Masculinity for Sale: Shan Migrant Male Sex Workers in Chiang Mai, Thailand and the Performance of Manhood

Visiting Scholar Talks

Oct 19, 2022 | 11:00 AM - 12:30 PM

Common Room (#136), 2 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge, MA,


Amporn Jirattikorn | Associate Professor, Department of Social Science and Development, Chiang Mai University


Michael Herzfeld | Ernest E. Monrad Research Professor of the Social Sciences, Emeritus

In-person talk – Seating is limited. Masks are required for all audience members.

Co-sponsored with the Asia Center

The portion of sex industry in Thailand involving same-gender sex between men has recently seen a shift to a predominantly migrant workforce, particularly in northern Thailand. The majority of male sex workers in Chiang Mai, a metropolitan center in northern Thailand, are Shan migrants from Myanmar. These Shan men are mostly straight identifying males who are turning “gay for pay.” As in many cultures, men who engage in such work are seen as neither “good men” nor “real men.” This research explores, on the one hand, how migration plays a role in these Shan male sex workers’ lives, both as a condition that brought them to engage in sex work and as a social status that shapes their life trajectory. On the other hand, it examines how being a sex worker giving services to men affects their sense of masculinity. Based on 20 in-depth interviews with Shan migrant male sex workers living and working in Chiang Mai city, this research attempts to show how Shan male sex workers engage in creating distinct configurations of masculinity to sustain self-acceptance and regain their status as legitimate, masculine, and heterosexual men.