M is for MUTUAL, A is for ACTS

12. The Clients of Male Sex Workers in Canada
The Clients of Male Sex Workers in Canada

In 1985 the Fraser Committee established that 4% of Canadian adult males had bought the services of sex workers at least once; however, almost nothing is known about these men.180 While some information is beginning to be collected on the clients of female sex workers, this process has not been initiated with regard to the clients of male sex workers. Very little is known about their sexual risk behaviours, their attitudes towards or knowledge about HIV, or how they identify themselves in terms of sexual orientation.

Same-sex clients

Some male sex workers have suggested that "their customers are a mix of men who are relatively open in the fact that they are homosexual, and men, often married, who would not want it known that they had homosexual preferences."181

Others have suggested that their clients are

gay men who were "in the closet" (i.e., publicly posing as heterosexuals) and who used young hustlers as a means to obtain sexual satisfaction without risking exposure of their homosexual tendencies ... [or] socially inadequate men for whom a transaction with a prostitute represented one way of having a sexual encounter without fear of rejection.182

A Montreal study published in 1996 found that of 135 young males who had ever sold sex, 27% had sold sex to both men and women, 40% had sold sex only to men and 33% had sold sex only to women. Selling sex to women was reported to be the safest activity, as none of the youth who had sold sex to women and who had not used injection drugs were found to be HIV antibody-positive.183

A study conducted in British Columbia in 1996 found that the clients of male sex workers could be classified into three categories. The first was closeted men who buy sex from other males to fulfill a gay sexual desire. The second was men who prefer to have sex with younger males, and accomplish this by buying sex from young males. And the third was men unable to attract regular male sex partners, who therefore purchase gay sex instead.184

In 1994, CBC Radio's Ideas program aired an interview with a man who had supposedly been involved in a child pornography ring in London, Ontario.185 Although not in fact involved in pornography, the man did speak of his experiences as a paying client of male sex workers:

I see somebody that's in need of help, I'll lend a helping hand. ... And when I reflect back [on] the number of people that I've helped, the number of people that I've met on the street that were homeless, and I've helped, that I've taken into my home and that have lived with me -- and I'm not talking about for a few days or a few weeks -- that have lived with me for a number of years, and they knew when they came there as to my sexuality; there were no rules [like] you must have sex with me or else you can't stay here. It wasn't that kind [of thing]. It was a friendship. If anything ever did happen it was mutually agreed upon. And I feel that my life benefited from it, [and] they feel that their life benefited from it.186

The female clients of male sex workers

There is very little evidence to suggest that females make up a significant number of the clients of male sex workers. The Badgley Committee (1984) reported that approximately 97% of the clients of sex workers were male.187 However, Clark (1986) reported that almost 62% of the males interviewed had been approached by a female client at least once.188

So while very little is known about the male clients of male sex workers, even less is known about their female clients. Yet one young male sex worker said:

I sell myself for sex, only to women. I go down to the Royal York, to a bar there. Women approach you; [you] have to spend the whole night with them. Usually older ladies buy you things and you can get 100 bucks a night.189

More money, more skin

One of the most controversial aspects of male sex work in Canada is the reported practice of male sex workers having sex without condoms in exchange for a higher fee. Overall the Canadian literature is unclear as to how frequently this practice occurs, and in what contexts it may take place.

A needs assessment report from Toronto's Asian Community AIDS Service, published in 1995, contains a description of why a male sex worker would have sex without condoms in exchange for more money. Male respondents, working in a same-sex massage parlour, indicated that

not practising safe sex is simple because they (co-workers) really need the "extra" money. These workers rationalized that because the client looks clean and has a wife and family that they are sexually clean, therefore the chances of getting an STD are slim and it is worth it for the extra money.190

Many other studies have found that male sex workers have reported having sex without condoms in exchange for extra payment.191

However, there is certainly more than a single factor that affects "sex workers' ability to refuse clients who do not wish to use a condom." Other reasons would likely include "inexperience on the streets, threats of violence, economic pressure and drug use."192

The practice of having sex without condoms in exchange for a higher fee is an element of male sex work that is commanding attention in the absence of any truly valid or reliable data. As is the case in a number of other areas, including the relationship between male sex work and childhood sexual abuse in Canada, it will be necessary to conduct methodologically sound and morally unbiased research before reliable conclusions can be drawn.


  1. Fraser Committee (Special Committee on Pornography and Prostitution), Pornography and Prostitution in Canada, Ottawa, Department of Supply and Services, 1985. [back]
181. Ibid., p. 388.

182. Badgley Committee (Committee on Sexual Offences against Children and Youth), Sexual Offences against Children, Ottawa, Department of Supply and Services, 1984, p. 1055.

183. Roy, E., Hayley, N., Boivin, J., Frappier, J., Claessens, C. and Lemire, N., Risk Factors for HIV Infection in Street Youth, paper presented to the XIth International Conference on AIDS, Vancouver, July 1996a.

184. Lowman, J., Atchison, C. and Fraser, L., Men Who Buy Sex, Phase 1 Report, Victoria, Ministry of the Attorney General B.C., 1996.

185. In 1993 London police arrested 37 men and youths under age 18, accusing all 37 of involvement in a child pornography ring. The reality was that only two of the 37 were involved in pornography. In the end, the other 35 were only accused of having sex with men.

186. CBC Ideas, Allen, M. (Producer), The Trials of London, Toronto, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 1994.

187. Badgley Committee (Committee on Sexual Offences against Children and Youth), Sexual Offences against Children, Ottawa, Department of Supply and Services, 1984.

188. Clark, L., "Boys Will Be Boys: Beyond the Badgley Report, A Critical Review," in Lowman, J., Jackson, M. A., Palys, T. S. and Gavigan, S., eds., Regulating Sex: An Anthology of Commentaries on the Findings and Recommendations of the Badgley and Fraser Reports, Vancouver, Simon Fraser University School of Criminology, 1986.

189. King, A. J. C., Beazley, R. P., Warren, W. K., Hankins, C. A., Robertson, A. S. and Radford, J. L., Canada Youth & AIDS Study, Kingston, Queen's University at Kingston, Social Program Evaluation Group, 1989, p. 115; see also Nelson, A. and Robinson, B. W., Gigolos and Madames Bountiful: Illusions of Gender Power and Intimacy, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1994.

190. Wong, S. K. H., Needs Assessment of Asian Sex Trade Workers in Toronto, Final Report, Toronto, Asian Community AIDS Services, 1995, p. 20.

191. See Badgley Committee (Committee on Sexual Offences against Children and Youth), Sexual Offences against Children, Ottawa, Department of Supply and Services, 1984, p. 102; see also Jackson, L., Highcrest, A. and Coates, R., "Varied Potential Risks of HIV Infection Among Prostitutes," Social Science and Medicine, 1992, 35, 3, pp. 281-86.; Miller, M. L., Strathdee, S. A., Martindale, S. L., Cornelisse, P. G. A., Hogg, R. S., Cook, D., Montaner, J. S. G., O'Shaughnessy, M. V. and Schechter, M. T., Characteristics of Male Sex Trade Workers Enrolled in a Prospective Study of HIV Incidence, paper presented to the Tenth Annual B.C. AIDS Conference, Vancouver, October 1997b.

192. Jackson, L. and Highcrest, A., "Female Prostitutes in North America: What Are Their Risks of HIV Infection?" in Sherr, L., Hankins, C. and Bennett, L., eds., AIDS as a Gender Issue: Psychosocial Perspectives, London, Taylor and Francis, 1996, cited in de Bruyn, T., HIV/AIDS and Discrimination: A Discussion Paper, Joint Project on Legal and Ethical Issues Raised by HIV/AIDS, Montreal, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, and Ottawa, Canadian AIDS Society, 1998, p. 62.

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Created: February 5, 2000
Last modified: February 5, 2000
Walnet Dan Allman
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