Laura Agustín's picture

Hay que tener una visión de las cosas: Mujeres brasileiras en la industria del sexo en España

Con todo el debate ideológico sobre la prostitución, salen poco simples testimonios de personas que han decidido viajar y trabajar en la industria del sexo. Cuando digo ‘decidido’ quiero decir que puede que tengan pocas opciones para salir adelante pero sí tienen algunas y pueden preferir unas a otras. Es un planteamiento básico, que no niega el sexismo del mundo ni la injusticia para los países menos ricos sino que destaca la dimensión personal donde el candidato a la migración mira su situación y opta por viajar. Y muy fácilmente sale una historia no solo de ganarse la vida sino una visión empresarial y emprendedora, de personas que calculan sus chances, planifican sus futuros y son todo menos víctimas. Los siguientes relatos vienen de un trabajo de Adriana Piscitelli, de la Universidade do Estado de São Paulo, Brasil. He marcado frases en las que se puede oir la voz de personas que están informándose mediante redes, que están tomando decisiones y que tienen una visión a largo plazo de sus vidas.

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

What Vice Squads do to stop street prostitution, Cape Town

What an old-fashioned term Vice Squad sounds. I imagined, foolishly, that any contemporary police force would look for a blander, more politically correct term: Orderly Cities, or Safe Streets. But no, right there in Cape Town, South Africa, they are setting up a Vice Squad to get rid of prostitution, on the grounds that it attracts other crimes like money laundering. The vices that Vice Squads address involve drugs, alcohol, commercial sex including pornography and gambling. Even the word vice sounds dated to me.

Laura Agustín's picture

Jesus loves strippers: Christian outreach

(Posted at Border Thinking on Migration, Traficking & Commercial Sex)

In campaigns protesting raids and other drastic actions against prostitutes and sex workers, Christianity is often slagged off. That’s not fair; it’s how people interpret their duty as Christians that can lead to abuse. Here’s an example of Christian outreach, carried out in the same sort of way that civilian harm-reduction projects are done. Note that this helper ‘won’t apply for federal funds because she doesn’t want anything to interfere with “preaching the Word,”’and doesn’t see her role as trying to get women out of the industry  Excerpts only - click on the title for the complete story.

Jesus & strippers

Emily Belz,

Los Angeles. Near midnight. Industrial buildings. Empty streets. Full parking lot. Men wander into a nondescript building, “Fantasy Castle.” Bouncers stand at the door. Inside, on stage. women dance to earn their rent. Men watch in the dark. Booze, perfume, and loneliness.

Laura Agustín's picture

Migrant brothel workers who oppose raids and want to work tell why

(Posted at Border Thinking on Migration, Trafficking and Commercial Sex)

I just gave a talk about irregular migration and informal-sector jobs, including in the sex industry, at a conference in Copenhagen. The talk was well-received, but as always most people say they have not heard my point of view before. So to make sure everyone realises that my ideas are not the result of an ideology about prostitution, I run this photo again of a poster prepared by migrant sex workers (self-identified so) in Chiang Mai, Thailand, at the EMPOWER centre.

See for yourself the list of reasons migrant sex workers at Barn Su Funn Brothel gave for opposing raids and rescue operations intended to liberate them, whether rescuers are police officers, ngo employees or charity workers:

• We lose our savings and our belongings.
• We are locked up.
• We are interrogated by many people.
• They force us to be witnesses.
• We are held until the court case.
• We are held till deportation.
• We are forced re-training.
• We are not given compensation by anybody.
• Our family must borrow money to survive while we wait.
• Our family is in a panic.
• We are anxious for our family.
• Strangers visit our village telling people about us.
• The village and the soldiers cause our family problems.
• Our family has to pay ‘fines’ or bribes to the soldiers.
• We are sent home.
• Military abuses and no work continues at home.
• My family has a debt.
• We must find a way back to Thailand to start again.

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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Sex workers and Violence against Women: Utopic Visions or Battle of the Sexes?

(From Border Thinking on Migration, Trafficking and Commercial Sex)

How is it feminist, if the goal is improving society and achieving more equality amongst human beings, to focus on crime and punishment? Published in 2001, this article provoked horror in some sectors. Although I wouldn’t write it exactly the same way now, I stand by its ideas. If Gender Equality is one of feminism’s goals, how can we imagine it without reducing everything to black and white, perpetrator and victim, crime, crime, crime?

Sex workers and Violence Against Women: Utopic Visions or Battle of the Sexes?

Laura Mª Agustín

Development, 44.3, 107-110 (2001)

Sexual exploitation and prostitution

In the movement to construct a discourse of ‘violence against women’, and thus to raise consciousness about kinds of mistreatment which before were invisible, the stage has been reached where defining crime and achieving punishment appears to be the goal. While it is progressive to raise consciousness about violence and exploitation in an attempt to deter the commitment of crimes, I hope to show that the present emphasis on discipline is very far from a utopic vision and that we should now begin to move toward other suggestions for solutions.

The following argument uses the example of prostitution or ‘sexual exploitation’ as an instance of ‘violence against women’, but the approach can apply to any attempt to deal with not only definitions of gender and sexual violence but with proposals to deal with them. When applied to adult prostitution, the term ‘sexual exploitation’ attempts to change language to make ‘voluntary’ prostitution impossible. For those who wish to ‘abolish’ prostitution, therefore, this change in terms represents progress, for now language itself will not be complicit with the violence involved. For those who may or may not want to ‘abolish’ prostitution but who in the present put the priority on improving the everyday lot of prostitutes, this language change totalizes a variety of situations involving different levels of personal will and makes it more difficult to propose practical solutions. When applied to the prostitution of children, the term ‘sexual exploitation’ represents a project to change perceptions about childhood. For those who believe that the current western model of childhood as a time of innocence should become the ‘right’ of all children in the world, this term is very important.

Laura Agustín's picture

Is swinging (not) part of the sex industry?

I have invited Laura Agustín to cross-post here and she has wonderfully accepted.  Many of you may already be familiar with her work at Border Thinking on Migration, Trafficking and Commercial Sex.  She writes clear and thoughtfully about sex work, migrant life and more.  I am certain you will enjoy her work as much as several of us here at SexGenderBody already do. -arvan

By Laura Agustín

Some people think swinging and polyamory have nothing to do with the sex industry and are offended to be associated with it. In my conception, swinging parties and sex clubs do form part of the industry, because money is exchanged for opportunities to have, watch, smell and listen to sex - one’s own and others. The managers of venues often provide possible partners for your pleasure - sex workers. And, on the other hand, many customers in sex-industry bars and clubs spend time and money without ever buying ’sex’ itself. The lines supposedly dividing these different entertainment enterprises are very blurred.

When people are offended by this inclusion, it means they think the sex industry is something negative. Since I don’t see it as negative, I’m not insulting anyone who’s associated with it. Rather, I’m engaged in figuring out how and why people think they can differentiate between commercial and non-commercial sex. As far as I can see, after studying it for many years, there’s no way to clearly separate them. Which is a result! It’s a result to find out that the separate categories they teach us about aren’t true, or are, at least, questionable. If you’re more interested in this, consider the cultural study of commercial sex, in its original conception and then later.

Morrissey’s original article moves from Ireland to Berlin and includes many entertaining details. Here I’ve excerpted only the bits most relevant to the sex industry.

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