Sex Tourism Around the World

Chances are if you’re browsing this website, you love to travel. The people we meet, the landscapes we see, the food and the history – it’s the reason we save our money and keep hitting the road – we search out and thrive on experiencing the new, the foreign and different. There’s nothing that gives us greater pleasure than falling in love with a city, learning about the culture not from the outside looking in, but from immersing ourselves as best we can into a city’s psyche.

But, contrary to our pursuits to learn and experience, some people don’t travel to satisfy their wanderlust, rather they have an agenda fraught with exploitation and manipulation.

The sex trade is a thriving business – and it’s not specific to one country or region. Human Trafficking is the worlds fastest-growing criminal industry – children and women abducted and transported to foreign lands, forced into in the sex trade, often against their will. Others from poor and struggling regions turn to the sex trade to earn money to support their families. We all know that this happens – It’s a horrifically sad and regretful situation exacerbated when cashed up foreigners – people from our own cities – travel to poorer nations and prey on these victims.

The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women and Children has published statistics from a study on the sex trade in Malaysia, The Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia. The study estimates that between 0.25% and 1.5% of the total female population of the four countries is engaged in prostitution, accounting for between 2% and 14% of the countries’ gross domestic product (GDP). While you might not consider 1.5% of the entire female population to be a very high figure, this figure covers the whole gender, not just those that are adults.  This equates to over 200,000 Prostitutes in Thailand alone.

Travel to any tourist town in Thailand and you’ll likely see any number of western men with their arms draped around the shoulders of young Thai women. I understand It’s not always sinister. We aren’t privy to the inner workings of their relationships – if it’s love then we can’t pass judgment on that.

Other times it’s an opportunity seized– A lonely traveler who sought companionship through a local – and paid for the privilege. While not a practice I would engage in – at home or abroad – if the woman is of age, involved by her own free will and no one is abused then some could argue that it’s really none of our business, dubious morality or not.

It’s the sex tourists and sex-pats (I think you can figure of what group that is) that I have the problem with.  People who plan their entire holidays (or relocate) to have cheap sex as many times as they can before going back home to their normal life, jobs, wives. These are the people that write blogs and books on submissive “Little Brown f**king machines”. They own go-go bars and brothels, organising transactions between girls (sometimes boys) and foreigners, utilising  a crude photo album full of pictures of girls in degrading positions so the foreigner can pick out a ‘date’. In an audio grab taken from a BBC interview in 2004, a local brothel owner says “The tourists, as opposed to the sexpats, are not so bad—often ignorant, yes, but lonely and innocent too.”

Alex Renteon wrote in his piece Learning the Thai Sex Trade;

“One of the self-justifications put forward by the sexpats is that the business makes everyone happy—the exploitation is two-way. It is not like normal prostitution, you hear. All the girls are smiling! (”All smile, all the time!” is an official tourism slogan). But you don’t have to be a feminazi to see that the power relationship is grossly unbalanced. The real choices lie with the man with the wallet.”

Interestingly, Westerners involved in sex tourism make up only a small fraction of the group.  60% of Thailand’s 10 million visitors come from other countries in Asia. In the brothel-lined streets of Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket, there are ‘Japanese’ only brothels. But the biggest user of prostitution in Thailand, are the local Thai’s themselves.

Researching this article a difficulty I encountered was trying to find accurate figures. Sex tourism is extremely difficult to measure. Immigration cards don’t exactly offer ‘Holiday, Business, lots of sex’ as purpose of visit choices.  Arrests are easier to measure;

The sex tourists and sex-pats that prey on children forced into the sex industry are abhorrent. Of the pedophiles that were arrested over a 2 year period in Thailand, The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women and Children says 25% were American, 18% German, 14% Australian and 12% English.

No one arrested was from an Asian country.

Not only are these pedophiles raping the country of their conservatives culture, they’re raping the kids as well. It makes me sick to my stomach. What can we do? I think if you are visiting a South East Asian country and you see something is clearly wrong, like an underage child entering a car with a foreigner late at night, tell someone. Make some noise. Pull them up on it, or call the police. Sure it might be innocent, and if that were the case they would hopefully respect what you were doing. If it’s not innocent you might have saved a child from whatever horror was to come.

Crossing the border with a child

Crossing the border with a child - click through to read the photographer's description of this scene

Leave your thoughts on this in the comments field below.

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Comments

  1. Dan says:

    I agree sex tourists and sex-pats are the worst, while I have no problem with prostitution I don’t think these groups act in a manner that is expected in a normal exchange for sex situation. The things they ask of girls is often repulsive and not what a sex worker in the west would be expected to do.

    As for the images, I’d leave that to the NGOs and law enforcement in those countries than a random photographer. The first one seems suss being it was at a border but then I realised that I was seeing what I was expected to see, 2 young girls with two western men. On second look the young boy in the middle does seem to be part of the group, an odd addition if the men like young girls as was implied. In most cases everything is done behind closed doors anyway, while these guys are idiots they don’t go out for a day at the beach with the child they’ve just paid to have sex with.

    • Esther Davis says:

      No real man would ever, ever pay for sex anyway. Coming from a pretty rough neighborhood, I have been solicited by wealthy people who so look down on others or women in general that they they are doing people some kind of a favor to offer to degrade them so. I have known people who have sunk into that subsistence strategy and had to live with it later. It is a violation of your dignity to share the deepest and most intimate aspect of yourself and your life for money, especially someone who thinks so lowly of you that he would not even consider it adultery if he was married, after all, your “trash” to him, aren’t you? On the other hand, it is infinitely lower to pay or sexual gratification. shows remarkable lack of respect for yourself to go around paying people to pay attention to you, or make you feel safe or big or whatever. It’s bullshit. Only an un-sexed, miserable excuse for a man engages in these deals anyway. I often wonder why people fail to point such things out.

  2. Steve says:

    Overall a good article, with some interesting stats thrown in that I hadn’t seen before, especially about not a single Asian arrest taking place. From what I’ve read the belief that sex with a virgin can cure a man of STDs is pretty common in Asia, which contributes to a lot of the underage trafficking.

    However, I strongly disagree with this advice:
    “I think if you are visiting a South East Asian country and you see something is clearly wrong, like an underage child entering a car with a foreigner late at night, tell someone. Make some noise. Pull them up on it, or call the police.”

    Considering this article seems aimed at people new to travel in SE Asia, if you’re in a place, where underage prostitution can take place so openly, I think your own personal safety should come first and screaming and yelling about it would be a the fastest way to get yourself confronted by some pretty unsavory characters. Not to mention, you’re not a local. The police, if not directly in on it, will almost certainly take the word of the locals over yours, a foreigner, who probably can’t speak the language.

    This is dangerous advice, especially for inexperienced travelers or people new to traveling in poor countries that may not have the ‘street sense’ to read a situation correctly. I think nothing good can come of following this advice. Even if you’re wrong, and the man came there to adopt a child or something, you’ve made a very public scene and made some weighty accusations. There’s a good chance you’re not in an “innocent until proven guilty” country.
    Maybe, MAYBE, snapping a picture and contacting the authorities about it at some sort of headquarters (any police that happen to be standing around where this is going on probably see it all the time and probably profit from it themselves in some way). And that’s only if you’re very brave and think you could do it without anyone noticing.
    Even here in South Korea, a very developed country, the role of the police is not what people are accustomed to in Western countries. They see their role as creating harmony and actually enforcing the law is only a very last result, so first and foremost, they’ll just try to calm down the situation. A lot of the time, when a foreigner is involved and can’t speak Korean enough to advocate for him/herself, this means taking the foreigner away to be interrogated, in some cases even when it was the foreigner him/herself that contacted the police for help in the first place.
    Basically, there are many, many reasons why I disagree with the advice. Cultural, legal, and, most of all, personal safety. You’ll do much more to help the case of trafficked women by telling your story when you get home in order to raise awareness than you would buried in a forest with your throat slashed by the gangsters doing the trafficking.

  3. Shane Brown says:

    Hi Steve.
    Thanks for your comments.
    You wrote:
    “Considering this article seems aimed at people new to travel in SE Asia, if you’re in a place, where underage prostitution can take place so openly, I think your own personal safety should come first and screaming and yelling about it would be a the fastest way to get yourself confronted by some pretty unsavory characters. Not to mention, you’re not a local. The police, if not directly in on it, will almost certainly take the word of the locals over yours, a foreigner, who probably can’t speak the language.”

    Just to clarify I wasn’t talking about anything to do with confronting locals, I wrote that if you see something wrong, like an under age child entering a car with a foreigner, then I feel you should bring it to the attention of someone – the police, a local, the foreigner. I do believe that the unwillingness to get involved is detrimental to the fight against these intolerable cruelties – and that goes the world over, not just while visiting SE Asia. Of course if you think that there is a personal safety concern then you are right, there are more discreet ways of letting the authorities or NGO’s know.

  4. Most of us westerners have by now come to realise the illicit sex trade that happens across the globe. It is disgusting that so-called ‘ex-pats’ have set up home/shop in these asian lands on the pretext of loving the locals in order to pursue their predatory sexual desires. In doing this they offer an increased demand for sexual slavery of the most oppressed members of the local society that have already been debased and exploited by their own people. Yet if the tourist and ex-pat demand ceased to exist, or had never existed at all, then there might be perhaps fewer victims though not none at all. While it may take many generations for entrenched societal beliefs to change, there is no doubt that good exemplars make a difference. It is from the power of global opposition to many oppressions that some cultures have changed, but it is not going to change the sexual oppression of the poor until our own people cease and desist from this revolting practice.

    Shane’s article has shined the light for some western traveller’s and I commend him for encouraging us to not turn the other cheek. Too many have just chalked this sad state of affairs as being just a matter of poverty and necessity that it is part of the ‘landscape’ of an exotic holiday destination.

    Steve has clearly misunderstood Shane’s message about the power of one person who does not just stand idly by. Of course he does not advocate that one should jeopardise one’s own safety, but clearly there are some measure that a westerner can take…after all someone has to redress the inequity of the power that a western tourist predator has over a child sold into prostitution.

  5. Carlton says:
  6. Carlton says:

    I don’t think South Korea is any different to these countries too, I’ve been to brothel in Soul and it’s very much the same in Thailand. The problem with this issue are not the foreigners alone, the government or authorities from these countries encourage this industry.

  7. Dan says:

    I think there is a real danger of wrongly accusing westerners of child prostitution in SE Asia. A lot of travellers who are aware of the issue see it when it isn’t even there. It’s extremely unlikely that you will see it in your daily travels, most people busted for it are ratted out by others involved in the buying and selling of sex, or by locals who can better tell when they are seeing something suspicious.

    The child sex trade is very much underground and goes on behind closed doors why would they risk taking it out where they might be seen and suspected? If you see it, it’s probably because you’ve gone looking for it.

    If you think you see something, snapping a discreet photo might be a good idea, then immediately ask those around who witnessed the scene if they think it was suspicious, the reality is they will have a better “something’s not right detector” than your average backpacker, unless they agree it was suspicious or the westerner was being overtly sexual towards a child then take the photo to the appropriate NGO, otherwise you’ve probably imagined it.

  8. That’s so sad. I feel lucky to live in a country where the the sex trade is a very minimal issue. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be a small girl forced into prostitution for tourists. I don’t know what we can do to stop it besides just not participating in it and contributing money to that black market.

    • Ramya says:

      I was curious where you live that the sex trade is a “minimal issue” so I clicked to your blog. Unfortunately, you are completely wrong. US is an enormous destination point for trafficking groups from all over the world.
      My intention isn’t to be rude and I’m sorry to single you out. Just that in reading this article there seemed to be just a hint of “that’s a problem for people over in SE Asia. We deal with it when we travel but not at home.”
      Trafficking and prostitution is HUGE. Everywhere. Including Austin, TX. As travelers, we should try to be aware of what we classify as problems in other countries when the problem exists in our own as well.

  9. Heather says:

    The fact that we even have the term “sexpat” is disturbing. Good coverage on this. It’s particularly interesting that while most of the statistics show local men (or men from other Asian countries) to be the majority of the patrons, it’s western men who get arrested.

    • Shane brown says:

      I thought that was interesting too, I was trying to think of reasons why that might be, but I’m not sure.

    • BaldEagle says:

      I guarantee you every time you hear the line “its the locals (not us)” and such finger-pointing rhetoric, there’s some MAN being paid off by a larger body of organization trying to cover up the harsher truth.

      Especially obvious when inconsequential statistics are listed such as “60% of Thailand’s 10 million visitors come from other countries in Asia.” Thailand’s in Asia, DUH! It still does little to alleviate the fact that a large chunk of sexpats hail from Western countries (I suspect the correct statistic its actually more than within the remaining leftover 40% percent to choose from).
      Are we suppose to feel better with this so-called information? Absolutely ridiculous.

      “But the biggest user of prostitution in Thailand, are the local Thai’s themselves.”
      You have to wonder though, locals shy away from eating at tourist restaurants for obvious reasons (inflated prices etc), wouldn’t they avoid using the same brothels that foreigners do too? Or should we believe that there exists many “locals only” servicing joints against the roaring sex trade and lucrative foreign currency? Retarded, like seriously.

      • Shane says:

        I’m not quite sure what the point of your rambling is. If you wish to join the intelligent debate, you’ll need to be more coherent.

  10. Whoa, that picture is disturbing. I guess in some third world countries they are just born into it, they see their mother doing this and the cycle goes on. Perth escorts in Australia are not allowed to advertise if they are looking for escorts, it is punishable by law.

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  15. Great post!

  16. Jim says:

    There is alot of guessing and assumption in this article…This photo and other photos contained in the link have absolutely zero proof of anything illegal or immoral…The girl could be his daughter, or adopted daughter, or wife or girlfriend’s daughter, or maybe even his legal wife…I have an Asian wife who looks very young and it is easy to confuse young adults with teens in Asia…This whole post is slander…No proof of ANYTHING…Just guessing

  17. Jeff Lewis says:

    Where are all the underage children kidnapped and forced against their will to have sex for profit by a pimp? How come we don’t see any of the victims themselves complaining about it? Why don’t the “millions of child victims” talk about how they were kidnapped and forced by a evil pimp to have sex for profit? I would like to have a interview with the “millions of forced against their will raped kidnapped child victims” So I could hear their stories. Where are they? Why do we only hear from the anti-prostitution groups that received money and grants from the government, and not the millions of victims themselves? If there are Millions of them, Shouldn’t the police and public know where they are, and shouldn’t we hear the millions of victims speak? Do all men really love raping children who are kicking, crying and screaming, with no one willing to help? Are all men really evil like this article says? Because according to this article 100% of men in the world are evil rapists.
    http://sextraffickingtruths.blogspot.com/

    • Bruce says:

      Jeff
      Watch this “documentary” and see the victims tell the story
      Hot Hollywood, but reality
      http://search.library.wisc.edu/catalog/ocn212738169

      All men are not evil, but some don’t understand the purpose of their sexual organ and what it’s function.
      Purpose of sexual organ is to procreate and urinate
      Function in “relationship” is as a bonding agent with the opposite sex. This sounds clinical, devoid of love, and when you understand the love aspect, which is living for ones spouse, male-female- you have the purpose of sex which, sadly, has been distorted to reflect a “selfish kind of love”

  18. Sex Tourism says:

    North Americans and Europeans have an easy time setting up multiple sexual relationships in South America, in many countries in Asia, and in Africa. And they usually can pick the most attractive girls.

  19. sex says:

    thank my friend

  20. sex says:

    Email is great but good

  21. Lol says:

    I’m confused. So…. all prostitutes are children? Few acts seem more evil to do to an individual than prostituting them as a child. But between adults? Y’know, adults who have sexual desire and are mentally/emotionally competent? Hmmmmm.

    Ah, yes, the article started with the emotionally loaded words “exploitation” and “manipulation”. That’s funny. It’s ironic because I suspect that the exploitation and manipulation going on is really more by some of the Thailand women than by the men paying them big bucks.

    But, ew, sex for money. You can just feel it in your gut that it’s wrong. And everyone knows you should think with your gut, right? ;) I mean, it’s not like it’s the only thing you can legally get for free but not legally pay for, which would be bizarre, right?

    I mean, it’s not like to pursue a relationship and ‘date’ someone you inevitably end up paying far more, right?—and of course, if your intent is just sex, you shouldn’t be disingenuous. But what choice do you have when all you want IS honest-to-God-just-sex-this-one-time? Without all the fuss and uncertainty of picking up girls. But everyone knows men who can’t pick up girls are losers. Therefore, they should be deprived of sex.

    I’m done teasing ;)

  22. thecommenter says:

    You have simply got to be kidding me on that picture. You don’t know a family when you see one? That girl is so Western she couldn’t pass for Thai if she tried. I’m not one for snap judgements but come on – the way she’s dressed, her hair. And the boy walking behind them? If that isn’t a bored son I’ll eat my hat. I’ve got some of my own, BTW, so I’ve kind of seen this before. Sheesh!

  23. thecommenter says:

    P.S. I appreciate your cause but consider that using obvious red herrings like some National Enquirer just steals credibility from those doing real work on this. Also, “unwillingness to get involved” is so far from “have a clue what you’re seeing before you do something everyone involved will likely regret and that could get you killed in a non-Western country” that this is just dangerous advice. Now, if it is overwhelmingly obvious that they are a U.S. citizen then you could take a picture and show it at the U.S. Embassy since we have laws against that even if you’re out of the country. That might get you somewhere for U.S. and a few other citizenries. Otherwise, forget it unless you’re willing to devote yourself like a missionary. Maybe support them instead. Also, stop for a moment and think what a conservative Muslim should do (without restraint) upon seeing things in this country that they don’t agree with. Do you want that? Doubt it. And if you aren’t willing to let them have their own beliefs, you aren’t quite the citizen of the world you might like to think you are. I guess “learning about the culture not from the outside looking in, but from immersing ourselves as best we can into a city’s psyche” goes only as far as it’s agreeable to you. You don’t change a culture by throwing your weight around. You do it by providing a more beneficial way of doing things. Find one that they like and you’ve got something. Although, per a quote from “Shooter” – “What it is is human weakness. You can’t kill that with a gun.” Or the law, to be a bit more civilized.

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  26. seepage says:

    The real cause of sex slavery and prostitution is very simple and has been going on since gift giving, bartering and money came into being.

    Men are sexually frustrated by women. The more money obsessed a society becomes, the more women strive to earn as men earn and for that they reveive money and additional sexual power over men. Eventually the society breaks down into one where men are emasculated by women. Eventually men stay at home and look after the kids and women earn the money to keep the family going. In the most dysfuntional societies like the US, both parents work to provide the standard of living and the children are neglected. The best care of children comes from societies where there are tribal, extended families, which have few possessions and where there is nothing to strive for. Savages are usually ignorant of wealth and money and therefore have the idyllic lives sought by rat-race westerners who are burnt-out.

    In many societies which are and used to be sexually open and free, women traditionally pursued men for sex.
    In Western societies, the reverse is true. Men pursue women with greater intensity and the women retain sexual power. The societies which are sexually healthy and where sexually dysfunctional western men are forced to go, are societies where sex is cheaply available to men, where mature men are welcomed not rejected and where sex slaves are available and where concubinage is practiced.

    In short, the women in these countries help men sexually. There is a high level of sexual openness, prostitution is a viable career for women. They are favourite destinations for men who are frustrated by females who won’t do what females are supposed to do by nature (have sex with lots of men). It has been shown from history that cities with high levels of prostitution become wealthy and prosperous, not poor and impoverished.

    Asian women also welcome men who are genetically larger, for the same reason as caucasian women travel to Africa to try larger men. Caucasian men head to Asia where asian women are smaller. Makes sense

    The problem comes from religious interferance and indoctrination of human sexuality. History has shown us that countries where there are high levels of sexual freedoms and not conservative sexually are the ones where men and women are happiest.

    • BaldEagle says:

      Your piss-poor attempt at applying Darwinism is illustrated in such lame comments as “Asian women also welcome men who are genetically larger, for the same reason as caucasian women travel to Africa to try larger men. Caucasian men head to Asia where asian women are smaller. Makes sense”.
      What a load of utter crap. We are humans not apes and we live in 21st Century not in the Stone Age.
      “Religious interferance and indoctrination of human sexuality” via whatever so-called emasculation and breakdown of society that you may think still does not explain the prevalence of prostitution and sex trades, not forgetting the many unfortunate cases of pedophilia, people smuggling and slavery that comes with them.
      Your logic is so skewed that you may not see just how the real world really is.

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