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

4.06  ·  Rating Details ·  115 Ratings  ·  10 Reviews
This groundbreaking work 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 Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe mi
Paperback, 248 pages
Published May 1st 2007 by Zed Books
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Agustin makes a compelling case here for the reconsideration of migrant sex workers that is both challenging and certainly grounds for pause on the part of humanitarians. Among my own studies of late, the question of politics within human rights work comes up time and time again. The idea that competing negative viewpoints on (a) immigrant workers, (b) sex workers, and (c) women violating moral sexual norms come together to form a 'rescue industry' that in its efforts to rehabilitate women in fa ...more
Tim Mcleod
May 14, 2013 Tim Mcleod rated it liked it
Shelves: systems
I really wanted to like this more, as I share similar wariness of the rescue industry. I value the author's attention to the often unspoken relationship domestic work and sex work share. The way Augustin draws attention to the caricature of "Migrant" is powerful. The conflict she describes between organizations seeking to save ( or rehabilitate, empower, etc.) people who engage in sex work was sobering.
Most likely, I'm not immersed enough in the world, coming from a harm reduction and public hea
May 13, 2012 Broadsnark rated it really liked it
Laura Agustin has a remarkable ability to turn things on their head.If you read her blog, you'll be familiar with the narratives that she contests. But the book really brings it all together.

The narrative is that all women who do sex work are victims. Nobody would ever chose to do that work. They have been coerced or duped. They need to be rescued. Triple that for migrants.

But who is a migrant? Why are some people called migrants while others are called travelers, tourists, expats? A privileged
Aug 07, 2013 Jschrag rated it really liked it
I always like books that challenge my unquestioned beliefs with good data and research. Agustin's work is straightforward and factual, and completely blows apart the standard social narrative around prostitution and migrant work. The media and government feeds us simple, uncritical images of homogenous poor migrants, victimized women, people with no agency in their lives who need us more educated, more affluent people to 'save' them -- Agustin shows the data from migrant workers, in their own wo ...more
Mar 02, 2013 Annalvogt rated it it was amazing
As someone in the helping profession, this critique of helpers who refuse to examine or are unaware of their own constructed realities and interests was at times hard to read. However, based on Agustin's examination of historical movements to define sex work, and her field work in Spain among migrant sex workers and those attempting to help them, it was an excellent reminder of the agency of people everyone and the need to let them define themselves, even if that definition is not I one that I a ...more
Nov 15, 2011 Ed rated it it was amazing
Shelves: migration
Not sure if this book is groundbreaking but it certainly is a unique and well documented look at women who migrate to become sex workers. Laura Augustin has a Ph.D. and a refreshing attitude toward what has become called "trafficking" but which she shows is often the best choice a woman in the global South has of supporting herself and her family. She really goes after the canard that all migrating sex workers are controlled by vicious pimps and that none of them are economic migrants looking fo ...more
Sep 29, 2010 Marshall rated it liked it
This book shatters many myths about sex workers: that all sex workers are victims, that migrant sex workers are all trafficked, and that all men who use their services are exploitative and perverted. Many of these myths come from feminist theory and moralizing, rather than research of what actually happens in the real world. This author uncovers this research, and exposes the self-interest of many of the organizations that claim to help these "victims," who in most cases never asked for their he ...more
This book shifted my perspective of those valiant first-wave feminists of the Progressive Age, and with it, my feminism altogether. I was also pleased to have my perspective of migrant workers shifted from "huddled masses" to "adventurous world travelers." The book's tone is fairly academic (though totally accessible) but a bit uneven in places. I felt like the chapter presenting her research experiences to be a bit thin, and wished for the kind of depth of analysis she'd given to the overview a ...more
Jan 30, 2009 DoctorM rated it really liked it
Agustin looks at global migrations and the sex trade and takes issue with the idea that all sex-trade linked migration is "trafficking" with violence and abuse. She also asks whether the "rescue industry" of NGOs and social agencies is itself victimising women in the sex trade. Agustin looks at migrants in the sex trade as part of--- not a distinct, morally-charged realm ---a larger issue of migration and job-seeking. Her website is worth looking at for further examples of the points she makes.
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I write about people who travel and cross borders to work - lots of them without permission or with fake papers. Women who work as live-in maids or sell sex, men who wash dishes, pick fruit or sell sex. Border-crossers, undocumented migrants, folks who have paid smugglers to get somewhere new. In the media this is usually positioned as hideous trafficking, and all jobs in the sex industry as a fat ...more
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“When embarking on a social project that concerns other people, how do you decide what your actions will be? Do you choose what is most rewarding to you personally? Do you try to find out what the objects of your help actually want? How do you accomplish that? What do you do if you find out that you cannot realistically provide what they desire? Or if you don’t like it? In other words, who defines social projects?” 0 likes
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