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Once a person had decided to start sex work, the agency ensured that he had many conversations with the manager, as well as with other escorts, to provide education on how to behave and interact with clients. For example, new escorts would often be paired with more experienced escorts for calls when a client requested more than one MSW at a time.

A Social-Cognitive Analysis of How Young Men Become Involved in Male Escorting

This allowed in-vivo observational learning by seeing how various attitudes and beliefs played out in real situations with actual clients. Collectively, through observational learning and conversation, new escorts were able to develop personal models for sex work in terms of language, actions, and normative behaviors and attitudes.

Nearly all escorts who stayed on the job after seeing more than a few clients grew in their self-confidence—what social-cognitive theorists have termed self-efficacy. Demonstration of self-efficacy in this dataset took the form of MSWs stating increased confidence in their ability to perform their job functions as they gained experience actual or vicarious with clients.

A Social-Cognitive Analysis of How Young Men Become Involved in Male Escorting

Work role obligations for escorts at the agency took two forms: Self-efficacy developed in both areas. Physical labor in sex work involved having sex and engaging in other erotic activities e.

Fifteen escorts Escorts who rated themselves as having good sexual skills also tended to believe that they possessed strong interpersonal skills in relating to clients socially and tended to enjoy sex more in general. These men also possessed higher self-efficacy beliefs when starting on the job, and most expected that sexual labor would result in positive outcomes with respect to their goals. Gay and bisexual escorts tended to display increased self-efficacy and comfort with sexual behavior as they already knew what to do and how to do it based on previous life experience.

What many gay and bisexual MSWs did not know how to do, however, was integrate social behavior and sexual behavior with paying customers— men who escorts might not normally have entertained as sexual partners.

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Thus, gay- and bisexually identified MSWs became more sexually confident as they gained self-efficacy with being able to converse with clients, understand client needs, and manage the social interactions before and after sex. Heterosexually identified escorts also had to learn how to negotiate these situations, but they also needed to learn how to have sex with other men. Nonetheless, as heterosexually identified MSWs gained in their ability to navigate the social situation of the client call, they too grew in their sexual self-efficacy with clients. At least one-half of the MSWs said that the development of greater expectations for social and sexual self-efficacy was necessary to continue with the job.

Without such expectations, one might not believe himself capable of having sex with clients. Successful escorts did develop increased sexual self-efficacy with time:. I guess that would be the best way to explain it. Over time, many participants said they improved their sexual behavior or found ways to increase their motivation to have sex with clients. Twenty-five This facilitated their entry into sex work. However, when the question was changed to ask about their initial comfort level with escorting, the majority of escorts Many escorts reported that sex work seriously conflicted with personal values they originally thought would be more accommodating.

Once faced with the actuality of seeing the first few clients, many escorts found their thoughts and feelings were much more negative than initially predicted. It just felt dirty. Reporting such discomfort may have helped escorts to manage the stigma and stress associated with sex work, decreasing the disconnection they may have initially felt between their behaviors and values. Nonetheless, most escorts learned to deal with these issues, although some men chose to stop working for the agency or to see fewer clients than they had originally anticipated in response to their affective reactions.

New escorts also had difficulty having sex with clients due to a lack of attraction and arousal. Most clients were not individuals to whom escorts would typically be physically attracted in their personal lives. Age and physical characteristics e.

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Many MSWs underestimated the impact of lower attraction and arousal when they had initially considered escorting, but found it to be a significant problem once seeing clients. MSWs developed a number of coping strategies to manage such work-related stresses, such as having sex with undesirable partners. Escorts would often dissociate when having sex with a client.

In doing so, an escort could separate himself from an experience he found to be unpleasant. Further, MSWs would often employ cognitive coping strategies, such as self-talk. Escorts frequently reasoned with themselves that their high pay made less desirable aspects of the job more bearable. Last, escorts relied heavily on social support from other MSWs and the agency manager when managing work-related discomfort. MSWs frequently talked with each other about clients and their experiences with them. They shared stories, exchanged ideas for managing stresses and dislikes, and learned how to provide better customer service while engaging in less sexual behavior.

For example, many escorts did not like to kiss clients or engage in anal sex for pay. When possible, the manager helped his employees by finding them clients who would be satisfied within such limits. Through such coping methods, escorts gained a sense of mastery that, as noted earlier, allowed them to structure their work in a way that was more congruent with their own preferences and morals. Behavior and self-confidence interacted to allow men to create a more acceptable work situation and an increased comfort level with sex work.

MSWs reported that the most comfortable work environments were those in which they exercised the most control over what occurred. We have argued that our data are consistent with a social-cognitive perspective of male sex work.

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Instead of only emphasizing character or environment deficiencies as the proximal routes into escorting, our data suggest that, at least for most people, more normative forces may be operating. Social-cognitive theory explains functioning as the simultaneous interaction among external environmental , internal cognitive , and behavioral factors such that each area mediates both of the others.

Behavior operates on the environment by influencing the experience of incentives, disincentives, and even of various situations themselves. The environment provides context and information for behavior in that it is the stage on which behavior takes place. Together, these two processes influence decision making by providing the raw material for perception, offering choices among various behaviors and contingencies. Sex work becomes an option when expectations generated by previous behavior—environment interactions match current circumstances, as long as these also mesh with other cognitive structures such as self-concept, morality, and self-efficacy.

Our data suggest that the synchronization of these factors is central for a decision to enter sex work. Similarly, self-efficacy is negatively impacted when confidence decreases in being able to successfully perform behavior. As we have seen, this occurs as a result of moral conflict or a lack of attraction to potential clients. An MSW might also experience decreased self-efficacy should he be unsuccessful in negotiating the social—sexual relationship with his clients.

Repeated failure at these tasks would create negative expectations about his ability to perform on the job. A young man would believe himself to be less capable of performing sex work under those conditions and, therefore, would be likely to choose to terminate this behavior, despite opportunities for gain. Our data support the interpretation of bi-directional linkages among cognition, behavior, and situation as required by a social-cognitive perspective. Further, the escort interviews provided evidence for the operation of self-efficacy and outcome expectations—key elements of the cognitive portion of this model.

These factors represented interactions of the three core elements in the social-cognitive model, perhaps located in the reciprocal functioning of these areas, rather than within a single discrete domain. For a young man to consider sex work, he must first recognize the opportunity to do so.

Yet, this was not a sufficient condition for entry into sex work. Many individuals possess such information without ever seriously considering prostitution let alone initiating sex work. It is further unlikely that men in dire financial circumstances first consider sex work as a viable option to earn extra income. Although the data strongly point to income as a primary motivator for sex work, the downsides of the job were substantial. For most men, the downsides to sex work overrode the need for money. Thus, although the environmental contingencies i.

This leaves the cognitive domain as the source of potentially key variables for initiating male escort work. We propose that decreased commitment to psychosexual norms represented one important cognition relative to such a decision. Given knowledge of the opportunity to enter sex work and familiarity with sexual behavior needed for the job, we suggest that one must be able to overcome social stigma, concerns regarding self-concept, and lack of attraction to paying partners in order to begin working as an MSW.

However, many escorts indicated the idea of selling sex was personally offensive and inconsistent with their morality and identity, and said that they would never want other people to know about their work. Should one hold these beliefs too strongly, we believe that even a lucrative job like escorting could not supersede such constraints. In contrast, holding such beliefs less strongly could allow the extrinsic pull of a good income to override concerns regarding morality and identity. Decreased commitment to traditional norms was one way that this process occurred among many of the escorts with whom we spoke.

Our data also suggested that sexual orientation may have mediated the effect of decreased commitment to traditional norms. Most escorts working for the agency identified themselves as gay or bisexual.

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The more one conformed to an overt heterosexual identity, the more previous legal involvement appeared in their histories. Commitment to community standards, especially among the heterosexual escorts, may have already been weakened by other life experiences, again making it relatively easier for them to begin work as escorts. Although previous research has emphasized the role of delinquency and criminality in male sex work see Scott, , we believe these models exclude other mediating factors e.