Invisible Trade: High-Class Sex for Sale in Singapore
For those writing about the sex industry, there is always the danger that the story will become as exploitative as its subject matter. In this survey of high-end sex workers in Singapore, Lim (Inside the Outsider) manages to avoid this trap by giving the workers space to speak for themselves. Emily, one of Lim's subjects, describes her first time with a client: ""On my first job I was very frightened and didn't know what to do. ... I didn't know how to do a massage or how to talk to a strange guy."" But now, she says, ""If you think about the money you can do anything."" The book collects the accounts of a variety of sex workers, including poet and former male escort Cyril Wong and dominatrix Empress Victoria. But by and large, readers are left to draw their own conclusions regarding the relative pathos of these sex workers' situations; Lim's focus is on the complexities of the trade and the Singaporean society. As he points out, there is a hierarchy to sex work in Singapore, with its own set of rules and contradictions. It is, after all, the ""Nanny State of Asia""-while pornography and oral sex between consenting adults is illegal, prostitution is legal and regulated. Though this book hit number one on bestseller lists in Singapore, it's appeal in the U.S. seems limited. With its narrow scope and just-the-facts approach, Lim's exploration offers some insights into the sex trade, but not enough to entice many readers on this side of the pond.