It was an innocent start.
He didn’t think of it as prostitution — an older male companion was just helping him pay some bills.
It started like any other Craigslist hookup. Stats were exchanged, along with a couple of decent and indecent photos, and eventually Jose Alvarez met up with his date. Alvarez confessed some of his financial woes as the two shared a post-coital cigarette in a plush hotel bed.
“He handed me $20 as I left. He told me it was gas money,” Alvarez said.
He saw his friend again the next time he was in town. The gas fund went up to $50.
“I guess most people would consider me a prostitute. I don’t like it much, but no matter what we call it, it’s still illegal. I know that,” Alvarez said.
His family came to the U.S. illegally when he was 15 years old. Shortly after, his parents separated and his father moved to California, never heard from him again. Two years ago, when Alvarez was 18, his mother died and with all extended family still in Mexico, he was faced with tough decisions and mounting bills. He didn’t have a high school diploma or a social security number.
Weighing in at a mere buck twenty-five, his dark brown eyes and extraordinarily long eyelashes are deep and serious. His slim frame exudes sexuality and he could easily be mistaken for a young Mario Lopez. Despite his shockingly good looks and congenial attitude, many accuse him of being unintelligent, lazy or a drug addict.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Alvarez is incorporated and officially recognized as a temporary executive assistant. He accepts cash, check and credit cards and his services can be billed as a business expense.
“I sell my time. Just like a secretary, accountant or businessman. What you and I decide to do during that time is not up to anyone else, we get to decide that,” he said.
On business receipts, the LLC (limited liability company) looks official and even suspicious wives would be none the wiser, Alvarez said.
“I am happy with my life. I know people won’t understand or believe that. But it’s true. I am very happy with me and with my life,” Alvarez said. “I just have to face some different problems than most others.”
Along with protecting against attacks and theft, Alvarez is constantly guarding himself against sexually transmitted diseases.
More than 10 percent of prostitutes in the United States are HIV positive, and in some areas, such as New York, the rate jumps to more than 55 percent, according to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control.
This is a tricky statistic to really nail down because it’s so difficult to track down and test those involved in prostitution and only a fraction of those paying for services were tested, as very few are arrested. The study found some areas, such as parts of Nevada, where prostitution is legal and regulated, the infection rate drops significantly. In fact, of the 34 escorts surveyed in Las Vegas, none of them were HIV positive.
The National Task Force on Prostitution suggests that more than 1 million Americans have worked as prostitutes and about 20 percent (or 200,000) of those are men. More than 70 percent have been raped more than once in the last year and less than 10 percent of them will ever report it to authorities. The NTFP estimates that 5 percent of rapes and sexual assaults of prostitutes are perpetrated by police officers.
“The dangers on the streets and online are very real,” said Salt Lake City Police Sgt. Shawn Josephson. “I’ve seen emotional damages as well as physical damages. Those engaged in prostitution are much more likely to be involved in drugs and are often abused by others.”
While the SLCPD does not investigate or charge male prostitutes differently than females, it is becoming more and more difficult to make arrests, he said.
“Everything is online and people are even advertising in magazines,” Josephson said. “We are actively pursuing investigations and other operations, but it’s difficult.”
Everyone enters prostitution for different reasons, and not all of them are due to financially desperate times. Greg, an escort from Las Vegas, said he used escorting as a way to achieve greater independence.
“I remember my first really successful weekend where I made around $4,000 in a single night,” Greg said. “The feeling was indescribable. I’d never felt so good in my entire life.”
However, there are dangerous and unusual situations, including the time one client asked him to put on a comic book character costume and act out a scene. Or the time he was caught in a strange love triangle between friends, spouses and traveling companions.
He’s also had stalkers and people try to take advantage of him during meetings. But the Ohio native and seven-year Las Vegas resident developed a system to protect himself and now he’s sharing that with others. His blog, how-to-be-a-male-escort.com is designed to help others navigate the career and avoid some of the common mistakes.
“It’s a lonely profession,” Greg said. “There’s no one you can talk to or ask questions, so I am trying to change that a little.”
Alvarez said he is constantly combating the stigma of his profession, avoiding prosecution and dealing with problems while avoiding law enforcement.
“I know it’s a bad business for some. But most of my clients are regulars who visit for business or just need a little companionship from time to time,” Alvarez said.
And Greg agrees, “It’s almost always about a relationship, not sex. The clients want to be treated like a friend. When you go out to dinner, they don’t want people around them to think they’re with a prostitute, they want them to think they’re with a friend.”
Most of the clients are wealthy, older white men and their sexual tastes vary widely, Alvarez said. Some just want a cuddle companion, others want to pleasure Alvarez but most want Alvarez to pleasure them. Oral sex is the most common and other activities come at a higher cost, he said.
“I’ve had some very strange people hire me,” he said. “I think the strangest was the guy who was willing to pay me double if I would get into farting with him. I’ve never been so creeped out. He was totally gross.”
Role playing is common and many of the clients are into dominate and submissive styles of play.
“I’m really lucky. I’ve got a regular flow of cash and regular clients. I’ve never been arrested or raped,” he said. “There are some old guys that are not very cute. But my favorite clients aren’t the hottest. My favorites are the ones who don’t forget that I’m a person and that I deserve to be treated like I’m a person.”