They live with their parents, but earn money from older men. Young teenage boys are big on the secret online sex market.
The sky has turned dark when a 14-year-old boy sneaks out of his house and heads towards a street only a few blocks away. His parents are asleep and the streets are empty. A car is parked in the sideway, on the exact spot the boy agreed on two hours ago. Getting in, he sees a 38-year-old man waiting for him in the driver’s seat. He recognizes his face from the pictures, one of many that requested his time the same evening on an online sex chat. The man zips down his pants, asking the boy to touch him. As the man starts driving, the boy does as he is told. Inside the man’s house, curtains are closed. The boy tells him to go slow, that he has never done this before. A promise is made while the man strips him down to his feet, but is quickly broken. T
he boy screams out loud. The man replis by covering the boy’s mouth with his hand so no one can hear his pain. Thirty minutes later, the boy is left on the same street where he was picked up. His bony knuckles clench around 200 dollars, the reward given for letting the 38-year-old man be his first.
Prostitution. An Eastern European woman in high heals and a short skirt leans against an open car window – this is how most people picture sex for sale. However, another well-hidden reality is secretively alive. In Norway, it’s illegal to buy any sexual services, but selling sex is still a legal affair – if the person is over 18 years old. Women dominate the legal sex market. Boys dominate the illegal.
A survey from 2007 made by NOVA, the Norwegian Research Institute for Adolescence, Welfare and Aging, revealed that prostitution occurs more often with boys than girls in Norwegian high schools. The proportion of boys selling sex is actually up to five times as high as among the girls. While 1 per cent or less of the girls admitted they had sold sex, between 2.8-5.4 per cent of the boys, depending on the age, answered the same. The survey didn’t question their sexual orientation or the gender of the buyer. Andreas Pedersen Kikvik, who has been involved in the project Pro Male that focuses on boys and men who sell sex, assumes that most boys who sell sex do it to the same gender.
‘I think many of the boys sell sex to men to explore their own sexuality, and this urge makes them highly representative in the survey,’ Kikvik says.
The penalty for paying 16 and 17-year-olds for sex is a big fine and two years in prison, according to the Norwegian Crime Prevention Council. Still, teenage boys get contacted in sexual online chat forums every day by older men who get excited by the thought of a young, boyish body. Older men without the intention of contacting minors, also get requests from teenage boys who want to earn easy money. Several men at the chat room ‘Gay40+’ at Eros, a sexual meeting portal where people chat with secret user names, complain about teenage boys who contact them offering sex for money. It has become a two-way problem.
A desire for money
‘Kevin’ is one of many young boys who have sold sex, and was only 14 the first time he arranged a meeting with an older man at Eros. This was the same night as the 38-year-old man introduced him to a world where money came quick if he was just willing to bow for older men’s wishes. Nine years after, at 4am at night, he is still logged onto the ‘Gay Room’ at Eros where he meets his clients.
‘There were so many 40-50 year old men that contacted me and offered to pay for sex or to perform oral sex on me when I was 13. I needed money for all the things I wanted, but couldn’t afford. The offers came so often that I one day decided to say yes’, ‘Kevin’ says, who wants to be anonymous to protect his identity.
‘No one know that I do this. Sometimes I’ve been thinking about the burden it is to keep this a secret, it bothers me. What if it slips out of me when I’m drinking? I can’t afford that. It’s a worry that I didn’t have when I was younger,’ he says, and adds: ‘I’m a very masculine guy and I’m definitely not into men. That’s why no one could’ve imagined that I’m doing this.’
He defines himself as ‘bisexual light’, meaning he only dates girls, but the sexual taste for men has grown ever since he started selling sex to older men. Since the age of 14, he has had between 20-35 regular customers. When Kevin was 18, four men aged between 40-55 payed him 1800 dollars to have sex with them at the same time.
‘It was crazy,’ he admits, and says the frequency of customers has decreased since his teenage years, but that he still has a few regulars that he meets once a while.
‘I never give out my phone number to my clients. I live a whole different and normal life outside of this, and I can’t risk anyone to know. I just log on to Eros, recognize the usernames of my clients and arrange a meeting,’ says Kevin, who charges between 50-600 dollars for his services, depending on the request.
He says that he will stop selling sex some day, mainly because he understands that there’s an age limit to the escort profession
‘I’m not getting any younger, and you have to be tight, fit and look good to keep up with this. But I have no regrets about starting as young as I did. How would I then be able to live with myself?’
Sex sale among teenagers is hard to spot, it’s not the visible market you see on the streets. The client and seller often get in touch through youth societies or the typical homosexual ‘cruising arenas’ such as saunas, tanning studios, public swimming pools, toilets and gyms. However, the main reason that the market seems invisible is because of the new platforms the teenage prostitutes use. PlanetRomeo and esCupido are web sites that have taken the prostitution arena to a new level. Based in countries worldwide, this meeting portal doesn’t only do dating, but has an own page for male escorts. With an age limit of 18, boys and men create full profiles with pictures, age, weight, body type and sexual preferences.
‘Online sex chat forums, social media and escort web sites are mostly used to get in touch with clients’, Kikvik says, and emphasizes that many boys and men seek an extra income to a low salary or are students who need more money than their student loan can provide.
‘It can be fun with an extra income and experimentation at first, but when they are pushed to perform sexual activities they don’t feel comfortable with, adding the pressure of having sex without a condom, some can end up having mental problems and problems in their private sex life.’
16-year-old ‘Thomas’ stands on the porch of the unfamiliar house he has been given directions to. He knocks. The man who opens is single, but 16 years older than him and well aware of Thomas’ young age. Inside the house, Thomas experiences his first time with a grown man who gives him what he wants: money and sexual exploration.
‘Thomas’ charged the man 180 dollars, which has now become his standard price. The bisexual boy says he started to sell sex one year ago, when he was sixteen. However, he admits he doesn’t only do it for the money.
‘I do it mostly because it’s good money, but I like having sex too. We usually meet at their home or my own home,’ says ‘Thomas’, who still lives with his parents.
‘They don’t know about this. No one knows. When I agree to have the meetings at my home, it’s because my parents are away for the weekend.’
‘Thomas’ is now on Eros, trying to arrange a new meeting under the nickname ‘boy17years’.
‘I only sell sex to men that I’m attracted to. I start by searching for older men near my location. When they ask me what I am looking for, I reply generous men’.
Generous men. Who are they? Some of them are single. Some of them state to be in a heterosexual marriage or a relationship, but searching to fulfil their dreams through both boys and older men that they find online. All of them are willing to pay for sex. Looking at the nicknames many of the users choose, such as Male56 seeks young boy, shows that older men seek adventures with young boys, but few are willing to give any comments on why and who they seek.
‘I have the impression that many of the clients are bisexual men who lives in heterosexual relationships, but also wants to have sex with other men. The clients want young looking boys, and we have heard stories from male prostitutes who say they are considered as too old when they pass their mid-twenties,’ says Kikvik.
False profiles and psychopaths
John Buie is a human rights activist working with women, children and sexual minorities, and has been involved in work with gay rights for 30 years. He has recently discovered all the dangers young boys in Norway encounters when selling sex online.
‘Hook-up websites like Gaysir in Norway is the kind of places where men with far more nefarious objectives and natures work to connect with more vulnerable boys. Men establish false profiles, identify themselves as younger and work to arrange meet-ups that result in sexual assault. This is how boys under 18 can be ensnared. In fact boys several years younger, many 13-15 year old, lie about their age to get into the dating sites to begin with,’ Buie says.
He emphasizes that most men in all of the ‘hook-up’ scenarios are relatively normal, many just lonely and looking for simple, casual sex. But there are also men who are aggressive and disrespectful.
‘There is a small percentage of men who are psychopaths, sociopaths, rapists, sadists or otherwise profoundly criminal in their intent. This category includes men who search for and share child pornography, engage in paying for boys to suffer beatings or torture instead of sex or use drugs to obtain much longer relationships than a boy intended. There are also incidents where these men escorts boys for more sex by threatening families or just the ‘outing’ of a boy’s activity,’ Buie says.
He recognizes that many boys do have generally positive experiences in this work, but claims it’s mostly because they have intelligence, a radar for dangerous people, systems to protect themselves and personal boundaries that they do not allow to be crossed.
‘Experienced and active abusers will on the other hand pay large amounts to entice an otherwise less willing boy for a meeting. They might begin giving drugs to induce a habit, or so that they can engage in sadistic acts that no boy would agree to do otherwise. Teens are young enough in their sexual maturing process that the behaviors they experience, or even witness, can turn into paraphilia, the desires for acts they may have previously found repulsive,’ says Buie.
He also informs about the worst-case scenarios, where psychopaths don’t act alone, but connect with each another through a shared interest in pornography.
‘These are networks of men who pass boys between them or even have ‘parties’ where a boy is serially abused or exploited for the amusement of all participants. In Norway, there is definitively at least one network of such men.’
He states that these are men with the power and means to afford to act out on their desires, which also means that they have the ability to manipulate the system should they get caught. Boys who violate the confidence of such men are in real and serious danger.
‘Norway has a severe problem with sexual child abuse and exploitation, and I’ve decided to build a small network of qualified individuals to help us put some light on the subject. There are many young people in Norway who need justice and many more at threat from an official culture of silence and an over abundance of focus on the “rights” of perpetrators,’ he concludes.
Police and the public child welfare refused to comment on this matter.