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Understanding the sexual exploitation of boys and young men in the UK

An exploratory study

Researchers: Caroline Paskell
Published: August 2014


This research explores the ways in which boys and young men are being sexually exploited, whether boy's experiences and support needs are different to girls and what services are currently available for boys and young men.

Defining sexual exploitation

In England and Northern Ireland, one widely used definition of CSE is that it involves:

‘exploitative situations, contexts and relationships where young people (or a third person or persons) receive ‘something’ (e.g. food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, affection, gifts, money) as a result of them performing, and/or another or others performing on them, sexual activities’

Some of the findings are given below, you can find out more by downloading 

It was funded by the Nuffield Foundation and was conducted by NatCen leading a consortium of researchers from University College London's Department of Security and Crime Science and Barnardo's.


  • There is a clear need for awareness-raising among professionals and the general public about the fact that CSE affects males as well as females.
  • More targeted attention needs to be given to the ways in which gender and sexual orientation may have an influence on vulnerability, responses to CSE, and support needs.
  • Gender stereotypes mean young males are unlikely to talk about having been sexually exploited
  • There needs to be greater recognition of and research into female perpetrators so that professionals and victims recognise this kind of exploitation.


The project was supported by a project reference group, with members drawn from statutory and voluntary organisations across the UK, and convened by NatCen.

The methodology consisted of: 

  • a review of the existing published research and evidence (led by UCL)
  • Analysis of Barnado's database, the largest UK dataset of child sexual exploitation victims (led by UCL)
  • in-depth Interviews with 50 professionals who've been involved in cases of male victim CSE (led by NatCen)
  • workshops with policy stakeholders and young people affected by sexual exploitation (led by NatCen)


If these reports resonate with your own experiences or the experiences of someone close to you, please call one of the following helplines:

Childline 0800 1111

Barnardos offer local services that help address child sexual exploitation. Find out more here.   

SurvivorsUK (national helpline for adult male survivors of rape or sexual abuse)

0845 122 1201

The National Association of People Abused in Childhood

Call 0800 085 3330 for free from landlines, 3, Orange and Virgin mobile phones.

Call 0808 801 0331 for free from O2, T-Mobile and Vodafone mobile phones.