Sex Tourism

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.

Luis Ramos



7 thoughts on “Sex Tourism

  1. Bianca Scofield

    Luis, all I could think about while reading your post was how language constructs our perceptions. Sex tourism is sex tourism, it does not matter which gender participates in it. If one is exchanging money or gifts for sex, then one is participating in prostitution. However, for women who participate in sex tourism, it is seen as more of a romantic pursuit and as boosting the economy. For men who participate in sex tourism, it is seen as strictly sexual in exchange for cash. This implies that men have no attachments to a woman he has sex with, and women care, when in reality it is more of a grey area because, as the article shows, many women do not care at all.

  2. Sophie Furman

    It’s disgusting to think that people who participate in prostitution and “sex tourism” might even believe that what they’re doing is “helping” the place they’re visiting because they’re giving them something they don’t have, money. And that they’re not doing it at home and in the country where they live it separates their actions from their reality, which isn’t actually true. Though I don’t understand the mindset behind people that participate in this kind of activity, I wonder how they can compartmentalize this act and the rest of their life so easily.

  3. Brittany Juliano

    The ideal of ‘romance tourism’ rather than sex tourism is silly to me. In fact it is almost reminiscent of Kimmel’s article on hooking-up. Sex tourists believe their interactions to be organic and “natural” similar to the way that college student think that hooking-up at a party is a natural or unplanned event. Instead, these tourists are only frequenting locations where they know people are available for sex, just like college students structurally group together at parties to facilitate a hook-up environment. Both groups of people crave sexual encounters, and both believe this pursuit to be organically achieved when in fact they are make strategic decisions to control their sexual lives.

  4. Gina Pol

    I agree with you that these readings were very eye opening. One very eye opening finding that Taylor mentioned was the irony of the front stage and back stage that tourists thought they were seeing. The front stage being the hotel employees and the back stage being the locals who were involved in sex tourism. Male and female sex tourists assumed that the back stage was the “genuine” and real aspects of the locals and the front stage was just for show and inauthentic. They failed to realize that workers in the front and back regions were in some ways involved for economic reasons.

  5. Olivia Rabbitt

    Another interesting moment in the Taylor article is the discussion on what qualifies as prostitution. Since we typically view prostitutes as victims and women because the male body physically dominates and therefore victimizes the female body, we have a hard time conceptualizing that women can victimize men. Instead we see it as women “taming” exoticized men. The men still have to be the aggressor and sell themselves to their Western “girlfriends,” while when female prostitutes sell/market themselves we are more likely to see them still as victims instead of active participants. The fact that our language and culture cannot conceptualize men as victims to women (except in regards to race and socio-economic power) is truly dangerous.

  6. Luis (and Sophie), I completely empathize with the disgust and visceral repulsion of the idiocy that people actually justify their acts with “economic productivity”. Luis, as you pointed out, the “othering” of women of color in sex tourism plays an integral role in the justification of this as well. In one of my prior classes, we examined how high the rates of sexual assault are for United Nations Peace Keepers when they are working with refugees in other countries. Specifically in the Congo, we read about how studies and interviews have shown that even trained Peace Keepers bribe young women and girls because they think they are “helping them” and that the young girls “want them”. I could legitimately post a million articles about this but I’ll post these two:

    Please note the title: “Peace Keepers Gone Wild” —-> not okay.

    These show that this “othering” that Fantasy Islands discuss, goes beyond just sex tourism, but trained PEACE KEEPERS actually believe that this behavior is not only acceptable… but justified.


  7. Karen Cardona
    “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).
    I am currently conducting research on sex tourism in Colombia and the Dominican Republic. While doing an academic journal review i ran across the fact that many Western European males feel the need to conduct sex tourism to regain their masculinity. The idea that in Europe and the United States women were starting to obtain more feminist ideas that threatened the male masculinity, their solution to this was to travel to countries in the caribbean where women still followed “traditional” gender roles and would be submissive and willing to do what men said. They also loved the idea of the exotic looking , women who looked different than the stereotypical European conservative woman. This however, reminds me of the way slave masters raped and objectified African and Native women bodies to prove their masculinity and want for the “other”.

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