This article examines the effects of rumors within the Mexican and U.S. governments’ militarized war on drugs. Focusing on a period during which Mexican drug organizations were strengthened and violence increased, the article follows the lives of Mexican sex workers and their clients, as well as American missionaries living in a prostitution zone in Reynosa, Tamaulipas. Borders between narco-controlled and state-controlled territory were shifted in and through the bodies of Reynosa’s residents as a contagion of performative rumors came to occupy la zona. As residents told or listened to stories about torture and murder at the hands of narcos, their perceived vulnerability increased and fear came to predominate. In this article I theorize how rumors of violence shaped affective atmospheres of terror and altered spatial practices in a drug-war zone. Feelings of bodily risk first affected vulnerable populations and later spread to people who had previously felt secure in border zones. These narco-stories not only circulated terror but also allowed people to achieve intimacy and maintain social bonds through the shared experience of terror.
This article explores how women working as prostitutes in Orizaba, Mexico, laid claim to a more revolutionary vision of women’s citizenship. Prostitutes pushed the state to realize the promises of the Mexican Revolution, even as officials and many local residents—rich and poor—retained outmoded notions of gender and citizenship. This research indicates that “respectable” poor and working-class individuals gravitated toward traditional gender values so as to position themselves as respectable in the eyes of state agents charged with policing morality and public health. State officials’ rhetoric of egalitarianism that followed the Mexican Revolution fell flat for the public women whose pecuniary position persisted long after the guns fell silent.
In this essay I will discuss corporeal entrepreneurialism in the context of commercial sex and neoliberal agency at the United States–Mexico border. I want to situate the sex trade in a larger neoliberal context of economic need, mobility, and commercialization. The essay addresses how bodily entrepreneurialism can function as a gateway to upward social mobility and how erotic capital can level existing social and economic inequalities and thus act as a catalyst to exit marginalized communities. I am drawing on Wacquant’s (1995) work on corporeal entrepreneurs and also on the notion of bodily capital that he has developed therein. Using bodily capital in the context of sex work, it makes sense to talk more specifically about erotic capital, which is the primary currency in the sex trade. Thus, I will integrate Isaiah Green’s (2008) definition of erotic capital and elaborate how women make use of their bodies to enhance their erotic capital and explain what their strategies and perceptions are. Inspired by Alexander Edmonds’ (2007) work on beauty and race in Brazil, I will elaborate how corporeal entrepreneurs strategically use their bodily and erotic capital to counteract their socioeconomic marginalization and challenge traditional hierarchies. As will become clear, corporeal entrepreneurialism ties together women’s agency, market demand, and monetary value, and, to succeed, this endeavor requires enormous levels of discipline, emotional resilience, management skills, stamina, and purposefulness.
The analysis of global sexual economies has emerged as an important part of a wider feminist project to re-imagine the boundaries of what constitutes the ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ of globalisation and capitalism. Emphasising the importance of such an agenda, the article argues that continued understandings of commercial sex as ‘women’s work’ place male and transgender bodies on the outside rather than the inside of the analysis of global sexual economies. Highlighting the need to address this gap in contemporary theorising and empirical analysis, the article then offers an illustration of research into male sex work through discussion of how male escorts in San Francisco negotiate the complex meanings and practices surrounding gender, sexuality and political economy.