Provocation as Agentic Practice: Gender Performativity in Online Strategies of Transgender Sex Workers

Arul Chib*, Hoan Nguyen, Daoyi Lin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Fluid performances of gender online by gender-diverse individuals facing discrimination and fetishization raises questions about whether these acts are a source of empowerment or reinforce prevailing prejudice. We combine virtual ethnography and interviews with transwomen sex workers in Singapore (n = 14) to explore the dynamic between sociostructural oppression and agentic resistance. First, heterosexual power relations manifest online via digital practices of access, surveillance, and intervention to discriminate against and objectify respondents' identities and bodies. Second, the online response can be categorized into specific digital practices of avoidance involving privacy and anonymity, accommodation via subtle practices of submission, and collaboration via community mobilization. Finally, gender performativity on sites for sex solicitation manifests in the presentation of both essentialist (submissive femininity) and provocative (hyper-sexual) embodiments, defying simplistic characterization into the structure-agency dynamic. We discuss the co-constructive nature of socially situated gender performances and the potential for challenging normative regimes of gender.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-71
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Computer-Mediated Communication
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of International Communication Association.


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