Female Sex Tourism in Fantasy Islands

Haris Kuljancic

“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.

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10 thoughts on “Female Sex Tourism in Fantasy Islands

  1. Sophie Furman

    I never really thought about those TV shows that way, or shows that show a character going to another country and trying to find someone to eventually sleep with, is shown as their idea of connecting with the culture and being cultural. It relates back to what we’ve been saying about “excuses for entertainment” and I guess this would qualify as hitting kind of close to one. Though the shows don’t show sex tourism/prostitution it’s still encouraging the idea of sleeping with someone because there is no attachment to home and a disconnect.

  2. Brittany Juliano

    The hypersexual Other has always been interesting to me, and I agree, those popular T.V. shows with dominating women tend to exhibit that same lust for the hyper-masculine Other. This attracted certainly stems from a sense of power that White women are able to assert in a non-White relationship, but in addition to this, there is a hint of the bad-boy obsession mixed with colonialism. These women fantasize about the hyper-masculine man with a certain hope that they can be both aggressive and kind-hearted. The idea is that with a little female guidance, the bad-boy can be both aggressively masculine and caringly feminine. Unfortunately, we all know that this does not tend to work out, but it certainly ties to colonization of the Other. In the same sense, there is a hope that the uncivilized man can be tamed by the White woman, or if not, then it does not matter because they are not looking for long term relationships anyway. If that type of relationship were socially acceptable, those men would have to become colonized first.

  3. Harris, I liked your analysis of how female sex tourists feel empowered by showing their economic dominance over men. But one of the terms which was used repeatedly in the articles in relation to dominance was “exploitation”. I have been a little confused about what sort of implications this label has. I understand that female sex tourists take advantage of systems to get what they want from the male prostitutes. But does this sort of “exploitation” have extended negative consequences? I know that sex tourism can produce a lot of tourism which can bolster economies a lot. I think that this speaks more to the construction of femininity with the acquisition of economic power in a capitalist system more than whether prostitution is good or bad. We should be very careful not to shame sex workers here.

    Patrick Gallagher Landes

    1. Olivia Rabbitt

      Patrick, I think I see your point about the informal sex industry as economical supplement to the tourist industry, but I really didn’t feel that the article meant to shame sex workers. Instead it seemed to shame the men and women who engaged in such “exotic sex tourism” without thinking about the emotional and economical implications of their actions which they sometimes denied were even “prostitution.” Rather than shaming the male sex workers, Taylor seemed distraught at the emotional toil that these men faced since they had to maintain “romances” instead of the more typical(?) style of structured and semi-formalized prostitution, while hyper-masculizing and emasculating themselves in an industry fraught with structural racism.

  4. Gina Pol

    Haris, I liked that you mentioned how female sex tourists felt powerful through their use and control of local men. They had to power to accept or reject men as they pleased. Once women sex tourists received the services they desired, they were free to go back home, but the local men did not have that same autonomy. Some women may have not realized it, but they had the economic power to leave when ever they wanted to unlike the local men. Even with these exchanges, women still failed to recognize that their actions were a form of sexual exploitation.

  5. Bianca Scofield

    When reading your post I couldn’t help but think back to intro to sociology when we discussed how men prefer asian women over black women and women prefer black men over asian men. Women more commonly travel to the Caribbean for sex tourism and I would assume men travel to asian countries more commonly for sex tourism. Sex tourism is influenced by our society’s stereotypes of said races. Asian are considered to be weak and submissive, qualities that we look for in women but not in men. African Americans are considered aggressive and hypersexual, qualities that we look for in men but not in women.

  6. Gracie Hall

    The note you made about the supposed naturalness of the situation, was something that really stuck out to me as I was doing the readings. In Fantasy Island, one part that really got me was the paradox of men are supposedly acting on “natural” urges, by having sex with “unnatural women”. But also the later idea that sex is more “natural” in Third World countries, was something that else that really got me thinking. This construction of natural/unnatural acts as a way for sex tourism to be justified and rationalized.

  7. Sophie Sharps

    I liked that you touched on the extent to which media and popular television shows show these changing gender roles. I think it is so interesting that these shows focus so much on women that people attribute these characters with strong, independent female leads yet all of their conversations and actions are centered around men and sex. This depicts the contradiction that Sanchez Taylor explains, because men want to be able to objectify women but at the same time want them to be a subject of their love and affection. Additionally, these television shows (particularly Sex in the City) resemble the contradiction of the term “white woman” because whiteness is considered dominant but women are supposed to be in subordinate positions.

  8. Zoe Halpert

    Bianca, that’s an interesting point about ideals of masculinity and femininity found in different cultural stereotypes. It made me think of how we discussed how men in the global north feel that they are losing their masculinity, partially because they are more likely to spend their days sitting in an office rather than being active outside. The exotic other that is found in men from the Caribbean may seem more in touch with their masculinity. These women view them as being more raw and more “primitive.” They may not be suitable to settle down with, but they fulfill the fantasy of wild, exotic sex.

  9. Karen Cardona
    I don’t necessarily understand how white powerful women traveling to the black caribbean is way for them to prove their higherarchy over males. They have always had this higherarchy over males of color due to their wealth and skin color, this is something that goes back to slavery. Black male slaves were never able to even look at a white woman because he was not worthy of her, this structure is something that has been put in place for hundredths of years. The objectification of man of color as sexual fantasy cannot be covered with the idea that white women want a way to empower themselves, you cannot possibly empower yourself through the oppression of a marginalized group. In the article Female Sex Tourism we really have to look at who is making the argument, it is “American and European feminist” making the study very biased and very one sided.

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