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.