A Heterodox Look at Migration and the Sex Trade

Over at ReasonOnline, Kerry Howley interviews Laura María Agustín, author of Sex at the Margins.

Collective anxiety about women who traverse sexual and spatial boundaries is anything but new. As Agustín writes, “Women who cross borders have long been viewed as deviant, so perhaps the present-day panic about the sexuality of women is not surprising.” Immigrants are human beings with the courage to leave the comforts of home. In Sex at the Margins, Agustín asks readers to leave behind easy stereotypes about migrants and welcome the overlooked expats among us.

reason spoke with Agustín in December.

reason: What experiences led you to write Sex at the Margins

Laura María Agustín: I was working in NGOs and social projects on the Mexico/US Border, the Caribbean, and in South America. I worked with people who called themselves sex workers and gays having sex with tourists. To us, this was normal, conventional. Everyone talked about it. Obviously many of these people didn’t have many options. Some of them had the guts to travel, and I felt I understood that.

In ’94 I hadn’t heard the word the work trafficking in this context. In the sex context, it’s a creation of the past 10 years. I started running into the term when I came to Europe and saw what people who were trying to help migrants were doing and saying. The whole idea of migrants who sell sex being victims was so different from what I knew. My original research question was, why is there such a big difference between what people in Europe say about people who sell sex, and what those people themselves say about themselves? It took a while for me to answer that question.