Male Sex Work and the Law: Regulation of Men Selling Sex within the Context of Female Sex Work

Thomas Crofts, Alice Orchiston

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Criminal law in the United Kingdom and Australia has traditionally taken a gendered approach to sex work. Sex work laws were drafted and applied mainly with female workers in mind. This approach results from the idea that male sex work and male homosexuality are indistinguishable, as well an inability or unwillingness to frame male sex work within the dominant models of female sex work. Male sex work has largely been regulated through laws that criminalize male homosexuality without identifying whether sexual activity between men involved sex work. While some sex work-like laws have applied to males at certain points in history, they were directed more at male homosexuality than at male sex workers. For a period, provisions of the Vagrancy Acts (in the United Kingdom) and laws in New South Wales (in Australia) prohibiting male solicitation were used interchangeably with laws criminalizing male homosexual sex acts. The middle of the nineteenth century saw the development of an increasingly visible male homosexual subculture and increased scientific interest in homosexuality, as well as an increasingly punitive approach toward male homosexuality and male sex work. When male homosexuality was decriminalized in the second part of the twentieth century, sex work laws were not expanded to cover male sex work, partly because residual criminal laws could still be used to regulate public male homosexual conduct and male sex work. The increasing shift to online-facilitated sex work has reduced the imperative to regulate sex work and has made regulation more difficult. Recent laws intended to combat online sex trafficking have also affected male sex work. The question remains: Will this impact remain incidental, or will sex work laws seek to more strongly regulate male sex work?
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of Male Sex Work, Culture, and Society
EditorsJohn Geoffrey Scott, Christian Grov, Victor Minichiello
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781003152835
ISBN (Print)9780367716035
Publication statusPublished - 22 Apr 2021
Externally publishedYes


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