July 19, 2006
Female sex tourism in Brazil
Brazil has long been famous for having men readily available to foreign tourists, but now comes the first report of a more organized scene, in Salvador of Bahia.
Over the last 10-15 years Salvador has been noticably flooded with Scananavian women chasing after black Bahian men. There are usually also a few Brits and North American gringas in evidence. I met some of the Brazilian guys who played the game. At least two of them ended up moving with ladies to somewhere in northern Europe for a time.
When I was in Salvador in 1994, I observed a fair number of gay male tourists, but gringas were little in evidence, either with local guys or not with them.
This new information from Bill places Salvador closer to the category of Caribbean destinations, if visible numbers of blond foreign women are now seen in the company of local fellows.
July 17, 2006
Female sex tourism: Basic facts
Here's my entry in Wikipedia on female sex tourism. I wrote this starter article in response to an interview by a New York Times writer last week, when it became clear to me from her questions that basic information was lacking. Since Wikipedia is a collective encyclopedia, participants and administrators may change this. Meanwhile, I will keep the original here for enquiring minds, members of the media, etc.
Female sex tourismFemale sex tourism is travel by women, partially or fully for the purpose of having sex. It differs from male sex tourism in that women do not use bars, sex shows and formal tours to meet foreign men. There are "de facto" tours, however, such as airplanes bound to the Gambia in West Africa full of British and Scandinavian women seeking affairs with beach boys.
Often relationships with a high component of mutual affection are called "romance tourism."
Women sometimes give clothes, meals, cash and gifts to their holiday boyfriends. In some destinations, there are "going rates" for male companionship, ranging from $50 to $200. In other destinations, especially in Southern Europe, Bali and the French Caribbean, men do not expect to be compensated.
While men tend to go to Asia for sex tourism, women tend to head to the Caribbean, Southern Europe, and Africa. These geographical patterns reflect a search by Western men for traditionally feminine women, and a search by Western women for traditionally masculine men. The patterns have been explored by Michel Houellebecq in Platform and in the non-fiction work Romance on the Road, and are important in that they support the idea that sex tourism by both men and women reflects serious problems in the tourists' home countries, including a dating war, or profound conflict between the sexes.
Thailand, the Dominican Republic and Cuba are exceptional in that both male and female sex tourists find these places all-purpose sexual emporia.
The primary destinations for female sex tourism are Southern Europe (mainly Greece and Spain), the Caribbean (led by Jamaica, Barbados and the Dominican Republic), the Gambia and Kenya in Africa, and Bali and Phuket in Thailand. Lesser destinations include Nepal, Morocco, Fiji, Ecuador and Costa Rica.
Lesbian sex tourism is nascent but evident in Lesbos (Mytilini) in Greece; Bangkok and Pattaya in Thailand, and on Bali in Indonesia.
Terms used for female sex tourists
Tourist women are called Shirley Valentines (if British), longtails (in Bermuda), yellow cabs (Japan) and, in Jamaica, milk bottles if newly arrived or Stellas if black. Female sex tourism in Barbados has been dubbed "Canadian secretary syndrome."
The men who chase tourist women are kamakia ("fishing harpoons," Greece), sharks (Costa Rica), rent-a-dreads, rent-a-rastas, rent-a-gents and the Foreign Service (Caribbean), Kuta Cowboys or pemburu-bule ("whitey hunters," Bali), Marlboro men (Jordan), bomsas or bumsters(the Gambia), sanky pankies (Dominican Republic).
Barring some isolated cases of women traveling for sex among North American Indian tribes and within Turkey, female travel sex (involving American and English women) began in Rome in the late 1840s, at the same time as feminism's first wave, which encouraged independence and travel.
Affairs and intrigues, particularly between American heiresses and down-on their luck European aristocrats, continued steadily until World War I and inspired Henry James's Daisy Miller, Joaquin Miller's The One Fair Woman, and much of the early output of E.M. Forster.
Female sex travel declined from the time of the Depression until the 1960s, with the exception of India, Nepal and Thailand, where intrepid women from England, France, Czechoslovakia, the United States and elsewhere continued to attract the attention of maharajas and other Asian royals, despite the uproar of World War II.
Coincident with the explosion of leisure travel in the 1960s and feminism's second wave, sex tourism by women re-ignited, first via French Canadian women traveling to Barbados and Swedish and Northern European women to Spain, Greece, Yugoslavia and the Gambia. Female sex travel became ubiquitous throughout the Caribbean, from the tiniest islands through the big destinations of Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Barbados.
In the 1990s, women from Japan and Taiwan began to appear on the beaches of Bali and Phuket in Thailand.
Today, many other destinations are popular, including Morocco, Nepal, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Mexico -- everywhere with beaches and a surplus of underemployed men.
Reasons for female sex tourism
Female sex tourism's first and second waves coincided not only with feminism but with Victorian-era man shortages that began in England and later cropped in continental Europe and the United States.
Other societal reasons for women seeking intimate companionship abroad include the dating war, as typified by extreme competition between the sexes in schools, the workplace, while dating, in marriages, and even in contentious divorces. The dating war appears to especially drive sex tourism by Australian and Japanese women, and to a lesser extent, German and Scandinavian female tourists.
Another factor in women engaging in holiday romance is identity loss. Many women behave while traveling in a way at odds to how they behave at home, where fear of the "slut" label curbs the kind of hedonistic behavior seen on holiday. Traveling and expatriate women often try on a new, more experimental identity when away from family and friends.
Additional reasons include:
- sexual connoisseurship -- an interest in experiencing a variety of men
- a search for healing after a divorce or breakup (see Michelle Thomas, in Major academic publications, below)
- prolonged involuntary celibacy
- the commodification of sex, whereby affection is now something that can be purchased by women, as well as men, as well as the globalization of sex and affection markets.
Non-fiction books include Anne Cumming's The Love Habit and The Love Quest, Fiona Pitt-Kethley's The Pan Principle and Journeys to the Underworld, Cleo Odzer's Patpong Sisters and Lucretia Stewart's The Weather Prophet.
Female sex tourists have been notoriously difficult to find and interview on the record (see de Albuquerque, 1998, in Major academic publications subhed, below). Thus some observers have turned to film and fiction to examine the motivations of women who travel for sex, love and affection. Movies include Heading South (Vers le Sud), with Charlotte Rampling, which depicts three Western tourists in Haiti in the 1970s, taking their pleasure with local men. Earlier film depictions include How Stella Got Her Groove Back and Shirley Valentine.
Fiction includes, in addition to Michel Houellebecq's Platform, Erica Jong's Fear of Flying.
Major academic publications
- Bloor, Michael, et al. "Differences in Sexual Risk Behaviour between Young Men and Women Travelling Abroad from the UK." [Contains only random survey of young sex travelers.] The Lancet 352 (1998): 1664-68.
- Cohen, Erik. "Arab Boys and Tourist Girls in a Mixed Jewish-Arab Community." International Journal of Comparative Sociology 12 (1971): 217-233.
- de Albuquerque, Klaus. "Sex, Beach Boys and Female Tourists in the Caribbean." Sexuality & Culture. Ed. Barry M. Dank. Vol. 2. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction, 1998. 87-111. 2.
- de Albuquerque, Klaus. "In Search of the Big Bamboo: How Caribbean Beach Boys Sell Fun in the Sun." The Utne Reader, Jan.-Feb. 2000: 82-86.
- Gorry, April Marie. Leaving Home for Romance: Tourist Women's Adventures Abroad. Doctoral dissertation, Univeristy of California, Santa Barbara, 1999. Ann Arbor: UMI 9958930, 2000
- Herold, Edward, Rafael Garcia and Tony DeMoya. "Female Tourists and Beach Boys: Romance or Sex Tourism?" Annals of Tourism Research 28.4 (2001): 978-997.
- Meisch, Lynn A. "Gringas and Otavaleños: Changing Tourist Relations" [a description of sex and romance tourism in Ecuador]. Annals of Tourism Research 22.2 (1995): 441-62.
- Pruitt, Deborah, and Suzanne Lafont. For Love and Money: Romance Tourism in Jamaica. Annals of Tourism Research 22(2): 422-440.
- Thomas, Michelle. "Exploring the Contexts and Meanings of Women's Experiences of Sexual Intercourse on Holiday." Clift, Stephen, and Simon Carter, ed. Tourism and Sex: Culture, Commerce and Coercion. London: Pinter, 2000. 200-20.
- Vorakitphokatorn, Sairudee, et al. "AIDS Risk in Tourists: A Study on Japanese Female Tourists in Thailand." Journal of Population and Social Studies 5.1-2 (1993-94): 55-84.
- Wagner, Ulla. "Out of Time and Space — Mass Tourism and Charter Trips." Ethnos 42.1-2 (1977): 39-49. (This article describes sex tourism in the Gambia, West Africa, as does a followup article: Wagner, Ulla, and Bawa Yamba. "Going North and Getting Attached: The Case of the Gambians." Ethnos 51.3 (1986): 199-222.)
Dr. Jacqueline Sanchez Taylor, Lecturer: Dollars are a Girls' Best Friend? Female Tourists' Sexual Behaviour in the Caribbean
July 15, 2006
Who knew "Heading South" would resonate so?
How exciting ... I got a phone call Wednesday from Elizabeth Hayt, a contributor to the New York Times, in conjunction with a story running tomorrow (but now available online), Libidos of a Certain Age.
Her topic is Heading South,the new film starring Charlotte Rampling as a female sex tourist visiting Haiti in the 1970s. An excerpt:
A rave review by Stephen Holden in The New York Times called the movie “one of the most truthful examinations ever filmed of desire, age and youth.’’ Since it opened July 7, theaters have been packed with women about the same age as the ones on the screen. Some bought tickets in groups for a kind of middle-aged girls’ night out. Interviews indicated the movie has hit home with this audience because it affirms the sexual reality of women of a certain age, that even as they pass the prime of their desirability to men, libidos smolder. More than a few said they came seeking a hot night out.
Well done, Elizabeth, your interviews hit the nail on the head. Two great engines of female sex tourism are man shortages and involuntary extended celibacy.
I had thought "Heading South" would do middling business, like other films about sex and travel such as "Before Sunrise" and "Echoes of Paradise" (see my full list of travel romance films, here). Instead, it seems heading towards Hitsville, more in line with How Stella Got Her Groove Back and (in the UK) Shirley Valentine.
Bravo that this topic has struck such a chord and is attracting full houses. It comes to Washington Aug. 18, and a full schedule nationwide can be found here.
In my (cut by the editor) interview with Elizabeth, I covered a lot of the basics found in Romance on the Road:
- Female sex travel largely began in the 1840s, continued until World War I, and resumed in the 1960s. From 1980 to the present, an estimated 600,000 women have had holiday romances with men in the developing world. These affairs zoomed after the 1998 release of the film version of How Stella Got Her Groove Back.
- Female sex travel parallels the first and second waves of feminism, in the 1840s and 1960s.
- The second wave of female sex tourism, in the 1960s, coincided not only with a resurgence of feminism but the expansion of leisure travel and man shortages. French Canadian women surged to Barbados for male companionship, and Northern European women to Southern Europe and Africa. In the 1990s, Japanese and Taiwanese women began heading toward Bali and Phuket.
Well, all our stuff in the interview got cut by the editor, who wanted to focus on women who had seen the movie. But the distributor is arranging for me to see the movie next week, in case of more media inquiries.
Guess I should take this opportunity to send a letter to the editor of the New York Times. In case it never gets in, here goes (ain't it fun to just publish all your letters to the editor immediately on your blog?!?!):
Women, sex and travel
To the Editor:
Re: "Libidos of a Certain Age" (Style, July 16):
The popularity of the film "Heading South," about vacation flings in Haiti, reflects extended involuntary celibacy, documented by the University of Chicago, suffered by many single older women.
Women are indeed "Heading South," and have been doing so since the 1840s, when the earliest English and American female travelers began romping about Rome.
Since the Victorian era, women have learned that the solution to Affection Deficit Disorder is a boat, train or plane ride away. In the Caribbean, Greece, Morocco, Bali and Kenya, surpluses of young men, willing to exchange affection for gifts, await female tourists.
The result has been hundreds of thousands of holiday romances, often of mutual benefit. One student at a Caribbean community college run by my mother-in-law has his tuition paid by his European girlfriend. In exchange, many women find healing from romantic breakups at home.
Jeannette Belliveau, author, "Romance on the Road"
Beau Monde Press
I also went to Wikipedia and got started with some basic information on female sex tourism, see here. At first it looked like the article would be deleted for being too much based on my book, but I beefed it up with many important citations and won some of the critics over.
Also, let me announce to the word, I'm available if any more feature reporters, NPR stations, or travel section editors want to learn more about this phenomenon! Here's how to contact me.
And here's an earlier blog of mine related to "Heading South."
July 10, 2006
Women who travel for sex: Sun, sea and gigolos
Yet another article on female sex tourism, this one in Britain's Independent and entitled "Women who travel for sex: Sun, sea and gigolos."
This article is a nice roundup of what is going on but also contains some stretches in its criticism of the whole phenomenon, to whit:
It is a nasty twist that the countries where this sort of tourism is most rife are ex-slave colonies. Many are still dealing with the fallout of colonialism. All the hotels, restaurants, cars and glass-bottomed boats in Negril [in Jamaica] are owned by Americans. The urban economy doesn't even belong to the local people.
Yet the women who sleep with the beach boys insist they are helping race relations. They flatter themselves they have gone native. "In my play there's a scene where a white woman is taking about how she loves R&B and reggae and what she calls hip and hop," says Gupta.
It is the female tourist who books the flights and determines the length of time she will spend with their boyfriend, as well as making day-to-day decisions when they are together, such as when and where they eat. One 21-year-old migrant from Haiti who had been working in Sosua, told Sanchez Taylor that he even had to "snog" his tourist client despite a bad toothache and a swollen face. If he did not, he would not be able to afford the antibiotics to cure it.
In Sugar Mummies, Gupta deliberately allows herself one relationship that might just work. "I'm not saying anything about mixed race relationships, I'm talking about these specific kinds of sex-tourist relationships where women go out there specifically to have sex. It will probably backfire and a whole load more women will go off to Jamaica.
Thought I would take another occasion (wrote a similar letter a few weeks ago to the editor of Pattaya Today, see my blog here) to write a letter to the editor. Here goes, in case they never print it!
Liz Hoggard's article, "Women who travel for sex: Sun, sea and gigolos" (July 9), makes the point that sex tourism is not practiced only by white women.
Black women (who mainly visit the Caribbean and Africa) and Japanese and Taiwanese women (heading to Thailand and Bali) also travel in search of affection. It's not entirely correct to say that female sex tourism is rife in ex-slave colonies, what with Nepal, Morocco, Ecuador, Fiji and Phuket now on the list -- practically everywhere, in fact, except Antarctica.
With such a steady stream of lonely ladies heading from the West to developing countries, my book, Romance on the Road, estimates that in the past 25 years, 600,000 Western women have engaged in holiday romances with men in foreign countries.
Critics of female sex tourism such as Nirpal Dhaliwal are quoted as saying these women are guilty of "hypocrisy." Yet gifts of cash, business capital, clothing and meals to poor men, multiplied by the hundreds of thousands, offer foreign aid -- in significant amounts -- from one hand, one heart, to another. My mother-in-law, for example, runs a community college on a small Caribbean island where one student's tuition is paid by a foreign girlfriend.
Also note that one in 30 of such romances leads to a lasting relationship. Thus my question: What really galls critics of female sex tourism? Is it perceived "exploitation" of poor foreign men? Or are these critics implicitly saying, oddly like members of the National Front, "Don't date or fall in love outside your color, nationality or economic group"?
At least seven compelling reasons propel casual travel sex by women, including man shortages (near-crippling for professional black women) and dating wars at home. It's a wonder all traveling women don't indulge. With Western women of all colors now looking for love an airplane ride away, it's clear that they and their holiday lovers have decided that a swap of gifts for affection is in everybody's best interests.
Beau Monde Press
Baltimore, Maryland, USA
PS This article also mentions Terry McMillan's ex-husband, whose name is Jonathan Plummer (not Jeremy).
July 7, 2006
Heading South (Vers Le Sud)
Film reviewer Peter Bradshaw writes:
The globalisation of the sex industry, and the creeping sense that, like pornography, sex tourism will shrug aside moral objection through the sheer weight of its profitability, is a hot-button topic. ... Michel Houellebecq's novel Platform proposed a startlingly plausible vision of a holiday firm offering hypocrisy-free sex tourism in Thailand, a commercial adventure whose fictional catastrophic sequel prefigured the Bali bombings. That novel was much more shocking and more powerful than this movie, however, despite what the two have in common, because it tackles head-on the tougher reality: sex tourism is - of course it is - about men exploiting women.
If there is one thing that Houellebecq's Platform (see my capsule review here) does not express, it is that sex tourism is about exploiting women. To the contrary, the novel finds that the Thai prostitute visited by Michel, the protagonist, looks into his soul and serves as a doctor of his wounded psyche. Further, Platform notes the ways sex tourism also serves Western women, and does not assert that these women are exploited by men in the developing world.
The writer continues:
The role-reversal in Heading South is interesting, and certainly no fantasy. Lucretia Stewart's classic travel memoir The Weather Prophet touches on the gigolo market for white visitors to the West Indies, though Stewart made it plain that resentful male violence was a possibility that the moneyed female clientele would always have to negotiate. In Cantet's film, by contrast, the Haitian men are all sweetness and gallantry.
The Weather Prophet: A Caribbean Journey (again, see my capsule review here) does touch briefly on the gigolo market in the West Indies. I do not recall any resentful male violence directed at female tourists in this travelog; I do recall Stewart getting involved (as a journalist, more so than a tourist) with some edgy characters herself. The motif of female sex tourism in the Caribbean is not replete with sordid, violent endings; many of the gigolos would not be in business if they did not offer the attentiveness and affection unavailable to visiting women in their home countries.
Bradshaw also writes:
So how would Rampling's character look if things were turned around, and her character was a man in search of young girls? What was daring and transgressive and exotic would suddenly, I suspect, become sordid and repulsive. Her sang-froid, her elegant refusal to conform to the pleasure-fearing squeamishness of the middle classes, might all just look coldly predatory and selfish.
Or would it? There might be a way of challenging the moral assumptions of bought sex and making a male customer in the sex-tourism marketplace look merely human. It would be a tough sell. Maybe finding a story from the distant past, as Cantet has done, in a hazily imagined developing-world country, with women at its core, is an efficient way of upending the moral apple cart. It's difficult to avoid the feeling, though, that this is a fundamentally evasive way of representing the power relations of prostitution.
Well, it's a good question whether female sex tourism makes male sex tourism look "merely human." That is the compelling message of Platform, for sure -- that people in the cold West trade money for love throughout the developing world, in relationships that are of mutual benefit.
I make the point in Romance on the Road that perhaps 600,000 Western women have engaged in sex or romance tourism from 1980 to the present.
The reality of this film Heading South (Vers Le Sud) is not something "from the distant past ... in a hazily imagined developing-world country," it's omnipresent. A film director in the Azores has contacted me for a copy of Romance on the Road, with a view toward possibility making a documentary on female sex tourism. And my book was also discussed earlier this week on a Dutch radio show, again in conjunction with Vers Le Sud. I will have to get my friend Rachel to translate parts of the show that I captured on a Web broadcast!