Accepted Paper:

"With this old fat body!": Chinese middle-aged women in the Italian Sex Industry  


Martina Bristot (The University of Hong Kong)

Paper short abstract:

The paper will address the case of Chinese middle-aged women who engage in the Italian sex industry, by shedding light on how intimacy and love are both important drivers and outcomes of their migration experience and occupational choice.

Paper long abstract:

Prostitution, despite being predominantly a migrant labour in many parts of the world, is still widely neglected by migration studies. Yet, migrant sex workers are often addressed by individual parties (including scholars, policy-makers, and journalists) as potentially linked to human trafficking and sexual slavery, whilst the idea of sex work as an actively chosen occupation refused. By using narratives of migrant sex workers as a starting point, this paper will address the case of Chinese middle-aged women who decide to engage in the Italian sex industry. Going back to their lived experiences in China, the paper will shed light on how preexistent situations of material and social vulnerability become crucial drivers for transnational migration solely when marital relationships come to an end. Being alone to deal with their uncertain futures and already too old to be competitive in any niche of the Chinese labour market (including the sex industry), middle-aged divorced women migrate in order to work in the manufacture or domestic service overseas. However, once at destination they discover that their "old bodies" could generate much greater income from sexual rather than manual labour. Sex work becomes the site where they renegotiate their intimacy, relationships, and love. The aim of this paper is to shed light on how intimacy and love are both drivers and outcomes of the migration experience of Chinese women in the Italian sex industry. The paper will present data collected through participant observation and interviews in different Italian cities since 2014.

Panel P064
Mobility, precarity, and the activation of kinship and intimacy [ANTHROMOB]