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I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Monday, 13 March 2017

"Rent Boys" by Michel Dorais

This book is based on an academic study of forty young male prostitutes in Quebec and Montreal. The author has also written the equally readable Dead Boys Can't Dance, a study of male homosexuality and suicide.

The 3 most common arenas for male prostitution are street hustling, stripping and escorting. On average they were twenty when they started sex work. Nearly half said they were gay, the others were more or less evenly divided between heterosexual and bisexual. On average in North America one in 6 boys are victims of child sexual abuse but over half the prostitutes reported such. Many were unsuccessfully fostered or adopted because of unstable family backgrounds. The vast number were ill educated, only 5% attending university and none graduating. Most or all of their clients were male although sometimes they had threesomes.

There are four groups of people involved: prostitutes, clients, entrepreneurs (eg owners of clubs etc, pornographers, drug dealers, hoteliers etc) and judges. The book also categorises the rentboys themselves into four types:

  • Outcasts: often younger men, usually destitute, often runaways from difficult childhoods and nearly always addicted to a substance; they are living from day to day, usually street hustling. These boys have very low self-esteem: "I see myself as a garbage can that's been soiled, washed, bleached, but it's still dirty" (p 37)
  • The Part-Timers are often heterosexual men who are using sex work to supplement their income; they often have a family  from whom they keep this work entirely separate. They usually work in the 'higher status' stripping or escorting and they almost always insist on safe sex.
  • The Insiders grew up in the sex trade, often having a parent who was a prostitute. Thus, sex work is normal and it gives them a sense of belonging: "the street is yours, it's your playground, it's a part of your life." (p 41)
  • For the Liberationists "prostitution is a way of living out fantasies, exploring new experiences and partners, and profiting from those discoveries." (p 41) But they may become disillusioned: "We're paid for dreams, and we wind up living in a world of dreams." (p 42)


  • "rent boys are seeking adventure and, especially, ready cash, but they find themselves in an activity in which idealism and disillusion lock horns. Though they may lack the features and physique of cult film idols, they have learned to act as if they possessed them. In fact, the male prostitution market is a universe shot through with illusions. Fantasy reigns supreme, whether deliberately cultivated by sex workers in order to entice their clients or projected by clients onto the young men whose services they hire." (p viii)
  • "Prior to the emergence of the homosexual/ heterosexual dichotomy in the public mind, male-to-male relations were, as in antiquity, considered acceptable from the vantage point of the active partner." (p 15)
  • "Poor youths, finding themselves unemployed and destitute or simply unable to find female partners, have willingly prostituted themselves to men." (p 16)
  • "Intimacy and virility are what the client requires ... hence the young hunk, muscles rippling from bodybuilding, heterosexual in appearance even though he has sex with other men." (p 21)
  • "everyone is involved in watching each other. Sex workers have to attract clients ... they keep a low profile with respect to police or local residents. Clients clearly put a premium on discretion." (p 23)
  • "All forms of sex work - street hustling, stripping, escorting - are trades learned by contact or apprenticeship with more experienced individuals, for example family members, peers, or clients" (p 26)
  • "Clients are brutal with me at times, especially the big tough ones. They get violent when I suck them off. They hold my head and jam their dick down my throat until I choke. When I have anal sex, some of them try to hurt me on purpose, as if they wanted to bust me open." (p 27)
  • "Street hustlers ... are easily identifiable ... by the way they lope along the sidewalk trying to entice potential clients: 'It's all in the body, the attitude, the posture, especially the look in your eye,' ... For others, the clothing and what it suggests count for a good deal." (pp 27 - 28)
  • "Mutual masturbation costs less than oral sex, which costs less than anal sex or 'extras' such as sadomasochistic relations." (p 28)
  • "You have to have short hair, wear nice clothes, be really clean, and sit there like you're part of the furniture." (p 29)
  • "make sure the client undresses first, so as to examine his body ... ask the client to put the money on the night table in advance so as to avoid any misunderstandings." (p 29)
  • "Strippers are paid a minimal base wage for their stage show and earn extra income by offering various services. ... First the stripper begins to undress to rhythmic music, baring his torso or somewhat more. He then performs a slower, more lascivious dance to a ballad, undressing completely or almost." (p 29)
  • "Surveillance is claimed to be vigilant so as to prevent acts such as genital fondling or fellatio that are illegal in public, but the reality is that the darkness of the room, the amounts of money changing hands, and the guards arbitrary judgement militate in favour of more relaxed enforcement." (p 30)
  • "No stripper will say he turns tricks, not even me, and I do. Nobody wants to be taken for a hustler. The guys want to preserve their male image." (p 31)
  • "It is no exaggeration to say that strippers watch their clients as much as their clients watch them. Most strippers consider their own attractiveness to be a function of their gaze as well as their physique." (pp 32 - 33)
  • "The merciless reality of the male prostitution market dictates that popularity waxes and wanes as a function of ephemeral traits such as youth, beauty, and physical fitness. Therefore, mobility tends to be downward with age." (p 35)
  • "If you want to hustle, you can't love yourself. It looks like an exchange of services, but basically what you are is a garbage can for society ... You're immediately overcome by drugs, violence, rejection - it all comes with the territory. It's inseparable from prostitution." (p 45)
  • "No employer acknowledges their experience as having any value; on the contrary, most perceive it as something negative, degrading and contemptible. Where the job market is concerned, these men are usually better off keeping their past a secret." (p 86)
  • "even those who had ceased their sex-work activities remained in or on the periphery of prostitution." (p 87)
  • "Sex work ... offers no easy exit." (p 87)


This is a fascinating study of a hidden world and it is extremely well-written. March 2017; 100 pages

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