Theses Doctoral

Asian American Sex Workers Book Club

Song, Elise

The narratives of Asian American female sex workers are stories that demonstrate pain, pleasure, and power. These depictions often portray a woman as desirable (submissive and obedient because she was “saved” by a White man) or undesirable (war prostitute disrupting the purity of America). This is due to the failed efforts from policymakers and English educators to look beyond simple Black versus White racial relationships and beyond the needs of White feminists. When this occurs, the Asian American female student finds herself invisible.

The purpose of this study was to look specifically through the niche demographic of Asian American female sex workers. This study was not meant to exclude other women, men, and humans of Asian descent, or sex workers of other races, but these are the first individuals I had the privilege of accessing as I am only beginning my sex work scholar journey. These particular women are of Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese descent, and this specified the research of my literature review. Because they also all identify as cisgender, gender dynamics were explored in this context. The participants were sampled to explore the historical and current conditions of Asian American females, the curriculum they received (or did not receive) in their high school English classes regarding Asian American female protagonists or storytelling of the body, and how these factors affected their sex work experiences.

This research also moved to deepen the definition of sex work. As sex work is traditionally a consensual sexual service or erotic performance in exchange for money or goods, many women provide their services without consent or without money—and sometimes without both. The sex work, or sexual abuse, is then more of an unwanted labor they are forced to carry with them painfully. This research was not out to prove sex work is wrong or right; rather, it talked across the pain, pleasure, profit, problems, and power of these experiences. It also presents a more modernized take on sexual ways of being. I reached an authentic understanding of how these women’s bodies were navigated in the classroom, the bedroom, and beyond. With their stories, new policies and pedagogies are proposed to better serve forgotten female students in the English classroom by using the body as an entry point for unique storytelling.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Arts and Humanities
Thesis Advisors
Sealey-Ruiz, Yolanda
Ed.D.C.T., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
February 23, 2021