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Book 332: Male Sex Work and Society – Victor Minichiello and John Scott (eds.)

Minichiello, Victor and John Scott - Male Sex Work and Society

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.)


10 thoughts on “Book 332: Male Sex Work and Society – Victor Minichiello and John Scott (eds.)”

  1. I considered requesting this and didn’t because I was afraid it might be too academic. It sounds as though it was very academic, but interesting anyway, so I might see if I can get it at my school library. Great review!


    1. You might REALLY enjoy it for the statistics and data! But I was just so bogged down by the repetitiveness of the numerous chapters. Other than that it was a fascinating read and broader than I hoped it would be.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi! I’m the Publisher of this volume from Harrington Park Press.

    The reviewer is correct, in that on “NetGalleys” the actually galleys are uploaded
    without the final page-proof corrections, nor the index. Because of this, we actually
    won’t be participating with “NetGalleys” in the in future. It’s too confusing.

    It was not possible to cover female sex work. The amount of research female sex work
    is easily several hundred times that of male sex work. It is better to consult the
    internet if one wishes more information in this area.

    This is an academic reference work. The reviewer is very accurate in this regard.
    It is not for the casual reader. One point not point out is that unlike most academic tomes,
    this is cross-disciplinary. You can thus read about male sex work from a multiple of disciplines
    ranging from history to marketing to psychology to criminal justice policy.

    Some other reviews are listed below.

    Everyone’s input is deeply appreciated. Thank you so much!

    Best wishes,


    Bill Cohen, Publisher
    Harrington Park Press
    (distributed by Columbia University Press)


    1. Thanks for responding Bill. It really is unfortunate about NetGalley as it’s a great resource. And you’re absolutely correct about the cross-disciplinary approach and it does add to the work.


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