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The United Nations classified Sex Tourism and Human Trafficking as the third most prevalent criminal activity worldwide; only drug trafficking and arms dealing trumps Sex Tourism and Human Trafficking in their respective prevalence. According to United Nations studies the industry has been reported as victimized almost 2 million human beings on a global level, while making proximately 30 billion US Dollar annually. (UN, 2018)
This essay aims at delineating the roots of sex tourism in general and the development of female sex tourism. Afterwards the two concepts of sex tourism and romance vacation are going to be evaluated, while the primary and detailed focus will be on female sex tourism. At least the theoretical approaches of Taylor Sanchez and Foucault, regarding sex tourism and prostitution will be outlined.
In different areas of the world different trends and patterns regarding the types of sex tourism are taking place. Therefore, various definitions can be found. The Oxford Dictionary defines sex tourism as “The organization of holidays with the purpose of taking advantage of the lack of restrictions imposed on sexual activity and prostitution by some foreign countries“ (Oxford Dictionaries, 2018). Sex tourism can be practised by both, women and men, as well as the victims can range in both gender and age. The Industry is reported to comprise over 80 per cent off female victims and children around 20 per cent. Sex tourist are no longer just white, middle-aged western men, also younger men and woman of all age, from all over the world practice different types of tourism. The tourists don’t have to have a certain income to be able to finance their clients, a wide range of classes of sex work exists. These classes range from cheap street walkers to high- end escorts (Laws, 2017).
As the age of consent varies on national and international basis, it allows those individuals practising sex tourism, to bypass and exploit contrasting legislation and statutory systems. Although there is great and joint international action, aiming at putting an end to sex tourism and punishing the participants, the Industry still prospers. The international community is still eager to fight the industry, as it often results in violation of human rights and limits the freedom of the involved people. Teen pregnancies, transmission of sexually- transmitted diseases as well as mental and emotional disorders are just some direct consequences of the sex industry (Laws, 2017).
With the increase in the interconnectedness of the world, technological innovation and the liberalisation of trades, the overall wealth of the world increased. The interest of people worldwide for foreign countries and exotic experiences increased, leading to a quickly developing flow of travels. Today tourism is a large and important economic sector for all countries. Together with the prosper of the tourism sector, sex tourism evolved quickly. In the last two decades an increased visibility of especially Western tourists participating in sex tours to non- Western countries. Trough the development of the Internet, information about and opportunities for sex tourism can be easily gained.
The interest of sexual experiences in foreign and exotic countries, with ‘different’ people attracts today not only man but also woman. The anonymity, low costs and non-interference by the local governments are seen as advantages. Governments in developing countries share the opinion that sex tourism is generally mutually beneficial, as sexual-economic exchange helps the local economies to prosper. Such beliefs delineate the global economic, political, and sexual hierarchy privileging American and European tourists. Sex tourism has become part of the global economy and is expected to expand even more in the years to come. The problem has received more and more criticism, also becoming subject to the international community, but the phenomenon of sex tourism was not established through globalisation but promoted.
Sex tourism has a long, complex global history of economic, political, and sexual conquest, based on the feeling and believe of power and superiority. Kempadoo states that “[…] today’s prostitution in the Caribbean islands relates directly to their colonial history[…]” (Kempadoo, 2004). Most scholars, analysing sex tourism, refer to the imperialistic actions of the Western nations, when asked about the beginning of sex tourism. During the age of discovery, western nations conquered countries and territories outside of Europe, while establishing a dynamic of subaltern nations being dependent on their respective external rulers. An unequal and dependent relationship developed within the social, political and economic environment of the colonies, with the western conquering nations being superior to the occupied nations. Colonial and postcolonial sex tourism embodies the same kind of dependent relationship. The majority of the citizens were farmers or workers, earning little money. To ensure their survival, woman offered their bodies to the white western man, in order to earn more money or to enjoy benefits. The ‘white man’, being often miles away from their families, were eager to experience a sexual relationship with different woman.
Padilla describes the continuity of people’s sexual-economic exchanges, with tourists as a means to satisfy the sexual desires of former colonialists. It was and is deemed more acceptable, if not charitable to engage in sexual-economic relations with ‘primitive’ or ’natural’ people, who exhibit their sexuality in a way that deviates from the Anglo-Saxon Christian moral discipline (Padilla, 2008).
The evolution of females practicing sex tourism began with the sudden increase of transnational travel in the 1950th and 1960th and with the development of women’s role in the society. The granting of more rights to woman, the loosening of former family structures and the equal ranking and treating of woman in western civilisations encouraged woman to go abroad and experience their sexuality abroad. European woman were and still are travelling especially to Mediterranean regions to find pleasure.
There are several classifications of sex tourism. Typically, a sex tourist travels in a different country with the primary motivation to engage in commercial sexual relations. The tourist wants to experience sex, intimacy, exoticism, adventure, and freedom from social constraints. The opportunity to experience something outside their normal lives, without the fear of consequences is the main driving force. Especially in developing and underdeveloped countries, the price for the prostitutions is relatively low and with many illegal and secret organisations and no real law enforcement it is, compared to other regions of the world, easy to practice sex tourism (Padilla, 2008).
The way genders are practising sex tourism differs. While men are looking for services offering organised sex, like strip clubs or bagnio choosing their sex partner by themselves, women look more for a holiday experience on the beach with often black men, showing them affection and giving them attention. It is called ‘vacation romance’ and is often practiced by middle-aged female western woman, usually overweight, divorced or they previously had unhealthy or abusive relationship experiences. Attracted by the so called ‘beach boys’, not prostitutes, they initiate a ‘vacation romance’, with the woman buying the man presents and some additional monetary expense. The man shows interest and attention towards the woman, through sex and joint activities (Sanchez Taylor, 2006).
Women traveling to underdeveloped or developing countries for a ‘vacation romance’ are usually white, middle-aged or older and come from Europe and North America. They are travelling on their own or with girlfriends. Searching for attention and love, the majority feels lonely, has reached a certain age, has low self-esteem or experienced exploitative, abusive or unhappy relationships with men. Intestinally or unintentionally they engage in a short-term relationship with a black beach boy, spending time with them. With no contact to sign, nor clear definitions about the agreement, many women believe, that the men they meet on holidays are in love with them, implying the unawareness of the women of being one half of a prostitution deal (Bindel, 2013).
Sánchez Taylor explains, why many female tourists are able to delude themselves into believing they are not prostitute users. The explanation lies in their racialised power over the men: “Racist ideas about black men being hypersexual and unable to control their sexuality enable them to explain to themselves why such young and desirable men would be eager for sex with older and/or overweight women, without having to think that their partners are interested in them only for economic reasons” (Sanchez, 2003). Phillips interprets this behaviour with the colonial past of both the western countries and former colonialist countries. According to her white people are again or arguably are still colonising and objectifying black sexuality. The fascination of the typical black body is leaves white women wanting to ‘possess’ that body, almost like back during the slave days. European’s colonialism has played a big influence in the development of their respective sexual behaviour (Phillips, 2003). An imbalance in power can be witnessed in the relationship between the white woman and its respective black ‘beach boy’. The tourist has an advantage over the sex offering person economically. “The awareness and employment of such power become even more significant within the context of a postcolonial society where race, status, colour, and class are very much intertwined and where whiteness is accorded status and privilege” (Phillips, 2008). Solely the word “tourist” displays superiority and power. Tourist are wealthy people as they have enough money to go on holidays and in this case to pay for sex services. The world additionally, implies a temporary moment, as a tourist visits a place for a specific period of time, until leaving to go back home. Racial difference plays a significant role in the female sex tourist experience. White women who would never consider being openly involved with a young black man back in their home country feel free to do so while travelling and often use this as an example of their ‘anti-racism’. However, the same women will often treat their ‘boyfriend’ as little more than a servant (Bindel, 2013).
The sex workers, or so called ‘beach boys’ are usually young men, physically in good shape.
Being a sex worker is often not the main job of those young men. Generally, they are having jobs, which are bringing them into contact with the tourists, such as restaurant waiter, activity planner or tour guide. Being friendly and helping the tourists to feel welcomed and ensuring that the foreigners are having a great time is part of their job description. Intentionally, the jobs create a platform, making it easy to approach to female tourists.
“They stink, have rough skin and look like old dogs. No wonder they have to pay for a man”(Bindel, 2013). Disrespectful quotes and similar ones can be found in many interviews with sex boys. So why are beach boys offering their bodies and their time to female tourists? DeMoya interviewed several beach boys, figuring out the main motivation being of purely economic nature. The lack of jobs in the economic sector in many African and Latin American countries, the pressure to take care of the often very big families, together with the personal desire to achieve and succeed summarizes the incentives of the sex workers. To start an own small business and to be independent, is a dream of many beach boys deMoya talked to (DeMoya, Garcia, Herold, 2001). As many female sex tourists have low self-esteem or/and are looking for attention, they are vulnerable, falling easier in love with the boys. Such women are more open to an exploitative relationship and are closing their eyes to the reality, not noticing the manipulative and false behaviour of the beach boys.
Phillips interprets this behaviour toward the tourists as, “in a postcolonial background, beach hustling may seem primarily a way to earn money, it can also provide an avenue for self-actualization and role liberation”, but “engaging in sexual intercourse with a white female tourist can (also) be seen […] as a continuation of the dependency brought about by a (sexual) labour relationship” (Phillips, 2008).
Different academic scholars analysing sex tourism have figured out major theories and analysis explaining that behaviour. Sanchez Taylor identified in her analysis of Power structures between men and women an uneven relationship. Sexuality is a main influence and actor of man’s behaviour. Driven by the intention to spawn themselves, men see women as an object helping them to replicate themselves. “In ‘the sex act’, women submit to men, and men affirm their masculinity and patriarchal power by penetrating the female body” (Taylor Sanchez, 2006). Taylor describes this liaison between the two genders as a master-slave relation, with men exercising and demonstrating their domination over the female and her body. This domination creates, as a result, an unequal difference, neglecting the importance of class, race, and age for an individual’s social power and life chances. People tend to feel superior towards other people, who according to their opinion are less worse than they are. The feeling of superiority encourages the person having that feeling, to act in certain abusive, possessive and exploitative manners. But Sanchez argues that also females can feel empowered by using aspects of their heterosexuality and their ability to bear children (Taylor Sanchez, 2006).
Sanchez further denotes the problematic of Female Gender Honour. According to Sanchez, women first have to achieve gender honour, which is only possible through their sexuality. A heterosexual identity was and still is required to attain the respect and appreciation within the women’s environments. Females being, undesirable to men, attracted to the same gender, unattached, or who are not embodying the social stigma of femininity, are taking into account the possibility of losing their gender honour within their social environment.
The theory of Gender Honour can not only comply to women, but also to men, not pervading masculine norms, established by the society they are living in (Taylor Sanchez, 2006). Although Gender Honour is important it cannot be achieved without Gender Identity.
Defined as “[…]a personal conception of oneself as male or female (or rarely, both or neither)[…]” (Ghosh and Pataki, 2015) , Gender Identity implies settled and clearly defined individual sexual and social morale’s and values. A clear definition of a Gender is highly important to communities, as they are existing since centuries. Although, sexual values begin to differ and change since the beginning of the 20th century, “idealized forms of femininity and masculinity continue to be promoted and valued” (Taylor Sanchez, 2006). People changing the standards and attribute, for example lesbians, transgenders or homosexuals, on which societies are relying on, are risking the losing of their gender honour and an exclusion within their social, political and economic society (Taylor Sanchez, 2006).
Female Sex tourists struggle, according to the three described observations of Taylor Sanchez, with their status and identity within western communities. Openly admitting to their sexual- monetary relationship, with ‘beach boys’, would imply their social exclusion and a change in their role as women. No longer embodying the typical picture of a western women, nor the idealized image of femininity, will lead to confusion and disapproval. Change of norms, values and attributes, until a certain level of acceptance is reached, takes time.
Foucault developed a theory of power, which is crucial of explaining, how sexual-economic relationships in prostitution are continually produced by the postcolonial powers exercised by subaltern and western governments. Foucault suggests overcoming the idea that power is oppressive. The concept of power is not established to oppress others, but to use it at a productive force, elemental to all social relations and knowledge (Dorfman, 2011). Further Foucault views power as fluid and exercised through contested ‘bottom-up’ practices. These practices and co-existing silences define discourses, which are linguistic structures policing and influencing what is possible to know. He implies that power and knowledge are creating each other (Foucault 1998). Taylor Sanchez, as described above, sees unequal power relations between the participating genders. Foucault analysis this relation as products of power. He argues that the sexual relation has to be put in context with other social inequalities. Prostitution can therefore not only be a physical or symbolic act, but also a material and/or economic exchange value. Sex can be a resource, being used as an economic exchange value, instead of money (Foucault 1998). Sex as a resource presents the importance of seeing prostitution imbedded in political and economy systems, displays globalisation as the process of how political-economic dynamics ‘interact with various cultural, historical, and psychosocial meanings of sexuality for the actors themselves’ (Padilla 2007).
The roots of sex tourism can be found in the colonial age. The two main concepts of sex tourism are differentiated by gender. Sex tourism is per definition only practiced by men, while romance vacation is exercised by females. Taylor Sanchez criticises this double standard between the two terms, creating a difference in gender and their actions, behaviour, feelings although, both concepts are describing prostitution. Using two terms is a discrimination concept, implying that females are less powerful, cannot be playing a dominant role in the society, nor during physical acts. By using different terms of prostitution for every gender, the problematic of prostitution is, intentionally or unintentionally concealed. The term ‘Romance Vacation’ is additionally downplaying and hiding the fact , that one is still talking about a form of prostitution. Romance vacation creates a marginalisation of prostitution or economic dependence and exploitation of the beach boys. Taylor Sanchez further outlines the problematic of female and male exclusion within their social environment, for not complying to the norms and values and behaving in a socially unaccepted way. Taylor Sanchez recognises the Gender Power theory but does not share the same views, while Foucault sees power as a product of social relations and knowledge.
Today women are no longer recognised as purely decorative objects but individuals, who can solely take care of their life’s and decisions. Women today are empowered. They can decide by themselves, if they want to go on vacation, the length of their vacation and can decide if and for how long, they want to get in contact with beach boys. Of special importance it is, not to care about settled images of femininity or on stereo types.
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