Thailand's Sex Entertainment: Alienated Labor and the Construction of Intimacy

Publikation: Beiträge in ZeitschriftenZeitschriftenaufsätzeForschungbegutachtet


Promising research from Thailand already highlights women in the sexual entertainment industry as being active participants in both intimate relationships and commercial transactions simultaneously. Notably, they are neither victims nor alienated laborers, as some activist narratives assert. Women working in Thailand’s sex entertainment industry consistently adapt working cultures to modernity’s demand to reduce sex to a commercial transaction while often seeking emotional engagement. One result is that new forms of intimacy emerged, taking on new cultural meanings. The profoundly felt need to care for and take care of someone else [dulae (Thai: ดูแล)], seen as a form of “intimacy”, is, in fact, deeply rooted in the Thai social context. We reframe the literature about sex work in Thailand by assuming that intimacy is key to understanding how “sex work” arose and is sustained there. Focusing on intimacy distances research about sex work away from western assumptions about the commodification and alienation of labor. This gives a more holistic understanding of the complexity of overlapping and intersecting dimensions of the work women perform in sex entertainment. “Intimacy” ties together the issues of money, labor, and a need to care for someone and be taken care of. This thread links women with their customers, families, and themselves.

ZeitschriftSocial Sciences
Anzahl der Seiten24
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 16.11.2022

Bibliographische Notiz

Funding Information:
“A private, non-profit international non-governmental organization, The Asia Foundation (“TAF”) was established in the year 1954 in Thailand to advance the mutual interests of the United States and countries in the Asia-Pacific region. At that time, much of its funding was routed via the CIA, with the military and political interests of the United States in mind. The Asia Foundation receives annual appropriations from the U.S. Congress and is also financially supported with contributions from corporations, foundations, individuals, and governmental organizations in the US, Canada, Europe, and Asia.” ().

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© 2022 by the authors.