(I am so sorry, this never published!!!)
By Emma Weisberg
When reading Fantasy Islands: Exploring the Demand for Sex Tourism, I was struck by how many contradictions and double-binds were intertwined into sex tourism. For instance, men and women of many races, ethnicities, and nationalities are exoticized and otherized to become objects merely for their clients’ pleasure. However, while their “otherness” is systematically used to dehumanize them and make them appear “unnatural,” many clients also desire a romantic fantasy. Davidson and Taylor write that “Many clients want the prostitute to be a ‘lover’ who makes no claims, a ‘whore’ who has sex for pleasure not money, in short, a person (subject) who can be treated as an object” (455). This makes me think about cases of rape, when after an assault the perpetrator will argue that the survivor was “asking for it.” In other words, the survivor was supposedly making sexual advances on his/her own will, which allows the perpetrator to walk away with a good reputation and without repercussions. Similarly, male and female sex tourists who argue “sex is more ‘natural’ in Third World countries, that prostitution is not really prostitution but a ‘way of life,’” allow themselves to walk away with a clean reputation, claiming that they only partook in the action because it was the “norm” (Davidson and Taylor, 455).
Double-binds not only exist for the male/female sex workers but also for the sex tourists themselves. While men who engage in these practices are labeled ‘sex tourists,’ women are considered partakers in ‘romance tourism’ (Taylor, 43). While not every woman is searching for romantic relationships, this term ‘romance tourism’ creates a veil of acceptability and hides the use of dominance and exploitation. Western female sex tourists take advantage of their intersectionalities (race, socioeconomic status, nationality, etc) to find power in themselves and to utilize control over others. In these situations, women “can experience sexual intimacy without risking rejection; they can evade the social meanings that attach to their own age and body type; they can transgress social rules governing sexual life without consequence for their own social standing; they can reduce other human beings to nothing more than the living embodiments of masturbatory fantasies” (Davidson and Taylor, 464). Women sex tourists get to live out their own fantasies of dominance, ones they never have access to in the western world where they are expected to be subservient to the white male.
On a different note, what I find so interesting about these articles is that they discuss how fantasy is an integral part of the act of sex tourism. Fantasy can create illusion; fantasy can romanticize; fantasy can conceal the truth. Fantasy can also allow sex tourists to deny their actions. For instance, in Female Sex Tourism: A Contradiction in Terms?, Taylor writes how none of the women she interviewed used the word “prostitution,” “because they employed gendered constructions of sexuality to read their own sexual encounters” (50). If these women do not use the word “prostitution,” then this word—and all of its connotations—is not a part of these women’s thoughts and perceived actions. In this instance, we can understand how much words can socially construct reality or, oppositely, how the lack of words can conceal it.
“Female Sex Tourism” and “Fantasy Island” are two articles that touch on prostitution and sex in tourist countries unfamiliar to the western world. It was very interesting to notice how each article broke down tourism and prostitution and defined power, race, and class roles for each situation. Each article always referred back to the Western ideal of sexuality: the man is powerful and dominant.
“Fantasy Island” provides an example of why men engage in certain behavior as tourists, “Western men are socialized into a view of male sexuality as a powerful, biologically based need for sexual “outlets,” the existence of multiple, cheap, and varied sexual opportunities is, in itself, enough to attract large number of men to a given holiday resort” (Davidson and Taylor 457). This view of males is emphasized in order to set the stage for women prostitutes and how what they do is just natural for them. Women or girls are viewed as subjects rather than people that have an obligation to have sex with men that would like to assert their manliness in countries other than the United States where their manhood may be more constrained.
“Female Sex Tourism” stood out to me the most because of the emphasis it placed on power in women who toured the Caribbean islands. Taylor says, “Female sex tourists I interviewed generally spoke of feeling powerful in relation to local me, and some women also described feeling empowered in relation to white men, for in the Caribbean, where they could command the sexual attentions of black men, with men no longer had the power to control or reject them sexually” (Taylor 49). Black men were usually seen as hyper masculine, however in this case, women that were traveling to the Caribbean in search of sexual interactions had money, and thus had the power over the very masculine men that would usually control them in their own society.
Taylor also touched on popular television shows that addressed “changing gender roles”. Shows such as Sex in the City, Desperate Housewives and even the new show Devious Maids puts women in a position of power, yet there is almost always a desire for heterosexual love. I’ve watched a couple of episodes of Sex in the City and in those episodes the ladies go to other countries and are always in search of a sexual relationship. This gives me the idea that one has to experience sex in other countries in order to experience the country.
This week’s readings basically focus on the idea of sex tourism and the contradictions that exists in relation to this form of prostitution. It’s interesting that Taylor begins the article by talking about tourism in general, and then later starts mentioning the different activities that partake in that such as “prostitution and other forms of tourists-local sexual-economic exchange” (43). She makes sure to inform the readers that this form of tourism aids the Caribbean’s “crippling economic problems and poverty, repay international debts, and improve rates of unemployment” (43). But also, that it’s not just local women who are entering into this “informal tourist sex industry.” Men are usually the ones who provide sexual services for tourist women. So as we can see, prostitution is not always a woman thing. Men partake in the activity at times. In this article, women don’t necessarily think that their actions reflect those of a prostitute. The contradictions are furthered explained as one reads about the double-standard that exists in relation to all of this.
It’s also interesting to read about the double-standard that is applied to male and female tourists’ sexual behavior. Males are often described as “sex tourists” but women are described as the ones who engage in “romance tourism” (43). Why is that the case? It has to do with the parallels between male and female sex tourism that are widely overlooked. We perceive sex tourism differently when comparing the two genders. Male sex tourism embraces “brief, explicit cash-for-sex exchanges” while women’s sex tourism trades romance for “economic support and other benefits” (44). Gender plays out differently when talking about sex tourism.
I was appalled by how women handled the situation of sex tourism when they, themselves, were the “sex tourists”. They obviously denied the fact that they were being involved in prostitution-like acts. Sleeping around with local men for something in exchange was seen differently by them. They didn’t think they were victimizing men, when really, they were. Taylor points out that women thought there was nothing “problematic” about these sorts of acts.
Fantasy Islands, explores male sex tourism, especially the desire White Western men have for the “Others.” These men desire someone different from their own due to the racial fantasies they produce when regarding the sexuality of the women that are “socially formed perceptions regarding the sexual and moral purity of white women” (454).
It’s crazy to see how sex tourism is inextricably linked to discourses that naturalize and celebrate inequalities structured along lines of class, gender, and race or Otherness. But the most important aspect of it all is the power that transpires from these fantasies and sexual activities.
These readings definitely opened my eyes to new ideas regarding sex tourism. I was never aware of such things or that they revolved around prostitution acts, even when some people might deny that aspect, and perceive it as something totally different.
Interesting and yet really disturbing when you hear about what’s being produced to literally sell virginity, and dads “owning” their daughters virginity.
The readings Sex Tourism and Fantasy Islands show the complex multi layered facets of sex tourism from the perspective of both men and women. Sex tourism is largely looked at through the male scope, but when women are sex tourists they act on similar tendencies as the men do. This discussion includes many intertwining factors that go beyond gender, including sex, economics, and race.
Female Sex Tourism discusses the challenges facing women today that have to do with the controlling expectations that have been pushed on them for years. Women are respected when they are pure and innocent and yet they are supposed to claim some sort of heterosexual identity. She goes on to say that the female identity is largely claimed in the body. Through the media the only way in which women are represented is through their body. These women are always sexy and attractive to men. They are pushed to be economically independent but still to be good mothers and wives to men in this patriarchal society. Women must find their perfect male partner who embodies the characteristics of both men and women. Female sex tourism appears to be a contradiction of these many societal beliefs that have been created and really they are just the same as the male sex tourist. It’s hard for many to allow things to flip and see women in the position of power as they travel to these foreign lands. The reading discusses the women who enter relations with Caribbean men. The Caribbean men present a more romantic and appealing nature to the women who seek them. This reading provides a unique landscape in which to examine economics, race and sex, along with women who enter the power position typically occupied by men in the relationship. Some of the men in these countries who had relationships with women would feel used after being dumped and simply missed the role of economic distance and the amount of distance that was clearly visible to most in this type of relationship. However men who had a better grasp on the situation took advantage and understood that sex was not for pleasure but rather a business. Women are capable in these cases of sexually exploiting men, without the same consequences that they would have for these sexual encounters at home.
Next we turn to the elements of race in these relations. Taylor speaks to the coolness and hotness associated with black males, and the fantasies that some women enjoy playing out with these men. While women deny their racism it does exist in these interactions. The racism exists in the way that people view the foreigners as others and seek them out. While we seem to focus on gender too much in these relations, Taylor argues the more important dynamic is race. The black men that play into these stereotypical beliefs many regard them with, earn them economic gains but in the end keep them viewed in the same manner and context as they were previously by the white woman. The richer privileged people of America are able to take advantage of those foreigners who in turn make what they can of the tourism by receiving the outsiders that enter their home with open arms. The closely connected factors of sex, race, and economics outweigh the importance of gender in these scenarios.
Fantasy Islands first explores male sex tourism. In the ideas surrounding prostitution the men’s appreciation of control over these women is an important factor. In many cases the male tourist can interact with a woman that may not be considered a prostitute, at least in his mind, but still exploit her. The men can accept their action in this exotic land because these girls he finds there are not really prostitutes, but rather as Davidson and Taylor say this is just a, “way of life” for these women. As men travel to these places sex tourism is their reclaiming of their Westerness, as they show their dominance over the others. Then as the reading moved towards the discussion of the female sex tourism generally in the Carribean, a similar theme cropped up. Women also feel the lack of consequence for their actions as the authors say that the line blurs on prostitution in their travels abroad. When women and men leave the US and experience a partner in various sexual and non-sexual interactions they lose the tight constrains of society and judgment that they would feel if they were in their homeland. As they move into another country and experience that new world both men and women are able to take advantage of those others living their and assert themselves economically, sexually, and racially. This sex tourism system is one that allows men and women of a certain class to act out fantasies but also pushes men and women from these foreign countries to live up to the stereotypes that have been created for these groups of people.
I found this week’s readings to be quite enlightening (though not necessarily in a good way) about sex tourism overseas. I, like many of the women interviewed, am quick to acknowledge the ways that prostitution allows for women to be taken advantage of and treated as objects by men. It never even really occurred to me that there were Western women who were engaging in this same sort of behavior only with the local men acting as the prostitutes.
A major problem in this week’s readings was the inability of the female sex tourists to see their actions of soliciting sex from local men in exchange for food, gifts, and money as prostitution. Reading that last sentence, you might say well of course paying for sex is considered prostitution but almost none of the women who participated in this behavior (and were then surveyed about it) agreed. When it was presented as tourist men from the West doing the same thing with local girls, the immediate reaction was, as you might suspect, that these men were engaging in prostitution that could victimize the young women involved. These kinds of thoughts, however, were never thought about for the local men. Women in Taylor’s article who admitted to having “romance tourism” with locals said that they worried tourist men were taking advantage of local women but never considered how their elite status as wealthy, white European and American women put them in a position of power over the local men they “romanced”.
The female sex tourists were described in the “Female Sex Tourism” article as picking up local men as ‘boyfriends’, doing whatever they pleased with them for however long they liked, and then abruptly ditching them to move on to another guy or to return home. At the end of pseudo-relationship, many of the local men (especially the new, inexperienced ones) would have their feelings hurt as they were carelessly tossed away by the women who held all the power. Yet, remarkably, the women never saw their actions as being hurtful to the men and never saw the men as victims. The denial of local men as victims is one of the biggest problems of the patriarchal system they exist in. Because these were men they were dealing with, and men who embodied the stereotype of a ‘strong black man’ at that, the women were unable to see them as victims. These women have been so socialized to see men as strong, powerful, and masculine that they cannot even see a clear case where men are made victims by a power system that keeps them down. To be called a victim is seen by men as an insult so they are unlikely to ever describe themselves as such. Viewing the term ‘victim’ in a negative light is not only hurtful to the men, it is incredibly detrimental to women as this is yet another way in which women are considered weaker than men.
The blatant unawareness of the female sex tourists did not stop there. I found it remarkable how oblivious some of the women in these articles seemed. In “Fantasy Islands” one American woman interviewed talked about how in the US she gets no attention from men, but men in the Caribbean always flirt with her and treat her well. This is because (according to her) all Caribbean men are just so much more courteous and respectful than Western men. It never seemed to occur to her that maybe they were doing this because they wanted to be picked up as her ‘boyfriend’ and then paid.
Another point that came up frequently that really stood out to me was the male and female sex tourists who considered themselves to be not racist because they were having sex with the “exotic black locals.” However, the fact that they were seeking out members of the opposite race solely for their Otherness pretty much makes them racists. The sex tourists fed on the stereotypes of black individuals being wild, primal, and hot and sought them out specifically for this purpose. It was astonishing that these people did not realize that having sex with someone who is black does not automatically make you not a racist.
This weeks reading addresses the notion of vacation locations as “sexual paradises” or “Fantasy Islands”. These get places that need the economic tourism to employ people and help their country economically have been viewed as place in which prostitution is another form of economic growth between locals and tourists. This form of prostitution is not just the local female and tourist male but also local male and female tourist. Taylor addresses the double standard men and women face in sex tourism. Tourist males are viewed as engaging in sex tourism while tourist females are viewed as engaging in romance tourism. Taylor goes on to explain that “prostitute-use” is usually stereotyped to be a male only practice and that is why when females engage in prostitute-use the term “sex tourism” is not used; hence a double standard. Sex tourism does not just include brief cash for sex exchanges but also longer term relations where other forms of benefits are exchanged.
Davidson and Taylor open up their paper with Shrage’s notion that in the sex tourism market men are interested in engaging in relations with women of a minority race, this is because of stereotyped ideals about the sexualization of these women and the stereotype of white women as being pure and not sexualized. This goes in line with the idea of over sexualizing black women in American media and their representation. This also relates to an article I read for Social Inequality, about how often times white homosexual men seek out minority homosexual men for same stereotypes of them being over sexualized. An interesting idea in this article was the idea of a “love object” and the idea of sexual control over yourself and over others. There is a contradiction in that men want a prostitute that doesn’t just want sex for money but also for pleasure. They describe the ideal prostitute as a “person who can be treated as an object”. When seeking a prostitute these men do not just want a woman who will only be there for their sexual use but also a women that will engage in a more “love-making” style of sex. They do not want to feel like they are with a prostitute but more with a person equally involved, although also being controlled. It is a hard dichotomy for me to understand or explain. This article also addresses the idea the sex workers do not just engage in brief sex for cash exchanges but there is an array of options that the worker can choose. For example if a person chooses to be in a relationship were their expenses are paid for this can seem like a less harsh version of prostitution for them, and they are given the choose to decide how they act and in what way they are involved in the market. Another idea that I thought was very interesting was the idea that in “’civilized’ countries on ‘bad’ women become prostitute (they refuse the constraints civilization places upon ‘good’ women in favor of earning ‘easy money’), but in the Third World… ‘nice girls’ may be driven to prostitution in order to survive” (page 458). This idea completely disregards women in “civilized countries” as ever having the feeling that is the only way they can better their life or help their children.
By Emma Houser
In the process of reading these two articles I found myself very frustrated. The way that we view prostitution is problematic in two ways. First, it completely victimizes women. The fact that we don’t view/acknowledge female sex tourism as prostitution suggests that the essence of prostitution relates only to women. It portrays them as weak and powerless against men and completely delegitimizes any agency they have in the situation. As Taylor mentions, it ignores the fact that viewed as an asset that women can trade. Second, to almost contradict my first point, local men who engage with female sex tourists are not viewed as prostitutes and are believed to be acting according to their own free will. In my opinion, both the local men and the local women are in very much the same position, although I will acknowledge that women have slightly less power than do men in a patriarchal society. They both have willingly chosen to engage with male and female sex tourists. At the same time, they are both engaging in the same power constructs in comparison to the affluent tourists
One thing that both articles discuss but is largely ignored during conversations about prostitution is the role that race plays, especially in relation to power and control. One of the reasons why we are quick to view the female prostitutes as victims is because, among racially homogenous couples, patriarchy determines the distribution of power. However, when the relationship is between an affluent female tourist and a low-income local man, gender plays a much smaller role in the distribution of power. In this situation, the woman controls when and where things happen because she is the one paying. Her race and economic status give her far more power and control than the local man, putting both local men and women in a very similar situation due to their “ethnic status.”
I also found it very interesting to read about western men and women’s reasons for engaging in sex tourism because it’s not really something that I had thought about before. Largely due to the gendered power system we have in our country it seems natural for women to be enticed by the power and control they have as sex tourists. Throughout this course we’ve discussed the power that men have in the hookup culture and through many aspects of society, so one could see why women want to experience a relationship where they are in control and don’t have to worry about rejection. For once, they are able to “obtain sexual access to young, fit, handsome bodies otherwise denied to them” (Davidson & Taylor). This is their fantasy. Similarly, men were looking to fulfill their desire to have a high degree of control in their sexual relationships. Also largely due to our patriarchal society, the masculine ideals encourages them to want a docile and submissive sexual partner. As a result of feminist gains though, western women have become far less passive. So, men looking for control are forced to go to a foreign country where their money gives them power and control while also allowing them to ignore the issue of prostitution because of the way that the informal nature of the transactions at resorts blurs the lines between prostitution and romance.
For both men and women there was the idea that in order to experience the country one needed to engage in some sort of sexual experience with the locals. I think that this is one of the most underrated aspects of this issue. When we discuss prostitution we often think of women and men being objectified, but in this case the entire culture is being objectified and sexualized. It is dangerous for us to ignore race when we discuss the issue of prostitution because it ignores the power that we have over these individuals to define their way of life. Davidson and Taylor discuss the idea that many people view sex a society’s “way of life,” making it something natural. Although it implies that the local men and women who engage in sexual relationships with sex tourists have some kind of agency and gain some kind of pleasure, it ignores the fact that they are being completely objectified. In many cases the tourists also feel like they are helping the local men and women because they are often using the money they make to pay to feed themselves and their families. Regardless of whether or not this is true, it’s dangerous for westerners to use their power to establish control and delegitimize other nations.
I know we talked briefly about snickers adds in class recently, so I just thought I would share this one that I had never seen before.