Arab Sex Workers, Jews, Israel, Prostitution

VICE’s Young Arab Sex Workers in Israel

An interesting read if any of those title words pulls you in.


I’m not accustomed to being taken with so many stories appearing on VICE, so I apologize for the fact that this last post about penis injections and this new one are both via that publication. I tend to think of VICE like a sad aging hipster, desperately cloying for edginess and relevance, but it’s possible that I’m wrong about that impression (which I’m now realizing is likely because I used to have listen to a bunch of terrible, badly dressed youths demanding the VICE print magazine from the American Apparel I ran. That’s a bad and possibly unfair association.)

At any rate, this was a fascinating portrait of young Arab dudes who are making it work in Israel, primarily by helping people act out ages-old role play between Jews and Arabs:


The Young Arab Sex Workers Making a Living in Israel

By Orli Santo

April 14, 2016

Yossi works in a supermarket warehouse in Haifa, a city in the north of Israel. His father is a Christian Arab and his mother a Jew, but he lived most of his life following the Jewish part of his heritage: He celebrated a bar mitzvah, served in the Israeli army, and speaks flawless Hebrew. But online, his Arab side comes out: He’s Yusuf, an Israeli Arab escort.

“Israeli [Jewish] gay men have a fetish for Arabs,” he explained. “Sometimes they want to dominate me and sometimes they want to be dominated, but for a Jewish man, sex with an Arab is always about who has the power, the control.”

Last month, the Israeli government released its first-ever survey on prostitution. The survey, conducted by the social affairs and public security ministries, found that annual payments to sex workers amounted to an estimated 1.2 billion shekels (about $308 million) in 2014. Of the roughly 12,000 prostitutes working in Israel that year, about 5 percent of them—between 550 and 570 people—were men. And of those men, 19 percent were Arabs, a larger percentage than the proportion of male Arabs in Israel’s general population, which is around 9 percent in the mixed Israeli cities. This disparity was even sharper among young people, ages 18 to 25, where Arab male prostitutes outnumbered their Jewish counterparts by more than three to one.

Dr. Yoav Santo, one of the sociologists who led the study, cited several reasons for the overrepresentation of Arab men in Israel’s prostitution industry: Arab men have a harder time finding jobs in the Jewish market, he said, and since Arab society generally has less tolerance for sexual variants, those who identify as gay or trans are frequently ostracized, increasing their social vulnerability and leading to even greater financial stress. Under these circumstances, the sex trade often becomes the only solution.

And then, of course, there’s the racial component—the demand for Arab submissives. “The most recurrent impetus to hire a prostitute, whether male or female, is the desire to express dominance,” said Santo over the phone from Israel. “The same rubric explains why Arabs seeking to hire a prostitute will often want someone dressed as an Israeli female soldier.


“Sexuality is the dark mirror of society,” he added. “Whatever social or racial taboos a society harbors will inevitably come into play between a sex worker and his or her client.”


Yusuf has become adept at fulfilling the fantasies of Jewish Israeli men. Per Israel’s complex racial dynamics, these fantasies aren’t as straightforward as one might imagine. “Sure, sometimes they will wear an IDF uniform and dominate me, but sometimes they will wear the uniform and pay me to dominate them,” he explained in a phone interview. “Sometimes they want me to dress like an Arab woman, in women’s lingerie and a hijab. There was one guy who wanted me to wear a keffiyeh, wave a fake Arabian sword, and yell at him in Arabic while I fake ‘raped’ him,” he said, laughing. “It’s like theater.”

Yusuf has been on both the giving and receiving end of the bondage, degradations, and racial slurs often involved in nationalistic fantasies. For the right price, he is willing to do almost anything, save extreme pain, knives, or fecal play. He doesn’t mind being called a “dirty Arab”—it’s his most common term of endearment, he says—but he balks at the idea of having his face covered during sex. “As if I’m a Palestinian detainee, or a masked Palestinian terrorist… I don’t like that. Why? Because I want them to see my eyes. It makes it harder for them to forget I’m human.”  [Continued on]


I tend to gravitate to the stories and guys who can take a lighthearted view of what they do and occasionally interject some wisdom or pithiness – like Yusuf here – though this story goes on to talk about some of the darker sides of this particular fantasy world.  I highly recommend checking it out, and found myself wishing it were even more in-depth.  This seems like a lot of story to jam into 1000 words.


– tyler

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