Prostitution and sex work is often synonymous with women. The female sex and sexual exploitations have long been associated with one another.
Sex trafficking and prostitution are a booming business in Africa and beyond. But what happens when the tables have turned and men are now joining the controversial line of work in droves?
The sex business does not exclude men. They are often lured into the profession by desperation due to their economic situations and an affinity for a high-class lifestyle, which includes fancy cars, clothes and disposable income.
Let’s examine the experiences of Martin Kyana from Mombasa, Kenya. Kyana was an altar-boy in his local church. He realized at a young age that he was bisexual.
After being thrown out of his native home, then his aunt’s home, due to sexual activity with males – one being a 37-year-old father of two, Kyana was forced to find refuge at a brothel.
He became a sex worker.
After being raped on the job and having unprotected sex with numerous clients, Kyana now has HIV.
Kyana, now a married sex worker with five children says, “I cannot tell my children that I am gay, I hope that they come and ask me when they are older, then I will be able to explain to them that I was infected with HIV and that now I am using condoms but that I didn’t always do that. I really hope that my children will not tell me that they are gay or lesbian. The life I have lived has tortured me and I have tried killing myself three times already. I don’t feel normal and I constantly ask myself, why me? Why do I feel this way? I have so many regrets, I don’t feel I can walk around with my family on the streets for fear that I might bump into my clients. I cannot go to visit my children at their schools because some of the teachers are also my clients and then that will stigmatize my children.”
Due to his line of work, Kyana does not live with his family.
Makuchu, what male prostitutes are called in Nairobi, Kenya are seeing a huge influx of business.
There is speculation that men of high economic status and those in positions of authority such as law enforcement also seek homosexual sex.
Jack is a father of one who makes a living selling sex. “Even before coming to the city, I was already into it. A friend of mine introduced me to homosexuality,” he candidly revealed.
Jack travelled from Narok to Nairobi in hopes of obtaining an opportunity to earn money.
In 2017, Osman Bashit from Accra, Ghana who used the alias Adiza was nearly severely beaten when it was discovered he was a male prostitute.
The catch is, Bashit fooled some of his customers by dressing like a woman.
A client who discovered Bashit’s gender after the two engaged in anal sex called his friends to hand Bashit a beat down for the indiscretion. Local police intervened and stopped the attack.
Cash in exchange for sexual activity is also a growing trend in South Africa.
At the time of the report, it was tallied that there were 5,000 male sex workers in Pretoria, alone.
The lineup of men turning to prostitution is wage earners to students.
Michael Herbst, who conducted the project stated, “Prostitution is there because society wants it.”
Herbst went on to say this about the male prostitutes, “Their clients range from lawyers to judges to military officers to ministers of religion, and 85 percent of them are married. Not all the sex workers are gay, but they provide a gay service.”
The business is mostly booming in coastal African cities like Accra, Mombasa, Lagos and Pretoria where tourists pay huge sums to satisfy their sexual desires with men and boys as young as 15. Many of the men and boys find solace at the beaches where they are free from attacks while they ply their trade.
It is time we all examined the reasons forcing many into a profession they rather not be a part of. It is easier to judge without having to face the situations that compel many men to become sex workers. It is easier to spot women sex workers than men, but same problems cut across the world’s oldest profession in its entirety.