Switching from a white-collar professional to a sex worker is not an easy step, particularly for individuals with a postgraduate degree in South Korea who may have significant expectations from their parents, peers, and communities. Based on the social stigma theory and social cognitive career and motivation theory, this study aims to understand how stress and pressure impact the motivations, career decisions, and decision-making processes of individualized and freelance male sex workers and their career transition experiences in South Korea. Based on the thematic analysis, ten highly educated male sex workers joined and shared their experiences. The researchers categorized three main finding themes, including (a) not liking the office and white-collar positions, (b) not wanting to hide sexuality as gay and bisexual men, and (c) financial considerations play a significant role in experiences and career decision-making processes. This study examined the social stigma, challenges, and career decision-making processes of male sex workers who previously held white-collar positions in South Korea but switched to sex work after a few years of service. Based on the outcomes of this study based upon the voices from the male sex workers, government leaders and non-profit organizational workers should use this study as a reference to establish support and plans to help sex workers due to their situations and social challenges.


career decision, discrimination, male sex worker, self-efficacy, sex worker, social cognitive career and motivation theory, social stigma, South Korea, thematic analysis

Author Bio(s)

Dr. Dos Santos is an Assistant Professor at Hong Kong Shue Yan University, Hong Kong SAR. In 2021, 2022, and 2023, Dr. Dos Santos has been listed as the Top 2 % scientific researcher. Please direct correspondence to luismigueldossantos@yahoo.com

Mr. Lo is a doctoral candidate at City University of Macau, Macau SAR.

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