If a stereotype is a long held belief about a specific group of individuals or a certain way of doing things that may or may not accurately reflect the present reality, both the gay community of Sydney and the Australian sex worker community are frequently at the mercy of popular stereotypes that can have a powerful and often unpopular impact on those concerned.
Such was the case for Australian sex worker and happily gay male Cameron Cox who after coming out for a second time would find himself on the wrong side of the stereotype highway with no clear sign of a pedestrian crossing. After confiding with some of his closest gay male friends on the topic of his chosen profession, instead of support, understanding and a shoulder to lean on, Cameron Cox would find out the hard way that the long held belief had a better hand than anything he could throw down. "That was it, I was socially beyond the pale", he recalled with a tinge of sadness and regret that perhaps the community that he had called home for so long had deserted him in his toughest hour under the weight of prevailing social stereotyping.
Cameron Cox who, in fact, joined the leagues of the sex worker more than 30 years ago, was forced to swallow the bitter pill of realization that in modern day Australia, and likely in many other foreign countries, male sex workers regularly face a particular brand of discrimination and stigma on account of their chosen job description, and once such widely accepted stereotypes are formed it can be almost impossible to break away from the negativity and disapproval that is part and parcel of the process. "There are so many myths and they are so deeply ingrained. We're not very bright, that's why we do this, or we're vectors of disease, or we're all doing this to support our drug habits" laments Mr. Cox, such hurtful projections that are for the most part way off the mark.
The irony is, believe it or not, that the statistics compiled by the Sex Workers of Australia research committee indicate a higher incidence of transmitted STIs and diseases within the general populations of Australia’s tier 1 cities of Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide, than within the male sex worker community of the same regions. In the same way that the serious, professional golfer lovingly cares for and maintains his clubs, irons and wood, Cameron Cox terms the phenomena as "protecting the tools of the trade". Likewise, the Australian sex worker community regularly displays lower reports of illegal drug use level than the public average that is with the exception of nicotine and tobacco, “a quick fag is a good fag” confesses Mr. Cox who currently occupies the position of chief executive of the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP).
Destigmatising the Gay Male Escort Stereotype
"People assume you're same-sex attracted, well you might or might not be. People assume you have HIV, that you're effeminate. It's a job, we're people who run our own small business" Mr. Cox adds. A degree of change it appears would be welcomed of a nature that normalised and explained the untinted reality of modern sex work. Many sex workers across the state who are operating legally still face this kind of stigma and discrimination, including a certain prejudice from landlords or building body corporate whether or not they were actually conducting sex work on the premises.
To protect the good intentions of individuals all across the country who have had a Cameron Cox moment or moments, the type of regurgitated and or easily accepted myths like these will soon come under the scrutiny of a brand new website to be launched later this month, which is directed at supporting sex workers while re-educating an increasingly impressionable population on the many nuances of our social norms and at the same time providing some carefully researched information for health professionals, politicians, the media and the families and friends of the sex worker community. The site in question to be very aptly named aboutmaleescorting.com is a world-first creative collaboration between Australian researchers and adult lifestyle advocates, with much generous and extensive input from both the local and the international male sex work community. The site will strongly lobby for among other things the decriminalisation of sex work and also for a more official brand of recognition from local governance and relevant government departments etc. With a mailing list so far exceeding 300 individual male sex workers and growing the results will be much anticipated.
The site will include information spanning health, technology, the law and marketing as well as new research findings and first-person accounts from sex workers and others involved with the sex work industry. Reliable, evidence-based information will form the bread and butter of the project tapping into the growing independence and professionalism of the male escort industry. An end game to reduce and de-stigmatise male sex work and aggressively advocate for the workers. "Male sex workers face a double stigma because same sex relationships are stigmatised and sex work is stigmatised" explains Mr. Cox. Some widespread national research has also revealed that Australia now has in excess of 20 websites promoting male sex workers and male escorts including the high end outfit ‘Heroes by Samantha X’ making waves in Sydney’s Eastern suburbs since 2015/16. The majority of these agencies or boutique brothels will often cater exclusively to male customers although several cater specifically for female clients as latest research indicates a growing number of women in Sydney are splashing out on male escorts. This in itself challenges the other much celebrated and revered stereotype of the candid use of hookers as being a classic, predominantly male vice. Newsflash Sydney!