Scripting pragmatic intimacies in sex work, migration and intimate-material exchanges

Julie Ham*, Iulia Gheorghiu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This paper examines women’s movement between sex work and intimate economies, with a specific focus on how non-Chinese women in Hong Kong leverage intimacy as a means of managing legal and socio-economic precarity within various institutional and individual constraints. To capture the diversity of women’s experiences, we use the term ‘intimate-material exchanges’ to broadly refer to compensation or material support provided in exchange for sexually intimate relations. We ground our analysis of the interactional processes involved in intimate-material exchanges in 39 interviews with ethnically non-Chinese women and men in Hong Kong. For the women in this study, intimate-material exchanges were shaped by migration and distinguished by pragmatism, strategy and intentionality that involved adapting, improvising and experimenting with sexual scripts in an ambiguous legal space in order to derive maximum material benefit. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of migration and intimate-material exchanges for sex worker rights.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1375-1389
Number of pages15
JournalCulture, Health and Sexuality
Issue number10
Early online date28 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • Sex Work
  • Intimate-material exchanges
  • intimate economies
  • migrants
  • Hong Kong


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