This book simultaneously highlights what is good and what is bad about the white tower of academia. It explores a specific topic (Amazon Afiliate link) in depth, while establishing absolutely nothing, other than the need for more research. I received a copy of this book from the publisher and received no compensation for my honest opinion.
I’m going to start with my frustrations with the book (or academia/academics in a broader context) first and then move to what they did well. What frustrated me most about the entire collection were the isolationist tendencies of the authors. In a move to over-compensate for any sort of collective or global identity (and not Western-wash everything) every single paper started out within the first few paragraphs by using the almost exact phrase of, “due to cultural circumstances, male sex workers (MSWs) circumstances in this country cannot be compared to those in any other country.” The reason this was so infuriating is that there were clearly overarching themes, sexual identity (or lack thereof), technology and public health, to name a few, that Manichiello and Scott picked out and even acknowledged. However, rather than encouraging the authors to use them to tie everything together within the papers across borders and identities, they were used to bridge each of the papers between the papers in editorial asides. Seriously, if they would’ve just taken this as a given, at least 50 pages could’ve been cut out of the book due to repetitiveness.
The only other incredibly frustrating thing deals with resources. I was perturbed by the often mentioned female sex workers (FSWs) and less often mentioned female clients of MSWs. I wish there would’ve been a section devoted to resources on where to read about FSWs and that the editors would’ve taken time to write more explicitly about what research has been done, an amalgamation if you will, on female clients of MSWs. Instead they were just sort of trivialized and cast aside after each mention.
The only other complaints I have deal specifically with the galley in that the index was not included (perhaps it wasn’t finished).There was a glossary which was somewhat useful, but considering most authors defined unfamiliar terminology I’m not sure it was the most useful addition. There were also a lot of technology errors in the NetGalley conversion process, shocker right?, and the many charts and graphs did not translate well which was a disappointment as they contained a lot of information.
Those frustrations being aired, I truly appreciated the breadth of the work! Starting off with a basic history of prostitution (male and female) from ancient Greece to modernity and moving on to discussing MSWs on all six inhabited continents across dozens of countries and that doesn’t even account for all of the migrant MSWs. What I found most interesting was the numerous discussions about decriminalization versus the legality of sex work. In many cases FSWs are highly regulated, legally and medically, but in most cases these laws or regulations make no mention of MSWs and if they do, like in England, the change was so recent that there are very few services or statistics available for comparison.
The one truly innovative thing that came out of this book, for me, was Allan Tyler’s creation of the initialism “M$M”:
“I have created the initialism M$M to refer generally to men who sell sex and sexualized services to men, which highlights the transactional element of the interaction; moves away from derogatory, legalized or politicized signs; and reflects my informants’ own constructions of what is and is not “sex” or “work.” (85)
The reason this stood out to me, even 11 chapters later, was that it was another over-arching theme of all the papers. So many of the MSWs blur the line between what is sex and what is work, what is sex and what is romance that it’s impossible to separate their sex lives from their work lives in many instances.
Recommendation: Coming in at a whopping $37+ for the kindle version I’d definitely say check out your local college library. Unless you’re really interested in sexuality or sex work I wouldn’t recommend it. It is an academic work and it does drone on longer than it should. However, if you’re interested in a specific country or region this is an incredibly valuable resource, almost an index, of MSW research to date.
Opening Line: “Think of sex workers and one usually thinks of women.”
Closing Line: “One thing is certain: we can confidently say, as this book attests, that the male sex industry—which includes highly diverse men of all colors, shapes, and sizes who sell sexual services—deserves significantly increased funding for future research on the basis of public health alone. We hope this book will open new doorways to that future.” (Not whited out as this is a work of nonfiction.)