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'He's not my pimp': toward an understanding of intimate male partner involvement in female sex work at the Mexico-US border.

  • Mittal, María Luisa1, 2
  • Bazzi, Angela Robertson1, 3
  • Rangel, María Gudelia4
  • Staines, Hugo5
  • Yotebieng, Kelly6
  • Strathdee, Steffanie A1
  • Syvertsen, Jennifer L1, 7
  • 1 a Division of Infectious Diseases, and Global Public Health, Department of Medicine , University of California , San Diego , CA , USA.
  • 2 b Facultad de Medicina , Universidad Xochicalco , Tijuana , Baja California , Mexico. , (Mexico)
  • 3 c Department of Community Health Sciences , Boston University School of Public Health , Boston , MA , USA.
  • 4 d Secretaría de Salud-Comisión de Salud Fronteriza México-Estados Unidos , Tijuana , Baja California , Mexico. , (Mexico)
  • 5 e Instituto de Ciencias Biomédicas , Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez , Ciudad Juárez , Chihuahua , México.
  • 6 f Department of Anthropology , Ohio State University , Columbus , OH , USA.
  • 7 g Department of Anthropology , University of California , Riverside , CA , USA.
Published Article
Culture, health & sexuality
Publication Date
Nov 24, 2017
DOI: 10.1080/13691058.2017.1403651
PMID: 29171796


Female sex work is often perceived as women being controlled by men. We used surveys and qualitative interviews with female sex workers and their intimate partners in two Northern Mexico cities to examine couples' own perceptions of their relationships and male partners' involvement in sex work. Among 214 couples, the median age was 34 and relationship duration was approximately 3 years. Only 10 women in the survey reported having a pimp, and the majority reported sole control over sex work decisions. Qualitative analyses revealed that while most men avoided direct involvement in sex work, they offered advice that was largely driven by concern for their partner's well-being. Our discussion of these results considers the broader socio-political context surrounding these relationships and how changing gender roles, economic insecurity and stigma shape couples' everyday social interactions. Assumptions that all sex workers' relationships are coercive and commercial marginalises these couples while leaving their health concerns unaddressed.

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