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Skip to main content. You're using an out-of-date version of Internet Explorer. Log In Sign Up. Sex, Love and Money in Cambodia: Professional Girlfriends and Transactional Relationships.
Anthropologist Hoefinger's provocative and in-depth monograph is a welcome contribution to the field of sexuality studies in Southeast Asia. Based on her doctoral dissertation, the book explores the multi-faceted, fluid and gift-based relationships between Cambodian bargirls and foreigners in the tourist bar scene of Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh.
These relationships intertwine sex- uality, feelings, interest and multiple forms of compensation. Hoefinger places the Cambodian women at the core of her research, showing that they act with ingenuity and resilience, take informed decisions and skilfully negotiate both structural constraints gender, culture, family, economy and their rela- tionships witb Western and Asian men.
By highlighting their representations, strategies and manoeuvres, the author shows that they are in control of their lives. A major goal of the book is to challenge feminist views that portray bargirls in an essentialist way—"as anytbing otber than 'prostitutes,' and 'prostitutes' as anything other than 'poor victims', 'greedy thieves' or 'bad girls' " p.
Contrary to tbe abundant victim-narrative research on prostitution and sex tourism in the global Soutb, the book offers an empirically-based, nuanced and refreshing view on the topic. To better escape the framework and language of prostitu- tion, Hoefinger bases her analysis on two original concepts. That of "profes- sional girlfriend" emphasises that women "do rely in the formation of these relationships as a means of livelihood and their motivations are initially materi- ally based," "engage in multiple overlapping transactional relationships, usually unbeknownst to their other partners," and includes a "performance of intimacy, whereby the professed feelings of love and dedication lie somewhere on a con- tinuum between genuine and feigned" p.