Sexual Cultures in East Asia: The Social Construction of Sexuality and Sexual Risk in a Time of AIDS

By Evelyne Micollier | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

EVELYNE MICOLLIER

Plural discourses on sex, components and methods of workings of sexual cultures in Asia need to be explored in more depth, and this book should be taken as one brick added to the edifice of this specific body of knowledge. The main focus of our book is the study of sexual cultures and commercial sex work in East Asian societies. Most chapters have been revised from papers presented at the IIAS Conference 'Health, Sexuality, and Civil Society in East Asia', which took place in Amsterdam on July 6-7 2000, while a few contributors have joined us in the publication process (Henriot, Kelly, Walters). The book is organized in two parts: (1) 'Sexual cultures: caught between traditions and transitions' and (2) 'The social construction of sexuality and sexual risk in the light of STDs/AIDS control'. Topics discussed may, of course, overlap in the two parts. The first part deals with issues related to sexual cultures such as the role of commercial sex work, the kinship system, matrimonial strategies, gender roles in the family, gendered power relations in society and in the building of these cultures in transition. A dialectical relation between traditional and new elements in the ideological and behavioural configuration of sexual cultures is underlined throughout the papers. The second part examines specific issues related to the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the social construction of sexual risk. As Parker (1995:362) put it, The social construction of sexual excitement and desire, ways in which sexual identities are formed and transformed, the relations of power and domination that may shape and structure sexual interactions, and the social/sexual networks that channel and condition the selections of potential sexual partners may all be salient issues that must be taken into account in developing more effective strategies for AIDS prevention.'

As many scholars have shown since Foucault (1976), sexuality is a dense nodal point for competing power relations and discourses of sexuality play a crucial role in efforts both to regulate and reform the political, economic, and social orders (Bristow 1997; Di Leonardo and Lancaster 1997). The complexity of the subject and the multi-layered social phenomena to be examined suggested that the perspective of the book should be multidisciplinary. Indeed, the contributors are sociologists (Blanc, Pan), anthropologists (Derks, Lunsing, Micollier, Walters), a historian (Henriot), communication specialists (Hsu, Lin, Wu), a development expert

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