work project. The FRANK website and helpline (0800 77 66 00) also has free and confidential information if you are worried about your drug use (www.talktofrank.com).

Good negotiation and language skills

Negotiating with clients and setting boundaries are extremely important for working safely.  If English is not your first language, then you need to learn some basic phrases in order to negotiate effectively with clients. Your local sex work project will have information on local classes, and in London you may be able to go to the IUSW X:TALK classes.

Good communication and peer support: identifying ugly mugs

Work with your colleagues and share information. You might find it beneficial to attend the drop-in at your local sex work project, where you can meet other guys, and share information, particularly about dodgy clients.

If you are raped

Firstly-go to the ‘Help & Support’ section of the website here for important information on what to do and options available to you. There are several myths around male rape and because of the prevalence of these myths; some do not feel it as serious as the rape of a woman - IT IS JUST AS SERIOUS. Other myths are explored here:

  • Men can’t be raped-wrong. Men are raped all over the world everyday and things like size, gender, ethnic origin, sexuality do not affect this fact. They can be raped at home, work, out on the street, in social environments, prison, the armed forces, public toilets-in fact anywhere
  • Only gay men can be raped-wrong. Sexuality has nothing to do with rape
  • Only gay men can be rapists-wrong. Rape is a crime about power and control, not sexual orientation. Some rapists rape men and women
  • Men can’t be raped by women-strictly speaking in UK Law; this is true because in UK Law, you have to have a penis to rape. However there are other offences that cover this and the potential sentences are the same.
  • It’s not as bad for a man-wrong. There are serious risks around HIV, STI’s and anal injuries. The psychological effects are the same regardless of gender.
  • Most rapists are strangers to the victim-wrong. You are more likely to be assaulted by someone you know
  • Becoming erect and ejaculating  means you really 'wanted it' /consented to it-wrong. Men’s anatomies work very differently to women’s, either of these things is not a sign of ‘wanting it’. Has your penis ever become erect when you are on the tube? Having an STI screen? This is because becoming erect is your body doing what it should when stimulated-erotically or not. Sadly, some men think becoming erect equals being turned on and being turned on means them wanting it. When really all it actually shows is that there are some nerve endings in your penis which respond to being touched which work whether or not that touch was wanted, is nice or violent. If you have got lube on your penis, it is more likely to respond without you…
  • If you were penetrated during an attack, you are more likely to ejaculate automatically as your prostate will be stimulated.