Sincronía Fall 2002
The portrayal of women on sex tour websites
Kimberly Bender, MSW & Rich Furman, PhD, School of Social Work, Colorado State University
Abstract: This study examines the portrayal of women on the websites of sex tours. Sex tours are a growing phenomenon, whereby men from primarily western countries travel to the developing world for the purpose of procuring sex. This exploratory study used content analysis of twenty sex tour websites in order to understand sex tourism. The researchers uncovered a pattern of the objectification of foreign sex workers and women in western world. The growing problem of the sexual trafficking of women, and the spread of HIV/AIDS, lend importance to understanding this phenomenon.
Globalization, the transnational interconnectedness of economic and social institutions, has had a profound impact on the lives of women (Healey, 2001). For example, as global boundaries have become more diffuse, the trafficking of women across international boundaries has become more prevalent (Watanabe, 1999). Globalization also rapidly alters the economic structures of both the developing and developed worlds (Mayadas, Elliott & Ramanathan, 1999). Sectors of various economies can rapidly shift, leaving groups of women in developing countries more vulnerable to such changes. These changes, combined with their already scant options for economic self-sufficiency, may force some women into prostitution as a means of survival (Mensendiek, 1997). In the case of women who have been trafficked, the element of choice has been even more completely removed. Men from developed nations often encounter these women through their travels as sex tourists. Sex tours are a growing phenomenon, whereby men from primarily western countries travel to the developing world for the purpose of procuring sex (Bloor, et. al., 2000).
This study examines the portrayal of women on the websites of sex tours. Studying the portray of women in contexts such as these is important for several reasons. False stereotypes about women and their role in the global economy abound (Estes, 1992). These false stereotypes and perceptions are often part of a vicious cycle that cause and perpetuate violence against women. As women are viewed as objects, they may be treated in dehumanizing, violent and even life-threatening ways. By studying the portrayal of women on sex tours, it is hoped that we will better understand the nature of some of these stereotypes and be better prepared to confront.
This article summarizes a content analysis of twenty websites of sex tours. From this data, themes emerged pertaining to the manner in which foreign female sex workers and western women are portrayed. In the first section, an introduction to the sex tourism industry is provided. The second section of this article, the presentation of the data, is by far the most comprehensive, and most important section. The authors have consciously decided to allow the data to speak for itself. In content analyses such as this, the authors believe that analysis and data collection are intricately woven together. Therefore, while we allow the data to speak for itself, our biases are imbedded within our taxonomy and manner of presentation. We have attempted, however, to filter out as many of our biases as we can, seeking to present data in as "clean" manner as possible. Researchers and practitioners are encouraged to make their own interpretations, based upon their discipline and needs. Finally, summery comments will discuss the implications of these data for future research.
Introduction to Sex Tourism
Sex or erotic tourism involves male tourists vacationing with the expectation that part or all of their vacation will involve paid sexual experiences. These experiences might range from visiting strippers, using escorts or engaging in sexual experiences with prostitutes (Evans, Forsyth & Wooddell, 2000). Sex tourism occurs in several developing countries but much of the sex tour industry revolves around the areas of the Caribbean, Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries, Latin America, and to a lesser extent in the Netherlands (Bishop & Robinson, 1999).
Erotic tourisms roots in Southeast Asia began during the Vietnam War. U.S. military officers were given Rest and Relaxation leave and funding, and spent most of this leave in Thailand on prostitution and alcohol. After the war, Thailand needed to continue the market in order to ensure its economic survival. Tourism brings in 4 billion dollars to Thailand annually, and 70-90% of the travelers are men traveling without families or partners. The sex economy has become a vital part of the Thai economic output surpassing rice exports (Bishop & Robinson, 1999). The trend toward increased sex tourism is sustaining economic survival for many people living in Thailand.
In the Caribbean, sex tourism is directly related to a state of poverty and the expansion of foreign investment. (Evans, Forsyth & Wooddell, 2000). Capitalism and patriarchy contribute to the structure supporting economic survival through the erotic tour industry. Independent of the history and development of sex tourism in various regions, a growing concern is that the women participating in the tourism are not doing so by choice.
The women who work for the sex tour agencies are often trafficked into the work or forced into the role through enslavement, threat of violence, or poverty and lack of alternative ways to make money (Watanabe, 1999). The tours focus on providing women who fit customers fantasies and who are willing to submissively fulfill the customer desires. Some tours also focus on the clients rights and desires to dominate the women providers and set up an expectation of exploitation and female objectification. Of great concern is that foreign women providing sexual experiences to tourists, whether trafficked or not, face violence and threats from tour agencies, customers, and others who dominate them (Bishop & Robinson). Thus, sex tours are problematic, in part, due to the fact that many of these women have been trafficked.
Men make up the majority of sex tour customers. Primarily men from developed countries, specifically from the United States, European countries and Japan, are those that can afford to participate in erotic tours. Literature on prostitution in the United States shows that male customers of prostitution tend to deviate from the traditional stereotype of unattractive and unsuccessful. Instead, studies show that most male consumers of prostitution are married, college educated, not physically unattractive, have had no trouble finding nonprostitute sex, and earn an average of $30,000/year (Adams, 1987).
Further study can clarify and expand on the limited knowledge about sex tour activities and sex tour clientele. Through the following examination of the trafficking of women, the spread of AIDS, and characteristics associated with sexual addiction, one can begin to see the troubling issues associated with sex tour behavior. By understanding different specific aspects of sex tourism, research can move forward to investigate ways to create positive change in the lives of the female providers and male consumers.
Trafficking of Women
The exploitation of women is of great concern to the field of social work and other helping professions. Forms of sexual exploitation that are often given attention to in the literature include: stripping, pornography, massage parlors, escort services, and prostitution. However, the literature has recently focused on the forced sexual exploitation of women through the trafficking of women (Watanabe, 1999, Bishop & Robinson, 1999, and Chew, 1999). Several recent articles point to the abduction of women against their will or the use of coercion, threats, and lack of financial options in order to force women into prostitution (Chew, 1999). Chew (1999) defines trafficking of women as "All acts involved in the recruitment and/or transportation of women within and across national borders for work or services by means of violence or threat of violence, abuse of authority or dominant position, debt-bondage, deception or other forms of coercion" (14).
Literature shows that trafficked women and girls often face extremely harsh treatment, violence, unsafe conditions, and enslavement in their new environments (Rogers, 1999). In some extreme cases, women are tied to beds and forced to perform sexual acts with fifty to sixty men per day. The cruel victimization that trafficked women face is a growing problem throughout the world. Not only are the women put at risk for pregnancy, physical and sexual abuse, but also a rash of sexually transmitted diseases including AIDS.
A recent conference, in which the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women was founded, uncovered the extent of the trafficking problem. The conference found an explosion of trafficking in recent years, and discovered new trafficking routes are being developed. Also discovered was a trend of customers expecting more and more degrading and cruel sexual experiences from the trafficked women (Chew, 1999). A connection between the trafficking of women and sexual tourism clearly exists. Sexual tourism creates a primary source of customers that fuels the sexual trafficking of women. Through this form of organized prostitution, trafficked women are forced to sexually service male tourists (Watanabe, 1999).
This is an exploratory study using content analysis to observe data pertaining to the portrayal of women on available sex tour websites. Through systematic observation of available sites, researchers sought to understand sex tourism and themes represented on sex tour sites. In order to explore the topic area, the study uses grounded theory. Babbie (2000) defines grounded theory as "Attempting to derive theories from an analysis of the patterns, themes, and common categories discovered in observational data" (p.284). Beginning with an inductive research approach, researchers explored the text of sex tour websites looking for common categories about women. These categories were systematically coded and then analyzed to pull out common themes and patterns. Two coders were used to examine these themes to ensure inter-coder reliability. Once themes and patterns were established and labeled, researchers began searching more data for the presence or variances of these themes. In consistently reevaluating, re-defining, and openly exploring the website material, researchers built theory by making comparisons (Neuman, 1997).
The sample for this study included twenty sex tour websites reached through Internet searches on several of the main search engines. Through compiling and analyzing information from each of these sites, a content analysis was done. Websites used as a sample in this study included any that advertised or gave information about specific sex tours.
Findings: The portrayal of women
Portrayal of foreign sex workers
Objectification of Women
The objectification of women was found on approximately one-third of websites reviewed. This objectification was shown in both explicit statements and through implicit language. Below, objectification of women has been separated into three subcategories including: the buying process, the marketing of women, and actions women are expected to provide.
The buying process by which women are selected for sex, whether through go-go bars, massage parlors or selections set up by the tour agency, is an act of men shopping for women. The very nature of shopping for an item implies the women are used as objects for service. The transactions taking place on tours vary as men have several options for being matched, paired, or selecting women.
Go-Go bars are described as one option for men who want to drink and spend time with male friends, but also want to "check out the girls" (http://www.Exoticatravel.com, 2001). Go-Go bars are depicted similarly to American strip clubs, except that each girl can be bought to leave the club for a designated set of time. "You will find upon entering the bar, several girls up on a stage dancing around a pole scantily clothed or semi-clothed" (http://www.Exoticatravel.com, 2001). Men sit down to watch these women, order a drink, and a woman will come sit down next to him, make small talk and then "start the body language, (placing her hand and rubbing it on you upper inside leg) (rubbing your back or shoulder and so forth)" (http://www.Exoticatravel.com, 2001).
In this case the women are described as more aggressive pursuers, and the men are described as providing the "means to their livelihood" (http://www.Exoticatravel.com, 2001). This particular selection process demonstrates the objectification of women in that women are paraded across a stage to be selected, and then are asked to entice the man in order to be chosen to go home with him. The power is given to the man, and the women are bought as objects on a shopping excursion.
Massage parlors are described as an atmosphere in which men can personally view and select women. One particular site describes massage parlors below.
The fish bowl concept is when you have several hundred ladies sit in a display case, and each one of them is attempting eye contact with you from behind a glass wall. You on the other hand are sitting on a couch or chair with a drink in your hand, not in any hurry, looking over all the ladies. Usually what happens, is there will be one girl that will stand out to you, either by smile or eye contact that will tell you this is the one (http://www.Exoticatravel.com, 2001).
The site goes on to describe the consumer telling the manager of the parlor which women he has in mind, and the manager calling out her number which is attached to her on a tag. The woman than comes out of the display case and goes to the consumer who chose her for either a small conversation or directly to a room for a massage (described in following section).
This description of selecting a woman emphasizes the objectifying nature of prostitution on foreign sex tours. The fact that women are numbered and bought from behind glass is similar to the window shopping that male consumers might do for clothing, cars, or appliances. The more personal nature of meeting a woman and asking for her time is removed, as men are not required to converse, act charming or entice a woman to be with them. Instead the woman is not a person at a bar but an object to be chosen and bought from the manager.
Brothels "are set up throughout the city. Upon a visit, you will be shown several girls to choose from" (http://www.Exoticatravel.com, 2001). The selection process is similar in that the man gets to make a choice about which woman he wants to sleep with. However, the action takes place at the establishment instead of the consumer taking the woman back to his hotel with him. This is described in some sites as a good option for men who are looking for something quick instead of finding a girl for the entire evening.
Many of the tours outside Asia, primarily in Russia and Latin America, involve the tour agency pairing the men up with women. Some of the sites offer a catalog of women over the Internet where men can look at photographs and read biographies and then make selections of which women he would like to see during his tour. One site states, "As part of your tour package you will receive the addresses of 25 ladies of your choice from our website for EACH city that you visit" (http://www.Exoticlady.com, 2001). Some agencies advertise arranging a party upon arrival to the country, in which men can mingle with women and select whom he wants to spend his evening or week with.
Many of these sites emphasize the woman as a "companion" with whom a man can enjoy his vacation, and men are expected to spend more time with the companion than appears to be expected in massage parlors, go-go bars, etc. This selection process, while possibly more subtle and discrete, is still objectifying women in that catalogs and pictures are displayed for the buying.
Beer bars are described as "a more laid back place for drinking and meeting girls" (http://www.Exoticatravel.com, 2001). They appear to be more similar to pick up bars in the U.S., except that one is expected to pay for the woman he chooses to take home. Advertisements even go as far as stating, "From go-go bars and discos to the most erotic massage parlors, youll uncover all of Manilas dirty little secrets. This report even covers easy ways to pick up ordinary girls in a Dunkin Donuts or the local shopping mall" (http://www.Ladyparadise.com, 2001). Thus, tour advertisements move beyond describing organized interactions to select women, to implying that consumers may be able to pick up women while they are walking around and shopping. The message appears to be that the women in these countries are always available and interested in western mens sexual advances whether working or not.
The marketing of women is another sub-theme through which the objectification of women is evident. Women are marketed and described in a variety of ways, but it is common among websites to describe selecting women based on their body parts. For example one site describes, "All I remember was their giggling, the firm breasts of the sweet smelling girl who was lying beside me, and the feeling of hands and mouths sucking and caressing every inch of my body" (http://www.Lovetours.com, 2001). This example points to the fact that the women are not whole, and thus not people, but are merely sums of parts. Several sites describe womens hair, legs, breasts, lips, hands, and genitals as ideal in size, shape, and texture, and most importantly as separate from a personality or human presence. Another example states, "Ten thousand pretty models faces, with long silken hair. Bodies that will make you regret having only two hands" (http://www.Lovetours.com). The descriptions portray men having sex with less than a full person, with an object. Lovetours website states, "with the obvious exception of blonds and amazons, there is nothing you cannot find in Asia" (http://www.Lovetours.com., 2001). Once again, women are reduced to one part of themselves, whether their hair or body type, they are simply objects.
Beyond explicit comments describing women as parts of a person, the websites also use implicit language to imply that women are more objects than people. For example, one site refers to foreign women as "she has the looks and personality in one package" (http://www.Lefantasy.com, 2001) and another site states, "the girls are not quite as good looking as in the Go-Go Bars, but sometimes you can find gems here as well" (http://www.Exoticatravel.com, 2001). Describing women as packages and gems implicitly sends the message that these women are merely objects to be bought and used for the consumers pleasure. Taking the objectification another step, one site describes "At any rate, there are armies of legal-age girls available who are ready, willing and able to provide you with all of your sexual fantasies" (http://www.Exoticatravel.com, 2001). Not only are women objects to be used, but they are also compared to armies to be conquered by the men sent on this mission.
One site emphasizes the objectification by not only describing women as body parts, but compares them to machines, "Thai girls are very pretty and are generally very fit and in good shape, with smooth almond colored skin and dark straight hair, they are very demure, not to forget that they often have hips that move like hydraulic presses" (http://www.Exoticatravel.com, 2001). This site depicts women as machines to be used by consumers, implicitly giving the male consumer control and power.
The actions provided by foreign women make up another sub-theme that illustrates the objectification of women sex workers. While the sex tour websites describe a variety of activities offered through the tour agencies, several sexual acts expected of foreign women blatantly objectify women. One site reports,
Quite honestly, in Thailand, I experienced one-way sex many times usually because I wanted it and went looking for it. In one club for instance, you watch a video, have a drink, and talk to other patrons, while hidden under the table a talented woman slips a condom on and gives you rhythmic, slow, oral sex (http://www.Lovetours.com, 2001).
Here the woman is not seen or spoken to, in fact she is not really even acknowledged, but instead expected to service the man while not getting in the way of his enjoying other entertainment. The symbolism of a women being under the table, below the man, and out of sight points to a hierarchy of established dominance and submission between man and woman.
Another example of pointedly objectifying sexual interactions with foreign women is the erotic massage provided in Thai massage parlors. The tour sites describe the process of the woman undressing the man, filling a tub, washing the man "from head to toe, every part of your body with warm soapy water" (http://www.Exoticatravel.com, 2001), drying the man with towels, and helping the man onto a rubber mattress. The women then "soaps you down once more while you are laying on your stomach, and then uses her body to rub you clean, you then turn over and the same wonderful sponge does her work" (http://www.Exoticatravel.com, 2001). The woman later takes the man to a bedroom in which he can tell her what he wants and she will "proceed to complete all of your hearts desires" (http://www.Exoticatravel.com, 2001).
The actions expected of a woman in a massage parlor are comparable to those of a personal slave, while at the same time the woman is likened to a human sponge. This action depicts objectification and dehumanization as the woman is not seen as a person who has likes, dislikes, preferences or feelings, but as a sexual slave or object to be used for pleasure.
Descriptive Themes of Foreign Women
In addition to the objectification of women, other common themes emerged in data describing foreign women. These themes include the beauty of foreign women, womens willingness and eagerness to participate in sex, and foreign women as easily pleased sexually.
Beauty. While a simple theme, it was one that pervades the data; agencies emphasize both womens extreme beauty and the sheer numbers of beautiful women available. As if to say, there are so many beautiful women available, you will surely find one to be with you, the sites repeat over and over these two concepts usually pairing the two advertisements together. "If your idea of fun is girls, girls, girls, and I mean hundreds of very friendly, sexy, young, beautiful girls . . ." (http://www.Videotravel.com, 2001). Another site states, "Nadia is 25, soaked in class and beauty, and every mans desire to have at his side" (http://www.Lefantasy.com, 2001). Sites emphasize the joy men should experience by being with a beautiful women and the recognition they will receive for this accomplishment. Sites also appear to exaggerate the beauty of sex providers such as, "Some of the most beautiful women in the world are in Cali and they are seen on the streets everywhere you go. I was amazed!! As a result I now have a new standard of beauty" (http://www.Latin-loveconnection.com, 2001). Beauty is taken to a new level as the tour depicts a fantasyland of beautiful women.
Willing, eager, and easily pleased. Whether depicting sexually mature, talented women, or young, innocent women, websites almost always emphasize the womens excitement in being able to participate in sex with the tour customer. The foreign womens excitement is described as an eagerness to provide sex to male consumers. For example, "There was absolutely no question whatsoever that she was glad to be with me, was enjoying my company and enjoying the sex" (http://www.Lovetours.com, 2001). A quote from a women providing sexual services advertises, "I love pleasure, and like to please my partner in any way I can!" (http://www.Lefantasy.com, 2001). Yet another site states, "These girls really love to please the men who are prepared to show them kindness in return" (http://www.Exoticatravel.com). These sites portray women, not as prostitutes doing their jobs or routinely giving of their bodies for money, but as sensual women who innately want to service men and are easily pleased in the process. The message is that they are enjoying providing sex. Taking this theme another step, one site implies the grateful nature of foreign women who " will be more than happy to show you their appreciation" (http://www.Lefantasy.com, 2001). Men are established as helping out the women they choose for sex.
In addition to women being portrayed as eager to participate in sex with male consumers, the websites also describe women who are easily sexually pleased. For example, "In ten days, I never saw one fake" (http://www.Lovetours.com, 2001), and on another site, Kitti, a sex tour prostitute was described as, "Wanted to please you, and was easy to please" (http://www.Lefantasy.com, 2001). More explicitly one site states,
"She will honestly get horny, she will f*** you silly and if you dont send her away (some guys just want quickies) that she will soon want more, No tricks, you dont have to pay again, she liked it and wants more." (http://www.Lovetours.com, 2001).
These sites go beyond assuring the male consumer that he will find women willing and eager to have sex with him, but also inform him that he will be sexually competent and pleasing to these women. Men need not worry about women being bored, unpleased, disappointed or regretful because these foreign women are easily pleased in bed.
Roles of Foreign Women
Beyond themes describing foreign women as beautiful and eager, women are described as playing a variety of roles. These roles emerge as sub-themes in website text describing foreign women. Roles analyzed include that of: virgin, whore and romantic partner. Each role emphasizes a desirable trait that male consumers might be looking for in foreign sex providers. One site exemplifies this role division by stating, "Are you seeking a nymphomania, an expert in massage, an innocent in need of seduction, or a mature skilled lover that is considerate, gentle, and very patient?" (http://www.videotravel.com, 2001). Below is a description of roles found and examples of data collected in each of these categories.
Woman as virgin. The virgin-like portrayal of women implies a youth, innocence and inexperience of the sex worker. Approximately one-fourth of sites reviewed for this study allude to the innocence of the foreign women providing sex on the tour. These sites include statements such as,
"Asian girls are often virgins. They are simple, often very attractive, young women for whom men are special. Giving men pleasure is of utmost importance to them. For some, no guy has so much as touched them. They want love, they long for sex, but only with that special man" (http://www.Lovetours.com, 2001).
For these women, the portrayal is one of innocence and vulnerability. The implication being that the more experienced male consumer has knowledge and talents that the virgin woman has never experienced. This creates the opportunity for the male to be viewed as an expert in socializing and sexual relations.
Another site states "Do you like girls in schoolgirl uniforms-let us know" (http://www.Ladyparadise.com, 2001). While more subtle, such statements imply the possibility of being with younger more innocent women. In fact, women were referred to as girls in approximately one-half of the sites reviewed for this study. Again the power difference is emphasized in the depiction of women as young and innocent, yet sexual girls. Adult men have the power, and thus can determine how and with whom they spend their time. Portraying sex providers as younger gives the impression that girls are untainted and more attractive sexually.
Woman as whore. Another role frequently depicted in sex tour text is that of woman as whore. These descriptions range from women who have vast sexual knowledge and skill to women who will submissively do anything asked. These women are portrayed as having very few limits on their willingness to perform sexual favors while also having skills that make them very good at what they do. The sites range from more respectful hints of womens openness sexually to crude descriptions of women as providing degrading, cheap sexual services.
An example of a more modest portrayal is that on www.Lovetours.com (2001), "Many of the girls I met there were novices, but some, like her, were not. She had complete knowledge of a mans body." These sites portray the sexually experienced woman but have less of a judgmental quality or imply a form of respect not shown in other more crude sites.
Another site more explicitly describes the women as sexual objects,
Hundreds of very friendly sexy young beautiful girls dressed in their skimpy string bikini revealing their beautiful bodies or erotic girls in a topless and bottomless club just waiting to satisfy you ultimate sexual fantasies (http://www.Videotravel.com, 2001).
The emphasis on this site is less on the womens talents and experiences and more on the number of girls available, descriptions of their bodies, and the sexual possibilities.
Woman as romantic partner. Throughout sex tour websites, the experience of exchanging money for sex with a foreign prostitute is depicted as a chance for the initiation of a committed, romantic relationship. Sites give descriptions such as, " While not every girl treated me like her boyfriend, most did" (http://www.Lovetours.com, 2001), and "If I should say one bad thing that would be that she is a person that you easily would like to have as a girlfriend and it feels like that when you are together"(http://www.Lefantasy.com, 2001). Another site reports one mans description of his sex provider as, " she is a very special person who made my time with her feel like a dream date" (http://www.Lefantasy.com). Some sites describe male consumers missing their sex providers upon returning to their countries, and others describe the prostitutes as "more like partners" (http://www.Lovetours.com, 2001).
The above quotes depict sex tour advertisements that show the opportunity for men to become boyfriends or partners of beautiful women. The reasoning implied by many sites is that, because they are treated so well, because their connection is so strong, and because the pleasure is so immense for both partners, the sexual exchange may be experienced as a date or romantic affair.
Lovetours.com (2001) states, "Affection on demand, that is often caring and sincere." This statement shows the contradiction often presented on sex tour websites. While the male consumers can expect to demand sex and get it whenever and however they want it, they can also expect the sex to be sincerely affectionate. Even though paid for, the girls are really performing the sexual favors because they want to, they enjoy them, and genuinely like the male consumers. Sites imply that the male consumer wants the power to dictate when, where and how the sexual interaction takes place. At the same time consumers are also concerned with the intimacy involved; they want to feel loved while making their demands.
At the same time, a variety of sites also depict a real possibility for male consumers to find romantic partners. For example, "Many marry American, Canadian and European men every year. In fact the biggest turnover problem the owners of clubs have is that Europeans, in particular, keep marrying their girls" (http://www.Lovetours.com, 2001). Another statement reads,
About half of our tour members who have married ladies from our tours, have married girls coming out of the nightlife. Most of these girls have been working in the clubs for less than a year and are there for 2 reasons only, to help their families out financially and to meet a nice guy and get married. (http://www.Lovetours.com, 2001).
The site goes on to advertise that it is an advantage to find marriage through sex tourism because you are able to have sex with your partner early on to determine sexual compatibility.
Some sites appear to hint more assuredly at the fact that there is a real possibility of falling in love with the sex provider. One states, "Dont trick yourself, these girls are going to do what they can to marry you. Theyre going to try to love their way to America. And its a real pleasure watching them try. Many, many of them succeed: they steal your heart. Right now I am living with a Thai girl. Itll happen to you" (http://www.Lovetours.com, 2001).
A few sites reviewed appeared to present a more legitimate intention to pair male consumers with foreign women for long-term relationships. "Would you like to meet beautiful, marriage-minded Latin women for a long-lasting romantic relationship, marriage and happy family life?" (http://www.Latin-loveconnection.com, 2001). Another states, "Russian women, Ukrainian women are some of the most beautiful, loving, and sincere women in the world! These Russian women are well-educated and sincere in their desires to find that missing piece to make their lives complete" (http://www.Exoticlady.com, 2001).
Portrayal of American Women
After exploring the portrayal of foreign women, a stark contrast exists when examining sex tour agencies depictions of American women. In many ways the American woman is set up to be the opposite of all that is valued, desired and cherished in foreign women. This is evident across sites in general statements such as, "Number one, forget all your attitudes about women back home. These woman are totally unique, theyre totally open" (http://www.Lovetours.com, 2001). American women are depicted as harsh, rejecting, manipulative beings that do not give men the kind of respect they deserve. Several stereotypes emerged as sub-themes including: American woman as Bitch, American woman as rejecter, and American woman as mens equal.
American Woman as Bitch
A common theme among sites describing American woman is that of American woman as bitch. Several times, sites mention that women in the United States use American men without giving them much in return. The theme implies that men are taken advantage of by American women. American women are bossy and controlling and take from American men without giving affection. One site states, "Do you find that western women grow more sophisticated in their manipulations every year?" (http://www.Lovetours.com, 2001). Another states, "I am tired of bossy, materialistic American women" (http://www.Lovetours.com, 2001). Sites also contrast American women to foreign women in the formers lack of loyalty to men. Sites depict American women as easily disappointing or hurting men by unfairly dismissing them without warning. Foreign women however, remain loyal through good and bad.
American Women as Rejecter
Closely related to the manipulative, bitch stereotype described above is a common theme of describing American women as rejecting of American men. For example,
It is literally impossible to pay for this level of affection in the West If you paid a girl in an American bar ten thousand dollars to go to your hotel room, (assuming you didnt get arrested), you still wouldnt get what you can for under $50 in Thailand. Why? Because the American woman is a hooker and you are a John (stranger) (http://www.Lovetours.com, 2001).
This description points to the anticipated affection male consumers can expect when paying for foreign sex, and the cold rejection to be expected from American women. Some sites contain a tone of anger when describing both the rejection and independence of American women, "Never again will I be able to consider a serious long term relationship with a typical American woman. Never again will I be satisfied with a non-orgasmic, frigid, Betty Crocker feminist" (http://www.Singletravel.com, 2001).
Other sites indicate that the sexual interaction between the male consumer and prostitutes is of different quality depending on whether the prostitute was American or foreign. Comments such as, "I would be having sex, but she was just doing her duty" (http://www.Lovetours.com, 2001) describes the interaction with American prostitutes. At the same time, the websites portray a mystique about foreign prostitutes that, "Thai hostesses are not anything like western hookers. They dont consider faking to be part of their contract, and they do not see guilt in their jobs in the same way westerners do" (http://www.Lovetours.com, 2001). The implication here is that sex with an American prostitute can include guilt and superficiality. However, sex with a foreign sex provider relieves feelings of guilt, because the woman wants to participate and enjoys participating because she really likes the men she is with.
Implied in these descriptions is that American women do not need American men. They are independent, they want control, and they are able to reject American men. Further implications include the idea that American men are rejected unfairly and disrespectfully, and they find the respect and value they deserve in sex with foreign women.
American Woman as Mens Equal
The independent, womens rights orientation of American women is often depicted on sex tour websites as negative and wrong. One site states, "Do you find the women you meet now a days to be: too competitive (with men), too judgmental (of men), too biased (against men)? Or do you simply find that too many western women think they ARE men?" (http://www.Lovetours.com, 2001). Sites appear to depict a skewed view of what feminism stands for and translates competing in a mans world with hating men or trying to be men, two natural turn offs for American men. The sites often contrast this portrayal with the depiction of foreign women as "Hundreds of beautiful, sexy, sincere, loving, compatible women waiting to meet you!" (http://www.Ilovelatins.com, 2001). This sets up a dichotomy between American woman as independent, rejecting and manipulative and foreign women as sexually eager, easy to please, and submissive. The contrast establishes a sense of good and bad, encouraging the male consumer to reject bad American woman and embrace the warmth of good foreign women.
Implications and conclusion
The pattern of objectification found on these websites has several important, and potentially profound, implications for women. Treating women as objects to such a thorough degree often leads to violence, as in the case of women who have been trafficked. It is particularly dangerous that the manner in which women are objectified is rationalized so completely. For example, male consumers of sex tours are told that these women enjoy these experiences, and are more easily pleased then western women. The danger here lies in the fact that men learn that they have no responsibility in any prior sexual or relational difficulties with women in their lives. Any problems that they have had, was due to the demanding, "bitchy" nature of western women. If these women would merely behaved in an acceptable manner (i.e. not have demands and needs) everything would have been fine.
What is also rationalized are the socioeconomic variables that lead to foreign sex workers involement in prostitution. Since they are easily pleased and enjoy being with the men, clearly they are doing so of their own free choice. The men are encouraged to deny that perhaps these women are acting as a means of procuring money. Few of these women have viable economic options. Many have been subtly, or not so subtly, coerced into prostitution by families without alternative means of survival.
While it is fairly obvious the manner in which sex tours affect the women participants, what is not known is the degree to which women are affected in the western world. Since many of the men who engage in sex tours are married, some may be unwittingly passing sexually transmitted diseases to their partners. Also, the degree to which men are behaving differently towards women in their countries of origin after participating in sex tours is unknown. These men have come to expect that women will meet their needs on demand, while exhibiting few needs of their own. Men on sex tours engage in relationships based upon unequal distributions of power. What happens when a man, who has become used to, perhaps even addicted to, these types of sexual experience, is rejected by a women? Can some percentage of sexual violence towards women be attributed to attitudinal changes in men who participate in sex tours? Are these men less capable of having healthy, intimate relationship with women? There are some of the questions that might be answered in subsequent research. The authors of this article recommend other researchers engage in the examination of sex tours. Sex tours represent a potentially dangerous combination of factors that should be explored through in-depth interviews with male participants, foreign sex workers, and if possible, women in the western world whose lives have been effected by this growing phenomenon. While such research may prove challenging, the rapid pace of globalization and the potential harms of sex tours, lead us to believe that explorations into this unrecognized social problem are long past due.
Adams, R. (1987). The role of prostitution in AIDS and other STDs. Medical Aspects of Human Sexuality, 21(8), 27-33.
An Exotic Lady, (n.d.). Retrieved from the World Wide Web, December 3, 2001, from http://www.Exoticlady.com.
Babbie, E. (2001). The practice of social research. Belmont, CA:
Bishop, R., & Robinson, L. (1999) In the night market: Tourism, sex, and commerce in contemporary Thailand. Womens Studies Quarterly, 1, 33-45.
Bendricks Mens International Mens Club, (n.d.). Retrieved from the World Wide Web, December 12, 2001, from http://www.Bendricks.com.
Bloor, M., Thomas, M., Abeni, D., Goujon, C., Hausser, D., Hubert, M., Kleiber, D., & Nieto, J. (2000). Sexual risk behaviour in a sample of 5676 young, unaccompanied travelers, in Clift, S. & Carter, S. (Eds.) Tourism and sex: Culture, commerce and coercion. New York: Pinter.
Chew, L. (1999). Global trafficking in women: Some issues and strategies. Women's Studies Quarterly, 1 & 2, 11-17.
Estes, R. J. (1992). Women and development. In R. J. Estes (Ed). Internationalizing social work education: A guide to resources of a new century. (140-144). Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania.
Evans, R., Forsyth, C., & Wooddell, G. (2000). Macro and micro views of erotic tourism. Deviant Behavior, 21, 537-550.
Exotica Travel Tours, (n.d.). Retrieved on the World Wide Web on December 20, 2001, from http://www.Exoticatravel.com.
Healey, L. M. (2001). International social work: Professional action in an interdependent world. New York: Oxford.
I Love Latins, (n.d.). Retrieved on the World Wide Web on December 6, 2001, from http://www.Ilovelatins.com.
Lady Paradise Tours, (n.d.). Retrieved on the World Wide Web on December 20, 2001, from http://www.Ladyparadise.com.
Latin Love Connection, (n.d.). Retrieved on the World Wide Web on December 5, 2001, from http://www.Latin-loveconnection.com.
LeFantasy Tours, (n.d.). Retrieved on the World Wide Web on December 5, 2001, from http://www.Lefantasy.com.
Love Tours, (n.d.). Retrieved on the World Wide Web on from the World Wide Web December 5, 2001, from http://www.Lovetours.net.
Mayadas, N., Elliott, D., & Ramanathan, C. S. (1999). A global model of ethnic diversity conflict: Implications for social work with populations at risk. In C. S. Ramanathan & R. J. Link (eds.) All our futures: Social work practice in a global era. (138-155). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Mensendiek, M. (1997). Women, migration and prostitution in Thailand. International Social Work, 40, 163-171.
Neuman, W. (1997). Social research methods. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
Rogers, B. (1999). Bitter harvest: Special report: How the sexual exploitation of girls has become a big business in Thailand. MS Magazine, Oct/Nov.
Video Travel, (n.d.). Retrieved from the World Wide Web, December 3, 2001, from http://www.videotravel.com.
Watanabe, K. (1999). Trafficking in womens bodies, then and now. Women's Studies Quarterly, 1&2, 19-31.
Sincronía Fall 2002
Sincronía General Index