Methods of Male Sex Work Research: Recommendations and Future Research Opportunities

Methods of Criminology and Criminal Justice Research

ISBN: 978-1-78769-866-6, eISBN: 978-1-78769-865-9

ISSN: 1521-6136

Publication date: 26 August 2019

Abstract

Purpose – Exploration of the methodological aspects of male sex work is rather limited. Without a strong methodological toolkit to draw from, research in male sex work will not be able to accurately capture changes in the dynamic sex work environment. Thus, the author provides a comprehensive review of methods in male sex work along with a broad spectrum of methodological insights through which future research can be advanced.

Keywords

Citation

Kumar, N. (2019), "Methods of Male Sex Work Research: Recommendations and Future Research Opportunities", Deflem, M. and Silva, D.M.D. (Ed.) Methods of Criminology and Criminal Justice Research (Sociology of Crime, Law and Deviance, Vol. 24), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 85-99. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1521-613620190000024009

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019 Emerald Publishing Limited


Introduction

Recent studies in male sex work have centered on the transitioning of the field from a paradigm of deviance and health risks to the provision of efficient and customer-centric service, at least in high income nations (Bimbi, 2007; Kumar, Minichiello, Scott, & Harrington, 2017; Minichiello, Scott, & Callander, 2013; MacPhail, Scott, & Minichiello, 2014). Given the expanding research agenda, one would expect methodological inquiry in the field to be extensive, providing guidance for further research. However, to the best of my knowledge, exploration of the methodological aspects of male sex work is rather limited. Without a strong methodological toolkit to draw from, research in male sex work will not be able to accurately capture changes in the dynamic sex work environment. Thus, a comprehensive review of methods in male sex work is needed along with a broad spectrum of methodological insights through which future research can be advanced. Drawing from two studies I conducted in the male independent escorting space, this chapter provides a range of methodological insights and offers avenues for future research. The recommendations and research directions proposed herein are hoped to have implications for research in the larger sex work context. Male sex work is defined as an occupation, legal, or otherwise, where a man engages primarily with other men in sexual activities, for which he receives money, other living necessities, or drugs (Browne, Jamieson, Minichiello, & Marino, 1998). Male independent internet-based escorting refers to a more specific form of male sex work, where men operate independently on the internet, without a manager or brothel. The structure of the chapter is as follows. First, methodologies in the male sex work arena will be detailed. I then give a brief overview of my research and provide methodological suggestions and avenues for future studies.

Methods of Male Sex Work Research

The purpose of this section is not to chart male sex work research over the years, which has already been done (Bimbi, 2007; MacPhail et al., 2014), nor to provide an extensive review of methods used in male sex work. This section instead will provide a broad overview of topics and methods in male sex work research over the years. Though a critical evaluation of the methodological research, I advance that the understandings of methods in male independent escorting research are limited, thus calling for more extensive scholarship into methodological concerns and consequent recommendations for future research. Likely due to ease of access (Scott et al., 2005), early male sex work scholarship mostly focused on street workers, sometimes with only a few respondents (Harris, 1973), and institutionalized samples (Ginsburg, 1967; Humphreys, 1970; Luckenbill, 1985; Reiss, 1961). Some research gained access to participants through a contact familiar with the community (Allen, 1980; Luckenbill, 1985, 1986) or approached male sex workers in areas they frequented (Gandy & Deisher, 1970). Semi-structured interviews were conducted at settings convenient to participants (Allen, 1980; Coombs, 1974). Some early research was brief about the methods used (Caukins & Coombs, 1976; Craft, 1966; MacNamara, 1965; Reiss, 1961; Sagarin & MacNamara, 1975), unethical (Humphreys, 1970), or pathologized male sex workers (Gandy & Deisher, 1970).

In more recent times, with the rise of male independent escorting as the main mode of male sex work, at least in high income nations (McLean, 2013), there has been an increase in studies focused on this variant of sex work. Research has focused on a variety of issues, such as sexual compulsivity (Parsons, Bimbi, & Halkitis, 2001), sex education (Parsons, Koken, & Bimbi, 2004), stigma (Koken, Bimbi, Parsons, & Halkitis, 2004; Morrison & Whitehead, 2007), and even the use of social media (Ryan, 2016). Some researchers contacted participants through adverts placed in gay publications, online services (craigslist), online profiles (America Online), escort sites (rentmen.com, boys2rent.com, etc.), chat rooms, and sex worker review sites (Bar-Johnson & Weiss, 2014; Grov, Koken, Smith, & Parsons, 2016; McLean, 2013; Mimiaga, Reisner, Tinsley, Mayer, & Safren, 2009; Morrison & Whitehead, 2007). In several studies, researchers emailed escorts about the project and asked participants to call a university number if interested (Parsons et al., 2004; Parsons, Koken, & Bimbi, 2007; Uy, Parsons, Bimbi, Koken, & Halkitis, 2004). Other researchers utilized venue–day–time sampling (Zhao et al., 2011) or used a banner on an escort site and escort site e-newsletter to advertise for participants (Grov, Rodríguez-Díaz, Jovet-Toledo, & Parsons, 2015; Grov, Starks, et al., 2015), among other methods.

Apart from the more common methods of interviews, surveys, and ethnographic observations (Bar-Johnson & Weiss, 2014; Grov, Rodríguez-Díaz, Ditmore, Restar, & Parsons, 2014; Walby, 2012), several other data collection techniques have been used to explore a range of research questions. In order to understand the drivers of independent escort pricing, hedonic regression has been applied (Logan, 2010, 2016), content analysis to detail the global scope of escorting (Kumar, Minichiello, et al., 2017) and the difference in escort ads based on the gender of clientele the adverts targeted (Pruitt, 2016). Other techniques have also been used, such as, mathematical modeling to understand HIV incidence (Monteiro et al., 2015), deviant case analysis to understand instances of escorts acting counter to the behavior of their colleagues (Oselin, 2016), latent class analysis to delve into client behavior with their most recent male escort (Grov, Starks, et al., 2015), and diaries to chart sexual practices (Minichiello et al., 2000). Scholars have also designed preliminary interventions to mitigate the risks of male sex work (Kumar, Minichiello, et al., 2017; Thomas et al., 2017). Some researchers did not pay participants for their time (Grov et al., 2014; Grov, Rodríguez-Díaz, et al., 2015), while others provided a spectrum of recompense amounts, such as USD12 (Jamel, 2011), USD20 (Bar-Johnson & Weiss, 2014; Oselin, 2016), and USD 75 (Parsons, Bimbi, Koken, & Halkitis, 2005). Apart from male independent escorting, recent research has also explored other variants of male sex work, such as street and agency workers. Researchers have detailed substance use (Yu, Clatts, Goldsamt, & Giang, 2015), HIV/AIDS-relevant concerns (Sosa-Rubí, Salinas-Rodríguez, Montoya-Rodríguez, & Galárraga, 2018; Zhao et al., 2011), mental health (McCabe et al., 2011), social ecology (Ellison & Weitzer, 2016), and diversity of experience (Nureña et al., 2011) in street-based sex worker samples. Regarding recent research on agency-based male sex workers, scholars have explored the social and emotional contexts of agency life (Smith, Grov, & Seal, 2008; Smith, Grov, Seal, Bernhardt, & McCall, 2015) and sexual behavior (Smith & Seal, 2008) among other topics.

However, despite the range of topics that have been explored in male sex work, to the best of my knowledge, there still exist very few papers that review the methodological concerns that arise in the field, proposing areas of future research. Pruitt (2007) detailed whether male independent escorts were more likely to respond to emails from a researcher or a client. He indicated that deception was necessary as escorts were not likely to reply to inquiries from social scientists. Pruitt (2007) sent two sets of emails. The first set of emails stated that the sender was a professor researching internet escorts. The second wave of emails was sent from an anonymous account, asking escort rates. The response rate for the client emails was far higher than the sociologist variant. Pruitt (2007) then advanced that deception is useful for gaining access to those engaged in deviant behavior and who also have formed communal internet groups. He then further states that the unwillingness of scholars to use deception will mar understandings on societal machinations. It is possible that since Pruitt’s (2007) study, which was conducted a decade ago at the time of writing, the difference in response rates between identifying as a sociologist or a client may have narrowed, due to increasing normalization and professionalization of the field (MacPhail et al., 2014). While Pruitt (2007) provided insight on a specific aspect of male sex work research, his research does not explore the multiplicity of methods in male sex work, nor extend paths to future scholarship. Clearly, a more comprehensive review of methods is needed, with recommendations for future research advanced in a range of areas.

Drawing from interviews of 30 male independent escorts in Ottawa, Montreal, and New York, Walby (2010) detailed the methodological concerns arising from men interviewing other men about sex work. Unlike Pruitt (2007), Walby (2010) did not use deception as he did not want escorts to confuse him for a client. Before the interview commenced, multiple participants questioned whether Walby (2010) was gay. When Walby (2010) did not provide the answer participants were expecting, some respondents became upset. By providing a response in the affirmative, a sexualized rapport may occur. Walby (2010) proposed that a vague answer to questions on researcher sexuality either created avenues for broader queries on sexuality, or positioned the scholar as a sexuality outsider. Sexualization was a common thread throughout the research process, with multiple propositions for sexual favors. The sexualization often continued during and after the interviews, with escorts propositioning the researcher. Walby (2010) attempted to prevent sexualization by wearing business attire and taking an unfriendly tone when participants made inappropriate requests. While some scholars encouraged sexual activity with respondents (Lambevski, 1999), Walby (2010) suggested a professional persona to craft rigorous research. He also cautioned that when men research men, almost any gesture can be interpreted as sexual. As with Pruitt (2007), Walby (2010) provided insight into an area of methodological consideration in the field. While useful for improving interview-based studies, Walby (2010) did not detail broader methodological concerns in the field, from which a spectrum of research questions can be drawn to chart the next arc of research. Scott, Callander, and Minichiello (2014) detailed the recruitment of clients of male sex workers and the associated challenges. While such work is integral to those who research this population, the bulk of scholarship in male sex work targets male sex workers. Thus, a broader spectrum of methodological concerns in male sex work needs to be reviewed to guide the evolving research agenda.

Apart from literature focused on the methodological issues of male sex work research, scholars often detailed methodological concerns in their studies. Logan (2010), in his study on the factors that affected escort pricing, noted that a larger data source could have been drawn upon, and the possible biases with self-reported escort data. Wang et al. (2015), in their paper on the condom usage of male sex workers, recommended that smartphones could be used for disseminating information on safer sex behaviors. While such points are useful when conducting research in the field, these methodological recommendations and concerns tend to be a side note to a larger study. To guide researchers on conducting rigorous research in the area, a deeper exploration of methods is needed, along with areas of future research stemming from these techniques. The next sections will detail methodological insights that arose from my studies, along with the consequent recommendations and avenues for future research.

Interviewing Male Escorts

In the arena of the occupational features of male sex work, scholarship has been successful at aiding legitimization (Logan, 2010). However, research focusing on specific facets of the occupational area is minimal, despite male sex work swiftly moving toward a liberalized model in the Global North (Kumar, Minichiello, Scott, & Harrington, 2016). Scholarship on the occupational environment of male sex work is integral to shed light on the rapidly shifting constitution of the field. I thus conducted a study, drawing from 20 interviews with escorts in Brisbane, Australia. I explored the aspect of job success within the occupational environment, advancing that male escorting was an occupation demarcated by established markers of success, with certain characteristics needed to attain these markers. I proposed that independent escorting may be moving toward professionalization, away from modes of stigma (Kumar & Grov, 2017; Kumar, Scott, & Minichiello, 2017).

Following approval from the IRB Committee, 150 potential participants were contacted through email addresses listed on escort sites (rentmen.com, squirt.org, etc.), and the project was also advertised to male independent escorts on Respect Inc’s mailing list. Respect Inc is a non-profit community-based organization for sex workers of all genders, centered on the rights and welfare of sex workers in Queensland, Australia (Respect Inc, 2015). The email provided a link to a survey form, and participants gave their contact details. After participant details had been collected, I called interested respondents to set an interview time and location. Interviews were conducted at cafes or participant homes and averaged 45 minutes. Escorts reviewed an information sheet and signed a consent form in line with IRB guidelines. All details were kept confidential and pseudonyms used. Participants were asked whether they considered sex work an occupation, and about the role of masculinity in the occupational experience. The interviews were recorded via electronic recording devices, or only notes taken if the participant preferred. At the completion of the interview, reimbursement of AUD50 was provided. Participants were then thanked and asked if they could refer suitable friends to the study (Sanders, 2006a). Interviews were transcribed and uploaded into NVivo10 for coding and subsequent analysis.

University Administrative Issues

Most Australian universities have a two-tiered system for IRB: high-risk and low-risk (National Health and Medical Research Council, 2014). Upon recommendation of the faculty IRB officer, a low-risk application was submitted. However, the IRB deemed the project unsuitable for a low-risk classification. It was then pointed out to the IRB that male independent escorting was legal in the context and would not involve any illegal activity, and the project was then reviewed under the low-risk classification, and subsequently approved. While the IRB deliberations were not as significant as those reported by scholars of female sex work (Hammond & Kingston, 2014; Sanders, 2006b), there was still some level of delay because sex work was viewed as too risky for a low-risk classification. Although male independent escorting is becoming increasingly normalized, some IRB members either do not believe so or are completely unaware of the transition.

Although not focused on male independent escorting, Mustanski (2011) detailed the various ethical and regulatory issues that arose when conducting research on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth. To mitigate the impression institutional review board (IRB) members had of male escorting being a risky occupation, several recommendations made by Mustanski (2011) are highly relevant. By attending the meetings where the project will be reviewed, serving on the committee, publishing on participant experiences, and clarifying unclear IRB questions, researchers in the field of male independent escorting can also put forth that the field is not as dangerous as perceived, and participants are not vulnerable or in need of protection. Future research in the methodological arena can thus explore the processes by which participants are recruited, and contrast the research recruitment processes with similar case studies in more commonplace occupations such as hairdressing, and deviant ones such as street gang membership. Such research may demonstrate that the male escorting research process is more like researching a service occupation rather than a highly stigmatized activity. Such research would not only allow for greater methodological understanding, but also demonstrate to IRBs that male independent escorting is not as dangerous and maligned as originally believed.

Working with Sex Workers’ Community Organizations

I originally believed that Brisbane, population of 2.3 million, would not yield sufficient participants for the planned study. Thus, a sex workers’ community-based organization based in Sydney, population of 4.9 million, was contacted. However, the Sydney-based group stated that the research capacity had been met for the period, and they would not be able to assist. I then contacted Respect Inc, based in Brisbane, who almost immediately offered to meet us to discuss the project. Not only did they provide advice on the study, staff members present also requested to be interviewed and offered to contact those in their network to advertise the study. Male escorts interviewed expressed approval of my study, given the endorsement by Respect Inc, possibly enhancing the quality of data. Especially given that some members of sex workers’ organizations in Australia believe that recent research in the field is not reflective of the realities of escorting (Cox, 2015), it may be necessary to work with such organizations closely in order to accurately depict male escorting (Argento et al., 2016; Goldring, Westall, & Cain, 2016), as well as to create stronger links between researchers and sex workers’ organizations.

Future research can focus on developing a scale to determine whether the organization in a city will be willing to assist with male independent escorting research; based on the city size, size of the gay/bisexual population, among other factors. The next stage of scholarship can also guide scholars on how to effectively develop contact materials and overall study design in partnership with sex workers’ organizations. The possible ethical implications that may arise when interviewing escorts who, in their capacity as sex workers’ organization staff members, assisted with the project design, may also be a pertinent future study. Also, in situations where large samples are not needed, it may be more sensible for researchers to select second tier cities, in which sex workers’ community-based organizations are not overloaded with research requests and possibly more interested in assisting with the study. The male escort population in the United States is strongly correlated with the sizes of the metropolitan statistical area (Logan, 2010), and thus areas with a large population, even if they are second tier cities, can be the subject of rigorous research.

Interview Process

Some researchers wore business attire during interviews to discourage sexualization (Hammond, 2010; Walby, 2010). On the other hand, I wore casual attire, but did not receive any sexual advances. Given how the researcher presents oneself can affect the study outcome (Fowler & Mangione, 1990; Houtkoop-Steenstra, 1997), future research can be conducted where the attire of the researcher is varied (formal vs casual), to shed light on what is the most apt means of presentation when conducting male sex work research in the increasingly normalized environment.

Participants did not query my sexuality during the interviews. Only a single escort asked me a personal question; regarding whether I was nervous when conducting interviews, but this may have been an attempt to make conversation, as the participant seemed uninterested in the response. Unlike the innuendo-laden outcomes in other research (Walby, 2010), participants described their services in rather businesslike terms, such as when speaking about the skills required to be an escort:

You need time management; I know what I’m doing for the next three weeks right at this point. (Jacob, bisexual)

You need to understand social media very well; you have to have people helping you in terms of driving you or possibly even people entering your messages. (Charles, bisexual)

Some scholars (Hammond & Kingston, 2014; Walby, 2010) received suggestive messages from some participants after interviews had been conducted. However, after completing my interviews, I did not receive any unsolicited messages, except for emails from a single participant who wanted to further develop on the points he had made, regarding how escorts attempt to undermine each other’s business:

Hi, I remembered another key way that competing escorts employ underhanded tactics against each other. Sometimes they will masquerade as clients to find out unpublished information about your rates and things you do in order to make themselves more attractive to clients. It’s hard to think of relevant examples in an interview situation!

Cheers, Philip

The lack of sexualization may be due to several possibilities. Firstly, I am South Asian by ethnicity, although not by nationality. Perhaps the perceived lack of sexual attractiveness in the Australian context may have prevented sexualization (Callander, Holt, & Newman, 2015; Raj, 2011). The participant contact emails indicated the study concerned the occupational experience, perhaps only those who viewed male independent escorting as a serious occupation were interested in participating, possibly precluding those who would be more likely to sexualize the researcher from signing up. It could also be that the sample I reached was more familiar with research projects, and perhaps knew how to conduct themselves appropriately during research studies. However, given the paucity of methodological exploration in male sex work research, I cannot provide sound reasons for my interview experiences. A possible study could explore different interview styles, and the subsequent differences in sexualization and depth of data. Another study could explore how the researcher’s ethnicity affects participant responses, given that ethnicity plays a role in sexual attractiveness in the gay/bisexual male community (Callander, Newman, & Holt, 2015).

Male Escort Websites

Backed by the internet, male escorting is far more visible globally, with an increasing demand for paid male sexual intercourse (MacPhail et al., 2014). The world wide web provides an excellent venue for sex work to transition from streets to the web (McLean, 2013). The move to the internet allows for a far more competitive marketplace, where service, accountability, and protection are paramount (Kumar et al., 2016). Scholarship is needed on the worldwide distribution of male sex work to provide greater insight into the professionalization of male escorting and to shed light on the pathway to decriminalization. Give the progressive move to web-based services, I conducted a study, assembling a dataset of worldwide male escorting sites to elucidate the size, scale, and scope of internet-based male escorting. Results indicated that most websites are independent and not linked to escort agencies. Also, most of the sites cater to male escorts seeking to engage with male clientele, with many sites for female clients and couples. Escort sites are spread globally. Most websites are in Asia, Europe, and South America, with a few huge sites in the United States and Europe catering to a global customer base. I advanced that, while subject to significant regulation globally, male escorting is becoming more visible in a range of cultural contexts, as indicated by websites emerging in public sites (Kumar et al., 2016).

Where feasible, residents of nations where I was cataloging escort sites, were asked for slang terms to be used as keywords on Google. In situations where I was not able to engage local contacts, a fixed set of terms were utilized as search keywords. The terms were as follows: male sex work, male escort, male prostitute, gay for pay, rent boy, and call boy. Using Google Translate, I translated these terms into the major languages of each nation. The name of each country was also added to the indicated search terms, such as call boy Nederland. A total of 534 websites were identified, but some were excluded as upon closer inspection, they were not actually escort sites, but online forums for gay or bisexual men. The remaining 499 sites were analyzed for the following variables: agency affiliation, clientele gender, number of escorts, original nation of operation, cities covered, years of operation, language of website, site traffic, legality of sex work in nations of operation, legality of same-sex intercourse in nations of operation, search functionality, and existence of review system.

Site traffic was measured through Alexa Traffic Ranks. Alexa compiles internet traffic by logging user data. Traffic ranks are determined using the following: average daily visitors and page views over past three months (Alexa Internet, 2015). Previous scholarship has applied traffic ranks (Gomadam, Ranabahu, Nagarajan, Sheth, & Verma, 2008; Ihm & Pai, 2011) and the technique was deemed applicable for my study. About 70% of the sites I cataloged had traffic ranks. To determine whether sex work was legal in a nation, I used the United States Department of Human Rights Reports or the nation’s penal code (Department Of State, 2015). Based on this data, I put forth the following categories of legality: illegal, legal, legality varies by state, varying legality, and no laws. For legality of same-sex intercourse, data were obtained from the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association (IGLA) reports (Carroll & Mendos, 2017) or the country’s penal code. I demarcated legality into the following categories: illegal, legal, legality varies by state, and varying legality. The search functions I observed were organized into the following categories: age, sexual orientation, sexual position, penis size, circumcision, willingness to travel, and height. Similarly, the spectrum of review functions was categorized into the following groups: no review function, function available but not used, star rating system, star rating system with dropdown comment list, star rating system and full-text review, star rating system with dropdown comment list, and full-text review. The star rating system refers to a feature where users can select out of five stars to review escort services. I ensured data validity with multiple coders, who inspected data against the above indicated categories. If variations were observed between rates, discussion would take place until agreement was reached, and the variable recoded as necessary.

Accessing Websites

I cataloged escort sites on a university computer, and an IT technician, conducting routine servicing, filed a complaint. The technician felt university resources were being used inappropriately and was offended by the content. I was instructed to explain the situation to university upper management. After several conversations with the management, the complaint was eventually rescinded. While the outcome of the situation was not overly damaging, these experiences indicated that there is stigma against researching content of a sexual nature, even in a department which is known for such research. Not only did administrative staff find the research inappropriate, the university considered the complaint to be a serious one, until argued otherwise. Administrative resources were wasted, despite no serious ramifications.

Given the increasing representation of male sex work on the internet, it is essential for scholars to know whether researching this area is likely to create any administrative issues. Universities generally have systems in place to prevent access of purportedly inappropriate material, but it is not always clear whether such policies disallow researchers from collecting such data on university computers. I recommend that scholars who may view purportedly inappropriate material for their research, speak to the relevant administrative department before conducting such studies. If such research is likely to contravene IT department policy, it is advised that the researcher speak with other scholars in a similar research area at the university, to submit a formal request to change or modify IT department policy as necessary. Future studies in the methodological vein can provide guidance in this area, with a listing of scholars’ experiences with such administrative issues, and their responses to these concerns. On a broader arc, my experiences draw parallels with perceptions of the discipline as frivolous and a farce (Hammond & Kingston, 2014). Not only is it important to ensure favorable administrative policies, an attitudinal change around sex work scholarship is necessary. I suggest that researchers call for new students and hires at the university to be briefed about various areas of scholarship at the institution, with a special focus on research that can be perceived as unorthodox. Such a program would mitigate complaints about inappropriate research, and perceptions of some variants of scholarship being worthier than others.

Cataloging Techniques

The large number of male sex work websites presents some methodological concerns. I conducted a single sweep of male sex work sites, and I advise that future scholarship seeking to catalog websites engage in multiple rounds of indexing. Multiple researchers simultaneously detailing websites could be advantageous, where lists assembled by each researcher could be compared. Several nations still exist where sex work and same sex relations are illegal. In such cases, sex work websites may be purposely difficult to locate, password protected, or on the darknet. To identify such sites, local contacts in each nation is likely necessary. Developing a worldwide network of contacts is time consuming, but may be necessary if one wants to identify online male sex work in jurisdictions where the field is illegal. I suggest working with sex workers’ non-governmental organizations which have global reach. Not only would partnering with such organizations aid in cataloging low visibility online sex work, but also strengthen relationships between researchers and sex workers, improving the rigor of scholarship (Cox, 2015). Due to my limited network of contacts in the sex work space, I was also not able to identify all slang terms for male sex work globally. In nations where sex work is illegal, such slang terms may only be known to persons in the space, and not easily available online. Thus, establishing a global network of contacts would aid in identifying culturally specific terms for sex work as well.

Building on the possibility of sex work sites being on the darknet, scholarship indicates that sex trafficking may proliferate on the darknet (Hoyer, 2017; Kushubekova, Bahar, & Freeman, 2016). I am not suggesting that sex trafficking is equivalent to sex work, but that given the possible prevalence of sex trafficking sites on the darknet, sex work sites may also exist in the same space, especially in nations where the activity is illegal. In my study, preliminary searches did not yield any sites on the darknet, but with specialized tools, and collaborating with computer scientists (Yang, Liu, Kizza, & Ege, 2009), future work may do a more thorough job of indexing such sites. More sophisticated techniques of site cataloging would be useful to ensure replicability and depth. A range of web crawlers is available to catalog websites, and these can be used in future scholarship (Menczer, Pant, & Srinivasan, 2004). I made the decision not to include classified advertising sites like Backpage and Craiglist, as they are not venues primarily for listing sex work. However, recent research has indicated that a significant amount of sex work is advertised on these sites (Raphael, 2017). Thus, a means of cataloging escort adverts on classified advertising sites should be developed. As mentioned, web crawlers may be efficacious for such purposes. My analysis provided a snapshot of websites for a particular year. While cross-sectional data have their advantages (Sedgwick, 2014), I suggest adding a longitudinal study element to future research. The change in metrics over time, such as, number of escorts listed, traffic ranks, and level of service, could shed light on how male sex work markets are changing and adapting.

Conclusion

Male sex work research has focused on changing themes over the years and utilized a host of novel techniques to explore various research questions. However, male sex work scholars have rarely engaged in critical methodological review, advancing areas for future research. With the increasing normalization and dynamism of male sex work, it is necessary for research to provide methodological guidance for the next wave of studies in the field. To this end, this chapter reviewed the methods used in male sex work research over the years, and detailed the lack of research on methodological inquiry in the field. Drawing on two studies, I proposed several recommendations and avenues for future research. It is hoped that these suggestions will advance male sex work research, in line with the rapidly shifting sex work environment.

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