Diversity of male commercial sex in three Peruvian cities
C.R. Nureña1,2, M. Zúñiga2, J. Zunt3, S. Montano4, J.L. Sánchez1
1Unidad de Ensayos Clínicos en VIH - IMPACTA PERU, Lima, Peru, 2Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, Facultad de Ciencias Sociales, Escuela de Antropología, Lima, Peru, 3University of Washington, Departments of Neurology, Global Health, Medicine and Epidemiology, Seattle, United States, 4U.S. Naval Medical Research Center Detatchment, Lima, Peru
Background: Popular and even academic belief of male commercial sex (MCS) in Peru depict this practice as performed by socially marginalized people (street boys or “fletes” and transgender/transvestites) working in streets mainly for economic reasons. However, a closer view of MCS reveals this practice to be a complex, multilayered phenomenon. The objective of this study was to describe the characteristics and modalities of MCS in Peru.
Methods: Ethnographic study of MCS in Lima, Iquitos and Pucallpa. We conducted in-depth interviews with 25 key-informants (health promoters and officials, activists and researchers) and 42 sex workers, who were asked about modalities of sex work and sex practices. We also observed MCS behavior in sex work venues.
Results: Diverse modalities and venues of MCS were identified, beyond the well-known street-based forms. Sex work was practiced for multiple reasons (e. g. money, pleasure, pastime) by men from low, middle, and high-middle class. The main modalities of sex work were: private escorts (independent and agency-based), home-based escorts/“hosts”, “strippers”/“dancers”, “masseurs” and “cookers” (in primary industries). Sex services were offered in multiple venues: streets, bars, discoteques, saunas, porno cinemas, hotels, apartments, night clubs, brothels, prisons, boats and semi-rural zones surrounding cities. Sex work is commonly linked with migratory experiences. Most sex workers offered sex services in more than one type of venue and using different techniques to contact clients. Seeking and offering sex work via cell phones and the internet have been increasing in recent years.
Conclusions: Social and health vulnerabilities associated with MCS are driven not only by sexual behavior itself but also linked with specific personal, social and structural conditions. The heterogeneity of MCS identified in our study suggests a need for new, comprehensive research approaches and intervention strategies to prevent HIV and STI transmission in sex workers and their clients.
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