What′s Love Got to Do with It?

Transnational Desires and Sex Tourism in the Dominican Republic

What′s Love Got to Do with It?

Latin America Otherwise

More about this series

Book Pages: 296 Illustrations: 9 b&w photos, 2 maps Published: May 2004

Author: Denise Brennan

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Caribbean Studies, Gender and Sexuality > Sex and Sexuality

In locations around the world, sex tourism is a booming business. What's Love Got to Do with It? is an in-depth examination of the motivations of workers, clients, and others connected to the sex tourism business in Sosúa, a town on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic. Denise Brennan considers why Dominican and Haitian women move to Sosúa to pursue sex work and describes how sex tourists, primarily Europeans, come to Sosúa to buy sex cheaply and live out racialized fantasies. For the sex workers, Brennan explains, the sex trade is more than a means of survival—it is an advancement strategy that hinges on their successful “performance” of love. Many of these women seek to turn a commercialized sexual transaction into a long-term relationship that could lead to marriage, migration, and a way out of poverty.

Illuminating the complex world of Sosúa’s sex business in rich detail, Brennan draws on extensive interviews not only with sex workers and clients, but also with others who facilitate and benefit from the sex trade. She weaves these voices into an analysis of Dominican economic and migration histories to consider the opportunities—or lack thereof—available to poor Dominican women. She shows how these women, local actors caught in a web of global economic relations, try to take advantage of the foreign men who are in Sosúa to take advantage of them. Through her detailed study of the lives and working conditions of the women in Sosúa’s sex trade, Brennan raises important questions about women’s power, control, and opportunities in a globalized economy.


What’s Love Got to Do With It? Is a finely detailed ethnography of sex tourism in Sosua, a tourist town in the Dominican Republic. . . . Through her detailed study of the lives of these women and the relationships they engage in, Brennan highlights the economic, gendered and racialised overdeterminations of global sex tourism industries—sexscapes—and the as yet undetermined opportunities that particular women might experience within this circumscribed domain.” — Rosemary Wiss, The Australian Journal of Anthropology

“An impressive ethnographic study and important contribution to research on Latin America.  . . . What’s Love Got to Do With It?, written in plain language and a narrative style, lacks academic jargon and is accessible for a diverse audience. . . . What’s Love Got to Do With It? . . . works to break down simplistic binary ways of thinking about the global sex industry to reveal an extremely complicated transnational industry.” — Emily Van der Meulen , International Feminist Journal of Politics

“This is a readable ethnography which should interest many scholars on race, gender, and migration. It introduces this under-explored area through rich and accessible photographic and fieldwork data.” — Jinthana Haritaworn , Ethnic and Racial Studies

“Brennan allows the reader to do a bit of what Maria Lugones refers to as ‘world travelling’ in the process of creating sympathetic understanding and allowing compassion to flow. In a wonderful example of feminist scholarship, facts are not alienated from the lives in which they impact.” — Maurice Harrington , NWSA Journal

“Brennan is largely successful in tapping into the imagination of both Dominican and European residents and sojourners in the town of Sosua. — William H. Leggett , Anthropology of Work Review

“Brennan’s lucid writing and direct argumentation provide a refreshingly clear discussion of the theoretical and ethnographic concerns involving the globalization of sexual consumption and commodification.” — Cymene Howe , Journal of Anthropological Research

“This new research … understands the multifaceted ways in which Caribbean people negotiate the relationship between sexuality and globalization.” — Jenny Sharpe and Samantha Pinto , Signs

"Brennan’s writing is clear and engaging. . . .  What’s Love Got to Do With It? is a book that offers profound insights into women’s work, sexual commerce, international tourism, and the global economy. It is essential reading for scholars and students of gender, sexuality, and political economy in Latin America." — Patty Kelly , American Anthropologist

“A smart, timely, eye-opening account. What’s Love Got To Do with It? makes both men’s and women’s hopes and strategies visible. It underscores poor women’s capacity for agency and internationalized thinking without portraying the international system of commercialized sexuality as one in which women and men are meeting on a level playing field.” — Cynthia Enloe, author of The Morning After: Sexual Politics at the End of the Cold War

“In this finely hued ethnography, Denise Brennan questions how transnationalization gets transacted, imagined, and experienced through an examination of the sex trade in a specific locale, Sosúa in Dominican Republic. Interweaving the grand themes of political economy and power inequities with those of desire and fantasy—and from the sides of both (foreign) customer and (local) sex worker—she has crafted a richly textured study of a ‘sexscape’ and its brokering of dreams as much as of money and sex.” — Anne Allison, author of Nightwork: Sexuality, Pleasure, and Corporate Masculinity in a Tokyo Hostess Club


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Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Denise Brennan is Professor and Chair of Anthropology and Sociology at Georgetown University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
About the Series ix


Introduction: Elena and Jurgen 1

I. The Town

1. Sosua: A Transnational Tow 13

2. Imagining and Experiencing Sosua

II. The Transnational Plan: Looking Beyond Dominican Borders

3. Performing Love 91

III. The Sex Trade

4. Sosua’s Sex Workers: Their Families and Working Lives 119

5. Advancement Strategies in Sosua’s Sex Trade

IV. Plan Accomplished: Getting Beyond Dominican Borders

6. Transnational Disappointments: Living in Europe 185

Conclusion: Changes in Sex Workers’ Lives, Sosua, and Its Sex Trade 207

Notes 221


Bibliography 249

Index 273
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3297-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3259-6
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