Sex tourism is travel to engage in sexual activity, often with prostitutes.In the past it has been seen as the domain of men, and single males travelling to Thailand or the Philippines may have dubious motives for their trips.But female sex tourism, though less talked about, is equally rife. More and more women of a certain age are travelling to destinations such as The Gambia, the Caribbean or the Dominican Republic, looking for a holiday romance, preferably with ‘extras.’ Female sex tourists often emphasise different aspects of the relationship such as perceived romance and intimacy between the female tourist and the sex worker. Indeed in many cases they may not see the roles in these terms.
Women who go on these holidays often don’t realise immediately that what they are embarking on is a business transaction, not a holiday romance.But the men they date see themselves as providing a service; it is prostitution but often it is only the seller that is aware of this. In the New Statesman, fifty year old divorcee Barbara explains how when she holidayed in Montego Bay, a Jamaican called Chris began chatting her up and a sexual liaison began. She naively thought it was a romance until one day he told her “no money,no sex.” She ended up bankrolling him for the duration of her stay, happy with the illusion that Chris was her boyfriend for that time. She says, ““If he pretended to fancy me when we were together and just slept with me for money, does that make him a prostitute – or just a lying bastard?” She also bitterly points out that she is shunned by men of her own age in the UK, “because they want thinner, younger women and for some reason can get them”. And this is the point;so-called ‘romance tourists’ plan to fulfill their excursions with romantic experiences that they cannot have in their native country. Within the realm of female sex tourism, male sex workers are vital for the satisfaction of these women, whether physical or emotional. It seems to be middle-aged and older women with low self-esteem and a history of failed relationships who are more likely to fall for the delusion.Without the employment of local sex workers, sex tourism for both genders would not exist. This would impact dramatically on the legal revenue from these tourists, making sex tourism an important component in the country’s tourism trade, whether we disapprove or not.
Sex tourism is becoming a global phenomenon and naturally there are health risk issues. Chiefly,the rate of HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections may be relatively high in some countries which are popular destinations for sex tourism, particularly in comparison to the home countries of many sex tourists. Little research has been done into the transmission rates of HIV and other STDs pertaining to sex tourism. Neither has there been reliable research done into whether or not condom use is the norm among female sex tourists. However, writer Julie Bindel speculates, in an article for the Guardian, that HIV infection figures for the region suggest that condom use by the “beach boys” in the Caribbean may be sporadic, yet female sex tourists do not appear especially preoccupied by the potential risks.There is much opposition to sex tourism; older men who indulge are often ridiculed whilst there is a certain amount of sympathy for the women. Human rights organizations claim that sex tourism contributes to human trafficking and child prostitution and the U.N. oppose sex tourism citing “health, social and cultural consequences for both tourist home countries and destination countries, especially in situations exploiting gender, age, social and economic inequalities in sex tourism destinations.” But if everybody understand the realities of the situation and is fully aware that this is nothing more than a commercial transaction, does anybody have the right to judge?