The Materiality of Everyday Sex: Thinking beyond ‘prostitution’

Mark Hunter, “The Materiality of Everyday Sex: thinking beyond ‘prostitution’”. (2002) 61:1 African Studies 99

Abstract:

This article’s central argument is that the close association between sex and gifts–resulting in what has been called “transactional sex”–is a central factor driving multiple-partnered sexual relationships, the principal cause of HIV infection in Mandeni. Transactional sex has a number of similarities to prostitution. In both cases, non-marital sexual relationships, often with multiple partners, are underscored by the giving of gifts or cash. Transactional sex, however, differs in important ways: participants are constructed as “girlfriends” and “boyfriends” and not “prostitutes” and “clients”, and the exchange of gifts for sex is part of a broader set of obligations that might not involve a predetermined payment. The use of the concept “transactional sex” is intended neither to maintain inflexible distinctions between the categories of “prostitution “/”transactional sex”/”non-transactional sex” (indeed, sex, like all embodied practices, is always simultaneously material and meaningful in complex ways), nor to naturalize heterosexual sex, the principal focus of this article.

Full text available here.

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