Intimate Tourism Assignment:
QUESTION 1: Study of sex tourism
What do the studies by Denise Brennan and Susan Frohlick contribute to the understanding of “sex tourism”?
For me personally, when thinking about sex tourism, my mind immediately goes to the realm of exploitation on the part of the women involved in the exchange. Generally, ideas about sex tourism involves a disproportionate power dynamic between typically a white man and some ‘othered’ woman who is being exploited. Brennan (2004) and Frohlick (2013) introduce new dimensions to sex tourism discussion. Frohlick (2013) is successful in introducing sex tourism within a female foreigner and male local dynamic. This shows that sex tourism does not only affect local women but also impacts local men and their ideas about power, sex and tourism. For local men in Costa Rica, “Northern women held the promise of a range of tangible and intangible things, including a cosmopolitan masculinity [and] a sense of ‘coolness’ amongst peers.” (Frohlick 2013, p. 140). This shows how local men within the country were active participants in sex tourism with European and American women who were attracted to the “unspeakable” nature of transnational sex.
Additionally, Brennan (2004) also was helpful in opening up discussions about how women can also be active participants in sex tourism and are not always exploited. Women, introduced by Brennan (2004), use sex tourism as a legitimate means for earning money. These women exercise their own agency and use sex tourism as “an advancement strategy” (Brennan 2004, p. 710). Sex tourism can earn these women more money than the ‘typical’ female jobs within the service industry like cleaning hotel rooms. As stated by Brennan (2004), “[this disputes claims that] all sex workers in all contexts are powerless victims of violence and exploitation.” (Brennan 2004, p. 711). Many of these women have different experiences with sex work and some of them do not even self-describe as sex workers. Some Sosúan sex workers view themselves as “selfless, responsible and caring mothers” (Brennan 2004, p. 715). In my opinion, works by both Brennan (2004) and Frohlick (2013) help to change generally held ideas about sex tourism and even sex work as a whole and brings to light the problematic tendency to homogenize the experiences of all sex workers and to dub them as victims no matter the context or situation.
Brennan, Denise. 2004. “Women Work, Men Sponge, and Everyone Gossips: Macho Men and
Stigmatized/ing Women in a Sex Tourist Town.” Anthropological Quarterly 77 (4): 705-733.
Frohlick, Susan. 2013. “Intimate Tourism Markets: Money, Gender and the Complexity of Erotic
Exchange in a Costa Rican Caribbean Town.” Anthropological Quarterly 86 (1): 133-162.
QUESTION 2: Agency and Constraints
Ethnographers, as Denise Brennan suggests, “face the inevitable tension of how to adequately attend to both agency and constraints” (2004, 708).
How does Brennan present female sex workers and their involvement in tourism? Does she portray them as exploited and dominated by larger forces? Does she (adequately) attend to both agency and constraints?
Brennan, Denise. 2004. “Women Work, Men Sponge, and Everyone Gossips: Macho Men and Stigmatized/ing Women in a
Sex Tourist Town.” Anthropological Quarterly 77 (4): 705-733.
Ex1:Intimate Tourism Assignment
I would say that Brennan portrays female sex workers as active agents within a broader system in which they are oppressed. She claimed that she saw “a great deal of what Ortner calls “intentionality” in these women’s use of the sex trade”(710). She noticed that each situation varied, and many women, although coming from low socioeconomic backgrounds, were able to be successful financially, and even support their loved ones through remittances. The author noticed that sex-workers were often making significantly more per month than male service workers. Through this, “Sosia’s sexual economy shapes its gender relations and ideologies around earning, spending, and saving money” (708). They do not only out-earn men, but they control much of the working conditions, since they do not have any intermediaries like pimps. This gives them even more freedom and agency to work as they please. That being said, there are negative aspects of sex work in the Dominican and other places, such as abuse, rape and trafficking.
Although portraying these women as active agents, the author also acknowledged the areas where they are stigmatized and discriminated against. One example is the way that they are treated in comparison to their boyfriends or significant others. While sex workers in Sosuia are subject to new kinds of expectations-within their own community of sex workers-men in Sosuia experience a kind of loosening of expectations (among other migrant men) on their behaviour” (707). The women, essentially, are stigmatized for doing too little or easy work, whereas the men who receive remittances from the working women are praised for working less. This just shows how although the women are the primary breadwinners in these families, the pre-existing gender roles trump this.
Brennan, Denise. 2004. “Women Work, Men Sponge, and Everyone Gossips: Macho Men and Stigmatized/ing Women in a Sex Tourist Town.” Anthropological Quarterly 77 (4): 705-733:Intimate Tourism Assignment