Research and services focused on sexually exploited children and adolescents often target girls and leave out boys. However, research shows that boys often report similar rates of sexual exploitation as girls (10, 19, 27). This suggests that boys may experience more sexual exploitation than is commonly realized, while also facing greater barriers to what few services may exist for them. To better understand the sexual exploitation of boys, we did a broad literature search to identify and evaluate research on this topic. We looked at articles that were on topic, in English, written between 1990-2015, and published in academic journals.
In our initial search, we found over 11,000 articles. Ultimately, we narrowed this down to 33 articles that met our criteria. This included studies from Sweden, the United States, South Africa, Brazil, Canada and the United Kingdom amongst other places. Children and adolescents were sampled from a wide variety of contexts including schools and small non-governmental organizations. Prevalence rates of boys being sexually exploited ranged from 1.7% to 4.8% in school-based studies (5, 7, 29) and up to 16.1% in studies of street-involved and homeless youth (20, 21). Boys were sexually exploited in a range of locations including drainage tunnels, hotels and over the Internet. Sex was traded for things like money, food, gifts, shelter and drugs. Sexually exploited boys reported a range of unmet needs. However, little research exists on the specific health care and social services needed and accessed by this population. More research and additional services are needed to better understand and support the needs of sexually exploited boys.