An Ancient and Global Tragedy

The evening was sultry, and a hot, smoggy haze created halos around the Bangkok streetlights. On the left, glaring lights illuminated the outdoor stalls of vendors who hawked a dazzling array of consumer goods—leathers, luggage, clothing, jewelry....On the right a different kind of merchandise was visible through the dim doorways of bars and strip shows. Scantily clad, heavily made-up young Asian women danced alone on raised platforms, their impassive faces a mask of boredom. It was painful to look at them. This merchandise also had vendors—we were in the infamous sex tourist district called Patpong.

Thus pulled into this seamy world that demands an incalculable human cost and often proves fatal, Rita Nakashima Brock and Susan Thistlethwaite’s book Casting Stones informs us about the global sex industry with a focus on Thailand, Taiwan, the Philippines, Japan, Korea, and the United States. The authors analyze each country, detailing its history, military, religion, laws, economy, psychology, and cultural perceptions toward the female body. Race and international status play a part in this global tragedy. All of these offer clues as to why sexual exploitation of women and children thrives as an industry.

Casting Stones is well-organized in two parts: a systematic analysis of prostitution and a liberation perspective about how we can change the subcultures that view the female as product. The core argument is that male dominance as a societal building block is a necessary, though not a solitary, cause for sexual exploitation. Particularly persuasive are analyses of the military and historical religious perspectives.

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Sojourners Magazine March-April 1998
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