Illicit Flirtations: Labor, Migration, and Sex Trafficking in Tokyo

By Cheng, Shu-Ju Ada | Gender Forum, April 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

Illicit Flirtations: Labor, Migration, and Sex Trafficking in Tokyo


Cheng, Shu-Ju Ada, Gender Forum


Illicit Flirtations: Labor, Migration, and Sex Trafficking in Tokyo. By Rhacel Salazar Parrenas. Standford: Stanford University Press, 2011.

1 The rhetoric of public officials and anti-trafficking activists, academic discourse, and the media often focus on sex trafficking as the sole defining feature of trafficking. TV programs and movies dramatize and/or sensationalize the plight of trafficking victims, mostly women from Asia and Eastern Europe, in forced prostitution. According to the US Department of State's Trafficking in Person Reports in 2004 and 2005, Filipina hostesses are the largest group of victims in global sex trafficking. Parrenas challenges the label of Filipina hostesses as trafficking victims coerced into prostitution. She argues that empirical studies are needed to assess the exact scope of trafficking among Filipina hostesses (or any groups of migrant women) and to formulate appropriate policies for redress. In Illicit Flirtation: Labor, Migration, and Sex Trafficking in Tokyo, she deconstructs this generalized portrayal of Filipina hostesses in Japan as trafficking victims through months of fieldwork. She works as an insider (a hostess) and conducts in-depth interviews with hostesses, club owners, brokers, non-governmental organizations, and government officials to understand these women workers' subjectivities and to accurately represent the lived experiences of Filipina hostesses.

2 Parrenas makes significant contributions both methodologically and substantively. While taking a case study approach, she provides comparative analysis without homogenizing Filipinas as a group. For example, she includes transgender women in her study and compares them to other hostesses. In addition, she stresses the importance of differentiating hostesses' experiences based on their immigration status, such as entertainers (contract workers), undocumented workers, and legal residents (often through marriage). These groups face different challenges and obstacles. Undocumented workers, such as women who overstay their visas or leave their clubs during contract, are far more vulnerable to exploitation by club owners or co-ethnics. To avoid detection and deportation under the criminalizing nature of the Japanese government policy, they have to remain invisible and live in the shadow. The comparison among different groups provides a more nuanced depiction of these women's lives in Tokyo.

3 She also provides various insights substantively. Her central argument is to problematize flattening forced labor and trafficking and generalizing certain cases of sex trafficking to a whole group of migrant women. She acknowledges that forced labor exists, not only in the case of hostesses but also those of foreign domestics and migrant farm workers. However, forced labor cannot be automatically translated into trafficking or sex trafficking in this case. Many of the women she interviews deny that they are trafficked victims. They might knowingly enter Japan illegally through the assistance of brokers. They know they would accrue debt and most of their wage would be deducted. They know that they would work as hostesses and understand that working conditions could be difficult. Yet they choose to work in Japan for the better earning. Parrenas uses the term "indentured mobility" to describe the experiences of these women. That is, while these women face structural constraints, such as poverty at home, deplorable working conditions, and illegal status, they do have agency and make their own decisions to work as hostesses. In other words, their actions are a result of the interaction between structure and agency. In addition to taking women's agency into account, she argues that Filipina hostesses' work should be considered as a labor migration issue rather than that of trafficking.

4 Parrenas places Filipina hostesses' vulnerability to exploitation both during and after migration under the context of the Philippine and Japanese government policies. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Illicit Flirtations: Labor, Migration, and Sex Trafficking in Tokyo
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.