If Reddit has proven anything about itself, it’s that it’s the perfect modern confessional—an online sanctuary where men can both share their innermost truths, and see who can concoct the most outlandish, entertaining fake personal stories. Nowhere is that quality on better display than this thread about what it’s like to be a male prostitute.
“When I was 19 years old I traveled to NYC for a week and visited Shake Shack a few hours after arriving,” reads the most popular response in the thread. “A man behind me overheard my conversation and asked me if I had any friends or family in town. … He told me that I was handsome and he wanted to help me out by having me stay at his place. … He told me he wanted me to walk around his apartment naked and just spend time with him while he wasn’t working. He paid me $500 a night.”
The discussion erupted last Friday on /r/AskReddit, a Reddit forum where users pose a simple question to the masses with the hope of eliciting a slew of interesting responses. “Male sex workers of Reddit. How do your clients look and what is your most and least common request?” the entry asked. The topic was labeled “[Serious]” as an attempt to ward off any trolls (although it looks like that didn’t work).
The responses read like diary entries taken from different points in Midnight Cowboy, the 1969 John Schlesinger film about Joe Buck, an aspiring young gigolo who begins his whoring career full of hope, only to discover that the market for straight male sex workers is infinitesimal and ends up destitute.
Judging by the Reddit responses, the most common form of male sex work doesn’t even involve committing a sex act. Rather, it’s getting paid to let other men commit sex acts on you.
“When I did prostitution it was mostly older men who wanted to simply suck me off. Seriously, $80 to suck me off, buy me some drinks and hang out for an hour,” writes Reddit user Atotallyrandomname. “Not really the brightest part of my life, but it was easy money.”
Another commenter describes a remarkably similar arrangement with his former sugar daddy, whose patronage helped the commenter get into the black. “I escorted exclusively for just one man. I was a uni student, he was married with kids,” he writes. “He would come over and suck me off, that’s it. Our sessions never lasted more than 10min and I never sucked him. Started off as £80/bj, eventually went up £160/bj. … It lasted for three years and I easily made at least £600 every month. Paid off all my student loans and I’m now debt free!”
None of this is particularly shocking — until you get to all of the respondents who maintain they’ve been hired by women. That’s when the bullshit nature of Reddit seems to kick in. At least according to the facts and strong anecdotal evidence.
The consensus among sex work experts is that the demand for straight male prostitutes is so much lower than the demand for female or gay male prostitutes as to be virtually nonexistent. And according to a 2012 column by renowned sex and relationships expert Dan Savage, the straight male gigolo is a “myth,” a pop culture construction created by HBO’s Hung and the Richard Gere film American Gigolo. As proof, Savage quotes a male prostitute, Dominick, who had only one female client in his three years working as a stud-for-hire in New York. “There are many more men clamoring to be gigolos than there is actual demand for gigolos,” Dominick says. “There is no gigolo industry.”
And yet, the men of this Reddit thread badly want you to believe otherwise.
One of the more credible accounts comes from Ryan James, a popular Australian pornstar and sometimes high-end escort, who says he exclusively caters to female clients. “The most common type of booking is just one that involves a fair bit of talking and sex,” he writes. “Nothing overly kinky with my clients for the most part. Sometimes there’ll be a bit of light bondage involved, tying someone up, blindfolding them, using toys and perhaps some light spanking.”
Another man (username KingOfCon) claims to have even more success catering specifically to middle-aged women in China:
“The clients were usually wealthy, high-end women over 35 years of age. … The most common requests would either be:
– Dinner at a fancy restaurant, followed by drinks in some VIP Lounge, followed by spending the night at her hotel room.
– Being her date at an event, her showing you off to her friends, basically acting as her boyfriend for the night. Then spend the night at her hotel room.
– Go directly to her hotel room, have sex, then leave.”
And Reddit user jakeWolfe87 says he got paid for a time to go down on larger older women he met off Craigslist.
Supposing these stories are bullshit, the question becomes why men would put so much time and effort into thinking about what being a prostitute might be like and spin an elaborate yarn about that imagined experience.
No one can pretend to understand the unique particularities of the male mind, but after more than two years of trawling Reddit, I think I’m qualified to venture a guess: Never underestimate a man’s ability to overstate his sexual prowess, and the lengths he’ll go in service of that lie.