Male prostitution in the arts  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

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).

The hustler in literature

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

Title Author Year Notes
My Conversion
Mirabeau 1780
Our Lady of the Flowers
(Notre Dame des fleurs)
Jean Genet 1943
Last Exit to Brooklyn Hubert Selby Jr. 1957
The Basketball Diaries Jim Carroll 1963
City of Night John Rechy 1963
Midnight Cowboy James Leo Herlihy 1965
Numbers John Rechy 1967
My Father and Myself J. R. Ackerley 1968
Enchanted Boy Richie McMullen 1989 Memoir of a boy's journey from "abuse to prostitution" in 1950s England.
Enchanted Youth Richie McMullen 1990 Continuation of McMullen's journey from "prostitution to love" in 1958.
Closer Dennis Cooper 1990
Close to the Knives David Wojnarowicz 1991 First of Wojnarowicz's memoirs of his passage from abused kid to Times Square hustler to artist in New York's East Village underground.
Memories That Smell Like Gasoline David Wojnarowicz 1992 Second volume of Wojnarowicz's memoirs.
American Studies Mark Merlis 1994 Story of a john coming to terms with his life while recovering in a hospital after being bashed by a hustler.
User Bruce Benderson 1994
Martin and John Dale Peck 1994 One or both of the characters are hustlers in several of the parallel narrative scenes.
Mysterious Skin Scott Heim 1995
L'Enfant ébloui "Rachid O" 1995 Semi-autobiographic novel about a hustler in Morocco.
Wonder Bread and Ecstasy:
The Life and Death of Joey Stefano
Charles Isherwood 1996 Joey Stefano was a gay porn star of the 1990s.
Seven Miles A Second David Wojnarowicz (writer)
James Romberger (artist)
1996 Vertigo Comics version of Wojnarowicz's memoirs and diary.
Boy Culture Matthew Rettenmund 1996 Includes an index to the sex passages (by preference).
Brutal Aiden Shaw 1996 First novel by artist Aiden Shaw, a former prostitute and porn star.
Kept Boy Robert Rodi 1996 Comedy novel.
Quand je suis devenu fou Christophe Donner 1997 Narrator falls for a hustler in an Amsterdam brothel.
Diary of a Hustler "Joey" 1997
After Nirvana Lee Williams 1997
Rent Boys: Hustlers & Escorts--Gay Erotic Tales David Macmillan, ed. Anthology.
The Queen of Hearts: A Transsexual Romance Brad Clayton 1998
Assuming the Position: A Memoir of Hustling Rick Whitaker 1999
Suburban Hustler: Stories of a Hi-Tech Callboy Aaron Lawrence 1999
Sarah JT LeRoy 2000 Pseudo-autobiographical story of a boy hustler whose mother was a truckstop prostitute. The author was revealed to be a fictional creation in 2006.
A Thousand and One Night Stands: The Life of Jon Vincent H. A. Carson 2001
Can't Buy Me Love Chris Kenry 2001 Young man drifts into the world of escorting with humorous results.
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 2003
Setting the Lawn on Fire: A Novel Mack Friedman 2005
Red Carpets and Other Banana Skins Rupert Everett 2006 Touches briefly on his past as a rent boy.
Shuck Daniel Allen Cox 2008 Fictionalized memoir of a New York City hustler who dreams of becoming a writer.

The hustler in theater

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

The hustler in cinema

Films with a hustler as a main character

In recent years, a host of young American actors (including Lukas Haas, Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Joseph Gordon-Levitt), following the lead of River Phoenix, have taken roles as hustlers in independent movies as a way of establishing their acting credentials.

Title Country Year Director Character Actor Notes
Breakfast at Tiffany's US 1961 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.
My Hustler US 1965 Andy Warhol
Chuck Wein
Paul America IMDB
Flesh US 1968 Paul Morrissey Joe Dallesandro Dallesandro hustles to buy drugs for himself and his wife.
Entertaining Mr Sloane UK 1969 Douglas Hickox Mr Sloane Peter McEnery Adapted from the play by Joe Orton.
Midnight Cowboy US 1969 John Schlesinger Joe Buck Jon Voight Hustler Buck forms an unlikely friendship with junky Rico "Ratso" Rizzo. Academy Award winner for Best Picture.
The Boys in the Band US 1970 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."
El Lugar Sin Limites Mexico 1978 Arturo Ripstein IMDB
El Diputado
(The Deputy)
Spain 1978 Eloy de la Iglesia Teenage hustler used by the secret police for blackmail falls for the victim. IMDB
American Gigolo US 1980 Paul Schrader Richard Gere High-class gigolo is framed for murder.
Forty Deuce USA 1982 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
L'homme blessé
(The Wounded Man)
France 1983 Patrice Chéreau Jean-Hugues Anglade) Winner of a César Award for Best Direction. IMDB
Un Ragazzo come tanti
(A Boy Like Many Others)
Italy 1983 Gianni Minello IMDB
Revolutions Happen Like Refrains in a Song Philippines 1987 Nick Deocampo IMDB
Less Than Zero US 1987 Julian Robert Downey, Jr.
The Everlasting Secret Family Australia 1988 Michael Thornhill Mark Lee Homosexuality and prostitution amidst a secret brotherhood. IMDB
Macho Dancer Philippines 1988 Lino Brocka Pol
Macho dancers in Manila.
Cop US 1988 James B. Harris Based on the novel by James Ellroy. IMDB
Via Appia Germany 1990 Jochen Hick IMDB
My Own Private Idaho (US 1991 Gus Van Sant Mike Waters
Scott Favor
River Phoenix
Keanu Reeves
J'embrasse pas
(I Don't Kiss)
France 1991 André Téchiné Manuel Blanc A boy from the provinces ends up as a hustler in Paris.
Film (Fill 'em) Canada 1992 Sky Gilbert Story of a male hustler and his roommate. IMDB
Street Kid (Gossenkind) Germany 1992 Peter Kern Axel Glitter A young hustler in Dusseldorf. IMDB
Being at Home with Claude Canada 1992 Jean Beaudin IMDB
The Living End US 1992 Gregg Araki Luke Mike Dytri HIV+ street hustler.
Die Blaue Stunde
(The Blue Hour)
1992 Marcel Gisler Theo Andreas Herder IMDB
Smukke dreng
(Pretty Boy)
Denmark 1993 Carsten Sønder IMDB
Hatachi no binetsu
(Slight Fever of a 20-Year-Old)
Japan 1993 Ryosuke Hasiguchi One teenage hustler in love with another.
Post Cards from America UK 1994 Steve McLean Three chapters in David Wojnarowicz's life. IMDB
Super 8 1/2 Canada 1994 Bruce LaBruce Semi-autobiographical.
Sibak (Midnight Dancers) Philippines 1994 Mel Chionglo Three brothers in Manila, working as "Macho Dancers" in a gay bar. IMDB
The Basketball Diaries US 1995 Scott Kalvert Leonardo DiCaprio
Mark Wahlberg
Based on the book by Jim Carroll.
Dupe Od Mramora (Marble Ass) Serbia 1995 Zelimir Zilnik Transvestite prostitutes in Serbia. IMDB
Tattoo Boy US 1995 Arizona
Amanda Tirey
C.J. Barkus
The Toilers and the Wayfarers US 1996 Keith Froelich Matt Klemp
Andrew Woodhouse
Runaway hustlers in Minneapolis. IMDB
Hustler White US 1996 Rick Castro
Bruce LaBruce
Monti Tony Ward
The Unveiling US 1996 Rodney Evans IMDB
"Tapin du soir", included in L'Amour est à réinventer France 1996 Anne Fontaine One of ten collected short films about life in France in the time of AIDS.
Skin & Bone US 1996 Everett Lewis Harry
B. Wyatt
Garret Scullin
Alan Boyce
Three Los Angeles hustlers in different stages of their careers.
johns US 1996 Scott Silvers Donner
Lukas Haas
David Arquette
Private Shows US 1997 Blaine Hopkins
Stephen Winter
A River Made to Drown In US 1997 Michael Imperioli
James Duval
Star Maps US 1997 Miguel Arleta Douglas Spain IMDB
Hard US 1998 John Huckert IMDB
L'École de la Chair France 1998 Benoît Jacquot Quentin Vincent Martinez IMDB
Speedway Junky US 1999 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.
Km. 0 Spain 2000 Miguel A gigolo who services female clients.
L.I.E. US 2000 Michael Cuesta Gary Paul Dano
Billy Kay
A Long Island teenager discovers his best friend (Kay) is a hustler.
Circuit US 2001 Dirk Shafer Hector A hustler who's terrified of growing old.
Vagón fumador (Smokers Only) Argentina 2001 Verónica Chen Leonardo Brzezicki Andrés A suicidal woman and a male prostitute fall in love. IMDB
AKA UK 2002 Duncan Roy
Sonny US 2002 Nicolas Cage Sonny James Franco Raised by his mother to be a gigolo. IMDB
Mr. Smith Gets a Hustler US 2003 Ian McCrudden IMDB
200 American US 2003 Richard LeMay New York businessman falls for Australian hustler. IMDB
Un fils (A Son) France 2003 Amal Bedjaoui North-African hustler in France. IMDB
Gan (Garden) Israel 2003 Ruthie Shatz
Adi Barash
Two young gay prostitutes in Tel Aviv. IMDB
Twist 2003 Dodge Nick Stahl Gay-themed re-telling of Dickens' Oliver Twist.
Bulgarian Lovers
(Los Novios búlgaros)
Spain 2003 Eloy de la Iglesia Kyril Dritan Biba IMDB
Yeladim Tovim (Good Boy) Israel 2004 Yair Hochner Two Tel Aviv rent boys. IMDB
Eighteen Canada 2004 Richard Bell IMDB
Ethan Mao Hong Kong 2004 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.
Sugar Canada 2004 John Palmer Butch Brendan Fehr Coming of age story.
Mysterious Skin US 2004 Gregg Araki Neil McCormick Joseph Gordon-Levitt Based on Scott Heim's book.
My Hustler Boyfriend 2004 Peter Pizzi Short included in video program at Newfest 2005. IMDB
Dirty Little Sins US 2005
Boy Wonder US 2005 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 Nov. 2006.
The Wedding Date US 2005 Claire Kilner Nick Mercer Dermot Mulroney Woman hires male escort to pose as her boyfriend.
Transamerica US 2005 Duncan Tucker Toby Wilkins Kevin Zegers Pre-operative M2F transsexual discovers she has a son (Zegers) who is hustling in New York.
Breakfast on Pluto UK 2005 Neil Jordan Cillian Murphy Based on the novel by Patrick McCabe. Transvestite flees Ireland for London during the 1970s and becomes a prostitute.
Boy Culture US 2006 Q. Allan Brocka Based on the novel.
Can't Buy Me Love US 2006 Todd Wilson 20 min) Short film from Newfest 2006. IMDB
In The Blood US 2006 Lou Peterson Gay supernatural thriller featuring a young man dating a Latino hustler. IMDB
Boys Briefs 4 US 2006 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
Happy Hookers India 2006 Ashish Sawhny The lives of three male sex workers in India. Short film (54 min) from Newfest 2007.
Into It US 2006 Jeff Maccubbin Two hustlers dealing with drugs and relationships. Film (90 min) from Newfest 2007.
Before I Forget France 2007 Jacques Nolot An aging hustler reflects on his life. IMDB

Other films that include hustlers

Documentary films

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

The hustler on television

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

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

The hustler in photography

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

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Male prostitution in the arts" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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