Criminalization of Homosexuality: Unveiling the Historical Nexus with Male Prostitution - Essay Sample

Published: 2024-01-03
Criminalization of Homosexuality: Unveiling the Historical Nexus with Male Prostitution - Essay Sample
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Law Criminal law Human sexuality
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1440 words
12 min read

Sexuality is a common phenomenon in life and is experienced in different ways. Heterosexuality is the oldest form of it and has been widely accepted as the conventional mode of sexuality. However, other types like homosexuality, bisexual, and asexual are also existent today. The law has also been actively invoked in matters of sexuality, especially concerning homosexuality. In definition, homosexuality is a romantic attraction or sexual behavior between members of the same gender or sex. Homosexuality is illegal as per the law of some countries, while it is legalized in some other nations. The criminalization of sexuality has had a bearing in the growth and development of male sex work, as this discussion shall illustrate.

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Katz disputed the notion that heterosexuality is eternal and is as old as the story of creation. In contrast, heterosexuality began in the late nineteenth century. In the author’s view, the patterns of heterosexuality never existed in a time when people only recognized and idealized “True Manhood, True Womanhood, and True Love.” However, society continues to make dynamic changes in the alignment to sexuality that people have to belong to. In the past, there would only be a legitimate natural desire that would be directed to procreation, and not any hetero-erotic essences.

Katz has an interesting view on the origins of heterosexuality and homosexuality. Between 1860 and 1892, eroticisms and the modern idea of a world of erotic views set the stage for such developments. Therefore, it is a concept that came late into the scope of love and romantic desires. For ages, heterosexual norms enjoyed the hegemony of public and legal opinion among the people. It was not until about 1965 that separatist cultural groups like feminists and homosexual rights activists began to get attention and map out a recognition path.

Homosexuality getting attention from different angles set the pace for a new era in the views of sexuality. One of the intersections that have come between sexuality is the concept of male sex work and homosexuality. Jeffrey Weeks reported that male prostitution began around the same time that homosexuality started gaining recognition as an identifiable breed. Therefore, if one could marry Jonathan Katz’s and Jeffrey Weeks’ views, there is a clear relationship. Weeks indicated that men who joined prostitution are majorly attached to the section of homosexuals.

Weeks went back in history to trace the roots of homosexuality and male prostitution. There have been several laws and regulations that have affected the concept of homosexuality over the years. In 1898, the Vagrancy Act was enacted, providing that a man who survived on proceeds of female prostitution or immoral acts would be deemed a vagabond. There was also “The White Slave Trade Act” that affected the matter of homosexuality. Criminal punishments would be enforced on people who violated the provisions of the law.

According to Weeks, male homosexual activities were illegal between 1885 and 1967. In that case, male homosexuals operated in what one would term as the underworld. There was nothing about them that was obvious and clear. However, after 1965, the activities and the lives of homosexual subcultures have been different. They have been seen with clarity and with more freedom for the participants.

At the height of homosexuality, the trend became an issue of social standing and a metropolitan setup concept. Pubs, lavatories, Molly houses, squares, and fields became epicenters of male prostitution at the time. It was a concept that had started gaining acceptability, albeit with an eye of doubts. Katz wrote of the disruption of hetero-norms hegemony by “not an emerging concept” but a concept that had been overwhelmed by existing dominant sexual culture.

A relook into the elements of homosexuality by Katz shows an exciting aspect. The view is that a person cannot be classified as homosexual or heterosexual, whatever classifies as such are their acts. Therefore, people could be viewed as a mixture of practices and impulses. The sexual taboo comes onboard as a prohibition of certain actions to allow people to rule. These prohibitions go against the subscribers’ desires and wills of such aspirations to practice whatever their lives want. In that case, gay liberation movements have cropped up to ease the restrictions that their members get.

The fight for gay liberation is closely attached to the fight for the rights of male prostitutes. The class of men dubbed as male prostitutes mostly belong to the social status of working people in the middle-class category. Therefore, they have the muscle to push for different change agendas depending on their views. The organization among homosexual male prostitutes historically lacked the characteristic zeal and plan of female prostitution. Therefore, the later was more targeted by the law than the former. Men could actively engage in prostitution but end up unscathed by the law.

Male prostitution developed as a casual act of exchanging cash for pleasure in a lavatory. Nonetheless, homosexuality grew to become a way of life. In the early days of the concept, male prostitutes would purely belong to the subculture of homosexuals. However, this might have changed with the progress in the history and dynamics of the people. More men in the heterosexual classification could be participating in male prostitution.

Prostitution was an exhibition of the characteristic of corruption and sexual degeneracy. It was by no means a matter of trade, even though some people participated in the act to make ends meet. The outer ring of male prostitutes had fewer subscribers. Its membership was usually homosexual men with little or no income. However, the diehards and the segment’s core were members pushed psychological factors like hysteria, psychopathy, sexual curiosity, mental instability, and love of adventure. Using the logic of the interior core of male prostitutes, it is clear that the drive was beyond money.

When Katz and Weeks try to explain that the subscribers to male prostitution have grown into it as a lifestyle concept, they have a point. One recognizes that homosexuality is a minority concept, and so is male prostitution. Compared to female homosexuals, men are more hideous and secretive. Therefore, it becomes quite challenging to unearth their acts and style. Weeks identified a pattern that women’s entry into prostitution may be a deliberate act. On the contrary, men get into it as a matter of chance, accidental learning, or association with a group with such traditions.

As a matter of tradition, some groups have identified themselves with the common theme of male prostitution. The author identified ‘Guardsmen’ as such a group that thrived on male prostitution. Those who developed the culture met in places that were identifiable with men. Cleveland Street is famous for how many male prostitutes dwelt there. It was their haven, and they were comfortable in their dwelling place. Other than sharing drinks, they shared male sex fantasies.

One cannot point to one singular event that led to the development and growth of male prostitution. It is a concoction of factors and events that would lead one into the paths and ruins of male homosexual prostitutes. In a hostile society, homosexual identity was not easily acceptable. However, the full integration of young men into this nonprofessional homosexual subculture would occur whenever they made such a choice. It would be like getting into different groups of deviance. Such groups had taken a pullout from the norms of conventional social living. The subculture spread much more in the urban and metropolitan areas because people were open to the changes. However, homosexuality faced hostility in many other areas that could not fathom what they felt was an evil, vicious, immoral, and unacceptable social vice.

In conclusion, there is an intersection between the criminalization of homosexuality and development of male prostitution. The male prostitutes operated in an underworld mode, which was enforced because they were rejected by society. Heterosexuals always played the card of ‘straight-righteous-acceptable’ members of the community. At the same time, they condemned homosexuals. Therefore, to find peace amongst themselves, male homosexuals would meet in their entertainment joints, from where male prostitution developed. Other than homosexual male prostitution, doing it among them, it opened a window for the men to solicit for sex from females for financial gain. Therefore, it is a concept that has transcended the barriers of sexual orientation into the broader community.


Katz, Jonathan Ned. 1990. “The invention of heterosexuality.” Race, Class, and Gender, An Anthology 252 (): 264.

Weeks, Jeffrey. 1981. “Inverts, Perverts, And Mary-Annes: Male Prostitution and the Regulation of Homosexuality in England in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries.” Journal Of Homosexuality 6 (1-2): 113-134. doi:10.1300/j082v06n01_11.

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