“She’s Not a Low-Class Dirty Girl!”: Sex Work in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Kimberly Kay Hoang, “’She’s Not a Low-Class Dirty Girl!’: Sex Work in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam”. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, August 2011, vol. 40, no. 4, 367-396.


Turning to Vietnam’s contemporary sex industry, this article complicates existing frameworks of global sex work by analyzing a sex industry in a developing economy where not all women are poor or exploited and where white men do not always command the highest paying sector of sex work. Drawing on seven months of field research between 2006 and 2007, I provide a systematic classed analysis of both sides of client—worker relationships in three racially and economically diverse sectors of Ho Chi Minh City’s (HCMC’s) global sex industry: a low-end sector that caters to poor local Vietnamese men, a mid-tier sector that caters to white backpackers, and a high-end sector that caters to overseas Vietnamese (Viet Kieu) men. I illustrate how sex workers and clients draw on different economic, cultural, and bodily resources to enter into different sectors of HCMC’s stratified sex industry. Moreover, I argue that sex work is an intimate relationship best illustrated by the complex intermingling of money and intimacy. Interactions in the low-end sector involved a direct sex for money exchange, while sex workers and clients in the mid-tier and high-end sectors engaged in relational and intimate exchanges with each other.

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