Lila's House: Male Prostitution in Latin America

Jacobo Schifter-Sikora, Author
Jacobo Schifter-Sikora, Author Routledge $95 (150p) ISBN 978-0-7890-0593-9
Reviewed on: 11/30/1998
Release date: 09/01/1998
Paperback - 132 pages - 978-1-56023-943-7
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Despite the sweeping subtitle, this case study focuses narrowly on male prostitution in Lila's house, a squalid brothel in a lower-middle-class quarter of San Jose, Costa Rica, where the prostitutes are cacheros--young men who have sex with older men for money. Two gay-health advocates spent six months observing and interviewing 25 workers from the brothel, who were paid for participating. They found that how cacheros talk about sex contradicts their sexual behaviors. Defiantly, the cacheros disavow their supposed homosexuality and instead ""compartmentalize"" aspects of their sexuality to distinguish themselves from homosexuals. They ridicule gays, balk at passive sex acts that they refuse to (but probably do) perform and boast that prostitution supplies ample cash to support their families. With religious and cultural sanctions against homosexuality forever in their minds, they insist that they don't enjoy their work. All the while, they appear to get drawn deeper into it. Indeed, the well-translated and compelling transcripts of their reflections could easily support an expose of a sexual subculture in the making. Unfortunately, Schifter draws specious conclusions from a rather shallow reading of the cacheros' narratives, and his research methods are poorly elaborated. We ultimately can't tell whom the cacheros wished to distinguish themselves from: homosexuals or Schifter's interviewers. A sophomoric rehearsal of postmodern theory renders this failed case study all the more clumsy. Illustrations. (Sept.) FYI: In October, Harrington Park will publish Joseph Itiel's A Consumer's Guide to Male Hustlers, which purports to ""acquaint readers who have a vigorous sexual appetite with a resource available in the gay community which is often shunned or used inappropriately."" ($39.95 178p ISBN 0-7890-0596-4; $14.95 paper 1-56023-947-6)
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