And Boys Too: The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Boys in the US


Highlights from ECPAT-USA’s paper about the forgotten many: sexually exploited boys

–Special thanks to Chris Anderson of

On 30 March 2013, ECPAT-USA, a policy organization that fights against the commercial exploitation of children, released a groundbreaking and desperately important report titled “And Boys Too.” The entire report can be downloaded as a PDF directly from their website. Here are some take-home points:

(1) “Most significantly, responses from service providers clearly indicate that the scope of CSEB (commercial sexual exploitation of boys) is vastly under reported, that commercial sexual exploitation poses very significant risks to their health and their lives; that gay and transgenders are over-represented as a proportion of the sexually exploited boys; and that there is a shortage of services for these boys.”

(2) “The John Jay College and the Center for Court Innovation study The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in New York City in 2008 estimated that as high as 50% of the commercially sexually exploited children in the U.S. are boys.”

(3) “The invisibility of men and boys in scholarly discussions of the global sex trade was analyzed through a sample of 166 recent articles published in social science journals. Most failed to acknowledge the existence of male sex workers at all. When male sex workers were discussed, they were assigned considerably more agency than female sex workers, the chief danger ascribed to them was HIV rather than violence, and the question of their sexual orientation was always addressed, whereas female sex workers were always assumed heterosexual. The results are discussed in the context of world system theory, Orientalism, and heteronormativity.”

(4) “Policy makers and practitioners who are concerned about the growth of CSEC (commercial sexual exploitation of children) markets need to account for and respond to all of the youth that are swept into it, yet there is scant discussion about boys, and no services for them at all.”

(5) “The majority of buyers are men, mostly white and middle or upper class, professional and married, although some are women.”

(6) “In other categories, such as the age boys enter the life and their race and ethnicity, anecdotal information suggests that boys can enter the life at a similar or even younger age than girls, between 11 and 13 years for boys and young men compared to 12 and 14 years for girls and young women.”

(7) “Of the 40 informants contacted, 18 reported they would serve boys. Of 37 who have provided traffic-specific services, 15 said they are willing and able to serve CSEB and 10 already have provided services to boys. Looking only at organizations specifically focused on CSEC, the numbers are even lower: Only 4 out of 25 will serve boys and only two organizations provided services to more than five CSEB.”

See More in Social Justice

See Also: The Forgotten Many & The Other 20%

–Photo: epsos/Flickr

About Cameron Conaway

Cameron Conaway is a former MMA fighter, an award-winning poet and the 2014 Emerging Writer-in-Residence at Penn State Altoona. He is the author of Caged: Memoirs of a Cage-Fighting Poet, Bonemeal: Poems, Until You Make the Shore and Malaria, Poems. Conaway is also on the Editorial Board at Slavery Today. Follow him on Google+ and on Twitter: @CameronConaway.


  1. For a half-dozen years I’ve been reading the vignettes about desperate boys that Tim Barrus tells. I’m just south of the Canadian border in Montana next to a reservation. Calgary is our closest major city — maybe Lethbridge. I’ve heard the stories from boys visiting those cities since before HIV-AIDS, long before today’s apocalyptic concerns. The boys who told them — or maybe just hinted — always saw their visits as great adventures that they narrowly escaped and felt that “they alone escaped to tell us.” A kind of rite of passage. The suffering and the statistics were suppressed. Denied. Now the shadows are creeping towards all of us. Even tough guys can’t beat a virus.

  2. Michael Rowe says:

    Thank you, Cameron, as always, for shining a light on essential and otherwise-neglected topics—this one being a perfect example.

  3. I cannot thank everyone enough for pausing for a moment to support the courageous survivors who are raising the quality of life for all their peers still left behind in appalling conditions.
    “The compassion of these kids is breathtaking to witness” Rachel Chapple.

  4. There was a fairly in-depth study on boys in the sex trade in Alberta:

    I wrote about it on my blog ( I have meant to try to look into men who choose to enter the sex trade.

    • Hi Adam
      Thank you for this link. I read the report and it was good.
      I will use It when I meet the silly arguments about happy prostitutes…

      • My advice is to let any prostitutes decide for themselves whether they are happy or not and not try to depict all as one or the other.

        • Yes, Tamen, that was my point with the last sentence. There are sex-trade workers who choose the profession (porn and exotic dancing are also in the sex-trade). When I spoke with other professionals in this area, one pointed out that the article focused on those who were essentially forced into the industry by life circumstances and not those who chose it. I will try to find a video she sent me on the subject.

          • I urge my adult peers to focus on the boys whose lives are changed forever in the sex trades (survival sex work, sex trafficking). These children are in urgent and immediate need of assistance. I say children because that is what the kids are legally classified as and as such have few human rights. Turning the focus in one of the few public forums discussing the sex trade in boys towards whether adult males have the right to choose or not to choose to do sex work is missing a valuable opportunity to call for support and funding that simply does not exist and leaves thousands of boys being sexually abused every day and every night. I urge everyone to ask : what exactly happens to the boys when they are “rescued” “detained”. Mandatory reporting hurts the kids hard… they are failed in foster care systems, juvenile detention systems, immigration holding and processing centers (no right to legal counsel or representation, no access to trauma programs or appropriate medical care)…

            • You are right. I won’t say anymore about the issue of adult sex workers here.

              As for what happens when these kids are “rescued”/”detained” there seems to be a quite clear gender gap (from my comment higher up in the thread):

              It is also depressingly predictable that the police is more likely to arrest male juvenile prostitutes and more likely to refer female juvenile prostitutes to other authorities, such as social services agencies

              And unfortunately we also know what adults do to boys and girls when they are being held in juvenile facilities:

              8.2% of males and 2.4% of females reported sexual activity with staff

              Of the 1,390 youths who reported victimization by staff, 89.1% were males reporting sexual activity with female staff and 3.0% were males reporting sexual activity with both male and female staff. In comparison, males comprised 91% of adjudicated youth in the survey and female staff accounted for 44% of staff in the sampled facilities.

        • Hi Tamen
          You are right.
          But since I live in a democracy I can vote for the political party that made it illegal to buy sex. And I will continue to do so. It is still not illegal to sell sex where I love, only to buy. I support that.
          The day may come when I change my mind. That will the day when we have no trafficking ,no survivers of sexual abuse selling sex,no persons addicted selling,and when the seller and buyer is 100% equal .

          The day men and women treat sex worker with dignity and respect,bring them home to mum for Sunday dinner like all other friends,let them baby watch. Introduce them to family and friends and say:” meet my sex worker”. That day I will reconsider my views.

          So you see Tamen dislike things the way it is now.
          Sex as something hidden ,secret , shameful thing is not good.

        • Hi Tamen
          What is your problem?
          You see I read the whole report.

          Why shall I invalidate what the prostitues tells us in that report?
          Do you know better than them?

  5. Hi Cameron
    Thank you !
    I need to educate myself about this.

    • Iben: Then you’ll perhaps soon will be aware of a survey’s among youth in Oslo found that 2.1% of boys and 0.6% of girls had traded sex for payments.

      • Hi Tamen

        Thank you!
        I guess this is children under 16?

        • The sample was about 10.000 pupils in schools in Oslo and covered the 14-17 age group.
          English abstract can be found here:
          Full paper in Norwegian is located here:

          Here are some more papers I located when I researched for a comment I made on this issue on a blog about a year ago.

          A Swedish study finding that from a sample of 2,323 girls and 2,016 boys (sample from the capitol, a large port city and three smaller cities) that 1.0% of the girls and1.8% of the boys had sold sex: (in Swedish)

          An American study done in Saint Louis which found that the lifetime prevalency numbers for prostitution were 4% for men and 2% for women. Cottler L, Helzer J, Tipp JE. Lifetime patterns of substance use among general population subjects engaging in high risk sexual behaviours: Implications for HIV risk. American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse 1990;16:207-22. (abstract)

          A study done in the city of Gothenburg in Sweden also found that more boys than girls said they had sold sex (exchanged sex for money or other things/favours). Here it was 11.4% of boys and 7.4% of girls. The high percentage is explained by this not being a “normalpopulation”, they used an online-survey form advertised by banner ads on two social sites and in that sense the sample was self-selected and would likely contain a higher ratio of youth having experience with sex, sexual abuse and sex sale. This one was interesting considering that 1/3 of the boys reported a female customer: (in Swedish)

          According to this UNICEF estimates that MORE than half of the 30,000 child sex workers in Sri Lanka are boys.

          Another American study analysing data from the National Incident-Based Reporting System found that Police report more contacts with male juvenile prostitutes (61%) than with female juvenile prostitutes (39%). It is also depressingly predictable that the police is more likely to arrest male juvenile prostitutes and more likely to refer female juvenile prostitutes to other authorities, such as social services agencies:

          This report cites this study: Edward, J.M., Iritani, B.J., & Hallfors, D.D. (2005). Prevalence and correlates of exchanging sex for drugs or money among adolescents in the United States. Sexually Transmitted Infections 82(5): 354‐358. as finding that 67.9% of those who said they had participated in sex exchange were males (of a national representative sample of 12,294).

          Curtis and Danks found in 2008 that 45% of underaged prostitutes in NYC were boys:

          A Minnesota statewide study of homeless youth in 2003 indicated that homeless boys are seven times more likely and homeless girls are three times more likely to have a history of sexual abuse than their housed peers:
          Owens, Greg. Wilder Research Center. 2003. Homeless Youth In Minnesota: A statewide survey of people without permanent shelter. Wilder Research Center, St. Paul, Minnesota:

          These type of findings is not something new – here are some more studies from the 1990s:
          Feitel (1992) – New York – 150 shelter using youth age 13-22:
          21 percent of the boys and 5 percent of the girls said that they had engaged in sex in exchange for ‘food, shelter, money, or drugs.

          Rotheram‐Borus (1992) – New York – 206 homeless youth age 11-18:
          13 percent of males exchanged sex for money or drugs and 7 percent of females exchanged sex for money or drugs.

          Kipke (1995/97) – Los Angeles – 409 street youth age 12-23:
          43 percent reported experience with survival sex (46 percent of young men and 32 percent of young women).

          Wagner (2001) – Seattle – 289 homeless youth age 13-22:
          47 percent of females and 37 percent of males were propositioned to sell sex.

          I noticed (exactly as the ECPAT-PAPER notes) while searching for those reports that many of the qualitative studies on male prostitution paints young underage male prostitutes as having agency (they are exploring their homosexuality etc.) in a way I haven’t seen in research about young underage female prostitutes.

    • Cameron Conaway says:

      Hey Iben,

      Thank YOU! I think we all need to educate ourselves about this. And then once we do, we as a society owe to the victims/survivors our voices, our willingness to not shut up about it for fear the issues fall back into the dangerous world of silence.


  6. Just wanted to let you know that I think you do important work with your articles.

  7. asterix says:

    This world is sick sick sick! The discussion about children in commercial sex needs to continue and broadened so we all, male,female,gay,straight, and every other subgroup of humanity realise we’re affected and therefore we all need to give a damn to do something.


  1. […] asked for citations and I looked into it (the following is an amalgam of this comment at FC and this at The Good Men […]

Speak Your Mind