Technology is changing the face of the Australian sex industry

Published 30 April 2013

Professor John ScottResearch being conducted at the University of New England is challenging current stereotypes of male sex workers and the clients who use their services and showing significant extension of the industry into regional areas.

In a recently published article in The Journal of Sex Research, UNE School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Science researcher Professor John Scott and his colleagues document how sex work has increased its geographic and client reach in recent years.

Professor Scott said the research shows male sex workers are a widely diverse group.

“Male sex workers are frequently in their 20s and 30s, some hold university qualifications, come from diverse socioeconomic households and sexual orientations,” Professor Scott said.

“Likewise their clients are equally as diverse. They are aged in their 30s or 40s and identified as ‘middle class’ and it is not uncommon for both men and women to seek the sexual services of male escorts.

“Our research found that less than half the clients were identified as being gay and a significant number were identified as bisexual or straight’.”

The researchers argue the use of the internet is playing an important role in changing the nature of men selling sex to others.

“This is one of the major changes in the sex industry. Escort sites for both female and male sex workers are big business, with some sites attracting more hits than major industries, such as airlines,” Professor Scott said.

“We used to think about sex work as being a highly urban phenomenon, but we have seen increases in sex work in rural areas in recent years and most recently the phenomenon of fly-in-fly-out and drive-in-drive-out sex workers.”

Professor Scott argues that one of the consequences of the increased reach of sex industry services through the internet and mobile phone is that sexual services have become increasingly specialised, catering to a broader range of tastes and desires.

“The Internet and e-sexual health provides great opportunity to create healthier and safer sexual interactions between clients and escorts and opportunities to explore the diverse range of sexual fantasies found in human behaviour,” he said.

The project is now seeking to interview clients of male sex workers to learn more about the experiences of this diverse group.

“Despite evidence of significant growth in the industry, there is little previous research engaging with the clients of male sex workers,” Professor Scott said.

“If you have been a client of a male sex worker, we would like you to become involved in our study, which allows you to share your experience and speak confidentially on a toll free line 1800 885 240.”