Volunteer Spotlight: Male Sex Worker Correspondent – Dion Chan
Project X has been around for 10 years, and our effectiveness has been based on various factors. Most of what we have achieved as an organization would not have been possible if it were not for our team of dedicated, and talented volunteers. They have devoted their time and energy to assist us, and their skills, and expertise in their various fields have been invaluable. To give gratitude to these great activists, we would like to provide them with the spotlight, and recognition they deserve.
This month, we will be shining the light on Dion. Over the past year, he has been our sole Male Sex Worker Correspondent. He reflects on his experiences, and thoughts regarding the male sex worker community in Singapore.
Please introduce yourself!
Hi! My name is Dion Chan. I’m currently a sociology student at Nanyang Technological University. There are so many readings and other things to do for school, but I constantly avoid them by volunteering for Project X. The first time I heard about Project X was in 2016. However, for that entire year, I didn’t do much at all. In fact, all I did was purchase some merchandise from the shop, donate some money and support them at events. I was sometime in 2017 when I finally decided to get more involved in the cause.
What have you done as a volunteer at Project X?
I have been a male sex worker outreach volunteer at Project X since April of 2017. I go to touristy areas weekly in an attempt to reach out and connect with the sex workers there via online platforms. Sometimes, when I am bored while commuting, I open the applications to see if there are any nearby too. I don’t see this as doing much work, to be honest – but the people at Project X always tell me they appreciate it! Aside from providing condoms and lubricants to sex workers, I’ve also helped some with their general queries, obtaining medication and bringing them for STI and HIV testing.
What have you learned after volunteering at Project X?
My time at Project X has really opened up my eyes to see and know more about this ‘hidden’ industry. Whether it’s the troubles sex workers face, their relationships with clients or even just how they work day-to-day – it’s really interesting! Learning about the reasons they’re in this industry makes me reconsider and rethink my preconceptions on the entire issue. You also start to see trends such as migrant sex workers from specific countries having a very superficial understanding of what safe sex practices and sexual health are.
While abusive and violent client interactions might not be as frequent for the male sex workers as compared to female sex workers, there are a lot of grey areas and uncertainty regarding their future and safety. I can’t say for sure why I’ve yet to encounter male sex workers who are victims of abuse. Perhaps their desire to project masculinity and strength leads to them shying away from discussing their vulnerabilities. Or perhaps local clients who engage these sex workers want to stay anonymous, and avoid drawing attention to themselves.
Another issue which has been brought up constantly in recent months is regarding ‘chill fun’ or, ‘cf’ as some people like to refer to it as. Chill fun is basically the act of sex with the involvement of stimulants such as poppers and Viagra. While most sex workers state in their profiles that they will not entertain any requests of chill fun, many of them have told me how a number of clients do still bring it up constantly. In one particular case, the client took it out right before the service has begun and tried to persuade the sex worker to consume it for a better time and an extra tip.
All the male sex workers I’ve interacted with earn way more on average than female/trans sex workers. While I’m not exactly sure what factors play a part for this ‘wage gap’ to exist, it is really interesting to know that to some $350 per hour can be considered the norm.
What do you hope to see in the future in regards to the male sex worker community in Singapore?
If it weren’t for Project X, I would never have known about them. I hope that we can start a conversation and change the mindsets of people. By doing so, hopefully, our society may be more open to the removal of anti-discriminatory laws such as the 377A in Singapore’s Penal Code which criminalizes sex between men. This does severely impinge upon these sex workers’ human rights and obstruct access to legal aid, or healthcare. For example, if a male sex worker gets abused, or has his things stolen by his client and would like to make a police report, who do you think the police would fault? Their occupation alone is taboo enough and can get them deported, they themselves may get charged because of the ‘act of homosexuality’, although the government claims the law is not actively enforced.
I hope to see a more inclusive and accepting future in Singapore where we cease judgement and provide equal opportunities for people regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, status, jobs, and even hairstyles for that matter.