'Unemployed SA men turning to prostitution'

By Time of article published Oct 23, 2002

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By Yvonne Grimbeek

The lack of employment opportunities for young white men is forcing thousands of them into male prostitution.

University students are financing their education through it, and breadwinners are doing it to make ends meet.

In Pretoria there are about 5 000 male prostitutes, most of them younger than 30.

About 80 percent are young, white Afrikaners and about 80 percent of their clients are married white men.

These are some of the findings of Unisa's Professor Michael Herbst, who has just completed a two-and-a-half year research project in the city.

What Herbst found was scary. The sex workers are exposed to up to 49 different sexually transmitted infections, plus physical violence, alcohol and drug abuse.

Besides the better known sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis and gonorrhoea, tuberculosis, ringworm and tapeworm are also transmitted.

Prostitution is there because society wants it," said Herbst.

Male homosexual prostitution is different to heterosexual prostitution because of what happens in the encounters.

Apart from anal and oral sex, which both occur in the same encounters, male prostitutes and their clients can come into contact with urine and faeces, increasing the risk of infection.

What Herbst found in his research can easily be extrapolated to every major city in South Africa, he said, particularly those with tertiary education institutions with residential facilities.

"Their clients range from lawyers to judges to military officers to ministers of religion, and 85 percent of them are married. Not all the sex workers are gay, but they provide a gay service.

"They say their clients are the most fortunate men in the world because they can go home and honestly tell their wives that they have not slept with another woman."

The money made by male prostitutes is good. A single encounter can cost from R180 upwards. There are some, called the "super callboys" by Herbst, who make up to R500 an hour.

Herbst said there are different types of male prostitutes in Pretoria: the streetwalkers who solicit on the streets and parks; the "midnight cowboys" who frequent X-rated cinemas and dark places; the men who go to steam baths; those who work out of brothels; those who advertise in newspapers; and then there are the callboys and super callboys who have solo, mobile practices.

There were a few men in Pretoria who earned five times the annual salary of a university professor, but they paid no tax or VAT, said Herbst. They accompany top executives overseas while their wives stay home.

Ultimately, said Herbst, the research was aimed at devising new legislation, because current laws outlawed prostitution and also had a disparity between the male and female age of consent, which currently was 16 for a girl and 19 for a boy.

Herbst added: "The industry has to be regulated in the interest of public health... we can register sex workers so that they can have regular medical check-ups and register as taxpayers."

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