In a survey, Grov found that the men advertising on the site don’t identify as escorts.“This is not a community of sex workers,” he told Fusion. “Someone who just needs to pay the rent.” Someone like James—who took up his side job when finances got tight. “I didn’t want to give up on that dream, and now I don’t have to.” He’s grown to value the work he’s doing for his clients: “I now see it as a beautiful thing.” While casual sex workers’ primary motivation is earning extra cash, many also see the work as having larger value.“It’s more like I am able to make someone happy and stress free, and they’re willing to pay me,” he said.Over the past few years, researchers who study the sex economy say they’ve seen a rise in gay men who sell sex on the side like it’s no big deal—and for these men, it’s not.“One night can pay my rent for the month,” the 18-year-old told Fusion.James, who requested we change his name to protect his privacy, isn’t a prostitute—at least, he doesn’t consider himself one.His student loans came due, and he wasn’t making enough to pay them off.
Craigslist, where James finds many of his clients, is another popular exchange for part-time sex work, said Christian Grov, an associate professor of public health at Brooklyn College who has studied male sex work extensively.They see it as a form of care work, akin to being a therapist or masseuse.“The way that these guys approach what they do is not strictly commercial.Michael, who also requested that we not use his real name to protect his privacy, said he escorts to pay for school.“I am a biology student, I am a certified nurse’s aid,” he told Fusion, “but I have loans to pay off.” He said he’s held a variety of jobs—sometimes three at a time—working in hospice care and nursing homes. Michael said sex work wasn’t part of his original plan—it just happened.
The trend, according to researchers, can be traced to the explosion of social networking sites combined with a less-than-stable job market, along with increasingly permissive cultural views toward casual sex.