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.