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

By Thomas M. Steinfatt | Go to book overview

5

MORAL AND RELIGIOUS CONCERNS

For women who choose to work at the bar, factors discussed in Chapter 4 that might work against such a choice appear ineffective. Yet there is a general Thai societal norm against commercial sex. This norm is based in social and cultural tradition, grounded in moral and religious beliefs. How do these beliefs affect the choice to work at the bar? Are bar workers simply immoral people?


BUDDHISM

The vast majority (93%) of both Phase I and Phase II respondents were Buddhist, most quite devout, some exceedingly devout. A minority of just under 8%, including many of the more highly educated minority, quietly regard the beliefs and religious behaviors of the majority as foolish, particularly as these beliefs and behaviors deviate from strict Theravada Buddhism and include beliefs in phi. Many phi are evil spirits that must be placated. They originate in animistic religious traditions and have no part in Theravada Buddhist theory. The fundamental notion of Buddhism in theory is to let go of worldly desires and with it the drive to acquire, which is the root of all suffering. The fundamental notion of Buddhism in practice is to make merit, to do good works. These merit-making activities create good karma, and the sum total of good and bad karma connected with one’s atman (immortal soul) will come back to a better life and one may avoid misfortune in this one. Ultimately, the karma of the atman may achieve Nirvana, no longer needing to be

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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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