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What's Love Got to Do with It?: Transnational Desires and Sex Tourism in the Dominican Republic

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In locations around the world, sex tourism is a booming business. What's Love Got to Do with It? is an in-depth examination of the motivations of workers, clients, and others connected to the sex tourism business in Sosúa, a town on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic. Denise Brennan considers why Dominican and Haitian women move to Sosúa to pursue sex work and de In locations around the world, sex tourism is a booming business. What's Love Got to Do with It? is an in-depth examination of the motivations of workers, clients, and others connected to the sex tourism business in Sosúa, a town on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic. Denise Brennan considers why Dominican and Haitian women move to Sosúa to pursue sex work and describes how sex tourists, primarily Europeans, come to Sosúa to buy sex cheaply and live out racialized fantasies. For the sex workers, Brennan explains, the sex trade is more than a means of survival—it is an advancement strategy that hinges on their successful “performance” of love. Many of these women seek to turn a commercialized sexual transaction into a long-term relationship that could lead to marriage, migration, and a way out of poverty. Illuminating the complex world of Sosúa’s sex business in rich detail, Brennan draws on extensive interviews not only with sex workers and clients, but also with others who facilitate and benefit from the sex trade. She weaves these voices into an analysis of Dominican economic and migration histories to consider the opportunities—or lack thereof—available to poor Dominican women. She shows how these women, local actors caught in a web of global economic relations, try to take advantage of the foreign men who are in Sosúa to take advantage of them. Through her detailed study of the lives and working conditions of the women in Sosúa’s sex trade, Brennan raises important questions about women’s power, control, and opportunities in a globalized economy.


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In locations around the world, sex tourism is a booming business. What's Love Got to Do with It? is an in-depth examination of the motivations of workers, clients, and others connected to the sex tourism business in Sosúa, a town on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic. Denise Brennan considers why Dominican and Haitian women move to Sosúa to pursue sex work and de In locations around the world, sex tourism is a booming business. What's Love Got to Do with It? is an in-depth examination of the motivations of workers, clients, and others connected to the sex tourism business in Sosúa, a town on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic. Denise Brennan considers why Dominican and Haitian women move to Sosúa to pursue sex work and describes how sex tourists, primarily Europeans, come to Sosúa to buy sex cheaply and live out racialized fantasies. For the sex workers, Brennan explains, the sex trade is more than a means of survival—it is an advancement strategy that hinges on their successful “performance” of love. Many of these women seek to turn a commercialized sexual transaction into a long-term relationship that could lead to marriage, migration, and a way out of poverty. Illuminating the complex world of Sosúa’s sex business in rich detail, Brennan draws on extensive interviews not only with sex workers and clients, but also with others who facilitate and benefit from the sex trade. She weaves these voices into an analysis of Dominican economic and migration histories to consider the opportunities—or lack thereof—available to poor Dominican women. She shows how these women, local actors caught in a web of global economic relations, try to take advantage of the foreign men who are in Sosúa to take advantage of them. Through her detailed study of the lives and working conditions of the women in Sosúa’s sex trade, Brennan raises important questions about women’s power, control, and opportunities in a globalized economy.

30 review for What's Love Got to Do with It?: Transnational Desires and Sex Tourism in the Dominican Republic

  1. 5 out of 5

    Tinea

    This book was somehow both serious yet light, deep and broad yet accessible and easy to read. It's an in-depth exploration of the sexual, racial, and economic impacts of globalization, through examination of sex tourism in the Dominican Republic. Brennan's field work extended over a decade, and she clearly thought long and hard about every aspect and angle of tourist sex work in that time. The result was a concise and clearly written book. I liked it. Brennan explores women's economic survival st This book was somehow both serious yet light, deep and broad yet accessible and easy to read. It's an in-depth exploration of the sexual, racial, and economic impacts of globalization, through examination of sex tourism in the Dominican Republic. Brennan's field work extended over a decade, and she clearly thought long and hard about every aspect and angle of tourist sex work in that time. The result was a concise and clearly written book. I liked it. Brennan explores women's economic survival strategies, in the face of extreme poverty and for most, single motherhood. Dominican sex workers navigate their own comfort zones, police arrest, threats of violence and AIDS. They exploit foreign tourists' racialized and sexualized stereotypes in hopes to secure long-term economic relationships with these tourists, including money wires, future vacations, and in some cases marriage and visas. These Dominican sex workers act independently, without pimps, but against a power imbalance composed of racial, gendered, and classed hierarchies. Sex tourists, shows Brennan, are supported by the weight of the colonial and economic dominance of their native countries. This means more than just money: citizenship, visa and travel access, and the freedom to enact or renege on fantasies at will. Brennan comes from a clear feminist perspective and demonstrates the agency of her subjects at all points in their search for economic and at times romantic satisfaction, even as they face daunting odds. It was really good to read a piece of scholarship that came off so respectful of its subjects without any romanticization.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Draco3seven Crawdady

    “What’s Love Got to do with it?” takes place in the northern coast city of Sosúa in the Dominican Republic. Her book analysis the motivations and desires behind sex works, their clients, and others associated with Sosúa and its sex tourism. She examines why Dominican and Haitian women move to Sosúa and get involved in sex work, as well as the reasons why Sosúa is a popular tourist destination for primarily white Europeans and Canadian men and the effects of sex tourism on the local economy.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jgknobler

    This is an anthropologist's upsetting account of sex tourism in Sosua, a town on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. Women work as prostitutes hoping to win the affection of foreign, generally German, men who hopefully will continue to wire money upon their return home and perhaps will eventually offer the greater prize of marriage and a visa off the island. This is an anthropologist's upsetting account of sex tourism in Sosua, a town on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. Women work as prostitutes hoping to win the affection of foreign, generally German, men who hopefully will continue to wire money upon their return home and perhaps will eventually offer the greater prize of marriage and a visa off the island.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Awesome book. Really interesting ethnography-style report on sex workers and sex tourists in Sosua, DR. V well written.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Eric P

    I had to read this book for an Anthropology of Tourism course. I was not expecting to enjoy it as much as I did, and in fact I read it in only 3 days. I’m pretty slow at reading but this was quick for me. This book painted a clear image of the struggles sex workers face within the Dominican, but also the performance of love as a survival tactic to lift oneself out of poverty, and in the hopes of moving out of the country. It was interesting reading about the lives of some of the women who do mov I had to read this book for an Anthropology of Tourism course. I was not expecting to enjoy it as much as I did, and in fact I read it in only 3 days. I’m pretty slow at reading but this was quick for me. This book painted a clear image of the struggles sex workers face within the Dominican, but also the performance of love as a survival tactic to lift oneself out of poverty, and in the hopes of moving out of the country. It was interesting reading about the lives of some of the women who do move out of country and in with their “boyfriends/husbands” and how many are not satisfied. The relationships often do not work out and they move back. The follow through was well documented. I thoroughly enjoyed this work.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Carl Hoopingarner II

    This was an interesting view into the life of an anthropologist doing an ethnography more than what was being studied, for me at least.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Victoria Parkins

    I had to read this book for an Anthropology course in Sex Gender & The Body. The read was good but really outdated, I would be really interested in an updated ethnography; I tried googling about the place but it isn't the same lol. Anyways, the only actual problem I had is, I'm new to Anthropology literature but in my point of view I found it very repetitive throughout the actual book. Nice MANDATORY ready all the same I had to read this book for an Anthropology course in Sex Gender & The Body. The read was good but really outdated, I would be really interested in an updated ethnography; I tried googling about the place but it isn't the same lol. Anyways, the only actual problem I had is, I'm new to Anthropology literature but in my point of view I found it very repetitive throughout the actual book. Nice MANDATORY ready all the same

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lane Ward

    Read this for my cultural anthropology course during freshman year at university and enjoyed analyzing it in essays. Sex tourism in the Dominican Republic was a topic with which I was wholly unfamiliar and learning about this occurrence from both the perspective of the sex workers and those who they engage with and the power dynamics and imbalances of those engagements was enlightening

  9. 4 out of 5

    Julie Klehr

    This was a fabulous book, and a great starter if you have never read an ethnography before. It is a great insight into something that is commonly seen as taboo, and gives these women a voice. I would definitely recommend it.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lara

    Very challenging and emotional to read.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Richard Eldridge

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lee Riccetti

  13. 4 out of 5

    BRD

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

  15. 4 out of 5

    Meleena

  16. 5 out of 5

    Erica

  17. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  18. 5 out of 5

    Bailey

  19. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

  20. 4 out of 5

    Caeli

  21. 4 out of 5

    Julie Simonson

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jørgen Carling

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kristen

  24. 4 out of 5

    Cy

  25. 4 out of 5

    TJ McCloud

  26. 4 out of 5

    Emma Sabella

  27. 4 out of 5

    Katie

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jack

  29. 4 out of 5

    Alex

  30. 5 out of 5

    Frank

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