Laura Agustín's picture

The antithesis of love? Dan Allman reviews Sex at the Margins

Sex at the Margins has now been reviewed 17 times in academic journals! And those journals focus on many different fields: sociology, anthropology, migration, feminism, gender, geography - here’s a full list.  I marvel especially when someone I admire admires my book.  Dan Allman, who wrote M is for mutual, A is for acts, has published a review of Sex at the Margins for the journal Sexualities. To be compared to Clifford Geertz means being understood, and what is better than that? And how about a comparison with Camille Paglia?  Here’s Dan’s review.

Laura María Agustín, Sex at the Margins: Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry. London and New York: Zed Books, 2007.

Some books about prostitution and sex trafficking can make for challenging reading. Not because of the subject matter necessarily, but because of the ways contemporary politics and voice give rise to a kind of morally-charged discourse.

Laura Agustín's picture

Beirut’s sex tourism, sex industry, sex work - and a pimp’s voice

I notice that more of these reports from around the world are asking pimps for information, particularly about money issues. The voice of the pimp usually brags, claims terrific success, high earnings. Sex workers sound like passive objects indeed. Take, for example, the report from Malaysia. But rather than discount everything these businessmen say, I listen to the logistical information they provide. Note in this story about Beirut how arrangements are made between tourists and sex workers - not so different from those mentioned in a recent post about seamen, ships in port and party girls. Note, too, that the first sex tourist mentioned is a young Saudi woman who enjoys freedom and night life in Beirut: no mention of paying for sex in her case.

The concept of sex tourism is another that gets thrown around without much investigation about what it means in specific circumstances. Many people on holiday feel like experimenting, want to go wild, enjoy breaking their hometown’s sexual norms. Paying may be involved, but payments may be made to guides, translators and natives who present as pick-ups. To say sex tourist is to imply that someone conspired to travel abroad for the express purpose of having sex; more often tourists buy all sorts of services, sometimes including sex, and sometimes not getting what they bargained for.

I talked not long ago about different prices for sex workers from different ethnic groups, in relation to a sign in Hong Kong. This issue arises here, too.

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