Male prostitution in the arts

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The male prostitute or hustler is a frequent stereotype in literature and movies in the West from the 1960s on, and especially in movies and books with a gay perspective in which he may be considered a stock character. He also appears occasionally in popular music (like the photo spread for The Bravery), some contemporary fashion advertising and the visual arts.


The most common stereotype of the hustler is as a sexy but tragic figure. This stereotype reveals both a fascination with the hustler as a sexual object and sadness or disdain with his situation and life style. This stereotyped male hustler is often an under-aged or teen-age "street kid" or "runaway" forced to leave home because of his sexual orientation or because of sexual abuse. He is often portrayed as a drug addict or thief. The plotline frequently focuses on the crisis of leaving the trade or the street ("one last trick"), or on making enough money for an important use (a medical treatment, a gift). The climax often has one of two possible outcomes: the hustler either abandons the trade and re-integrates society, or he meets a tragic end. This tragic image of the hustler can be contrasted with the stereotype of the female hooker with a heart of gold: instead of being portrayed as someone in control and contented, the hustler is lost, homeless, broke or exploited.

In movies and books that take the point of view of the client or of a boy/girl friend who loves the hustler, the hustler is often depicted as an impossible love object who will only bring hurt or frustration. The lover may grow jealous of and disturbed by the hustler's work; occasionally the loving boy/girl friend will be drawn into the lifestyle of their hustler boy friend. Older clients who fall in love with hustlers are frequently prey to emotional (and sometimes physical) pain; this is especially true in the case of "rough trade" (where the hustler identifies as straight), and this depiction has been reinforced by several famous incidents of violence against clients (such as the deaths of Pier Paolo Pasolini and Rudolph Moshammer).

In contrast to the previous depictions, the male prostitute has also sometimes been portrayed as an idealized rebel living outside the law and free of bourgeois conventions. This almost Nietzschean image of the hustler as moral and sexual outlaw owes much to the writings of Jean Genet, William S. Burroughs and John Rechy (among others).

While less frequent in cinema and novels, the male prostitute with exclusively female clients (the "gigolo" or "escort") is generally depicted in a less tragic manner than the gay hustler (the gigolo is portrayed as older, athletic, well-dressed, etc.), and films like American Gigolo have done much to paint the character as a sophisticated seducer. This portrayal has also lead to cinematic satire (the Deuce Bigalow films).

The portrayal of the client or "john" of male prostitution in popular culture is far less codified than that of the hustler and runs the gamut from the lonely married man, the self-hating in-the-closet guy, the exploitative or endearing businessman, and even the serial killer.

The diversity of these stereotypes reveals much about each author's or director's personal view of love, sexuality, power and morality.

These stereotypes may have a basis in fact, but they should not be taken as true in all cases.

The same issues that surround male prostitution (including the financial security and social status of the young "kept" lover, the older lover's obsessions and insecurities with regards to his or her youthful love-object, the sexual freedom or moral indifference of the hustler, etc.) often appear in movies and literature that portray amorous or sexual relationships -- without prostitution -- between an older man or woman and a younger male lover, for example, in Pasolini's novel and movie Theorem, Harold Prince's film Something For Everyone (1970) and Bill Condon's film Gods and Monsters (1998).

In literature

The following novels and memoirs feature male hustlers as major characters.

Year Title Author Notes
1943 Our Lady of the Flowers
(Notre Dame des fleurs)
Jean Genet
1957 Last Exit to Brooklyn Hubert Selby Jr.
1963 The Basketball Diaries Jim Carroll
1963 City of Night John Rechy
1965 Midnight Cowboy James Leo Herlihy
1967 Numbers John Rechy
1968 My Father and Myself J. R. Ackerley
1989 Enchanted Boy Richie McMullen Memoir of a boy's journey from "abuse to prostitution" in 1950s England.
1990 Enchanted Youth Richie McMullen Continuation of McMullen's journey from "prostitution to love" in 1958.
1990 Closer Dennis Cooper
1991 Close to the Knives David Wojnarowicz First of Wojnarowicz's memoirs of his passage from abused kid to Times Square hustler to artist in New York's East Village underground.
1992 Memories That Smell Like Gasoline David Wojnarowicz Second volume of Wojnarowicz's memoirs.
1994 American Studies Mark Merlis Story of a john coming to terms with his life while recovering in a hospital after being bashed by a hustler.
1994 User Bruce Benderson
1994 Martin and John Dale Peck One or both of the characters are hustlers in several of the parallel narrative scenes.
1995 Mysterious Skin Scott Heim
1995 L'Enfant ébloui "Rachid O" Semi-autobiographic novel about a hustler in Morocco.
1996 Wonder Bread and Ecstasy:
The Life and Death of Joey Stefano
Charles Isherwood Joey Stefano was a gay porn star of the 1990s.
1996 Seven Miles A Second David Wojnarowicz (writer)

James Romberger (artist) || Vertigo Comics version of Wojnarowicz's memoirs and diary.

1996 Boy Culture Matthew Rettenmund Includes an index to the sex passages (by preference).
1996 Brutal Aiden Shaw First novel by artist Aiden Shaw, a former prostitute and porn star.
1996 Kept Boy Robert Rodi Comedy novel.
1997 Quand je suis devenu fou Christophe Donner Narrator falls for a hustler in an Amsterdam brothel.
1997 Diary of a Hustler "Joey"
1997 After Nirvana Lee Williams
Rent Boys: Hustlers & Escorts--Gay Erotic Tales David Macmillan, ed. Anthology.
1998 The Queen of Hearts: A Transsexual Romance Brad Clayton
1999 Assuming the Position: A Memoir of Hustling Rick Whitaker
1999 Suburban Hustler: Stories of a Hi-Tech Callboy Aaron Lawrence
2000 Sarah JT LeRoy Pseudo-autobiographical story of a boy hustler whose mother was a truckstop prostitute. The author was revealed to be a fictional creation in 2006.
2001 A Thousand and One Night Stands: The Life of Jon Vincent H. A. Carson
2001 Can't Buy Me Love Chris Kenry Young man drifts into the world of escorting with humorous results.
2002 Sex Workers As Virtual Boyfriends Joseph Itiel
2002 Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent David Henry Sterry
2003 Escapades of a Gay Traveler: Sexual, Cultural, and Spiritual Encounters Joseph Itiel
2005 Setting the Lawn on Fire: A Novel Mack Friedman
2006 Red Carpets and Other Banana Skins Rupert Everett Touches briefly on his past as a rent boy.
2008 Shuck Daniel Allen Cox Fictionalized memoir of a New York City hustler who dreams of becoming a writer.
2008 Murder Most Fab Julian Clary Main character Johnny started life out as a high-class gigolo.

In theater

Year Title Author Character Originated by Notes
1940 Pal Joey Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, John O'Hara
1964 Entertaining Mr Sloane Joe Orton Mr Sloane Dudley Sutton
1965 Balm in Gilead Lanford Wilson
1968 The Boys in the Band Mart Crowley "Cowboy" Robert La Tourneaux La Tourneaux reprised the role in the 1970 film version.
2005 Trafficking in Broken Hearts Edwin Sanchez

In cinema

Films with a hustler as a main character

Year Title Country Director Character Actor Notes
1961 Breakfast at Tiffany's US Blake Edwards Paul "Fred" Varjak George Peppard Varjak is maintained by a rich woman, Mrs. Failenson, who leaves him 300 Dollars after every sexual encounter. After falling in love with Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn), Varjak cuts off the relationship. Failenson offers a 1000 Dollars for a "paid vacation with your girl" and cynically suggests that a union (of gigolos) could "get all the fringe benefits" - but Varjak persists in giving up this way of life.
1965 My Hustler US Andy Warhol
Chuck Wein
Paul America IMDB
1968 Flesh US Paul Morrissey Joe Dallesandro Dallesandro hustles to buy drugs for himself and his wife.
1969 Entertaining Mr Sloane UK Douglas Hickox Mr Sloane Peter McEnery Adapted from the play by Joe Orton.
1969 Midnight Cowboy US John Schlesinger Joe Buck Jon Voight Hustler Buck forms an unlikely friendship with junky Rico "Ratso" Rizzo. Academy Award winner for Best Picture.
1970 The Boys in the Band US William Friedkin "Cowboy" Robert La Torneaux Featured in rejected ads for the film under the tagline: "Today is Harold's birthday. This is his present."
1978 El Lugar Sin Limites Mexico Arturo Ripstein IMDB
1978 El Diputado
(The Deputy)
Spain Eloy de la Iglesia Teenage hustler used by the secret police for blackmail falls for the victim. IMDB
1980 American Gigolo US Paul Schrader Richard Gere High-class gigolo is framed for murder.
1982 Forty Deuce US Paul Morrissey Kevin Bacon Conniving hustler Bacon (who won an Obie for the original 1981 off-off Broadway production) tries to cover-up the overdose death of another kid. IMDB
1983 L'homme blessé
(The Wounded Man)
France Patrice Chéreau Jean-Hugues Anglade) Winner of a César Award for Best Direction. IMDB
1983 Un Ragazzo come tanti
(A Boy Like Many Others)
Italy Gianni Minello IMDB
1987 Revolutions Happen Like Refrains in a Song Philippines Nick Deocampo IMDB
1987 Less Than Zero US Julian Robert Downey, Jr.
1988 The Everlasting Secret Family Australia Michael Thornhill Mark Lee Homosexuality and prostitution amidst a secret brotherhood. IMDB
1988 Macho Dancer Philippines Lino Brocka Pol
Macho dancers in Manila.
1988 Cop US James B. Harris Based on the novel by James Ellroy. IMDB
1990 Via Appia Germany Jochen Hick IMDB
1991 My Own Private Idaho US Gus Van Sant Mike Waters
Scott Favor
River Phoenix
Keanu Reeves
1991 J'embrasse pas
(I Don't Kiss)
France André Téchiné Manuel Blanc A boy from the provinces ends up as a hustler in Paris.
1992 Film (Fill 'em) Canada Sky Gilbert Story of a male hustler and his roommate. IMDB
1992 Street Kid (Gossenkind) Germany Peter Kern Axel Glitter A young hustler in Dusseldorf. IMDB
1992 Being at Home with Claude Canada Jean Beaudin IMDB
1992 The Living End US Gregg Araki Luke Mike Dytri HIV+ street hustler.
1992 Die Blaue Stunde
(The Blue Hour)
Marcel Gisler Theo Andreas Herder IMDB
1993 Smukke dreng
(Pretty Boy)
Denmark Carsten Sønder IMDB
1993 Hatachi no binetsu
(Slight Fever of a 20-Year-Old)
Japan Ryosuke Hasiguchi One teenage hustler in love with another.
1994 Post Cards from America UK Steve McLean Three chapters in David Wojnarowicz's life. IMDB
1994 Super 8 1/2 Canada Bruce LaBruce Semi-autobiographical.
1994 Sibak (Midnight Dancers) Philippines Mel Chionglo Three brothers in Manila, working as "Macho Dancers" in a gay bar. IMDB
1995 The Basketball Diaries US Scott Kalvert Leonardo DiCaprio
Mark Wahlberg
Based on the book by Jim Carroll.
1995 Dupe Od Mramora (Marble Ass) Serbia Zelimir Zilnik Transvestite prostitutes in Serbia. IMDB
1995 Tattoo Boy US Arizona
Amanda Tirey
C.J. Barkus
1996 The Toilers and the Wayfarers US Keith Froelich Matt Klemp
Andrew Woodhouse
Runaway hustlers in Minneapolis. IMDB
1996 Hustler White US Rick Castro
Bruce LaBruce
Monti Tony Ward
1996 The Unveiling US Rodney Evans IMDB
1996 "Tapin du soir", included in L'Amour est à réinventer France Anne Fontaine One of ten collected short films about life in France in the time of AIDS.
1996 Skin & Bone US Everett Lewis Harry
B. Wyatt
Garret Scullin
Alan Boyce
Three Los Angeles hustlers in different stages of their careers.
1996 johns US Scott Silvers Donner
Lukas Haas
David Arquette
1997 Private Shows US Blaine Hopkins
Stephen Winter
1997 A River Made to Drown In US Michael Imperioli
James Duval
1997 Star Maps US Miguel Arleta Douglas Spain IMDB
1998 Hard US John Huckert IMDB
1998 L'École de la Chair France Benoît Jacquot Quentin Vincent Martinez IMDB
1999 Speedway Junky US Nickolas Perry Jonathan Taylor Thomas A young man with dreams of becoming a stock car racer drifts into the world of prostitution in Las Vegas.
1999 Mauvaise passe France Michel Blanc Pierre Daniel Auteuil Pierre (Daniel Auteuil) leaves his family and flees to London to work on a novel. There he meets Tom (Stuart Townsend), a male escort, who leads Pierre into his underground world of sex and money.
2000 Km. 0 Spain Miguel A gigolo who services female clients.
2000 L.I.E. US Michael Cuesta Gary Paul Dano
Billy Kay
A Long Island teenager discovers his best friend (Kay) is a hustler.
2001 Circuit US Dirk Shafer Hector A hustler who's terrified of growing old.
2001 Vagón fumador (Smokers Only) Argentina Verónica Chen Leonardo Brzezicki Andrés A suicidal woman and a male prostitute fall in love. IMDB
2002 AKA UK Duncan Roy
2002 Sonny US Nicolas Cage Sonny James Franco Raised by his mother to be a gigolo. IMDB
2003 Mr. Smith Gets a Hustler US Ian McCrudden IMDB
2003 200 American US Richard LeMay New York businessman falls for Australian hustler. IMDB
2003 Un fils (A Son) France Amal Bedjaoui North-African hustler in France. IMDB
2003 Gan (Garden) Israel Ruthie Shatz
Adi Barash
Two young gay prostitutes in Tel Aviv. IMDB
2003 Twist Dodge Nick Stahl Gay-themed re-telling of Dickens' Oliver Twist.
2003 Bulgarian Lovers
(Los Novios búlgaros)
Spain Eloy de la Iglesia Kyril Dritan Biba IMDB
2004 Yeladim Tovim (Good Boy) Israel Yair Hochner Two Tel Aviv rent boys. IMDB
2004 Eighteen Canada Richard Bell IMDB
2004 Ethan Mao Hong Kong Quentin Lee Ethan Mao, Remigio Jun Hee Lee, Jerry Hernandez An Asian gay teen is kicked out of his house and forced to become a hustler for money. Soon, he meets Remigio, a teen hustler and drug dealer, and the two become friends.
2004 Sugar Canada John Palmer Butch Brendan Fehr Coming of age story.
2004 Mysterious Skin US Gregg Araki Neil McCormick Joseph Gordon-Levitt Based on Scott Heim's book.
2004 My Hustler Boyfriend Peter Pizzi Short included in video program at Newfest 2005. IMDB
2005 Dirty Little Sins US
2005 Boy Wonder US Kery Isabel Ramierez Luis Color video short (12 min) about a man living a double life as "straight male" provider and transvestite prostitute. Included in MIX NYC November 2006.
2005 The Wedding Date US Claire Kilner Nick Mercer Dermot Mulroney Woman hires male escort to pose as her boyfriend.
2005 Transamerica US Duncan Tucker Toby Wilkins Kevin Zegers Pre-operative M2F transsexual discovers she has a son (Zegers) who is hustling in New York.
2005 Breakfast on Pluto UK Neil Jordan Cillian Murphy Based on the novel by Patrick McCabe. Transvestite flees Ireland for London during the 1970s and becomes a prostitute.
2006 Boy Culture US Q. Allan Brocka Based on the novel.
2006 Can't Buy Me Love US Todd Wilson 20 min) Short film from Newfest 2006. IMDB
2006 In The Blood US Lou Peterson Gay supernatural thriller featuring a young man dating a Latino hustler. IMDB
2006 Boys Briefs 4 US Six short films about guys who hustle: Boy (Welby Ings); Gigolo (Bastian Schweitzer); Build (Greg Atkins); Into the Night (Tony Krawitz); Gold (Armen Kazazian); Rock Bottom (Mary Feuer). review
2006 Happy Hookers India Ashish Sawhny The lives of three male sex workers in India. Short film (54 min) from Newfest 2007.
2006 Into It US Jeff Maccubbin Two hustlers dealing with drugs and relationships. Film (90 min) from Newfest 2007.
2007 Before I Forget France Jacques Nolot An aging hustler reflects on his life. IMDB
2008 Cliente (A French Gigolo; The Client) France Josiane Balasko Patrick/Marco Eric Caravaca A female television anchor falls in love with an internet escort. IMDB

Other films that include hustlers

Documentary films

Year Title Country Director Notes
1967 Portrait of Jason US Shirley Clarke Interview with African-American gay hustler Jason Holliday.
1992 Maybe I Can Give You Sex? Part I Philippines
Rune Layumas
Jurgen Bruning
Examine gender roles in the Philippines and the lives of macho dancers, bar boys, and their customers.
1992 Maybe I Can Give You Sex? Part II Philippines
Rune Layumas
1992 A Kind of Family Canada Andrew Koster Profile of the relationship of a gay city councilman and his straight, street-kid, hustler, drug-abusing, HIV+ foster son.
1993 Boys From Brazil Brazil John-Paul Davidson Brazilian transvestite prostitutes.
1994 Not Angels But Angels Czechoslovakia Wiktor Grodecki About prostitution in Prague.
1996 Body Without Soul Czechoslovakia Teenage guys who prostitute in Prague.
2000 101 Rent Boys US Fenton Bailey
Randy Barbato
Interviews with hustlers who work Santa Monica Boulevard.
2006 Hooks to the Left US Todd Verow Shot on a cell-phone camera, narrated journal of a New York hustler named Nail.
Short film (75 min) from Newfest 2007.

On television

The following television programs feature a hustler as a main character:

Year Title Network Character Actor Notes
1977 Alexander: The Other Side of Dawn ABC Alexander Leigh McCloskey Sequel to Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway.
1993 Dafydd BBC Welsh boy/hustler goes to Amsterdam and meets a music teacher.
2000–2005 Queer as Folk Showtime Hunter Pushed into hustling by his mother; adopted by Michael Novotny and Ben Bruchner.
2004– Desperate Housewives ABC Andrew Shawn Pyfrom Was thrown out of his home by mother Bree, survived on the streets as a hustler.
2006– Dante's Cove here! Kevin Gregory Michael Confessed to his boyfriend that he sometimes used to accept money for sex.
2001– Trailer Park Boys Showcase Randy Patrick Roach The character on the hit Canadian mockumentary television show is an ex-male prostitute.

In photography

The following photographers, in their work, frequently use the image of the male prostitute:

See also