In Profit and Passion: Transactional Sex in Colonial Mexico
(University of California Press, 2018), Nicole Von Germeten
explains the most important changes, in both ideas and practices, over three centuries of commercial sex in New Spain. By using literature and extensive archival records, the author explores the gradual criminalization of places and people involved in transactional sex from the 16th to early 19th centuries. By avoiding the anachronistic introduction of terminology, debates, and depictions of current debates in regards to sex work, this book shows the complexities of sexual exchanges in the way they were accepted, rejected, and contested at the time. This broad historical perspective allows the reader, for instance, to understand the origins and causes of the stigma that words like prostitute/prostitution acquired during the 18th century, paving the way for debates that would take place in the following centuries, not only in Mexico, but in other parts of the world. Profit and Passion is an important contribution not only to the history of sexuality but also to ongoing debates in regards to sex work.
Pamela Fuentes is Assistant Professor in the Women’s and Gender Studies Department, Pace University, NYC campus.