Commentary by Romani LGBT activist David Tišer on "homosexual prostitution"
They say prostitution is the world's oldest profession. That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but we do find reports of it, for example, in the Book of Genesis in the Old Testament.
Prostitution (which comes from the Latin "prostituere") is the provision of sexual services (usually manual stimulation, oral sex, and anal or vaginal intercourse) in exchange for payment or some other sort of consideration. The Czech term for a man who provides such services is a "prostitute", a "gigolo", or a "companion".
In the year 2007, according to Ondřej Šťastný, there were 2 500 young men providing sex for money in the Czech capital. Today there are probably many more. Their numbers cannot be precisely determined, because they often migrate all over the city.
No one keeps precise statistics on this, so these hypotheses are based on estimates made by experts and people who work with this target group. It is possible that the rise in numbers recently was also assisted by the much-discussed financial crisis.
Earlier, people were ashamed to be "homoprostitutes", but today it is actually in fashion. Naturally, this has to do with the times in which we live. We are more materialistic, and even Romani people have not managed to avoid this trend. That's why, for many people, what one has is more important than how one earned the money to buy it.
My experience with this target group is limited to the Romani minority. In the course of writing my Bachelor's thesis on the topic of "Romani Homosexuality", I met boys who make their living as "companions" and discussed their lives with them. Previously, it was much more difficult for young men to find their clientele. It is true that many of the places where the "companions" might be found were also known to the uninitiated, such as the main train station in Prague, the Chotkov Orchards (Chotkovy sady), Letná park, etc. Today the world of the internet predominates this field, making everything much simpler. "Companions" no longer have to "fight" with other service providers for customers. All you have to do is register online and the men call you themselves, for the most part.
Given how negatively Romani society views homosexuality, is is almost unbelievable how many young Romani men have had the experience of performing sex with a man for money. The reasons why someone decides to become a "companion" vary. It is no longer the case that only the boys of divorced parents decide to take such a step. I know many cases of families doing well whose sons have gotten into the vicious circle of performing sex for money. Many tell themselves that it's no one else's business and that everyone should be able to do what he likes. As far as society is concerned, most of these people truly pose no danger - until they start to age and customers lose interest in them. After that, most of them start seeking out other potential "companions" and tempting them into the business with high monetary rewards.
A financially secure young man will tell a friend that he, too, can make a lot of money. For example, he'll get CZK 5 000 for five minutes of oral sex. After that, it's like a drug. There is no escape.
To be "old" in this line of work means to be around 20. There are many factors as to why that is. Many "companions" are, for example, also drug consumers. Drug use naturally takes its toll on their appearance and they start to lose their attractiveness.
Since there are many places were sex can be performed, there are many kinds of prostitution. There is prostitution outdoors, club prostitution, and "companions" to VIPs.
The kind of prostitution most prevalent among Romani men in the Czech Republic today is prostitution abroad. Young guys have found a gold mine in Switzerland.
How does a boy from Kladno, for example, get to Switzerland? The answer is simple. Many Romani people know one another through the various internet servers where they look for customers. They always manage to find someone who is older and seeking young companions to go abroad. The news travels at lightning speed.
Guys travel to Switzerland and start prostituting themselves in the local clubs. In these facilities, sooner or later, they usually meet an older gentleman who takes them "under his wing". He supplies them with gifts and mainly with large amounts of money. It is a very widespread phenomenon for guys to live on and off between the Czech Republic and Switzerland.
After 14 days spent in Switzerland a boy can bring home as much as CZK 80 000. Most of the time, his entire family can live on that money.
It is not the rule that sex acts must take place in these relationships. Most of the men who keep young Romani boys from Bohemia are already quite elderly and are content with just the presence of a fine-looking boy.
Some guys use their money to dress very expensively and fashionably. Often they lose the habit of "paťiv" ("respect" in Romani) and know no "ladž" ("shame" in Romani). Their sense of financial security leads them to act like the boss. Others, of course, financially assist their families.
Unfortunately, prostitution in Romani society is becoming more and more accepted because it can provide a family with its missing link - "love" ("money" in Romani). All of these boys have been helped to choose this behavior in recent years by the much worse standard of living enjoyed by a large portion of the Romani population. Labor market discrimination and unsolvable indebtedness play a role as well. We hope the tacit acceptance of sex work today will not someday transpire into families forcing their homosexual sons into prostitution in the future.
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