'The way he looks': Bears, wolfs and cubs Sexualized aesthetic labour in the gay tourism industry. An empirical analysis

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


This project responds to Warhurst and Nickson’s (2009) call for further research on (sexualized) aesthetic labour to include male sexuality in the analysis. Unsurprisingly the sexualisation of women has dominated the literature on sexualized work with theoretical and empirical analyses focusing on female employees who need to conform within heterosexualized demands (see for example, Avery, 2016; McGinley, 2007). Warhurst and Nickson however suggest that the gendering of sexualized work needs to be rethought and suggest that men’s sexuality should also be considered and analysed in relation not only to interaction with female customers but also male, homosexual customers. This project explores the market of service organizations intended for homosexual customers and particularly focuses on two popular gay tourism markets in Europe. The service organizations operating within this context, who are actively chasing the so called Pink pound, are explicitly sexually oriented to develop the desired corporate image that will appeal to the (homosexual male) customer’s sexual desires and/or fetishes. This image and the ‘right look’ are still however to be understood as a corporate strategy driven by the customer’s sexual orientation and sexual preferences. Scholars have neglected sexuality as a corporeal feature of labour that is utilized by designated service organizations. This project fills this gap and identify how aesthetics are commodified in this niche market and how employees experience and contest it.

The study is qualitative, reporting on 28 semi-structured interviews with front-line staff, 78 hours of participant observation and one research diary. Research was conducted in two of the most popular beach gay destinations in Europe, whilst part of the research was conducted during Gay Pride, the peak period for gay tourism industry. This is a cross-case analysis with participants from a variety of hospitality organizations, including, gay bars and clubs, gay hotels/resorts, gay sex clubs and gay saunas. Briefly the data reveal the embeddedness of sexualized aesthetic labour in the sector with participants discussing the necessity of the sexualisation of the service in order to attract and retain customers. Interestingly however the ‘right look’ varied across organizations based on sexual themes, sexual fetishes and the types of customers.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 24 Apr 2019
EventInternational Labour Process Conference - University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
Duration: 24 Apr 201926 Apr 2019


ConferenceInternational Labour Process Conference
Abbreviated titleILPC
Internet address


  • tourism industry
  • aesthetic labour
  • sexualisation


Dive into the research topics of ''The way he looks': Bears, wolfs and cubs Sexualized aesthetic labour in the gay tourism industry. An empirical analysis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this