chapter  11
19 Pages

The gender of trafficking, or why can’t men be sex slaves?

WithKerwin Kaye

Discussion of sex trafficking has been notable for the way in which it has generally excluded significant mention of male victims. While scholars have pointed toward stereotypical notions equating manhood and invulnerability in accounting for men’s invisibility, this explanation fails to examine the gendered nature of sex trafficking discourse itself, further missing the highly emotive elements that lead away from a subjective identification with the moral and sexual plight of male victims. For a variety of reasons what I term the anti-drama of male rape generally results in a story that is ‘better left untold’, one whose disturbing emotional content differs dramatically from the melodramatic and significantly eroticised narrative of ‘female sexual slavery’. The goal of simply recognising that men and boys are victims of sex trafficking is revealed as not only unfeasible, but undesirable, as the melodramatic requirements of the discourse make it incapable of identifying the actual needs and issues faced by the vast majority of sex workers, even those in situations of extreme exploitation and coercion. After detailing the likely consequences of including men and boys within the sex trafficking narrative I point toward interventions rooted in complex narratives that eschew the simplistic binaries of melodrama as a better way forward.