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Journal issues, NORMA 7.1

Number 125: Ritual performance and young mens purchase of sex in Buenos Aires

Rikke Louise Knudsen

In certain social circles in the upper middle class of Buenos Aires it is fairly common for young men to seek their first sexual encounters with sex workers. Often these encounters are encouraged and orchestrated by family members or peers. Based on four months of ethnographic fieldwork this article explores some of the social dynamics at play in such events. Focusing on elements of performance and role playing, the article claims that these visits can be understood as related to the becoming of male sexual selves, drawing on concepts from Victor Turner’s classic theory of rituals (Turner 1969, 1982). The ethnographic material indicates that the search for professional guidance in order to overcome the anxieties associated with the sexual debut; memory of rejection from female peers, and bonding with the male peer group are all important factors that motivated the experiences of the young men, who participated in this research. It is not uncommon in feminist studies to analyze sex work almost solely as an expression of gender inequality and discrimination. By showing how the visits respond to dynamics related both to the male and female peer groups in the local context, it is argued that the visits should also be seen as part of a more pragmatic and practical becoming of a sexual self.

Keywords
sexual initiation, sex workers, Buenos Aires, rituals, becoming of a sexual self

NORMA: Nordic Journal for Masculinity Studies 7(1), 8-24.

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