The lost boys of child prostitution

For some people, sexually exploited boys and men are like unicorns. Some people may claim they saw one, but no one really believes unicorns are real. Unfortunately, sexually exploited boys and men are real. Thousands of them are abused every year, yet one would be hard-pressed to find any mention of them.

However, the majority of people involved in the sex trade are not involved by force. Many of them get into the trade as a means of survival as they often have no other way to support themselves. Recently, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan conducted a study on youths working as prostitutes. The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in New York City study came up with some unexpected results:

From that data, they were able to put a number on the total population of New York’s teen sex workers: 3,946.

Most astonishing to the researchers was the demographic profile teased out by the study. Published by the U.S. Department of Justice in September 2008, [Ric Curtis and Meredith Dank’s] findings thoroughly obliterated the long-held core assumptions about underage prostitution:

• Nearly half of the kids—about 45 percent—were boys.

• Only 10 percent were involved with a “market facilitator” (e.g., a pimp).

• About 45 percent got into the “business” through friends.

• More than 90 percent were U.S.-born (56 percent were New York City natives).

• On average, they started hooking at age 15.

• Most serviced men—preferably white and wealthy.

• Most deals were struck on the street.

• Almost 70 percent of the kids said they’d sought assistance at a youth-service agency at least once.

• Nearly all of the youths—95 percent—said they exchanged sex for money because it was the surest way to support themselves.

The results listed in the Village Voice article are surprising because they fly in the face of what the researchers expected to find. Continue reading