Female sex tourism

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Map of female sex tourism

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Countries of origin: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States

Countries of destination: Albania, Balkans, Cambodia, Caribbean, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Greece, Haiti, Indonesia, Italy, Jamaica, Kenya, Morocco, Philippines, Portugal, Spain, Tanzania, Thailand, Tobago, Turkey, Vietnam. Female Sex Tourism Map.gif
Map of female sex tourism
  Countries of origin: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States
  Countries of destination: Albania, Balkans, Cambodia, Caribbean, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Greece, Haiti, Indonesia, Italy, Jamaica, Kenya, Morocco, Philippines, Portugal, Spain, Tanzania, Thailand, Tobago, Turkey, Vietnam.

Female sex tourism is sex tourism by women who travel intending to engage in sexual activities with one or more locals, usually male sex workers. Female sex tourists may seek aspects of the sexual relationship not typically shared by male sex tourists, such as perceived romance and intimacy. [2] Women who fit this profile – especially wealthy, single, older white women – plan their holidays to have romance and sex with a companion who knows how to make them feel special and give them attention. [3] [4] [5] The prevalence of female sex tourism is significantly lower than male sex tourism. [6]


Female sex tourism occurs in diverse regions of the world. The demographics of female sex tourism vary by destination, but in general female sex tourists are usually classified as women from a developed country, who travel to less developed countries in search of romance or sexual outlets. [7]

Female sex tourists can be grouped into three types:

With this movement of different populations to different countries, problems concerning health increase, especially ailments involving sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV/AIDS. Women involved with sex tourism do not use barrier contraceptives during the majority of their visit, leaving them and the men they have sex with unprotected against STIs. [9]


There is an ongoing debate on terminology regarding female sex tourism. Pruitt and LaFont argue that the term female sex tourism is not representative of the relationship that female tourists have with local men. They argue that female sex tourism oversimplifies the motives of these women and that romance tourism explains the complex nature of what these women are engaging themselves in while involved in romance tours. [8] They also propose that the expression female sex tourism "serves to perpetuate gender roles and reinforce power relations of male dominance and female subordination, romance tourism in Jamaica provides an arena for change". [8]

Scholars such as Klaus de Alburquerque counter that the term romance tourism overcomplicates what the motives of sex tourists are. de Albuquerque stated that concepts like "romance tourism" are only representative of small niches, like that of Jamaica and its cultural beliefs. Through his research, he concludes that the majority of female sex tourists are solely touring for physical encounters and not romance. He also says that the "tourist and beach boys may define their relationships as one of romance, [but] in reality, the relationship is one of prostitution". [10]

Researcher Jacqueline Sanchez-Taylor argues that the term female sex tourism and even the term romance tourism undermine what is actually happening in these situations. She compares female and male sex tourism and shows how each relationship is based upon sexual-economic relationships. She also explores whether or not female sex tourism is based on romance and if there is some sort of sexual-economic relationship occurring between the two parties. She added, "The fact that parallels between male and female sex tourism are widely overlooked reflects and reproduces weaknesses in existing theoretical and commonsense understandings of gendered power...[and] sex tourism." [11]


A number of countries have become destinations for female sex tourism, including Southern Europe (mainly in Greece, Italy, Spain and Croatia); the Caribbean (Barbados, Dominican Republic, Cuba and Jamaica); Ecuador, Costa Rica, Morocco, Turkey, Nepal, Southeast Asia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Fiji; and the Gambia and Kenya in Africa. [12] [13] Other destinations include Brazil, Bulgaria, Albania, Portugal and Haiti.[ citation needed ] Bali in Indonesia is a destination where women from Western Europe, Japan and Australia engage in sex tourism with male locals. [14] A survey from 2009 conducted by Wanjohi Kibicho in Malindi Kenya from the book Sex Tourism in Africa: Kenya's Booming Industry, found that out of the sex tourists surveyed, 61% were between the ages of 46-50, 31-35 (3%) being the youngest age bracket. Of the background of these women surveyed 22% were from Germany, 19% from Italy, and 15% from the Netherlands. In addition 71% of those surveyed were revisiting the destination. In gauging the reasoning for sex touring, Kibicho summarizes that women who feel rejected by men in the developed countries for being "overweight and older" find that in Kenya this is suddenly reversed. There they are "romanced", appreciated and "loved" by men. [15]

Motives for travel

Traditional sex tourism

Traditional female sex tourists have the same intentions as their male counterparts, and travel to foreign countries that have lower wages, and take advantage of cheap prostitution at a level unaffordable in their own countries.

Examples of these sexual-economic relationships can be found in countries like Kenya, Africa, where women from the United Kingdom travel to Kenya to enjoy the sun and enjoy the “company of young men” in a sexual manner. [7]

Situational sex tourism

Situational sex tourists differ from traditional sex tourists by considering their sexual activities with the sex worker as an added amenity to their original motive to travel. [2]

The majority of situational sex tourists are first-time tourists who do not plan on being involved with local men, and who become involved in romantic relationships rather than having exclusively physical relationships with sex workers. [10]

Situational sex tourism occurs when foreign tourists are attracted by male sex workers, known as beach boys in the Caribbean or gringueros in Costa Rica. According to the tourists, they are usually attracted by the exotic appeal that these men possess. This appeal can result from the ethnic differences between the sex worker and the sex tourist or the foreign lifestyle that the local men live. [10] Women who have sexual encounters with such men are typically middle-aged and of European ethnicities. [16]

The sex workers will often approach women who they deem vulnerable for various reasons, such as weight or age. [10]

Romance tourism

Romance tourism refers to a different relationship than female sex tourism. [8]

The concept of romance tourism came from researchers' observations in Jamaica; it appeared to them that the female tourist and local males viewed their relationship with each other solely based on romance and courtship rather than lust and monetary value. [10] Romance tourism is an issue of gender identification: “gender identity is a relational construct, the Western women who seek to break from conventional roles require a different kind of relationship with men in order to realize a new gender identity”. [8] With increasing independence and financial self-reliance, women are able to travel, showing their independence from men of their culture, “female tourists have the opportunity to explore new gender behavior”. [8] Like traditional sex tourists, romance tourists have a motive for travel, romance tourists travel to underdeveloped countries to find romantic relationships. [8] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21] [22] [23] [24] [25]

Sex workers

Background and intentions

Male sex workers have more freedom and security than female sex workers do because males are not confined to a brothel or a pimp and are not generally physically abused by their clients. [6]

Similar to the sex tourists, sex workers have their own intentions. Just as some Western women may consider the local men exotic, the local men may consider Western women to be exotic. Popular characteristics that appeal to a majority of sex workers are women with blonde hair and light colored eyes. [26] Some of the sex workers will target this type of exotic woman for their own personal pleasure with no guarantee of monetary gain. [10]

On the other side of the spectrum, most sex workers have the intention of making some form of monetary gain. Such a sex worker typically profiles tourists, in hopes of increasing his monetary wealth the fastest. While profiling he will look for older women, over the age of forty or young, overweight women. The sex worker considers these women vulnerable and will play on their vulnerability to get the tourists to obtain feelings for the sex worker. Once the tourist and sex worker obtain a relationship, the sex worker finds it easier for them to engage in a monetary exchange. [10]

Defined by the tourist

Romance tourists do not label their sex workers “prostitutes”. The local men and the tourists understand their roles in the relationship. The primary difference in definition of a local man to a romance tourist and a local man to a sex tourist is the emphasis the romance tourist places on passion instead of a transaction of goods or money for sexual favors. [8]

Health risks

The rate of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS, may be relatively high in some countries which are popular destinations for female sex tourism, particularly in comparison to the home countries of many sex tourists. [27] Little or no 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 prevalent 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. [28]

Women seeking to experience sex with foreign men put themselves at a higher risk for sexually transmitted infections. Condom use during sex tours is relatively low. It is often cited that women have the intention to have safe sex with their casual sex partners while on vacation, but at some point during the initiation of the condom, the women do not follow through. [9]

The sex workers usually will not initiate the use of a condom due to either the limited availability of condoms, cost, beliefs or previous experiences the sex worker has had with condoms. Female sex tourists report that, given the atmosphere and the exoticness of their lover; condoms are rarely used or discussed prior to engaging in sexual activities. [26]

The lack of barrier contraceptives increases the risk of the tourist obtaining a sexually transmitted infection from their foreign partner especially when their partner has been with multiple women.

It has been found that in the Monteverde region of Costa Rica, female sex tourists in the region engage in some form of unprotected sexual activity with local men known as gringueros, according to data researched by Nancy Romero-Daza. The women in the study were found to not be traditional sex tourists but situational sex tourists. [26]

See also

Related Research Articles

Sex worker Person who works in the sex industry

A sex worker is a person who is employed in the sex industry. The term is used in reference to all those in all areas of the sex industry, including those who provide direct sexual services as well as the staff and management of such industries. Some sex workers are paid to engage in sex acts or sexually explicit behavior which involves varying degrees of physical contact with clients ; pornographic models and actors engage in sexually explicit behavior which is filmed or photographed. Phone sex operators have sexually-oriented conversations with clients, and may do verbal sexual roleplay.

Sex tourism Travel to engage in sexual activity

Sex tourism is travel to a different locale for the sake of sexual activity, particularly with prostitutes. The World Tourism Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations, defines sex tourism as "trips organized from within the tourism sector, or from outside this sector but using its structures and networks, with the primary purpose of effecting a commercial sexual relationship by the tourist with residents at the destination".

Prison sexuality consists of sexual relationships between prisoners or between a prisoner and a prison employee or other persons to whom prisoners have access. Since prisons are usually separated by gender, most sexual activity is with a same-sex partner. Exceptions to this consist of sex during conjugal visits and sex with an employee of the opposite sex.

HIV/AIDS in Africa

HIV/AIDS is a major public health concern and cause of death in many African countries. AIDS rates vary dramatically although the majority of cases are concentrated in Southern Africa. Although the continent is home to about 15.2 percent of the world's population, more than two-thirds of the total infected worldwide – some 35 million people – were Africans, of whom 15 million have already died. Sub-Saharan Africa alone accounted for an estimated 69 percent of all people living with HIV and 70 percent of all AIDS deaths in 2011. In the countries of sub-Saharan Africa most affected, AIDS has raised death rates and lowered life expectancy among adults between the ages of 20 and 49 by about twenty years. Furthermore, the life expectancy in many parts of Africa is declining, largely as a result of the HIV/AIDS epidemic with life-expectancy in some countries reaching as low as thirty-four years.

Prostitution in Thailand

Prostitution has been common in Thailand for centuries. During the Ayutthaya Kingdom (1351–1767), prostitution was legal and taxed, and the state ran brothels. Prostitution is not illegal in Thailand, although many activities associated with it are. Nevertheless, it was estimated to be worth US$6.4 billion a year in revenue (2015), accounting for a significant portion of the national GDP.

Male prostitution Act or practice of men providing sexual services in return for payment

Male prostitution is the act or practice of men providing sexual services in return for payment. It is a form of sex work. Although clients can be any gender, the vast majority are male. Compared to female prostitutes, male prostitutes have been far less studied by researchers.

The Caribbean is the second-most affected region in the world in terms of HIV prevalence rates. Based on 2009 data, about 1.0 percent of the adult population is living with the disease, which is higher than any other region except Sub-Saharan Africa. Several factors influence this epidemic, including poverty, gender, sex tourism, and stigma. HIV incidence in the Caribbean declined 49% between 2001 and 2012. Different countries have employed a variety of responses to the disease, with a range of challenges and successes.

Prostitution in Guatemala is legal but procuring is prohibited. There is an offence of “aggravated procuring” where a minor is involved. Keeping a brothel is not prohibited.

Prostitution in Jamaica is illegal but widely tolerated, especially in tourist areas. UNAIDS estimate there to be 18,696 prostitutes in the country.

Prostitution in Vietnam is illegal and considered a serious crime. Vietnam's Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) has estimated that there were 71,936 prostitutes in the country in 2013. Other estimates puts the number at up to 200,000.

Prostitution in Kenya is widespread. The legal situation is complex. Although prostitution is not criminalised by Federal law, municipal by-laws may prohibit it.. It is illegal to profit from the prostitution of others, and to aid, abet, compel or incite prostitution.. UNAIDS estimate there to be 133,675 prostitutes in the country.

HIV/AIDS in Eswatini was first reported in 1986 but has since reached epidemic proportions. As of 2016, Eswatini has the highest prevalence of HIV among adults aged 15 to 49 in the world (27.2%). The HIV/AIDS epidemic in Eswatini, having contributed largely to high mortality rates among productive Swazi age groups. Over the long-term, the epidemic and its respondents induced major cultural changes surrounding local practices and ideas of death, dying, and illness, as well as an expansion of life insurance and mortuary service markets and health-related nongovernmental organizations.

The Dominican Republic has a 0.7 percent prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS, among the lowest percentage-wise in the Caribbean region. However, it has the second most cases in the Caribbean region in total, with an estimated 46,000 HIV/AIDS-positive Dominicans as of 2013.

HIV/AIDS in Jamaica has a 1.5 percent prevalence of the adult population estimated to be HIV-positive and no significant change over the last five years and therefore Jamaica appears to have stabilized its HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Sex industry Field of business

The sex industry consists of businesses that either directly or indirectly provide sex-related products and services or adult entertainment. The industry includes activities involving direct provision of sex-related services, such as prostitution, strip clubs, host and hostess clubs and sex-related pastimes, such as pornography, sex-oriented men's magazines, sex movies, sex toys and fetish and BDSM paraphernalia. Sex channels for television and pre-paid sex movies for video on demand, are part of the sex industry, as are adult movie theaters, sex shops, peep shows, and strip clubs.

Prostitution in Tanzania is illegal but widespread. UNAIDS estimate there to be 155,450 prostitutes in the country. Many women and young girls are forced into prostitution due to poverty, lack of job opportunities, culture, and the disintegration of the family unit. Many university students have to turn to prostitution for economic reasons.

Prostitution in Cambodia is illegal, but prevalent. A 2008 Cambodian Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation has proven controversial, with international concerns regarding human rights abuses resulting from it, such as outlined in the 2010 Human Rights Watch report.

Sex for fish sometimes referred to as "fish for sex" is a phenomenon in which female traders engage in sexual relationships with fishermen to secure their supply of fish. The women fish traders are often pressured into having sex with the fishermen who supply them with daily fresh fish. Along the beaches where the sex for fish practices have been observed, the fishermen do maintain several transactional sexual relationships with women at different beaches where they land with their fish.

Sex tourism in Ukraine

Sex tourism in Ukraine is visiting the country for the purposes of sexual activity. It is on rise as the country attracts many foreign visitors. The main reason for the situation stem from the combined effect of various factors. Currently, in Ukraine, the effect is constituted by a high level of the population poverty and its feminization, limited options for social mobility and very active system of organized crime.

Mumbai, is a city in India which contains the neighborhood of Kamathipura, one of the largest red-light districts in Asia. India is regarded as having one of the largest commercial sex trades globally. Kamathipura is only one of many red-light district neighborhoods in Mumbai. These neighborhoods are so large and popular that Mumbai has been called the "ultimate destination" for sex tourism. The red-light districts or lal bazaars in Mumbai are inhabited by thousands of sex workers including women, men, children, and transgender people. The sex workers of Mumbai are typically victims of sex trafficking, made vulnerable as a result of poverty, and lack of access to resources and opportunities. Sex workers in Mumbai face many difficulties in their lives.


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