“The Game Turns on You” Crack, Sex, Gender, and Power in Small-Town Ohio

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Exchanges of sex for crack cocaine have received much attention from public health researchers and ethnographers of substance abuse. These exchanges are often viewed as one-dimensional relationships in which men use their access to crack cocaine and women's dependence on the drug to exploit them sexually. Drawing on in-depth interview data gathered during three years of research conducted in central Ohio, this article examines the relationship between sexual behavior and crack cocaine use from both male and female perspectives. Bourdieu's concept of fields is then applied to illuminate the relational dimensions of gender, sex, and power within this local crack-cocaine using scene, while also illustrating the domination inherent in most scenarios involving crack-for-sex exchange. Implications for possible interventions based on this analysis are also discussed.



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