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Sex at the Margins: Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

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Sex at the Margins: Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry [Paperback]

Laura María Agustín
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 7, 2007 1842778609 978-1842778609
This groundbreaking book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustin makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, "Sex at the Margins" provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice.

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Sex at the Margins: Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry + Playing the Whore: The Work of Sex Work (Jacobin)
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Editorial Reviews


"Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality." --Lisa Adkins, Goldsmiths, University of London

"In restoring those living on the fringes of western societies to their full humanity, this invigorating book undermines our stereotypes and provides a challenging but unforgettable picture." --Jeffrey Weeks, London South Bank University

"Sex at the Margins elegantly demonstrates that what happens to poor immigrant working women from the Global South when they `leave home for sex' is neither a tragedy nor the panacea of finding the promised land. Above all, Agustín shows that the moralizing bent of most government and NGO programs have little to do with these women's experiences and wishes. This book questions some of our most cherished modern assumptions, and shows that a different ethics of concern is possible." --Arturo Escobar, University of North Carolina

About the Author

LAURA AGUSTIN is a lecturer in sociology at Liverpool University.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Zed Books (August 7, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1842778609
  • ISBN-13: 978-1842778609
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #793,194 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding September 4, 2007
What a relief to have a different conversation about sex and economics outside of the usual morality/rescue mentality. My first reaction to reading the book was to want to meet the author, talk to her all day, and then take her on tour to discuss it with everyone else.

This is the wave of the future, when it comes to discussing "prositution," which already seems like quaint terminology. If you're someone who's interested in progressive sexual politics and how the world works, you are going to EAT THIS UP.

The author does write like a scientific observer, an academic. I appreciated her style and perspective. I would almost say it's not beach reading but actually I read it lying under a mosquito net under one of the most beautiful beachside locations in California. Everyone kept passing me food and tabloid gossip magazines, and I refused them until I got to the last page.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book, and not just for the sex. December 11, 2007
This book is an excellent antidote to all the fantasies about rescue that the high-minded indulge in when they want to save sex workers from their allegedly miserable fate. There are many complex reasons why people - and it's not just women, as Agustin reminds us - perform sexual acts for money, and it would be a good idea for their self-nominated saviors to listen. And there are many complex reasons why people patronize sex workers - it's not just "exploitation," as sex-work abolitionists believe.

Oh and it illuminates the weird affinity between some "fundamentalist feminists" and the religious right, not an attractive alliance.

Though the book is mostly about sex workers who travel from their homelands to ply their trade, the book also helps us think about the whole issue of migration, and our contemporary paranoia about immigrants. The whole notion of "migrants" is deeply class biased; no one ever called an Indian bond trader working in New York a migrant. But he or she has travelled for the same reasons as dishwashers, nannies, and strippers - to make money, for sure, but also to see the world, or escape suffocating origins.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars when helping isn't helping November 12, 2007
The writer gives us a new perspective of sex work and migration i.e. trafficking; one that questions the "victim" status commonly given to prostitutes and those who leave their home country for work abroad. A very good read, it will be lent out so much I'll want to buy a second copy.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
I applaud Professor Agustin's book - it's about time that a book about sex work actually listens to what sex workers have to say! There is this constant drumbeat of "rescue" propaganda, that presents cisgendered female sex workers as "fallen women" who need to be "saved" from their jobs by upper class ladies (and totally ignores the existence of cisgendered male and transgendered sex workers). Professor Agustin totally breaks with that, lets the voice of sex workers enter the room and challenges the respectable affluent ladies, the cops and the bible thumpers and their reactionary anti sex worker agenda. She also exposes the subtle racism and xenophobia that lies behind many of these "anti human trafficking" campaigns.

Professor Agustin's book is actually very readable for an academic tome and I applaud her for that also.

So, if you want to know the real deal about sex work and "human trafficking" you need to buy Professor Agustin's book "Sex At The Margins".
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