Wednesday, December 9, 2009
By Krystina Johnson
Lenore Manderson determines in his article “Public Sex Performances in Patong and Explorations of the Edges of Imagination,” that in the sex trade it is understood that “the objects of the ‘new consumerism’ were women” (Manderson). Since women are the commodity sex is very easily accessed but it has limitations that keep it from being completely accepted in open society.
“Brother keeping, procurement and prostitution were banned only in 1960, with the introduction of the Prohibiting Prostitution Act; the Entertainment Places Act in 1966 resulted in the flourishing of places alternative to old style brothels: “massage parlours, nightclubs, bars, coffee shops, tea houses and barber shops were erected in every major town” . . . by the 1980s, the industry had diversified further to cater to all tastes and pockets: brothels, work as prostitutes primarily because of factors that relate to gender rather than desire” (Manderson).
Laws were erected to answer the problems for prostitution so that lewdness could not be in the public eyes of political officials. The sex trade was transferred to the private so that sex and women could still be a commodity but have some form of decorum so that it could be accepted in society.
This lack of acceptance causes shame and embarrassment to be felt by the female sex workers and the men in their lives. The economy in society is declining so sex is used to earn and gain money. Denise Brennan’s article “Women Work, Men Sponge, and Everyone Gossips: Macho Men and Stigmatized/ing Women in a Sex Tourist Town,” says that the change “proliferatation of sex-tourist destinations/sexscapes throughout the developing world reflect global capital’s destabilizing effects on less industrialized countries’ economies where globalization of capital not only shapes women’s work options in the developing world, but also often forces them into dangerous and insecure work” (Brennan) This dangerous work includes working as a sex worker and working long and irregular hours that causes people to believe an extramarital relationship is occurring. Any extramarital activities are the main topic of gossip of neighbors and coworkers causing the women to be both shamed and embarrassed about their way of earning money, “as sex workers compete with one another for clients, especially sober, clean, and generous customers, the atmosphere in the bars and boarding houses is ripe for gossip and back-biting” (Brennan). The gossip proves that the traditional roles of women and the traditional ideals of sex are still in place making prostitution, life as a sex worker, and even working outside of the home much harder for these women.
For some working the sex tourist spots is a stepping stone for marriage to a foreigner. This plan to marry a foreigner shows that beside the shame and embarrassment lies an agency to retain a visa and leave the poor country.
“Sosúa’s sex workers use the sex tourist trade as an advancement strategy, not just as a survival strategy. This strategy hinges on their performance of “love” as they try to marry their European clients-turned-suitors and migrate to these men’s home countries. Their earning power, retention of earnings, and the migration strategies they weave into the sex trade, are examples of how women struggle to take advantage of foreign men who are in Sosúa to take advantage of them” (Brennan).
This agency allows the women to take control of their lives by using their most valuable asset, sex, as a commodity to sell until they can figure out a way out of sex trading and away from the gossip. Plus these women are intelligent enough to have a plan to make a way from the abuse of the gossip and men in the poor country.
This gossip from neighbors and coworkers leads the men of sex workers and women that work outside of the home to abusing the women while stealing the money earned from these taboo jobs. Erik Bähre argues in his article, “The Exchange of Sex, Blood, and Money among Africans in Cape Town,” that due to women in the work force men are treated as though they are children, “money was transferred from the wife to the husband, among other ways through theft, and the man’s status as husband and father regressed to that of an irresponsible child” (Bähre). Losing his traditional place in the household the man is devolved to childhood since the woman is paying for him. Another uncomfortable position that men are placed in due to the sexual commodity is the thought that their wives or girlfriends are unfaithful which is fueled through gossip, Zuko was hearing from his sister that his working wife Nomahobe was seen with someone else so “as a ‘proper man’, he had to make the accusation” this is when sex becomes a dangerous commodity (Bähre).
Sex as a commodity is dangerous since men believe that powerful and violence is sexy. Men in history are to conquer women since women and their sexuality are their propery once these women are conquered. According to David G. Winter in the article “Power, Sex, and Violence: A Psychological Reconstruction of the 20th Century and an Intellectual Agenda for Political Psychology,” men have a higher status than women because “the presence for sex-exclusive ‘men’s houses,’ marriage by capture, restrictions on women’s sexuality after marriage, and property rights in women” (Winter). This enforcement of traditional gender roles in marriage shows that not challenging the gender roles is dangerous since the men in gender roles are very violent. This violence is shown in courtship.
“Rank also gave examples of the reverse symbolic connection, in which the ‘courting’ (or sexual conquest) of a woman is represented as the siege or seizure of a city. In Italian novellas collected by Giovanni Sercambi, for example, men and women having sex call it playing “the Sultan entering Babylon” or “storming Constantinople”. The connotation is also apparemt in our everyday representation of proposals of love with metaphors of ‘assault’ and ‘capitulation.’ Rank analyzed these symbolic connections in terms of a fusion of the libidinal and mastery instincts (in contemporary terms, a linkage of sex and violent power).” (Winter) The instinct to be the “conqueror” is threatened once the woman is doing the financial conquering and controlling.