Fun Facts About Male Prostitution Through The Ages

tumblr_ljitngNG0K1qcbo2no1_500A new book was recently published that takes a look at the role of male sex work as a component of cultural history. Appropriately titled Male Sex Work and Society, the collection of essays and studies takes on the subject from fields including public health, sociology, psychology, social services, history, filmography, economics, mental health, criminal justice, geography, and migration studies, and more.

In their writeup about the new book, HuffPo provided this handy trivia digest about the history of men charging for sex:


  • Roman Emperors Caesar and Nero were bottoms. For rich and titled Roman men, it was culturally acceptable to keep a “concubinus” — a slave to service them sexually before marriage.
  • In fifteenth-century Florence, it was not uncommon for young men (12 to 20 years old) to engage in long-term sexual relationships with rich benefactors, many of whom were surprisingly young, often in their 20s. And the parents approved!
  • In mid-1600s Japan, “kabuki wakashu” male actors were often prostitutes, much sought after by male and female patrons for their beauty. It was common for Buddhist and samurai warriors to have sex with their young male apprentices, in much the same way that Greek noblemen were permitted to have a sex with the youths they were mentoring–as long as the relationship was educational, not purely sexual.
  • The tradition of soldiers selling sex to gay clients dates back to the early 1700s and continued well into the twentieth century. In “barracks prostitution,” hustling soldiers frequented their own bars, worked “soldiers’ promenades,” and regularly initiated new recruits into hustling.
  • Oscar Wilde referred to sex with the young working-class male prostitutes (ages 16 – 20) he favored as “feasting with panthers” because “their passion was all body and no soul.”
  • Popular in America and Europe at the turn of the nineteenth century were transvestite male hustlers known as “fairies.” Some worked in all-fairy brothels and saloons, others worked in female brothels as exotic offerings for male clients, and still others worked the streets, either on their own strolls or on strips known to have a mixed menu of hustlers on display
  • In the late 1800s, London’s Cleveland Street Affair exposed a male prostitution ring run by young teenage messenger boys from the Royal Post Office. None were charged in the bust, as the court decided the boys were too young to know better.
  • In 1899 New York City, hustler bars proliferated on the Bowery near Fifth Street (Little Bucks, Columbia Hall), Bleecker Street (The Slide), and West Third Street (The Golden Rule Pleasure Club, favored by transvestite hustlers).
  • During the Depression, around 1932, so many men took to prostitution that the “straight-acting” hustler became the new norm on more popular strolls (also walked by down-and-out soldiers), pushing out the effeminate streetwalkers known as “fairies.”
  • As homosexuals became more visible and identifiable due to gay liberation, straight or straight-acting hustlers began to fear selling sex to other men, because by doing so they’d be identified as a homosexual. Not only did they reject “self-identifying” as gay, but even gay hustlers knew they could not identify as such without turning off their gay clientele, who far preferred straight trade. The upside was that with gay liberation, gay men began buying sex from other gay men instead of straight hustlers who recoiled at the thought of being identified as gay.

h/t: HuffPo

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  • NG22

    Thanks for the fun facts, Huffpo. Anyone have any interesting escorting stories?

  • Chris-MI

    “Caesar and Nero” makes no sense. Nero was one of many Caesars. It’s a title. I’m curious to know which other Caesar is meant here. Being a top was pretty much acceptable in Roman times. But if you didn’t stop bottoming after your beard came in you were considered a sissy. And oral was considered degrading and unhealthy so only slaves were supposed to do it.

  • pressuredrop


    I took it as a given that whenever somebody refers to “Caesar” without specifying, they’re talking about Julius.

    Interestingly, though, he is considered to have been a “dictator”, not an “emperor”, so I guess Augustus is a good guess too.

    Anyway, I found the bits about military soldiers in semi-recent history acting as prostitutes to be fairly unexpected. I’ve never understood the fixation on military men, as warfare, and in particular modern warfare, conjures a lot of images that are particularly un-sexy.

    And I know that the S&M and similar communities have traditionally embraced military themes, but I thought that was just a uniform/authority thing.

  • pjm1

    I suppose by Caesar it is meant Julius Caesar. And, Caesar MAY have had one
    affair with a man in his life though it is not clear at all from historical records.

    Adrian Goldsworthy (Ph D Oxford) a well known historian and author of “Life of a Collosus”
    (Julius Caesar), in his researched book states, “The story that Caesar became
    Nicomedes lover persisted, but it is impossible now to say whether or not it was
    actually true. . . . Perhaps the nineteen year old [Caesar] did feel and succumb to
    an an older man – experimenting with his sexuality . . . If so, then this was the only
    occasion on which this happened, for it is absolutely certain that homosexuality did
    not play a part in the rest of Caesar’s life.”

    I happen to reading the book . . . which has a great deal of detail/footnotes, etc.

  • vive

    @pjm1, “If so, then this was the only occasion on which this happened, for it is absolutely certain that homosexuality did not play a part in the rest of Caesar’s life.””

    Absolutely certain? I guess the humanities have different standards of “certainty” than the sciences.

  • vive

    @pressuredrop, “I’ve never understood the fixation on military men, as warfare, and in particular modern warfare, conjures a lot of images that are particularly un-sexy.”

    I agree that warfare is unsexy, but I don’t think that is what most people are thinking of when they eroticize young in-shape and fit men in uniforms that emphasize masculinity and who live in all-male environments. And military-themed porn has very little overlap with S&M porn.

  • bobbyjoe

    Since Nero had the boy Sporus forcibly castrated before he married him, it would seem Nero was probably more of a top.

    And also pretty much a monster.

  • pjm1

    @vive: I agree that it is quite a leap for
    Goldsorthy to make.

    Godsworthy may have been better served by saying that despite
    the significant historical record there is no record or commentary of Caesar engaging with other
    men in a sexual relationship and there is a great number of historical documents
    discussing Casear’s many and repeated heterosexual affairs. Caesar, even before his rise,
    was quite a womanizer and took great delight in bedding the wives of the rich and powerful.
    Caesar obviously was a man of enormous charisma (cause we all know who he is etc etc).

    Caesar was teased throughout his life about the “relationship” with Nicomedes — whether it
    occurred or not. Caesar always denied it.

  • Smiggles

    If I remember correctly, there is a graffito in Pompeii referring to Julius which translates as ‘He is the man of all women, and the woman of all men.”

  • Kernos


    Certainly Elagabalus both as Caesar and as Augustus. I assumed the author meant Julius Caesar, but your point is well made. Hadrian I assume was a top. OTOH, versatility was and is a plus!

  • Daveliam

    A follow up “fun-fact” about the Cleveland Street Affair: The teenage messenger boys weren’t running the brothel, they were the prostitutes. There was an adult man who was their pimp. The reason why this scandal was so notable was that several very prominent British men were named as clients. The most famous? Prince Albert Victor, Queen Victoria’s grandson and second in line to the throne at the time. He apparently bought his way out of the press. He never married, but died young from complications from influenza and pneumonia.

  • blackberry finn

    @pressuredrop: or the salad

  • NateOcean

    I like the part where the male prostitutes in Tampa raised their rates to temper the high demand there during the Republican Convention in 2012.

  • stanhope

    @pjm1: given the nature of sex itself, nothing is ever absolutely certain

  • stanhope

    @Daveliam: This makes far more sense….teenaged boys running the business seems hard to swallow :-)

  • enlightenone

    @Smiggles: This describes some bisexual men though it wasn’t a self-identifier during that time.

  • enlightenone

    @stanhope: And they would quickly be out-of-busines if they didn’t swallow!

  • Black Swan


  • Cmasong

    Do you know what is really funny, the average male entering SEX TRAFFICKING is 12-14! Most are homeless, hooked on Drugs, engage in survival sex, less likely to use protection because “johns” don’t like it. As a result of this life style their life expectancy diminishes drastically. Why Is that not mentioned as a “Fun Fact”. This is how most male sex workers start out. Who cares about the mis-statements regarding any of the Caesars?

    • enlightenone

      @Cmasong: “As a result of this life style their life expectancy diminishes drastically. Why Is that not mentioned as a “Fun Fact”.”

      Because it’s a TRAGIC fact!

  • Maude

    I guess he meant Julius Caesar after whom all others were called ‘Caesar’.

    Read “The Twelve Caesars” by the historian, Sautonius. (not sure about the spelling)

  • isafakir

    @pressuredrop: there’s something archetypically “masculine” about men in the military or any uniformed professions, plus thee probability of greater fitness, plus the expectation of greater sexual need for all the social reasons such as low pay, absence of female company, and peer pressures, plus fantasization of killing violence danger. All kinds of stereotypes would be behind the fantasization of military men. Navy and seeamen are considered to be more likely enculturated into same sex activity. Wherever men ar found in groups, there is greater expectation that men would engage in exploitative sex. an acquaintance of mine doing his one year military service in Turkey was stationed neear Istanbul where I live and he offered me himself and 3 buddies for a weekend fling with me as the party favor at the small price of US$150 plus the $200 a night hotel room and I was considering it. But their commander apparently restricted him to base for some other minor infraction. Turkish recruits are not allowed cell phones or civilian clothes and another friend of his told me he was in the brig for a week. The idea of being at the mercy of four fit young 19 year old straight Turkish soldiers was an fantasy hard to resist but circumstances saved m from myself and the likely regrets.

  • Maude


    “He is every women’s husband, and every mans wife.”…So says Sautonius.

  • Maude

    I knew a gay fellow in NY who dressed as a construction worker (hard hat, etc) and would go to the many construction sites, and hang out in the area until a gay guy
    propositioned him with cash for sex.
    He claimed to do very well.

  • Maude


    Read Mary Renult’s books.
    A novelist as well as an historian who happens to be a lesbian.
    She is considered a great Greek and Roman historian.
    Her books, most especially “The Last Of The Wine” are fiction, but
    her descriptions interleaved of the places, morals, etc are praised for
    her accuracy by noted Greek and Roman historians.

  • Billy Budd

    @Maude: I absolutely ADORE Mary Renault. The LAst Of The Wine is one of my very favorite books.

  • jwtraveler

    @Chris-MI: You pedantic ass; you know exactly what he meant.

  • moldisdelicious


    They never mention that though because for some weird reason, there’s this idea in the gay community that any criticism or naysay about sex is shaming or wrong.

    I’m so sick of this glorification of sex as if it’s the only thing that matters in the life of a gay man. Since when did prostitution, prostitutes and etc get so high regards in the gay community where we make them out to be heroic like they’re fighting against homophobia when theyre basically promoting it. Let’s stop please.

  • sweven

    Can you please cite your sources?? I have studied the subject and during the roman empire it was acceptable to have same sex relationships, BUT IT WAS NOT OKAY for a roman to be penetrated by anyone much less by their slaves….

  • KiwiJello

    I find it amazing what people are willing to do as long as the wording is appealing to them. “Gay”, “straight trade”, “DL”, “married”, etc… You are still just two men engaging in sexual activity.

    I recently had a sexual encounter I felt shouldn’t have happened, but did because we convinced each other we were going to have a relationship, then we “broke up” the next day. Was all about those words. The end result was the same, just more unneeded drama attached.

    Men are bizarre creatures…

  • EquesNiger

    I think there is an author somewhere who once claimed that of the first 15 Roman emperors, Claudius was the only one whose taste in love was “correct”.
    There isn’t any historical evidence that Julius was a bottom that i am aware of, beyond some politically motivated slander. There is mention of him topping or raping Augustus, but the rumor could also have been politically motivated (bottoming, as written in other comments, was regarded as demonstration of major character flaw).
    Funny the absence of mention of Elegabalus, who was what we would today call Transgender, and whose assassination by the Praetorian Guard was in large part due to his “nonconformity”. It spawned the Spanish word heliogábalo means an extremely decadent person.
    Hadrian was another one – he was so devoted to Antinous that he named Antinopolis after the guy.

  • Clark35

    @KiwiJello: I’ve never dated or gotten involved with any guy that’d DL/Down low; but a friend of mine dated a man that was gay and on the DL and he said that guy was deeply closeted, and had certain rules like how my friend could not park his car near his house on dates or other stupid things…my friend said how this guy was way too much effort for nothing so he stopped dating him.

  • Clark35

    Typical queerty, glamorizing male prostitution. Oscar Wilde was bisexual and a pederast, but Harvey Milk who was gay was a pederast/chickenhawk and into teen boys which is sick, wrong, and disgusting.

  • jwtraveler

    @Cmasong: I’m not sure about your “facts” and it’s not quite accurate to say someone ‘enters’ sex trafficking. That sounds like it’s a choice, which by definition it isn’t. Nevertheless, sex trafficking is clearly a serious problem which doesn’t get the attention it deserves. None of this explains why the NYPD and Homeland Security wasted millions of dollars to bust Rentboy.com, a business that serves consenting adults engaging in mutually beneficial activity that hurts no one.

  • Finrod

    Gallias Caesar subegit, Nicomedes Caesarem:
    Ecce Caesar nunc triumphat qui subegit Gallias,
    Nicomedes non triumphat qui subegit Caesarem.

    I guess that I’ll skedaddle over to BBC for breaking news on that terrorist attack in the Teutoburg Forest.

  • glennmcbride

    @Billy Budd: I read the King Must Die by Mary Renault when I was about 14 and then devoured all of her books. My favorites were the Persian Boy and the Mask of Apollo. I cried when she died.

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