Denial of Men as Victims

Cassie Walter

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.

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9 thoughts on “Denial of Men as Victims

  1. Jihmmy N. Sanchez

    In female sex tourism of “romance tourism” there is also the stigma that local men from the DR and Jamaica have a wild sexuality that is hard to control, so the idea is that it is easy and almost natural that local men engage in prostitution with western women because they love women so much they do not care about the physical attributes of women. The stigma is that local men only want to engage in sex, which in turn makes western women feel like the local men are not being victimized by the prostitution they are engaging in because the local male loves women so much how could they possibly be victims?

  2. Brittany Juliano

    One of the most interesting parts about Female Sex Tourism were the reaction from local men engaging in sex for money. Like you mentioned, Cassie, most of the women defined there relationship with the local men outside of the definition of prostitution, but rather labeled it as a casual boyfriend-like relationship, one which they could terminate at any time. This approach by the women results in confusion for the local men involved. As one local from Jamaica exhibits, the men often feel used to satisfy sexual needs, then dumped without warning. The casual relationship that women perpetuate in order to justify their participation in ‘non-prostitution’ actually damages the emotional state of the men. Without a professional outlook and structure to the situation of money for sex, lines of agency become blurred. In some ways this is the worst way in which a group of peoples can exploit their economic and racial inferiors, by doing so without definition.

    1. Olivia Rabbitt

      Brittany and Cassie I really like that you both talked about the emotional abuse men suffer because they are not treated like “real” prostitutes. If a man has to keep entertaining a traveling woman in order to pay for the antibiotics to cure an infection, it seems clear that the relationship is not a healthy, equal, or entirely consensual one. Does maintaining the false idea of men as never being victims help these men’s psyche or ultimately damage them more?

  3. Gina Pol

    It was very surprising to me that women who were soliciting sex from local men in exchange for gifts or money did not consider themselves as engaging in prostitution, but were quick to say it for men who were engaged in the same activity. The understandings of “sexual exploitation” make it difficult to realize that a woman too can exploit a man. Even the term “victimization” is highly gendered concept making it seem as if women are the only ones who can be victims, not men. Women engaging in these activities considered it a mutual exchange without even realizing that these local men were doing it as a means of financial support.

  4. Sophie Furman

    I found that part about men not being victims very interesting as well because it’s something that is not really talked about in our society as something that happens. When hearing about rape case or prostitution, one jumps to the conclusion that it’s a female being raped and a female prostitute. A lot of people are blind to the fact that men can be victims and aren’t always the one encouraging the act. It goes back to what we talk about when we talk about the culture of males and females, it’s not in a females culture to take control and put someone in that position, but we’re quick to accept that a male would do something like that because it’s something we believe can be in their nature.

  5. Sarah Wills

    I also found the part about men and victimization very interesting. Society definitely has different views about male prostitution versus female prostitution. Just like Cassie stated, this could be blamed on the patriarchal nature of society. First off, the men were described as temporary boyfriends rather than using the term prostitiutes-most likely due to the connotaitons of the work. Also, the women were portrayed as not caring about the emotions of the male prostitutes and just going through as many men as they pleased. This seems very uncharacteristic of women and gave me an interesting comparison to female prostitution

  6. I actually have witnessed–I’m not sure if first hand is the way to accurately describe it so perhaps–second hand how men in certain countries will be more likely to be, what us Americans would call prostitutes than their female counterparts. I spent a year in Guinea, with my parents, during a year between high school and college and my mother had to travel to The Gambia for business fairly frequently. The Gambia is a beautiful and very small country in the middle of Senegal and has very nice beaches–but there’s a strange phenomenon there–as soon as a woman, any woman but especially a woman who is young and blonde, gets off the plane she will be asked, by a young Gambian male, if she wants to marry him! I’ve seen American and European women go to Africa and marry men there, but this usually happens a few months, at least, after she has gotten off of the plane. Marriage is, no doubt, a code word in The Gambia (and Senegal, where proposals are just as frequent) for prostitution. Another interesting thing is that it is not shunned like female prostitution is in the West–Gambian men will approach a western woman for “marriage” pretty much anywhere public. This is pretty disturbing because it means that the whole country has acknowledged that this prostitution and the exploitation of young men’s bodies is necessary for youth to make any money and the economy to stabilize due to the money that sex tourism brings in.

    Patrick Gallagher Landes

  7. Gracie Hall

    Like many of my classmates, I think that the emotional abuse that goes along with male prostitution and victimization is something we need to look more closely at. As Taylor claims, I think that this is intimately tied with our concepts of gender, femininity, and masculinity. Not only does this help explain why women sex tourists frame it as “romance” but also why intimate acts such as kissing, holding hands etc. which are usually not allowed, are accepted and expected of male prostitutes.

  8. Sophie Sharps

    I really agree with your paragraph on victims and how deeply we connect victimization to women. This is so problematic because it means we dismiss real issues of men as victims. More so than commenting on the culture of the country in which the local men live, this says so much about Western culture that we automatically link victims with women and cannot even fathom the idea that men can also be victimized, exploited and dehumanized.

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