Sexy Citizens?

In “Sex and Citizenship,” Laura Briggs explores the relationship between the Keywords Colonial and Body. She states, “Between 1917 and 1918, then, gender and women’s bodies became a significant idiom in which colonial relations were negotiated (70).” Briggs poses the question: who controlled the sexuality of Puerto Rico’s poor women? The terminology created and utilized by the U.S. reflected that of an empire in its naming of Puerto Rico as a “incorporated territory.” Briggs argues that the relationship between island and mainland was rapidly changing during this period, and that the inaction of a prostitution policy provided a concrete and safe platform to debate these new relationships. As the U.S. began to seize control over its newly “incorporated territory” it started with those bodies at the bottom of its racialized and gendered social hierarchy. The representation of these “citizens” through the production of stories on who prostitutes were, focused specifically on the status of their health. These women were portrayed as sickly and diseased by those supporting the prostitution policy; either dangerously infectious or sympathetically in need of health care. Ironically, the U.S. presence most likely made the health circumstances of the population worse in Puerto Rico as a small number of Americans accumulated the concentration of wealth. Although there was much push back against the prostitution policy in Puerto Rico, the production of these stories functioned to emphasize and moralize rhetoric of American Exceptionalism in the United States.

I’m specifically interested in what led some Puerto Rican women to support the prostitution policies put in place. In other words, what are the ideologies and discursive structures that led these women to support “sanitization” efforts?

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