Presentation Title

Women’s’ in Sexed Signs: Discursive Construction of (Trans)Women in Bangkok Sex Tourism Spaces

Presenter Name

Joey Andrew Lucido Santos

Presenter Title/Affiliation

Chulalongkorn University

Start Date

22-5-2021 10:30 AM

Event Name

Panel discussion

Panel Number

10

Panel Chair Name

Juliana Friend

Zoom URL to Join

https://ciis.zoom.us/j/91565534637

Zoom Meeting ID

915 6553 4637

Abstract

Sex tourism has been discreetly explored in linguistics (Borba, 2016) for years. Although a research turn was observed from the works on the sexualization of places (Piller, 2010) and the construction of gender identities (Baudinette, 2018), scant literature remains in the study of women’s’ (i.e., transwomen (or frequently referred to as Lady Boys in Thai context) and ciswomen) in sex tourism. The present study addresses this gap by investigating the discursive construction and consumption of women’s’ in sex tourism spaces. Employing an integrated multimodal framework from visual social semiotics (Kress and Van Leeveun, 2006; Scollon and Scollon, 2003), resemiotiziation (Iedema, 2003) and linguistic fetishization (Kelly-Holmes, 2014), the study examines the sexed signs, i.e., the shop and promotional signs, in Soi Cowboy and Nana Plaza, Bangkok. Analyses of sexed signs indicate interaction of linguistic and semiotic resources in the construction of womens and their objectification for the consumption of male heterosexuals. Visual elements and language choices across shop and promotional signs are found to be prevalent on sexed signs advertising transwomen compared to ciswomen. Transwomen are discursively constructed through foreign language visuals (Kelly-Holmes, 2014), a fetishization process using multilingual signs. These multilingual signs are visually enriched through the visibility of the women body and the color pink to index transwomen. In addition, the objectification (Fredrickson and Roberts, 1997) of sexualized women bodies commonly appears in promotional signs and are subjected to male consumption through ritualization (Goffman, 1979) and body display (Kang, 1997). This eroticization of signs participates in the sexualization of spaces (Piller, 2010) and the commodification of transwomen. Such phenomenon is linked to Thailand’s sex tourism industry that is known for “lady boy” sex workers. On the other hand, ciswomen are fetishized through the prominence of visual English with sprinkles of Thai which is more prominent in shop signs alongside a sexual disclaimer sign “100% Real Ladies” that serves as exclusive space marker to indicate female heterosexual space. The women shadow, prevalent in shop and promotional signs, is employed to objectify ciswomen and sexualized through feminine touch (Goffman, 1979) where the woman cradles an object, i.e., pole (Kang, 1997). This sparse use of linguistic and semiotic elements and the color red are used to index ciswomen. The study concludes that Bangkok sex tourism spaces leans towards the commodification of transwomen over ciswomen sex workers. The linguistic and semiotic choices discursively participate in construction of womens in sexualized spaces. The study also demonstrates that language use in sex tourism jointly articulates how identity and desire performs sex as work (Borba, 2016).

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May 22nd, 10:30 AM May 22nd, 11:00 AM

Women’s’ in Sexed Signs: Discursive Construction of (Trans)Women in Bangkok Sex Tourism Spaces

Sex tourism has been discreetly explored in linguistics (Borba, 2016) for years. Although a research turn was observed from the works on the sexualization of places (Piller, 2010) and the construction of gender identities (Baudinette, 2018), scant literature remains in the study of women’s’ (i.e., transwomen (or frequently referred to as Lady Boys in Thai context) and ciswomen) in sex tourism. The present study addresses this gap by investigating the discursive construction and consumption of women’s’ in sex tourism spaces. Employing an integrated multimodal framework from visual social semiotics (Kress and Van Leeveun, 2006; Scollon and Scollon, 2003), resemiotiziation (Iedema, 2003) and linguistic fetishization (Kelly-Holmes, 2014), the study examines the sexed signs, i.e., the shop and promotional signs, in Soi Cowboy and Nana Plaza, Bangkok. Analyses of sexed signs indicate interaction of linguistic and semiotic resources in the construction of womens and their objectification for the consumption of male heterosexuals. Visual elements and language choices across shop and promotional signs are found to be prevalent on sexed signs advertising transwomen compared to ciswomen. Transwomen are discursively constructed through foreign language visuals (Kelly-Holmes, 2014), a fetishization process using multilingual signs. These multilingual signs are visually enriched through the visibility of the women body and the color pink to index transwomen. In addition, the objectification (Fredrickson and Roberts, 1997) of sexualized women bodies commonly appears in promotional signs and are subjected to male consumption through ritualization (Goffman, 1979) and body display (Kang, 1997). This eroticization of signs participates in the sexualization of spaces (Piller, 2010) and the commodification of transwomen. Such phenomenon is linked to Thailand’s sex tourism industry that is known for “lady boy” sex workers. On the other hand, ciswomen are fetishized through the prominence of visual English with sprinkles of Thai which is more prominent in shop signs alongside a sexual disclaimer sign “100% Real Ladies” that serves as exclusive space marker to indicate female heterosexual space. The women shadow, prevalent in shop and promotional signs, is employed to objectify ciswomen and sexualized through feminine touch (Goffman, 1979) where the woman cradles an object, i.e., pole (Kang, 1997). This sparse use of linguistic and semiotic elements and the color red are used to index ciswomen. The study concludes that Bangkok sex tourism spaces leans towards the commodification of transwomen over ciswomen sex workers. The linguistic and semiotic choices discursively participate in construction of womens in sexualized spaces. The study also demonstrates that language use in sex tourism jointly articulates how identity and desire performs sex as work (Borba, 2016).

https://digitalcommons.ciis.edu/lavlang/2021/saturday/16