Reply Fri 2 Sep, 2005 04:46 pm
Paul Andrew Bourne, B.Sc. (Hons.); Dip. Edu.

Commercial Sex Workers


The concept of sex work emerged in the 1970's through the prostitutes' rights movement in the USA and Western Europe and has been discussed in various publications (Kempadoo, 1999). Troung's (1989) study of Prostitution and Tourism in the south East Asia produced one of the first extensive theoretical elaborations on the subject. Defining human activity or work as the way in which basic needs are met and human life produced and reproduced, she argued that activities involving purely sexual energy should also be considered vital to the fulfillment of basic human needs: both for procreation and bodily pleasure. Troung introduces the concept of sexual labour to capture the notion of the utilization of sexual elements of the body as a way of understanding a productive life force that is employed by men and women. She proposes that sexual labour be considered similar to other forms of labour that mankind performs to sustain itself - such as mental and manual labour, all of which involves specific parts of the body and particular types of energy and skills (Kempadoo, 1999).

Sex work in Jamaica, as in most other societies, exists in some shape or form since the beginning of time. Its appeal as an area for in - depth social scientific research is, however, more recent. Henrigues (1963) explored its manifestation in Jamaica during slavery, post - emancipation and the early twentieth century. In all three periods he found that sex work offered women an opportunity to improve their lot through sexual liaisons with white men or because of the potential it provided during the post - emancipation period for women to earn an income in declining socioeconomic conditions (Kempadoo, 1999).

Socio-economic factors
Various sector studies (Endoc 1994, Ross - Frankson 1987) together with newspaper articles in 1998 have supported the view that sex work provides an alternative income in declining socioeconomic conditions. These reports point to an idea largely unsupported by the fact that an increasing number of younger women and men are entering the trade as economic hardships increase. Nevertheless, a fast growing tourist sector and further declining economic conditions have facilitated an increase in female and male prostitution (Kempadoo K, 1999). Since the early 1970's, islands such as Barbados and Jamaica have become well known destinations for female tourists. (Karch & Dann, 1981) posits this as "Close encounters of the third world" kind. Males, mostly young, cruise the beaches in search of unattached tourist women. They are known as "beach boys". They are usually identified by their tight muscle T-shirt and cropped pants.

Pruitt and Lafont (1995) have provided a fairly detailed account of female tourist and "Rent - A - Dread" in Jamaica in an article entitled "For Love and Money: Romance tourism in Jamaica", Rent - A - Dread is the Jamaican equivalent of Barbadian Beach Boys. However they differ from the Barbadian beach boys in a number of ways. They are for the most part unemployed, have less formal education and are mostly migrants from rural areas living in shacks on "captured land" (squatters) around the tourist resorts towns as Ocho Rios, Montego Bay and Negril. Their long dread locks easily identify them. Rent - A - Dreads are familiar fixture along the beach strip. They do this an attempt to solicit tourist women. They are very adept with the lyrics in attracting the women.

The various music festivals in Jamaica (Reggae Sunsplash, Sumfest, Eastfest, Rebel Salute, Sting and Heineken Star- time) attract tourists from around the world, mainly from North America, Europe and Japan. Female tourists who are traveling alone or with other female friends find it advantageous to connect with these Rent - A - Dreads not only to serve as a "culture broker" (Pruitt & Lafont, 1995) but also to negotiate taxis and tickets to the various shows, ward off persistent vendors and assorted hustlers and generally to provide added security. In return for these services, the tourists provide food, drinks and tickets to the music festivals, movies, transportation, gifts and money. If they are looking for sex as well, there are greater expectations regarding gifts and money.

Commercial sex work is not always a steady activity. Commercial sex workers supplement their income by other paid activities such as informal commercial trading (higglering), vending, modelling and housekeeping among others. Sex work does not offer any long-term guarantees. In Jamaica for example, it is still an illegal activity and the sex workers operate very covertly. There is a high element of danger connected with the activity. That is, fight for turf or even the consumption of illegal drugs. Sex work is commonly just one of the multiple activities employed for generating income, and very few stay in prostitution for their entire adulthood (Kempadoo, 1998).


Street and working children are a particularly vulnerable group to prostitution. These children lack family and social support. (Dunn, 2001) posits that small boys between the ages of 6 and 17 years were most exploited. They did not have the protection of adult family members or institutional environment for support and as such were exposed to extreme economic deprivation and abuse. Those involved in sexual activity were between 12 and 18 years. The majorities were from very poor backgrounds and were out of school; although a few attended school regularly Dunn, (2001).

Adult homosexual males were the main clients of adolescents. However, some adolescents had female prostitutes. Their inability to meet certain basic needs made these boys desperate and severely reduced their ability to bargain with adult clients. Some become involved in prostitution because of a perceived lack of financial opportunities. Adults who exploited their needs and dependency coerced some boys into sexual activities. Reports of boys engaging in sexual intercourse in exchange for a basic meal of a patty and a box drink were not uncommon. Risks of physical violence from peers on the streets and others were also high because of Jamaica's strong homophobic culture. Adolescent involvement in homosexual relations are sometimes very covertly done, thus making them invisible to other children involved in prostitution and were less accessible for rehabilitation and support (Dunn, 2001).

The "toy boy" phenomenon is an emerging form of prostitution in Jamaica. Schoolboys are enticed by gifts and other monetary rewards from older women for sexual pleasures. These women sometimes pick up the boys at school on Friday afternoons and keep them for the entire weekend while engaging them in various types of sexual activities, then taking them back to school on Monday mornings. The boys are showered with expensive gifts of jewellery, brand name sneakers and expensive clothes. They are sometimes taken to the North Coast for vacation. This practice occurs with boys who are less supervised at home or living on their own while one or both parents have migrated. There are instances when this behaviour occurs in homes where both parents are present. Some parents are aware of the alliances and are even accepting of it. Others are completely unaware of what is happening because of the ingenious methods that the boys employ to cover their tracks (Researcher's observation).

Although often hidden and frequently denied by political and community leaders, men sell sex to other men in many countries. Young men and boys are more likely to be involved in sex work than older males. Many different motives underlie men's involvement in sex work. While money is usually the driving force, some young men, particularly in cultures where sex between men is strongly abhorred, sell sex because that is the only way they can find male partners, or because they do not acknowledge to themselves their attraction to other men. The younger the male sex worker is, the less he is to be able to protect himself from HIV infection because of his inability to negotiate condom use. The lure of payment, physical or emotional force from the client, or the craving for a drug which the money will buy, can force young men to agree to sex without a condom. Older more experienced sex workers are likely to have the confidence and assertiveness to negotiate safer sex.

Factors influencing initiation
Robinson, Bain, and Thompson (2001) were concerned that a number of boys were being sexually abused on Jamaican streets. Klao Bell, in an article entitled, "Street boys feel the brunt of sex crimes" discussed the plight of street boys. She cited a number of observed incidents where men pick up the boys in expensive automobiles. It is extremely disturbing that the Rape and Juvenile unit of the Jamaica Constabulary Force has had no report of these incidents. It is obvious that occasional patrols are not enough to protect these adolescents/youth from sexual abuse (Gayle, 2002).
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Sahil (1998) in a research report on adolescent reproductive health states that the prime age for male prostitutes in Pakistan is 15-25 years. It is likely that less is known about the working environment and specific problems because of the social taboo for boys admitting to sex with male clients are even greater than for girls. Preliminary findings of Sahil's research into male child prostitution in northern Punjab show that children are usually runaways who are coerced by local hotel owners in urban centres to exchange their bodies in return for board and lodging. This points to the reality that children and adolescents have limited skills to rely on to support themselves if they need to do so. Prostitution is often the most practical and lucrative means of achieving this. Children as young as eight years were found working as male prostitutes. There are similarities here to what occurs in Jamaica, seen in Dunn's research on children in prostitution.

Another practice, common in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) Pakistan but not yet the subject of much formal research, is Bachabazi, or older men keeping boys as their sexual partners. A man who wishes such a partner will select a boy, usually fair of skin and in his early teens. He will slaughter a goat in front of the boy's house to publicly demonstrate his choice. From that point on, the man will be responsible for the education, clothing and general care of the boy in return for sexual favours. Needless to say the boy himself lacks decision-making power in this institutionalized and socially accepted form of sexual abuse. The study concluded that there was a high prevalence of male sexual abuse and commercial sexual exploitation of children in NWFP and that the social norms such as bachabazi helped to perpetuate the widely tolerated practice of adults keeping young boys for sexual services.

Stephen-Claude Hyatt (2001) believes that in Jamaica, the modern prostitute is no longer only female, as there are a growing number of men and children who have either worked their way in, or forced into the sex work industry. The reality in the Jamaican society is that children have been encouraged or forced by their parents to sell their bodies for money and favours. Many Jamaican women, for years have been content with the understanding that their teenaged daughters are sexually involved with mature men, old enough to be their fathers, in exchange for taking care of the family. What is not known is that there are Jamaican women who will send their daughters and sons out nightly to prostitute themselves and take home the money. Many of these children are not allowed back into the home unless a certain amount of money is made nightly (Hyatt, 2001).

Quite a few of these children, some of whom are boys, have to sell their bodies to older men in order for the families to survive. The boys have to perform sexual acts with the men, some of whom take advantage of them without paying. The dilemma here is that some of these children may be exposed to HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STI). Many of them admit they do not use a condom as some of the men do not want to use the condoms. This practice has caused severe emotional and psychological problems for the adolescents/youth because of careless parents and care givers who have become pimps instead of providers (Hyatt, 2001).
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Reply Sat 3 Sep, 2005 12:11 am
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