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Sex Trading Among Cisgender Boys

April 26, 2023

Sex trading is defined as trading sex for something considered of equal value. When that “something” is money, it is more commonly known as prostitution.

While there has been a fair amount of research on sex trading, the vast majority of this research has been centered on girls. Maybe because there is very little documented about sex trading among boys, it is not something that we consider when we are seeing our male adolescent patients.

This week, Pediatrics is early releasing an article entitled “Sex Trading Among Adolescent Cisgender Boys,” by Lauren Martin, PhD, Barbara McMorris, PhD, and Nic Rider, PhD, at the University of Minnesota that seeks to fill this knowledge gap (10.1542/peds.2022-058729).

The authors analyzed data from the 2019 Minnesota Student Survey, which is administered to students in 5th, 8th, 9th, and 11th grades in Minnesota. Specifically, they analyzed data from 9th and 11th grade students who identified as being male and did not identify as transgender, genderqueer, or genderfluid for the specific question, “Have you ever traded sex or sexual activity to receive money, food, drugs, alcohol, a place to stay, or anything else?”

Of approximately 32,000 boys, 379 (1.2%) reported trading sex.

Boys who were at highest risk for reporting trading sex also reported:

  • Homelessness, either alone or with family members, in the past year
  • Sexual harassment or harassment due to gender expression or sexual orientation
  • Sexual identity as gay, bisexual, or queer
  • Any prior treatment for alcohol or drug problems
  • Ever being in foster care
  • Black race

The highest risk for sex trading is for boys who have experienced unaccompanied homelessness, with more than 7 times the odds of those who have not experienced homelessness.

I would encourage you to read this article. We have to understand that sex trading—and maybe sex trafficking—are not limited to females, and we need to be alert to this possibility for all of our adolescent and young adult patients. When one of our patients reports trading sex, referral to social work and/or child protection may be important.

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