2838 - Ethnographic Research on Health Issues in China¿s Urban Sex Industry:

In this paper, I will draw on my three years of ethnographic experience in China to illustrate how I utilized anthropology to identify and address the social issues that confront the communities where I conducted my fieldwork. I will argue that doing interdisciplinary research, in my case, combining anthropology and public health, is crucial to helping solve these social issues.

From 1999 to 2007, I conducted three years of extensive ethnographic fieldwork with karaoke bar hostesses and clients in hostess bars in urban China. By working and living with the se bar hostess es , I learned what it was like for these young women to struggle for respect, to improve their social standing, and to fashion themselves as modern women. During my research, I was deeply disrupted by the fact that many male clients abjured the use of condoms. As a result, many hostesses suffered from frequent abortions and STDs.

This male power is amplified in the case of sex-money exchanges where the woman sex worker directly depends on the man for her economic livelihood. In my research, I observed that women sex workers that were informed about the dangers of HIV/STDs and the risk-reduction benefits of condom use were nonetheless unable to convince their clients to use condoms. This intractable social issue of the unequal economic relations that disempower women sex workers in relation to their clients spurred me to conduct research combining anthropology and public health. I embarked on a research c oncentrating on male sex consumers’ perception of condoms as the point of departure for STD/HIV research and policy intervention. My research departs from the dominant public health paradigm but at the same time, enriches it with ethnography to help advance the social policies on STDs and HIV/AIDS that can contribute to the health of women and men .

Keywords: sex work, health, condom use, China, migration

Author: Zheng, Tiantian (State University of New York, Cortland, Ud States of Am / USA)


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