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

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

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Sex at the Margins
Author(s): Laura María Agustin

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 Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' disempowers them. Based on extensive research amongst migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustín, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry. 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.


“Agustin ... offers new insights into development” —Critical reading for those studying mobility, migration and transportation ... of particular interest to international criminologists and development specialist, who may be surprised at the overlap with their work and the prevalence of possibly criminal income-generating activity

“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

“Agustín's insightful study of commercial sex workers provides the most comprehensive and sophisticated treatment of this profoundly controversial topic...This is a bold and accessible book which raises many interesting questions and poses some challenging answers...Agustín confronts her readers with a thoughtful account of migration, sex and social justice.” —Body & Society, 2008

“This book should be recommended to everyone who works for any type of 'rescue industry.” —Gender and Development

“In Sex at the Margins, Agustín combines ethnographic observations, anthropological theory, and historical insights to critique the current trafficking regimes and moralizing discourses around migration and prostitution. Sex at the Margins reads primarily as a series of essays, each of which may be read independently and stands alone as a topic of interest.” —International Migration Review, 2008

“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 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, Professor of Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London

“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 "prostitution," 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 in 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.” —Susie Bright "http://susiebright.com" (Santa Cruz, CA USA)

“Agustin herself is a class act who deserves a wider audience.” —The Erotic Review

ISBN:  9781842778609