The book Sugar Girls & Seamen: A Journey into the World of Dockside Prostitution in South Africa by Henry Trotter has just been published (June 2008). Any book that allows one to experience another personâ??s reality, and especially the outlook of a prostitute, promises to be mentally stimulating.

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

Dockside prostitutes are exposed to a myriad of cultures

Dockside “”sugar girls”” work at one of the busiest cultural intersections in the world. Through their continual interactions with foreign seamen, they become major traffickers in culture, ideas, languages, styles, goods, currencies, genes and diseases. Many learn the seamen’s tongues, develop emotional relationships with them, have their babies and become entangled in vast webs of connection.

Working-class coloured women singing karaoke in Chinese, seducing sailors in Taiwanese, negotiating sexual contracts in Korean, eavesdropping on conversations in Indonesian, cursing stingy salts in Tagalog and cooing over companions in Japanese. Clearly thereâ??s a lot more to these prostitutes than meets the eye. And thatâ??s just a taste of the insights this book provides.

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Henry Trotter is a Yale University PhD student currently conducting dissertation research on contemporary South African port culture. Sugar Girls & Seamen is published by Jacana media.