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Tourism and Tigueraje: The structures of love and silence among Dominican male sex workers

Archived Abstract of Former PSC Researcher

Padilla, Mark. 2007. "Tourism and Tigueraje: The structures of love and silence among Dominican male sex workers." In Love and Globalization: Transformations of Intimacy in the Contemporary World edited by Mark Padilla et al. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press.

Numerous studies of gender, work, and globalization in the Caribbean have described the rapid transformation of women’s labor throughout the region. While much of this research has focused on women’s incorporation into new forms of work – such as the export processing zones that now dominate many Caribbean economies – there has been relatively little consideration of how historically-recent changes in the region’s insertion into the global economy are shaping men’s labor, the meanings and practices of masculinity, and the social context of men’s reproductive health behavior. This paper examines the intersection of these factors by focusing an ethnographic lens on the growing phenomenon of men’s informal labor in the tourism industry – now the primary industry in the region and the backbone of contemporary Caribbean economies. While a substantial body of Caribbean literature demonstrates that tourism work increasingly functions as a “safety valve” for the growing number of under-employed men in the region, there is a paucity of ethnographic research on how men understand and experience informal tourism labor, how tourism areas influence the situational meanings and practices of masculinity, and how men’s work in the tourism economy affects the negotiation of HIV/STI risk with wives and female partners. In the context of the high prevalence rates of HIV in the Caribbean – exceeded only by Sub-Saharan Africa – such research is essential for the development of interventions to mitigate the heterosexual transmission of HIV and the persistent association between HIV/STI risk and the tourism industry. Drawing on three years of ethnographic research with male tourism workers in the Dominican Republic, as well as the regional and global literature on tourism and sexual risk, this paper develops a research framework to address how three factors contribute to HIV/STI risk among male tourism workers and their female partners: (1) men’s internal migration to tourism enclaves in search of work; (2) the “regional masculinities” that operate in tourism areas and home communities; and (3) the social context of risk in tourism spaces. The paper concludes with a call for a new methodological approach to reproductive health among Caribbean men that focuses not on the identification and targeting of “risky men,” but on a situational ethnographic approach that strives to understand how structural changes in the region are shaping the movement of men within and between risky social spaces.

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