Gringo GulchSex, Tourism, and Social Mobility in Costa Rica

Gringo GulchSex, Tourism, and Social Mobility in Costa Rica

Megan Rivers-Moore

Print publication date: 2017

ISBN: 9780226373386

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


This book is about the meanings that are made through the purchase, sale, and regulation of sexual services in the tourism district of a Latin American city. It explores how various kinds of mobility operate in the sex industry by looking at three key spheres that define sex tourism: the experiences of sex workers, sex tourists, and the state. The story of sex tourism in San José could be told relatively easily as the exploitation of poor Costa Rican women by privileged North American men in a position to take advantage of the geopolitical inequalities that make Latin American women into suppliers of low-cost sexual labor. Through ethnographic participant observation and in-depth interviews with female sex workers, their male clients, state agents, and nongovernmental organization workers in San José’s main sex tourism neighborhood, the book tells a more nuanced story, demonstrating that all the actors intimately entangled in the sex tourism industry use it as a strategy for getting ahead. The book demonstrates how the experiences of sex workers and sex tourists are connected to local, national, and transnational patterns that are quite specific to Costa Rica but that also provide a lens for looking at the varying impacts of neoliberalism on differently situated subjects that shift significantly according to space and context. It also argues that the story of sex tourism in Costa Rica is very much about how gender, sexuality, and sex tourism work are projects of class formation and social mobility in a neoliberal context.