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Caribbean Pleasure Industry

Tourism, Sexuality, and AIDS in the Dominican Republic

In recent years, the economy of the Caribbean has become almost completely dependent on international tourism. And today one of the chief ways that foreign visitors there seek pleasure is through prostitution. While much has been written on the female sex workers who service these tourists, Caribbean Pleasure Industry shifts the focus onto the men. Drawing on his groundbreaking ethnographic research in the Dominican Republic, Mark Padilla discovers a complex world where the global political and economic impact of tourism has led to shifting sexual identities, growing economic pressures, and new challenges for HIV prevention. In fluid prose, Padilla analyzes men who have sex with male tourists, yet identify themselves as “normal” heterosexual men and struggle to maintain this status within their relationships with wives and girlfriends. Padilla’s exceptional ability to describe the experiences of these men will interest anthropologists, but his examination of bisexuality and tourism as much-neglected factors in the HIV/AIDS epidemic makes this book essential to anyone concerned with health and sexuality in the Caribbean or beyond.


"Mark Padilla’s Caribbean Pleasure Industry is a first-rate analysis of the ways local constructions of identity and lifestyles of male sex workers in the Dominican Republic are influenced by the ideas and practices of their foreign male clients who live in far-away places. This wonderfully nuanced study challenges readers to think simultaneously about the cultural and structural aspects of cross-cultural sexual interactions across international borders, and how those interactions impact local and global constructions of sexuality."

Héctor Carrillo, San Francisco State University

Caribbean Pleasure Industry is a major new work on the political economy of gender and sexuality. Mark Padilla’s detailed ethnographic study of male sex work in the Dominican Republic opens up new insights in relation to masculinity and male sexuality more generally. Few studies have so carefully documented the impact of changing social and economic forces on intimate experience—or the ways in which this intersection shapes the evolving HIV epidemic.”

Richard Parker, Columbia University

“Padilla’s thorough, nuanced research gives an up-close account of male hustling in the Dominican Republic. In delving into straight-identified sex workers’ lives, motivations, and relationships, it also throws new light on old questions about gender norms, sexual identities, and, of course, how these relate to a globally-connected political economy. A very useful antidote to the current rage for one-sided denunciations of sex work as exploitation, trafficking, and slavery.”

Roger Lancaster, George Mason University

"Extremely well-crafted and accessible, Caribbean Pleasure Industry strikes a successful balance between ethnographic evidence and theoretical analysis. It will prove useful to a wide range of audiences that include scholars of Latin America and the Caribbean, medical anthropologists, public health specialists, and theorists of gender and sexuality. Mark Padilla raises the bar for studies of same-sex practices in Latin America, and his work will rightly serve as a critical new starting point for studies of Latin American masculinity and sex tourism in the Caribbean."

Noelle M. Stout | Journal of Latin American Studies

"A captivating, scholarly, outstanding ethnographic study  . . . interweaving themes of sexuality, globalization, commodification, gender, political economy, and HIV and AIDS. This monograph covers a broad range of subjects that crosscut social science disciplines

Teela Saunders | American Journal of Sociology

"The particular strength of Padilla’s work is how it apprehends the intrinsic relation between local identities and global processes. Moreover, what makes this work stand out . . . is how Padilla lucidly indicates the implications of his findings for various different fields (public health, Latin American gender, and sexuality studies) and shows how they trouble some of their prevalent assumptions."

Maja Horn | The Historian

Table of Contents



1 Global Sexual Spaces and Their Hierarchies

2 "Me Lo Busco": Looking for Life in the Dominican Pleasure Industry

3 "Orgullo Gay Dominicano": Shifting Cultural Politics of Sexual Identity in Santo Domingo

4 Familial Discretions: Unveiling the Other Side of Sex Work

5 "Love," Finance, and Authenticity in Gay Sex Tourism

6 AIDS, the "Bisexual Bridge," and the Political Economy of Risk




Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, Eastern Region: John Money Award

Lambda Literary Foundation: Lambda Literary Awards

Association for Queer Anthropology (American Anthropological Association): Ruth Benedict Prize

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