(I am so sorry, this never published!!!)
By Emma Weisberg
When reading Fantasy Islands: Exploring the Demand for Sex Tourism, I was struck by how many contradictions and double-binds were intertwined into sex tourism. For instance, men and women of many races, ethnicities, and nationalities are exoticized and otherized to become objects merely for their clients’ pleasure. However, while their “otherness” is systematically used to dehumanize them and make them appear “unnatural,” many clients also desire a romantic fantasy. Davidson and Taylor write that “Many clients want the prostitute to be a ‘lover’ who makes no claims, a ‘whore’ who has sex for pleasure not money, in short, a person (subject) who can be treated as an object” (455). This makes me think about cases of rape, when after an assault the perpetrator will argue that the survivor was “asking for it.” In other words, the survivor was supposedly making sexual advances on his/her own will, which allows the perpetrator to walk away with a good reputation and without repercussions. Similarly, male and female sex tourists who argue “sex is more ‘natural’ in Third World countries, that prostitution is not really prostitution but a ‘way of life,’” allow themselves to walk away with a clean reputation, claiming that they only partook in the action because it was the “norm” (Davidson and Taylor, 455).
Double-binds not only exist for the male/female sex workers but also for the sex tourists themselves. While men who engage in these practices are labeled ‘sex tourists,’ women are considered partakers in ‘romance tourism’ (Taylor, 43). While not every woman is searching for romantic relationships, this term ‘romance tourism’ creates a veil of acceptability and hides the use of dominance and exploitation. Western female sex tourists take advantage of their intersectionalities (race, socioeconomic status, nationality, etc) to find power in themselves and to utilize control over others. In these situations, women “can experience sexual intimacy without risking rejection; they can evade the social meanings that attach to their own age and body type; they can transgress social rules governing sexual life without consequence for their own social standing; they can reduce other human beings to nothing more than the living embodiments of masturbatory fantasies” (Davidson and Taylor, 464). Women sex tourists get to live out their own fantasies of dominance, ones they never have access to in the western world where they are expected to be subservient to the white male.
On a different note, what I find so interesting about these articles is that they discuss how fantasy is an integral part of the act of sex tourism. Fantasy can create illusion; fantasy can romanticize; fantasy can conceal the truth. Fantasy can also allow sex tourists to deny their actions. For instance, in Female Sex Tourism: A Contradiction in Terms?, Taylor writes how none of the women she interviewed used the word “prostitution,” “because they employed gendered constructions of sexuality to read their own sexual encounters” (50). If these women do not use the word “prostitution,” then this word—and all of its connotations—is not a part of these women’s thoughts and perceived actions. In this instance, we can understand how much words can socially construct reality or, oppositely, how the lack of words can conceal it.