The price of passion: performances of consumption and desire in the Philippine go-go bar
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The emergence of a global, (post)modern ‘consumer culture’ has resulted in an increasing commodification of people and their relationships, destabilizing many ‘traditional’ ideas and practices concerning sexual intimacy. This is especially evident in those encounters between foreign men and local women that arise in Philippine go-go bars, where an assortment of sexual arrangements – from prostitution to marriage – are negotiated according to the variable desires of the participants. Analyzing the activities within this space from a dramaturgical standpoint, I show how women and men adopt particular social / sexual identities and ‘scripts’ to achieve their personal aspirations through the manipulation of others, creating myriad gendered discourses and performances to express their diverse sexual, socioeconomic and political longings. Through the production and consumption of individual narratives and (re)presentations, actors in this liminal setting can satisfy their desires for personal autonomy and ‘success’ insofar as they embody desired ‘lifestyles’ through the active incorporation of goods, images and services. Moreover, in the enactment of these alternative biographies and practices, people also challenge the prevailing socioerotic discourses by modifying the symbolic meanings of sexual relations in line with notions of consumer sovereignty and personal agency within a liberal, late-capitalist framework.