Between the Covers

About the Book

Sugar Girls & Seamen explores the hidden world of dockside prostitution in Cape Town and Durban, focusing on the local women who sell companionship and sex to foreign sailors to make a living.

The book shows how the dockside sex trade is different from other sectors (like streetwalking and brothels), examines the women's solicitation strategies, explores the cultural dimensions of dockside relations, and reveals a mundane reality that is utterly removed from mainstream society.

Beside the sugar girls and seamen, the book also animates the role of club owners, cab drivers, bouncers, barmaids, cops and drug merchants who help make this little world turn. By following the author on his late-night jaunts into the dockside underworld, readers can engage with the shadowy hustlers of the red-light jungle.

Through 24 short chapters that look at different elements of "the game," the book presents a comprehensive account of dockside prostitutes and the world that they've created for sailors in South Africa.


Pro Log
Brandy the Geisha
the power of cultural knowledge in dockside solicitation
The Dockside World
a short history of dockside recreation and how I got interested in it

The Players
Coy Khoi
the background of the women who hook sailors
Dock Rats
a look at the quaywalkers who used to ply the gangways
Sea Dogs
transient foreign sailors and why they seek companionship

The Game
solicitation strategies employed by sugar girls
how to get money from seamen without giving sex
the use of stories and verbal arts
Cunning Linguists
the role of foreign language knowledge in hooking
moral standards that the prostitutes try to live by
Jiggy Jiggy
the sexual encounter itself

Red-light Vice
Taverns of the Sea
the role of nightclubs in dockside prostitution
Vice Lords
how club owners manage the dockside characters
violence at the dockide clubs
cops and the law
cabbies, bouncers & barmaids

how the women deal with the children born of their work
Broads Abroad
prostitutes' experiences overseas with foreign sailors
alcohol and drugs in the game
disease and risk through sexual labor
Dreamers, Hard-cores and Crackers
the emotional toll of sex work for the club girls
After the Game
what the prostitutes do when they leave the dockside racket

The Dockside Wake
In Way over My Head
the author's experiences in the nightlife
Accidental Cosmopolitans
the cultural impact of the dockside sex trade


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