“Displaying Your Best Assets: The Presentation of (Sexual) Self in Male Sex Work”
[with Brian Soller and Leigh Fine]
Lecture, Discussion & Refreshments
[abstract:] Several theoretical approaches have been taken to the analysis of commercial sex work, but they are usually used in isolation. In this paper we combine performative, relational, field, exchange and intersectional theories in a unified framework to analyze the physical presentation that sex workers present to potential clients. In contrast to the majority of scholarship, we analyze the presentations of male sex workers, allowing us to make novel contributions to empirical analysis of gender, masculinity, and sexuality. Specifically, we explore the degree to which dominant social narratives related to masculinity, gay male sexuality, and race affect the presentation of self of male sex workers’ online advertisements. Drawing on a number of theoretical approaches, we posit that male sex workers adhering to traditionally masculine sexual personas will display more frontal nudity and those adhering to traditionally feminine sexual personas will display more rear nudity in their sexual presentations. We also hypothesize that this relationship will be mediated by race and physical body type. Using a novel data source that compiles content analyses of advertisements from male sex workers with detailed measures of the pictures that accompany their advertisements, we find that escorts actively cultivate a presentation of self that closely adheres to racial and gender stereotypes. Our findings illustrate how the merging of a broad base of theory can provide new understandings of both sex work and social forces’ impact on the crafting of the presentation of self and how the body becomes the personification of social stereotypes of race and sexuality.
The DISCO Research & Creative Activity Serees provides a forum for Ohio State faculty and graduate students to present their work-in-progress or recently published, performed, or exhibited work connected to issues of dis/ability, race, class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and other social differences.