Male prostitution: a cultural expression of male homosexuality
In this study I demonstrate how adolescent male prostitutes have linked the meaning of a personal homoerotic preference and subsequent homosocial identity with the social action of prostitution. In several major studies, a homosexual identity for male prostitutes was disclaimed. Prostitution was explained using socio-economic factors or perspectives of individual pathology. A recent study suggested that male prostitution has become "gayer," but does not describe the relationship of homosexuality to male prostitution in theoretical terms. Many of these studies are weakened by a Western perspective of homosexuality that is concerned with etiology and pathology. By contrast, I examined homosexuality as a symbolic construct whose expression is shaped by the dominant sex and gender system of American culture. The research approach taken was shaped by my view of homosexuality as one of a variety of permutations of social-sexual behavior to be found in various types of social organization and not the result of individual or social pathology.The research process included a combination of quantitative and qualitative procedures. The quantitative data permitted an analysis of conditions and constraints common to male prostitutes. These included: (1) sexual identity, (2) sexual exploitation, and (3) family rejection. I have argued that these factors bounded their perceptions and alternatives. Using an interactionist perspective, I developed an interpretive model to demonstrate the interplay of objective and subjective factors from which male prostitutes construct social definitions and subjective meanings linking homosexuality and prostitution. I have argued that adolescent gay males develop a self-understanding that includes prostitution as part of their homosexual world due to: (1) stigma associated with homosexuality, (2) approval of active male sexuality, (3) sex construed as a commodity, and (4) self-objectification resulting from experiences of sexual exploitation. I show how the male homosexual subculture provided adolescent gay males with a coherent social role and identity that included prostitution.In summary, I try to demonstrate how behavior classed as deviant is a socio-cultural phenomenon produced from cultural constructions of sex and gender. From this perspective one can begin to understand how prostitution makes sense to an adolescent gay male who is trying to understand what it means to be homosexual in American culture.
- Anthropology