As a rising economic power in East Asia, Taiwan once served as a destination of sex tourism, now gradually it is becoming a country of buyers seeking sex abroad. Currently, China appears to be one of the most popular destinations. Drawing on data from in-depth interviews with 40 Taiwanese male sex buyers and ethnographic data collected by traveling with a group of five men, this article aims to explore how buying sex abroad appears to be the complicated site of power struggles where sexuality intersects with gender, nationality, and global economic hierarchy. By conceptualizing men’s buying of sex abroad as sexual migration, I illustrate the ways in which men’s border crossings for buying sex are complexly embedded in the gender, sexuality, and class relations in Taiwan, and how their sexual encounters with Chinese women are always contaminated by the politics of nationalism which derive from the unsettled political atmospheres across the Taiwan Strait. I argue that sexual migration is made attractive mainly because of the sexual discontent caused by the stratification of the Taiwanese sex industry and the sexual constraints and routineness of heterosexual monogamy. Buying sex abroad therefore appears as a temporary escape from this mundaneness and banality. Conceptualizing men’s buying sex abroad in dynamic transnational contexts, we could illustrate how men actively negotiate sexual desires at both ends of the Taiwan Strait, and go further to analyse how sexuality serves to shape regional migration, and how it interweaves with gender, class and nationality.
Korean women sex workers have attracted attention from Australian border security, South Korean government officials and Korean-Australian communities. This article considers how the bodies of these women have become the ‘iconic sites’ (Luibhéid, 2002: ix–xxvii) on which the South Korean government and immigrant Korean-Australian communities perform ‘national values’. Within Korean-Australian communities, Korean sex workers have been perceived as threats to the immigrant project of socio-economic mobility and ‘legitimate’ citizenship. We consider the silence that is desired of sex workers within immigrant communities and how this can be co-opted by anti-trafficking discourses that are still predicated on the helpless, voiceless female victim.
Japan has one of the world’s largest and most diverse legal sex industries. In a limited female labor market, sex industry work is a stigmatized yet lucrative form of women’s short-term employment and advertisements for recruiting new employees are prominently displayed across urban spaces associated with feminized consumption. In this article, I examine the ideological impasses that adult Japanese women working in Tokyo’s sex industry express when talking about their motives for pursuing this work. Female sex workers commonly justify their work as the necessary sacrifice of filial daughters. This rhetoric of reluctant acceptance for the sake of others, however, obscures the reality that many sex workers are middle-class and college-educated women who find the financial opportunity and flexibility of this industry appealing in contrast to more dominant forms of feminized labor. These women express the ambivalence of their desires for economic self-sufficiency through narrating the dependence of others on them. Examining these ambivalences, I argue that sex workers’ motivations can only be understood through considering the ethical and moral frameworks that define the gendered economies in which they labor.