While there is a growing literature focusing on clients in sexual economies, much of this relies on heteronormative and/or unproven assumptions about masculinity and men’s motivations for purchasing sex. This collaborative ethnographic research takes a comparative approach by studying performances of masculinity in heterosexual and homosexual commercial sex venues in Rio de Janeiro. The authors argue that masculine performances not only are about homosocial male bonding between clients but also are aspirational performances in which actors must work within and across particular class- and race-based structures to jockey for position within the local hierarchy of hegemonic masculinity. They conclude that the connection between masculinity in heterosexual and homosexual venues is fractal, refractive, and coconstituitive. That is, even though the performances of masculinity look different in outward appearance, they actually operate within a shared ideology of gender and are coconstructed through actors’ own pretensions toward class distinction.
Tricks of the Light: Refractive Masculinity in Heterosexual and Homosexual Brothels in Rio de Janeiro
Gregory Mitchell is an ACLS Burkhardt fellow in gender and sexuality studies at Princeton University and associate professor and chair of the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program at Williams College. He is the author of Tourist Attractions: Performing Race and Masculinity in Brazil’s Sexual Economy (2016) and a forthcoming book currently titled “Panics without Borders: Fallacious Spectacles, Global Sporting Events, and the Production of Sex Trafficking.”
Thaddeus Blanchette is professor of social anthropology at the Postgraduate Program in Environmental Sciences and Conservation at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and the Postgraduate Program in History at the Federal Fluminense University. He is the author of Cidaãos e selvagens: Antropologia e administração indígena nos Estados Unidos 1870–1890 (2013) and, together with his partner, Dr. Ana Paula da Silva, numerous scientific articles on sex tourism, prostitution, and human trafficking.
Gregory Mitchell, Thaddeus Blanchette; Tricks of the Light: Refractive Masculinity in Heterosexual and Homosexual Brothels in Rio de Janeiro. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 July 2021; 120 (3): 609–629. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-9154941
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