Social and cultural norms often assume men and boys to be inherently strong and/or invulnerable to sexual exploitation. As a result, sexual violence against men and boys is often ignored in programs and policy, with the efforts of organizations providing for the needs of male victims often left under-supported. Among the studies that have been conducted on males, most have primarily focused on sexual health, seeing males as agents of their own lives and careers, and largely ignored holistic needs and vulnerabilities. This study attempts to take a holistic approach to understanding the needs and vulnerabilities of young males working in the sex industry in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and provide a baseline of information in order for social service providers to better understand them and provide adequate services.
Structured interviews focused on a number of key areas including: stigma and discrimination, financial security, sexual health and history, experiences of violence, substance abuse, and emotional well-being. Key vulnerabilities to sexual violence and exploitation include ethnic minority/immigration status, family dependence on income, alcohol and drug use, early entry into the sex industry, and complicit government and law enforcement officials towards trafficking and exploitation. The research uncovered significant numbers of trans-border migrants from Myanmar, as well as the high numbers of respondents migrating from tribal areas in northern Thailand. Within the working environments of participants of this study, the research finds a high dependency on tips as the sole source of income, seemingly increasing respondents’ frequency of meeting buyers of sexual services. Violence and sexual abuse was found to be common among some groups, with one in four respondents reporting instances of being forced to have sex against his wishes, and the vast majority (72%) of those working within bar based establishments reporting the same. Two clear cases of child sex trafficking were identified, with an additional one in five of total respondents reporting entrance into the sex industry at ages below 18. This indicates a high prevalence of child sex trafficking in Chiang Mai among males within the sex industry. Substance abuse was found to be a significant issue among many respondents working within bars—particularly among those working as freelancers, or individuals not directly employed by an establishment.
The findings of this study, combined with increasing evidence and global visibility, should lead to recognition from the Thai government, United Nations (UN) agencies, and donors that sexual exploitation of males does exist and needs attention. Additionally, we recommend the development of more assistance programs for young males and their families to secure alternative employment and aid in obtaining identification cards and citizenship, along with further research–particularly qualitative–on younger boys living off of the streets and engaging in survival sex.
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Davis, Jarrett D.; Glotfelty, Elliot; and Miles, Glenn (2017) ""No Other Choice": A Baseline Study on the Vulnerabilities of Males in the Sex Trade in Chiang Mai, Thailand," Dignity: A Journal of Analysis of Exploitation and Violence: Vol. 2: Iss. 4, Article 10. https://doi.org/10.23860/dignity.2017.02.04.10