Working at the Bar: Sex Work and Health Communication in Thailand

By Thomas M. Steinfatt | Go to book overview

1

ON STUDYING SEX WORK

INTRODUCTION

In 1988, I began a long-term study of bars oriented toward Western foreigners in Thailand and their female sex workers. The study was conducted in two phases: Phase I from 1988 to 1992 as the AIDS epidemic was taking shape in Thailand, and Phase II from 1993 to 1999 as that epidemic matured. The overall intent of this work was to provide a rich contextual background for understanding the people who work in bars and, to a lesser extent, the people who manage and own them and the customers who support them. It is a study of bar workers, not of Thai women in general. The results obtained in early years with bar workers led to more unanswered questions each time. Were the results restricted to the year in which they were obtained? What would happen in a long-term study that could consider the flow of workers into and out of the job? How would data on customers, managers, and owners affect the interpretation of results?

Early portions of the Phase I data were presented in Bangkok in 1990 at the International Congress on AIDS: AIDS, A New Global Challenge: Impacts on Developing Countries (Steinfatt, 1990), where my presence was sponsored by the Chulabhorn Research Institute. Portions of the data have been presented at conventions of the National Communication Association, Southern Communication Association, and Western Communication Association in the United States but have not been otherwise published.

Observations for the study were collected over a 12-year period from over 4,000 workers between 1988 and 1999. Interview data were obtained from a total of 2,445 persons, and in-depth interviews were conducted with 1,597 of them. Of these in-depth interviews, 704 were with active workers, 66 with

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Working at the Bar: Sex Work and Health Communication in Thailand
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • 1 - On Studying Sex Work 1
  • 2 - Numbers and Types of Workers and Workplaces 17
  • 3 - The Routes to Bar Work 47
  • 4 - Reasons for Not Working 61
  • 5 - Moral and Religious Concerns 85
  • 6 - Bar Worker Demographics 101
  • 7 - Employment Statistics 127
  • 8 - Partner Selection and Negotiations 163
  • 9 - Aids in Thailand 185
  • 10 - Condom Use and Health Communication in Foreign-Oriented Bars 237
  • 11 - Hopes, Dreams, and the Future 249
  • 12 - Support Staff, Management, and Owners 275
  • 13 - Customer Motivation and Behavior 303
  • 14 - Policy on Sex Work 341
  • Glossary 379
  • References 401
  • Index 425
  • About the Author 436
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