- By Prerna MankadPrerna Mankad is a researcher at Foreign Policy.
Last month, Christine noted the increase in "inverted sex tourism": wealthy foreign women heading to poor countries (for instance, Kenya) to purchase sex from younger and poorer men. But a BBC report on Kolkata in India reveals that it's not just rich foreign women who prey on male prostitutes. Indian women of means are also getting into the act:
[Male gigolos] offer some insight into the changing sexual mores of a growing number of Indian women who are ready to spend money on buying sex in a traditionally conservative society.
It is hardly a easy job to do – in the absence of male brothels, gigolos like Samrat cruise after dusk for prospective clients, mainly upper or middle-class and rich women who usually drive in their cars with dark tinted windows.
"It is not all fun and games as people think. Just as female sex workers face violence and get cheated, we face such situations from time to time too," says the son of a bank worker, who joined the sex trade after a short stint as an employee with a multi-national pharmaceutical firm in the capital, Delhi.
"I have often not been paid by clients, and when I have protested, they have threatened me with telling the police that I tried to rape them. And there are clients who love to stub out burning cigarettes on our bodies. These days I have begun to charge for a cigarette burn – 500 rupees ($11) per stub," he says.
As with female sex workers, technology such as mobile phones and the Internet has helped facilitate business. The men usually receive upwards of 1,000 rupees ($25) an hour from their clients, and when work from female clients slows, many of these workers sell sex to other men. Thankfully, the "gigolos," who constitute one of the highest risk groups for HIV/AIDS contraction, are beginning to bond together to speak out for HIV prevention. Whether that will be enough to curb the spread of the virus, of course, remains to be seen.