Migration and Sexuality: A Comparison of Mexicans in Sending and Receiving Communities

J Soc Issues. 2010 Mar 1;66(1):175-195. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-4560.2009.01639.x.


The reconstruction of sexuality after migration is a central dimension of immigrant health and an integral part of the process of adaptation and incorporation. Despite its significance there is little quantitative information measuring the changes in sexual behavior accompanying migration. This paper contributes to the literature connecting immigrant adaptation and health risks by comparing sexual practices and attitudes among Mexicans in Durham, NC and Mexican sending communities. Consistent with a social constructivist approach to sexuality we show that compared to non-migrants, Mexicans residing in the U.S. exhibit heightened exposure to risk, including casual and, among men, commercial partners. The enhanced risks associated with migration vary systematically by gender and marital status and are accompanied by variation in attitudes towards sexuality, with the U.S. context associated with higher tolerance for infidelity and biological explanations of sexuality. We discuss the implications for immigrant adaptation and health policies in the U.S. and abroad.