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[Notice: All images on this site are (c) Copyright Saundra Sturdevant, 2002]

LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL: Prostitution and U.S. Military in Asia



These photos are from an exhibit of forty-six images and are taken from some 250 images found in Let The Good Times Roll: Prostitution and U.S. Military in Asia (NY: The New Press, 1993). I did the photographic work and co-authored this volume. It grew out of my time as the Quaker International Representative in Asia (an American Friends Service Committee position) in the mid-late 1980s.

The book is essentially primary documents of images and women's life stories in the three countries of Korea, The Philippines and Okinawa. Women's organizations working on this issue in the region made possible the access necessary for both the photography and the interviews.

There is an intimate relationship between the images and the life stories of the women. One of the central elements of Let The Good Times Roll is to present the women in the context of the work they are doing at present. There is a clear and direct connection between exploitative economic development that takes place in so-called Third World Countries, with its denouement of traditional methods of earning a living, and the availability of prostituted labor.

In each of the countries, it was clear that the women selling their sexual labor to U.S. military personnel were from the areas of their home country where traditional methods of earning a living were no longer possible. Fishing, village agriculture and living off the forests had all been destroyed due to rapacious colonial and post-colonial development policies. Both the Philippines and the southern part of Korea witnessed the urbanization of their societies, with families making migrations from the countryside to the urban areas in the 1950s and 1960s. This resultant migrant labor force was illiterate or semi-illiterate and unskilled. It was composed primarily of young people, who had the responsibility of taking care of the family. Young women entered prostitution, or before that, maid service or work in the factory.

Let The Good Times Roll also seeks to place the woman in the context of her community, her natal family and her children she bears. This is accomplished via the woman telling her life story in her own words. Questions are raised as to how the system was developed to procure women for this labor market, who pays and who enjoys the rewards of the labor of the women.

A subsequent photographic essay on this subject, focused on The Philippines, is: Saundra Sturdevant , "Who Benefits? U.S. Military, Prostitution and Base Conversion," in Waller and Rycenga (eds), Frontline Feminisms: Women, War, and Resistance (NY: Garland Publishing, 2000).



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