Many straight Americans would never embrace homosexuals as neighbors, co-workers, or friends. Still less would they accept as equals those transgendered individuals who work the streets to provide themselves with drug money.
This book seeks to change that perception. It celebrates the lives of Shontae, China, Keisha, Detra, and Monique, five Afro-American gay hustlers who struggle to survive and to maintain a life of dignity and value in the face of their drug use and criminal activity. As individuals they vary in terms of background, the manner in which they entered the transgendered world, and the nature of their initiation into the drug subculture. None of them has escaped the ravages of urban decline, crime, drugs, and poverty that accompany life in an inner city, but by the same token, none of them has capitulated to the stresses with which they live.
It is impossible to read these accounts and not come away emotionally drained. As Monique explains, their lives take place in a world of chances. "You take a chance on living or dying, on being hurt or not being hurt, a chance on finding a friend or finding an enemy." It is from this world that their voices speak so eloquently about their families, hustling, sexuality, sexual abuse, friendship, and intimacy.
By letting these women speak, Leon E. Pettiway evokes questions and encourages discussion and a re-evaluation of those who are labeled as deviant. Pettiway reaches beyond academic convention to offer a view with depth and emotion that mere statistics could never provide. While the poverty and often destructive lifestyle of these women may be gut-wrenching, their experiences reveal joy, pain, and the profound strength of the human spirit with which we can all identify. These lives have much to teach us about ourselves and those we label as "other."
Despite continued public and legislative concern about sex trafficking across international borders, the actual lives of the individuals involved—and, more importantly, the decisions that led them to sex work—are too often overlooked. With Mobile Orientations, Nicola Mai shows that, far from being victims of a system beyond their control, many contemporary sex workers choose their profession as a means to forge a path toward fulfillment.
Using a bold blend of personal narrative and autoethnography, Mai provides intimate portrayals of sex workers from sites including the Balkans, the Maghreb, and West Africa who decided to sell sex as the means to achieve a better life. Mai explores the contrast between how migrants understand themselves and their work and how humanitarian and governmental agencies conceal their stories, often unwittingly, by addressing them all as helpless victims. The culmination of two decades of research, Mobile Orientations sheds new light on the desires and ambitions of migrant sex workers across the world.
Often depicted as deviant or pathological by public health researchers, psychoanalysts, and sexologists, male-with-male sex and sex work is, in fact, an increasingly mainstream pursuit. Based on a qualitative investigation of the practices involved in male-with-male—or m4m—Internet escorting, Touching Encounters is the first book to explicitly address how masculinity and sexuality shape male commercial sex in this era of Internet communications.
By looking closely at the sex and work of male escorts, Kevin Walby tries to reconcile the two extremes of m4m sex—the stereotypical idea of a quick cash transaction and the tendency toward friendship and mutuality. In doing so, Walby draws on the work of Foucault to make visible the play of power in these physical and commercial relations between men. At once a revelation to the sociology of work and a much-needed critical engagement with queer theory, Touching Encounters responds to calls from across the social sciences to connect Foucault with sociologies of sex, sexuality, and intimacy. Walby does this and more, retying this sexual practice back to society at large.
While much attention has been paid in recent years to heterosexual prostitution and sex tourism in Brazil, gay sex tourism has been almost completely overlooked. In Tourist Attractions, Gregory C. Mitchell presents a pioneering ethnography that focuses on the personal lives and identities of male sex workers who occupy a variety of roles in Brazil’s sexual economy.
Mitchell takes us into the bath houses of Rio de Janeiro, where rent boys cruise for clients, and to the beaches of Salvador da Bahia, where African American gay men seek out hustlers while exploring cultural heritage tourist sites. His ethnography stretches into the Amazon, where indigenous fantasies are tinged with the erotic at eco-resorts, and into the homes of “kept men,” who forge long-term, long-distance, transnational relationships that blur the boundaries of what counts as commercial sex. Mitchell asks how tourists perceive sex workers’ performances of Brazilianness, race, and masculinity, and, in turn, how these two groups of men make sense of differing models of racial and sexual identity across cultural boundaries. He proposes that in order to better understand how people experience difference sexually, we reframe prostitution—which Marxist feminists have long conceptualized as sexual labor—as also being a form of performative labor. Tourist Attractions is an exceptional ethnography poised to make an indelible impact in the fields of anthropology, gender, and sexuality, and research on prostitution and tourism.
In this dramatic and compelling narrative, anthropologist Don Kulick follows the lives of a group of transgendered prostitutes (called travestis in Portuguese) in the Brazilian city Salvador. Travestis are males who, often beginning at ages as young as ten, adopt female names, clothing styles, hairstyles, and linguistic pronouns. More dramatically, they ingest massive doses of female hormones and inject up to twenty liters of industrial silicone into their bodies to create breasts, wide hips, and large thighs and buttocks. Despite such irreversible physiological changes, virtually no travesti identifies herself as a woman. Moreover, travestis regard any male who does so as mentally disturbed.
Kulick analyzes the various ways travestis modify their bodies, explores the motivations that lead them to choose this particular gendered identity, and examines the complex relationships that they maintain with one another, their boyfriends, and their families. Kulick also looks at how travestis earn their living through prostitution and discusses the reasons prostitution, for most travestis, is a positive and affirmative experience.
Arguing that transgenderism never occurs in a "natural" or arbitrary form, Kulick shows how it is created in specific social contexts and assumes specific social forms. Furthermore, Kulick suggests that travestis—far from deviating from normative gendered expectations—may in fact distill and perfect the messages that give meaning to gender throughout Brazilian society and possibly throughout much of Latin America.
Through Kulick's engaging voice and sharp analysis, this elegantly rendered account is not only a landmark study in its discipline but also a fascinating read for anyone interested in sexuality and gender.