Sex Work and the City

Sex Work and the City

YASMINA KATSULIS
Copyright Date: 2008
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7560/718869
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  • Book Info
    Sex Work and the City
    Book Description:

    A gateway at the U.S.-Mexico border, Tijuana is a complex urban center with a sizeable population of sex workers. An in-depth case study of the trade,Sex Work and the Cityis the first major ethnographic publication on contemporary prostitution in this locale, providing a detailed analysis of how sex workers' experiences and practices are shaped by policing and regulation.

    Contextualizing her research within the realm of occupational risk, Yasmina Katsulis examines the experiences of a diverse range of sex workers in the region and explores the implications of prostitution, particularly regarding the spheres of class hierarchies, public health, and other broad social effects. Based on eighteen months of intensive fieldwork and nearly 400 interviews with sex workers, customers, city officials, police, local health providers, and advocates,Sex Work and the Citydescribes the arenas of power and the potential for disenfranchisement created by municipal laws designed to regulate the trade. Providing a detailed analysis of this subculture's significance within Tijuana and its implications for debates over legalization of "vice" elsewhere in the world, Katsulis draws on powerful narratives as workers describe the risks of their world, ranging from HIV/AIDS and rape (by police or customers) to depression, work-related stress, drug and alcohol addiction, and social stigma. Insightful and compelling,Sex Work and the Citycaptures the lives (and deaths) of a population whose industry has broad implications for contemporary society at large.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79376-7
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    This book is based on eighteen months of intensive anthropological field research conducted in Tijuana, Mexico (2000–2001). My primary goals were, first, to document the experiences of a diverse range of sex workers who live and work on the U.S.– Mexican border, and, second, to understand the impact of one’s location in the social hierarchy on occupational health and safety. Although municipal laws, policies, and practices are shaped by existing social relations outside of the industry, they have a profound effect on social hierarchy within the sex industry itself. They may shift existing power relations, providing new arenas in...

  6. CHAPTER ONE Tijuana’s Origins
    (pp. 17-22)

    Long before Las Vegas emerged from the desert as a glittering haven for gambling and sex work, Tijuana, Mexico, had established itself as a frontier version of Sin City. Located on the western hemisphere’s only first world/third world border, Tijuana is estimated to be the busiest international border crossing in the world (Ganster 1999). Like its border cousins, Ciudad Juárez and, on a smaller scale, Nogales, Mexico, Tijuana draws from a vast network of migrant labor, college students, tourists, and the U.S. armed services in providing demand for sex work labor at the border. In Tijuana, for example, fifty-five million...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Tijuana Today
    (pp. 23-38)

    Residents in the U.S.-Mexico border regions have overlapped economically, socially, and culturally for over 150 years. An estimated forty thousand residents of Tijuana travel to and from San Diego to work each day, spending an estimated one to three billion dollars on retail goods and services while in the United States (Lorey 1999). Family and social ties on both sides of the border remain strong, in spite of the increasing militarization of the border. Rural to urban and transnational ties continue to link migrants to their home communities, profoundly shaping their motivations, labor strategies, attitudes, and practices. By the 1980s...

  8. CHAPTER THREE Milk Money, Drug Money, and the Sexual Entrepreneur
    (pp. 39-60)

    Milk money, drug money, and the sexual entrepreneur are three loosely de-fined categories that describe the motivations cited by the majority of participants in this study for engaging in sex work. They would probably apply in nearly any setting, in different proportions depending on economic climate, employment opportunities, welfare services, drug treatment services, and the like. In Tijuana, most of the sex workers I met fell into the milk money category, focusing on the provision of basic needs for themselves and their children (see table 3.1 for a general overview of primary motivations for entering sex work). Others used commercial...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Commercial Sex and the Social Landscape
    (pp. 61-70)

    My first exposure to the commercial sex industry in Tijuana happened on Avenida Revolución. A busy avenue attracting mostly U.S. tourists, this street has a number of strip clubs and bars that resemble those found in the United States. The visible presence of sexual commerce in this area normalizes the purchase of sex as just another commodity. I learned from talking informally with a variety of U.S. sex tourists that, like the blankets, pottery, Coronas, and food sold on La Revolución, the sexual experience provided in these areas is seen as quintessentially Mexican. Many customers view gendered performances bymexicana...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE Legal Status and Policing
    (pp. 71-112)

    In Tijuana, fear of sex workers as vectors of sexually transmitted infection (STI) has led to calls for their increased regulation via registration, mandatory testing, and criminal penalties. Though this system is intrusive, it does benefit those who work legally in that their legal status allows them access to the safest and most profitable venues, affords protection from police, and facilitates the professionalization process. The system may also work to socialize those new to the industry, by emphasizing the importance of condom use and regular screening and treatment for STIs. Those who work outside of the system, however, face added...

  11. CHAPTER SIX Gender Diversity
    (pp. 113-142)

    The public’s collective knowledge about sex work is largely formed by stereotypes of and research conducted on female street prostitutes, particularly drug-addicted prostitutes, who often have a difficult time negotiating transactions with customers, are frequently taken advantage of, and are generally viewed as being out of control as a result of their addictions. These representations are given added weight because they dovetail with fears about female sexuality gone out of control, moral decline, and social disorder. While this may not represent an entirely accurate picture of even a small proportion of sex workers, the stereotype pervades many representations of prostitution...

  12. Conclusions and Recommendations
    (pp. 143-152)

    The implications of legal status on working conditions and occupational risk are clear. Although previous research on sex work in Mexico suggests a statistical correlation between work venues and risk for STIs,¹ I have demonstratedhowwork venues affect occupational health and safety more generally as well as how legal status shapes who works in which venue. While some comparative research focuses on street versus bar workers, the legality of these venues and the enforcement practices associated with each have been overlooked. In Tijuana, surveillance and policing of those who work illegally has led to increased violence, harassment, and mental...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 153-160)
  14. Glossary
    (pp. 161-162)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 163-172)
  16. Index
    (pp. 173-174)