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Tourist Attractions : Performing Race and Masculinity in Brazil's Sexual Economy (Hardcover) (Gregory
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Brazil enjoys very high status in the gay travel industry, but gay sex tourism has been overlooked until now in studies of prostitution. The closest thing to such a study is Don Kulick’s classic Travesti, which took as its subject ****** sex workers; Gregory Mitchell’s subjects are hypermasculine “garotos” working the beaches, saunas, and streets of Rio de Janeiro. (The fieldwork also includes a beach town, Salvador, and an Amazonian outpost.) Rio is always in the top ten list for gay travel magazines and periodicals, and as recently as 2010, the government estimated that the city received 880,000 gay tourists. Right from the start, Mitchell ushers us, his readers, into a gay sauna. clad only in a towel as the hustlers crowd hallways and stairways, shouting playful epithets in Portuguese at the young American graduate student. This gay brothel turns out to abound with mostly straight young rentboys alongside some gay ones, having campy fun among the aging Brailian gay customers, gringo tourists, and the drag queen performers. We get to know several individuals by name and absorb the ambience of the “performative labor” these men pursue. Mitchell was able to build long-term relationships with the garotos, as they began and ended relationships, got married, had children, went to prison, or died. In short, we get to know these sex workers as people. We also see how central the issue of race and racialized masculinity can be for sex tourism (for many gringo customers, the darker the skin, the more attractive a rentboy will be). Mitchell’s work with and revelations about foreign sex tourists are also important. They come to be seen as “uncles” and “godfathers” to the indigenous garotos they take on as lovers during the time they spend, usually once or twice a year, in Brazil. New forms and concepts of “family” come in to play. This opens up issues of transnational race and sexuality, and the sexualization of cross-national contacts of diverse types is an important aspect of contemporary globalization processes.