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The globalization of sexuality refers to the sexualized and embodied nature of processes associated with the movement of people, capital, and goods across national boundaries. It also refers to how the consciousness of the world as a single place is sexualized. The globalization of sexuality is manifest in a range of processes and phenomena that are often couched and approached in highly emotive terms (e.g., the trafficking of women into prostitution, mail-order brides, the development of the sex industry, and sex tourism). It is also characterized by the AIDS pandemic, mass international tourism, and the development of cyberspace. Each of these has in turn intensified consciousness of the status of sexual minorities and the unevenness of their treatment across the globe.
One of the main vectors of the globalization of sexuality is the global AIDS pandemic. Indeed, AIDS has often been seen as a metaphor for globalization itself, as it has brought into sharp relief how lives on the planet are interconnected with the impotence of nation-states to control flows of people with HIV across national borders. While helping to shape our consciousness of the world as a single place, the AIDS pandemic has impacted disproportionately on specific localities – the impact of the pandemic is experienced unevenly. Policy responses to the AIDS pandemic have been held responsible for the promotion of modern western models of gay identity as opposed to indigenous or folk models of sexual identity in developing countries.
A considerable body of work has been produced on the globalization of gay identity. We have witnessed the growth of a global gay consciousness and an associated activism and politics. For instance, the International Lesbian and Gay Association founded in 1978 now represents 370 organizations in 90 countries. The Internet is also playing a major role in facilitating the intensification of transnational activism around the rights of sexual dissidents. At the same time, global gay tourism has become visible through the development of global mega-events such as the Gay Games and pride events such as Sydney’s Mardi Gras.
Debates on the globalization of gay identity have focused on whether the export of a western model of gay identity reflects the imposition of cultural imperialism, or whether the development of a global gay consciousness is a positive and empowering example of a cosmopolitan cultural politics which is forging transnational solidarities against homophobic policies and regimes. At the same time, it should be noted that groups and organizations such as the Christian Right that are hostile towards sexual dissidents also operate on a global scale.
Technological change is driving the acceleration of the globalization of sexuality. The development of the Internet in particular is significant in facilitating globalizing processes at a mundane level – for instance in aiding men’s search for mail-order brides, but also enabling those involved in campaigning against the trafficking in women to maintain and develop transnational activist networks.
- Altman, D. (2001) Global Sex. Chicago University Press, Chicago, IL.
- Binnie, J. (2004) The Globalization of Sexuality. Sage, London.
- Patton, (2002) Globalizing AIDS. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, MN.