cover image Night Market: Sexual Cultures and the Thai Economic Miracle

Night Market: Sexual Cultures and the Thai Economic Miracle

Ryan Bishop. Routledge, $48.95 (290pp) ISBN 978-0-415-91429-1

Thailand's ""economic miracle"" of the past two decades owes much of its success to a $4-billion-per-year tourist industry focused primarily on prostitution. This fascinating, multifaceted, though unevenly written book expands Robinson's Nation article, ""The Penile Colony,"" into a meticulous story of how the bodies of young Thai women have been turned into a national economic resource with nothing less than World Bank funding. Bishop, a Caucasian anthropologist who is married to an educated, upper-class Thai woman, and Robinson, a feminist writer, come at their complex subject from an invigorating variety of angles--historical, economic, psychosexual. They energetically and diligently explore the U.S.'s role in transforming Thailand into an internationally infamous ""sexual Disneyland"" in the 1970s; the biased media representations of Bangkok's sex industry; and the travel brochures that serve up images of beautiful Thai women. Most memorable, however, are the interviews both with the tragically ambivalent ""girls,"" who hate the one-sided sex but love the money that can lift their families from poverty. Here, prostitution in Thailand becomes more than just a glib metaphor for cultural exploitation, but the place where the values of First and Third Worlds, feminism and male chauvinism, and sexuality and commodity fight for primacy. Though often composed in a snappy, accessible style, frequent passages plagued by almost unreadable academic-ese will probably prevent this important book from reaching the wider audience it deserves. (Jan.)