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“Strive harder and don't lose hope”: sexual exploitation of male youth in the sex trade in Manila

Jarrett D. Davis (Social Researcher, Up! International, Bern, Switzerland)
Glenn Michael Miles (Up! International, Bern, Switzerland) (Oxford Centre for Mission Studies, Oxford, UK)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 25 August 2020

Issue publication date: 26 May 2021




The purpose of this research is to understand the vulnerabilities of male youth in the sex trade in Manila, Philippines. Using purposive and a modified respondent-driven sampling methodology, interviews were conducted with 51 young males working as masseurs in the Metro Manila area exploring a wide range of their experiences and vulnerabilities throughout the work including physical, sexual and emotional violence. The mixed method, mostly qualitative research is based on similar surveys conducted throughout the South and South Asia regions.


Research on sexual exploitation of boys and men has largely focused on sexual health and prevention of HIV (Human Rights Watch Philippines, 2004). This research uniquely focuses on a broader range of vulnerabilities for males in the sex trade.


Qualitative discussions reveal instances of forced sex that can take a variety of forms, including physical force and/or violence or coercion involving bribes, verbal abuse or other forms of pressure to provide sexual services. Data also demonstrate stigma and discrimination outside of sex work. This study provides a qualitative assessment of the broader male-to-male sex industry within the Metro-Manila area, including escort services and both direct and indirect male sex work.


For observers, who consider male sexual abuse to be free of violence or discrimination, this provides evidence to the contrary and considerations for organizations that are able to provide funding to support their needs. Education of those involved in addressing the prevention of sexual exploitation should include gendered differences.



The authors are grateful to Glen Loyola and Marlou Estrada for their assistance in conducting the surveys in Tagalog and to M.A. Singer for their contribution as a technical consultant. The authors are grateful to all the young men for their time and willingness to discuss their experiences with them and are thankful to Love146 ( and up! International ( for their generous financial support and encouragement. The authors are thankful to Eliza Piano for last minute copy editing.


Davis, J.D. and Miles, G.M. (2021), "“Strive harder and don't lose hope”: sexual exploitation of male youth in the sex trade in Manila", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 41 No. 5/6, pp. 689-706.



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