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Young Male Prostitutes

McNaught, S. (1997, October 24). The lost boys. The Boston Phoenix, pp. 16-17.

OVERVIEW

Male prostitutes tend to be younger on average than female prostitutes and are out there for different reasons. They tend to be desperate runaways often confused about their sexual orientation. Many of these boys have been rejected by their families.

Thomas, now a "lean, dark-haired 22-year-old does not mind using his real name because it’s his way of getting back at his family." He’s been on the streets of Boston since he was 16.

 

I was 16…very vulnerable…and I told my dad I thought I liked boys better than women. So he got me a prostitute and sat in his Audi outside the motel room, hoping I would emerge ‘a man.’

 

When the experiment didn’t work, his father took him straight from the motel to a Greyhound bus station, bought him a ticket to Boston, and told him never to return to his Virginia Beach home.

"I had disgraced the family," Thomas wearily says with a "forced snicker." Within 24 hours a guy he met at Boston Public Library told him he could be earning "big bucks" on Arlington Street. "And here I am. I have a little bit of savings, but I have no home. No family. No dignity."

Jim, 17, has an even sadder story. He is talking to the writer of the story on the corner of Arlington and Providence Streets, across from the Boston Park Plaza Hotel. They watch as a "stout, middle-aged man in an expensive navy suit and tan trench coat approaches."

Last April this married man with two sons in Cincinnati had hired Jim for straight sex. But when they got to the hotel room, the man forced Jim to create a diaper from a hotel towel. Then he proceeded to beat him mercilessly with a leather belt and before their unprotected sex. It took 12 stitches to close Jim’s wounds.

As the man approaches, the reporter notices Jim’s demeanor change to that of a scared, little boy—and she slips away. Sadly Jim reluctantly goes again with this man who remembers and wants another rendezvous. Jim hasn’t eaten in a day and is so hungry and desperate. It is cold and he has nowhere to stay.

Outreach worker Gerry Cheney, comments on the male prostitutes he knows:

 

Gay male prostitutes all have the same story. They’re confused about their sexuality, so they turn to a family that is unwilling to accept the lifestyle. Out of shame, or sometimes because they are forced to, they leave home, quit school, and end up on the street, drug-addicted and homeless.

 

Sometimes their stories and profiles are different. Boston’s Chinatown is adjacent to the city’s "Combat Zone." The author of this article describes a scene:

 

At a sleazy bar in Chinatown one recent fall night, two local college students—one a freshman and the other a sophomore—wander wide-eyed into the room. The freshman is questioning his sexual identity. The sophomore claims he’s looking to make some extra money to support his gambling hobby.

 

The clearly bewildered freshman explains what they’re doing there:

 

We asked where would be the best place to go to make money and pick up guys, and we were told here. But I don’t think I’ll come back here.

 

This freshman college student can’t face working the streets. Someone might see him and tell his family. He’s sure he’d be thrown out of the family and have to drop out of college. Then he’d be in the same position as the desperate boys he’s observed—suffering humiliation and even torture just to survive. That is one thing he wants to avoid.

According to a study by the Delancey Street Foundation of San Francisco, the average age at which young women become involved in street prostitution is 16.9 years of age. Director of adolescent services for JRI Health in Boston and other observers say boys enter street prostitution at a much younger age, 14 or even younger. Women prostitutes may work well into their thirties, but young men seem to be burned out and gone by the age of 25.

"Carl" is considered an old-time male prostitute in Boston at 26 years of age. He explains:

 

There are men who continue to work past 25 or 26, but with male commercial sex workers, the appearance is key. Chicken hawks (clients or johns) look for youth.

 

Another difference between male and female street prostitutes is that boys don’t usually have pimps. An exceptional boy may have a "sugar daddy," an older gay man who give them clothes in exchange for sex but not enough support to keep them off the streets.

Although free from the constraints of pimps, they face other problems and dangers as Carl further explains:

 

The majority of our clientele are straight businessmen. Most of them are married. These conservative, collegiate types are into some kinky s---. I know people who have been maimed or who have agree to sleep with infected men without a condom for more money, just because they needed the cash that bad.

 

All street prostitutes are vulnerable to drug addiction, STDs, and other infections. Unfortunately, the programs that exist are primarily focused on women. Margot Hill is a spokesperson for the Boston Police Department and speaks candidly about this problem:

 

For some reason the focus as far as rehab and outreach is usually geared toward women who work the streets. It’s like one big societal denial. No one wants to confront such a delicate issue as gay men selling themselves to straight married businessmen.

 

The picture for gay prostitutes who do remain on the street is very grim. The final scene painted by this writer is not a pretty one.

 

On a Wednesday night shortly after nightfall, plenty of (older gay prostitutes) can be found on Essex Street of the Combat Zone. Male prostitutes dwell in the dark corners of bars, awaiting business.

One man, in black latex pants and a black-and-white striped spandex shirt, drops to his knees and services a hefty, sweaty man. Money is exchanged; a small bag of white powder is tucked into the waist of the tight black pants, and the prostitute disappears into the crowd.

The heavy aroma of pot hangs in the air as a young man in cutoff shorts and a tight royal-blue tank top releases the tourniquet from his right arm, rams his tongue into the mouth of his "regular" sitting beside him—reportedly a State Street financial adviser—and staggers to the back of the bar, toward the bathroom. As he passes a fellow hustler, he stammers, ‘Ha, Mamma, look at me now!’

 

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION

  1. What are the options for young men who struggle with the conclusion that they are gay?
  2. What are the options for young runaways (of any sexual orientation) who hit the big city?
  3. What kind of programs could serve the needs of these desperate young people? Do you consider it to be worth the social investment?
  4. Is this problem worthy of attention in this Encyclopedia? Would there be any reason to discuss it in classrooms and youth groups?
  5. Do many adults and social institutions prefer to live in denial? How can this be addressed?

IMPLICATIONS

  • One U.S. city has moved its homeless away from city center and services needed by the homeless. If they are moved, perhaps the services they need should also be moved.
  • Unpleasant problems like the homeless and prostitution are symptoms of other social problems. Abusive families, homophobia, services for addicts and the mentally ill, and alternative schooling especially for those with learning disabilities are all issues behind this article.
  • Male and female prostitutes need some of our personal and social compassion. They are more the victims and those they serve are closer to being the problem.
Dean Borgman cCYS