Invisible: The Unseen World of Male Prostitution is a documentary film set in Providence and featuring Richard Holcomb, founder of Project Weber.
The film portrays every male sex worker as a homeless addict, so they didn’t include any rent boys who have had positive experiences as sex workers. The men seem to be able to work the streets with impunity and they even mention some RI politicians that have been coming there for years. At one point an older man admits that other men pay him to introduce them to the new male sex workers. This is legally defined as sex trafficking. I bet dollar to donuts that they won’t charge the guy with trafficking nor will they implement “end the demand” to target the clients of the male workers, because society has been taught that trafficking only happens to females and yet a few of the men in the film mention they started working the streets as homeless youths at age 13.
I also wonder what these men would have done for drug money had sex work not been a option. Would they have robbed homes, stolen cars etc.? I never heard anyone ask any of them if they ever did sex work after getting clean from drugs. So was it sex work or drugs that was bad for them? I did notice that most of the people in this film have only been clean a few months and I wonder why none of them seemed to have gotten into a long term residential treatment.
I was kind of offended that Richie was badgering the one guy to admit he had done sex work. Richie goes as far as telling one guy its wrong to do sex work now that he is clean from drugs. I have to wonder why Richie thinks there is less shame in doing sex work for drugs, than there is in doing sex work for money to pay the bills. I find shaming sex workers to be in bad taste and abusive. I was horrified that the film used the term “prostituted men” over and over again.
I know many female workers with addictions who end up working the streets and become homeless but they also have to deal with the police trying to arrest them, social stigma and public hatred. Female sex workers are the ones arrested and given criminal records and who are more likely to be robbed, raped or murdered.
I applaud Richie’s efforts in opening a drop in center for sex workers, but I am confused why it’s only for men. Why are female sex workers being excluded from having access to a safe space? I also applaud them for distributing condoms as part of their outreach, but I think they missed the mark by not mentioning that the police use “condoms for evidence” to arrest female and transgender sex workers. These are just a few examples of why we should never exclude anyone from services based on their gender or ignore their needs while drafting public policy. It’s called discrimination.
[Note: Robinson explained in private correspondence with RI Future contributor Andrew Stewart that she has a troubled history with Holcomb and, while appreciative of his efforts, feels he has sadly segued his work with the rescue industry, noting that no one from Project Weber attended last week’s sex worker memorial vigil.]