Illicit Flirtations: Acclaimed Author Rhacel Parrenas Explores Sex Trafficking and the Mafia in Tokyo

Parrenas offers a sociological portrait of Filipina hostesses and waitresses in Tokyo's red-light districts that is clear and compelling enough for the lay reader... Publishers Weekly Review - 8/29/2011

Sep 13, 2011, 06:18 ET from Stanford University Press

PALO ALTO, Calif., Sept. 13, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Parrenas offers a scholarly, sociological portrait of Filipina hostesses and waitresses in Tokyo's red-light districts that is clear and compelling enough for the lay reader... Parrenas illustrates why their diminishing numbers is not a "victory" in the global anti-trafficking campaign... To write this book, the author herself worked as a hostess in a Tokyo nightclub; her immersion in the world lends the book powerful authenticity.
- Publishers Weekly Review - 8/29/2011

In 2004, the U.S. State Department declared Filipina hostesses in Japan the largest group of sex trafficked persons in the world. Since receiving this global attention, the number of hostesses entering Japan has dropped by nearly 90 percent--from more than 80,000 in 2004 to just over 8,000 today. To some, this might suggest a victory for the global anti-trafficking campaign, but Rhacel Parrenas counters that this drastic decline--which stripped thousands of migrants of their livelihoods--is a setback.

Parrenas worked alongside hostesses in a working-class club in Tokyo's red-light district, serving drinks, singing karaoke, and entertaining her customers, including members of the yakuza, the Japanese crime syndicate. While the common assumption has been that these hostess bars are hotbeds of sexual trafficking, Parrenas quickly discovered a different world of working migrant women, there by choice, and, most importantly, where none were coerced into prostitution. But this is not to say that the hostesses were not vulnerable in other ways.

Illicit Flirtations challenges our understandings of human trafficking and calls into question the U.S. policy to broadly label these women as sex trafficked. It highlights how in imposing top-down legal constraints to solve the perceived problems--including laws that push dependence on migrant brokers, guest worker policies that bind migrants to an employer, marriage laws that limit the integration of migrants, and measures that criminalize undocumented migrants--many women become more vulnerable to exploitation, not less. This book gives a long overdue look into the real world of those labeled as trafficked.

Rhacel Salazar Parrenas, PhD, is a professor of sociology at the University of Southern California. She has received more than 100 invitations to share her work at universities, government and nongovernmental institutions throughout the US, Europe and Asia. Her research on women's labor migration has been featured in various news media outlets including: The New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Prior to joining the faculty at USC, Parrenas was a full professor at the University of California, Davis and Brown University. She is a leading expert in the Sociology of Intimacy and Women's Labor and Migration.


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SOURCE Stanford University Press