Turncoat Bodies: Sexuality and Sex Work under Militarization in Sri Lanka

Citation:

Tambiah, Yasmin. 2005. “Turncoat Bodies: Sexuality and Sex Work under Militarization in Sri Lanka.” Gender and Society 19 (2): 243–61.

Author: Yasmin Tambiah

Abstract:

In Sri Lanka's armed conflict, gender, sexuality, and sex work are intermeshed with militarized nationalism. Militarization entrenches gender performances and heteronormative schemes while enabling women to transgress these-whether as combatants or as sex workers. Familiarly, in this nationalist encounter, women are expected to safeguard culture, notably through proper dress and sexual conduct. Sexual activity that challenges containment arouses anxiety because loyalty to military group or communal boundary can be compromised. Drawing on three examples-a dress code call by a Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam women's wing, consequences for a woman alleged to be a sex worker, and the public stripping of an alleged suicide bomber at a military checkpoint-this article explores how gendered behaviors and sexualities marked as culture are constructed and controlled in the interests of militarized, nationalist projects; how women can be both agents and objects of these controls; and the implications for women who refuse to comply.

Topics: Gender, Women, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militarism, Sexuality Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: Sri Lanka

Year: 2005

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