The global reality of sexual exploitation and abuse knows no gender. Internationally, it is said that 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before reaching adulthood and in some nations the exploitation and abuse of boys far outweighs that of girls. While this remains a pressing issue, the sexual exploitation of men and boys is often little understood and commonly goes ignored. A key reason for this is that social and cultural norms often assume men and boys to be inherently strong and/or invulnerable to sexual exploitation. While these long-held assumptions on male invulnerability are strong and are often foundational to much of the literature available on gender-based violence and sexual exploitation, small but growing body of research in this area continues to show these assumptions to be false. Due to the general lack of awareness of the vulnerability of males to sexual abuse and exploitation, the efforts of organizations and individuals who desire to provide for the needs of male victims are often under-supported. Over the past three years, Love146 has made addressing the exploitation of boys and young men a key objective in its work, and often does this by partnering with key organizations that are pioneering such endeavors. The study that you hold in your hands is a part of this endeavor.
This is the first of a multi-part series of exploratory studies that look into the lives, experiences and vulnerabilities of street-living / street-working boys in SE Asia. This follows a similar series of five studies by Love146 that looked at the experiences of young males working in various sectors of the entertainment industry in southeast Asia, including massage, street-based sex work, and bar-based entertainment services. These projects have been a part of a small, collaborative movement among interested organizations, which have both recognized and acted upon the neglect of boys and men in discussions of sexual abuse and exploitation. The studies have utilized both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies, merging careful fieldwork and one-on-one structured interviews to provide a better understanding of the lives of young men and boys within the sex trade industry and other sexually exploited careers as an information resource for service providers and future researchers in this area.
The title “I want to be brave” is not a title of our own making. It is a direct quote from a 10 year-old boy who sells fireworks and bracelets along Ochheuteal beach in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. This statement is the boy’s description of the one thing in his life that he would change, if he were able. He would choose to be brave. This statement is meaningful in that it recognizes that he is vulnerable and the fact that bravery and strength are not innate qualities of being male, but are key resiliencies that need to be developed.
Read more here.