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Journal Article

Flirting with Capital: Negotiating Perceptions of Pan-Asian Ascendency and Western Decline in Global Sex Work

Kimberly Kay Hoang
Social Problems
Vol. 61, No. 4 (November 2014), pp. 507-529
DOI: 10.1525/sp.2014.12303
Stable URL:
Page Count: 23
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Flirting with Capital
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This study highlights how two developments in global finance—the 2008 financial crisis centered in the United States and Central Europe and the expansion of East Asian economies—created new openings for us to rethink the multiply inflected hierarchies woven through racialized, national, and class-based relations, which produce competing hierarchies of global masculinities. Drawing on 23 months of participant observation and ethnographic research from 2006-2007 and 2009-2010 in four niche markets of Vietnam’s global sex industry catering to Western budget tourists, Western transnational businessmen, Viet Kieu (overseas Vietnamese) men, and wealthy local Vietnamese entrepreneurs, I strategically bring together multiple performances of masculinities that simultaneously affirm and contest Western superiority. In lower-paying niche markets that cater to Western businessmen and Western budget travelers, sex bars provide men with the space to project their status anxieties onto women’s bodies, affirming Western superiority. In contrast, more expensive bars catering to Viet Kieu and local elite Vietnamese businessmen provide men with the stage to contest Western superiority by capitalizing on this particular moment of economic flux and engaging in acts of conspicuous consumption to display their financial dominance. Together, these four niche markets of Vietnam’s global sex industry provide a unique window to examine how multiple performances of masculinity unfold in relation to each other in the context of rapid economic change.

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