May 162013
 

By Jody Hanson

The fact that it took me almost twenty five years to realize I was a female sex tourist is not a defence. Check the screaming tabloids and anti-prostitution literature to confirm that sex tourism is totally unacceptable. Zero tolerance.

Flash back to Cuba 1978. I was a 25-year old teacher working on a fly-in Indian reserve in northern Canada and I managed to escape for a week in the sun over the Easter break. The woman who was supposed to go with me cancelled at the last minute, so I got the bonus of having a double room to myself.

Picture me stretching out on a white sand beach. There I am, slowing thawing from the biting cold and relishing the heat of the sun and smelling the salt of the surf. Walking along the beach comes a youngish Cuban man, somewhere around my age. He — I will call him Carlos — started chatting to me is Spanglish and we ended up making a date for that evening.

At 20:00 or so I met up with Carlos and a friend and we went off to a local pizza place. No tourists, and seriously bad food. The two guys didn’t have much money so I covered the bill. Then we went off to a nightclub where there were other Canadian women, also with Cuban men. A woman in her early 20s from Toronto was in Cuba for the third time — with her father in tow — and was trying to arrange a visa to get her boyfriend to Canada.

About 02:00 or whenever, Carlos and I went back to my room and had drunken sex that wasn’t very good. When we met the next day Carlos wanted something from the tourist shop that wasn’t accessible to locals so I got it for him. When we went out that evening, I again picked up the check.

Frankly, I didn’t think anything of covering the tab. Living with Native people in Canada I was used sharing expenses. For example, look at what would happen when it was time to go to the bootlegger to buy more beer because we had run out. Then people with jobs – like me – were expected to contribute more money in the base-ball cap being passed around than those who were unemployed. So if fair is fair when it comes to Canadian drinking, so why would it be different in Cuba, which was, after all, a socialist country?

As happens with holidays, it was soon time to get back on the plane to the land of ice and snow. Carols suggested I should give him a “present” and I ended up buying him a jacket or giving him the cash to do it himself, can’t quite remember which.

Flash forward to 1996. I was a lecturer at the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand. My research focus was how women learn to work safely in the sex industry. And, believe me, hanging out in the brothels was a lot more fun than spending time in the faculty club.

It must have been a slow news day, as a conference paper I wrote on sex tourism in the land of the long-white-cloud caused a media feeding-frenzy. The definition of “tourist,” for clarification, is someone who is away from her usual place of abode for more than 24-hours. So a client from Wellington who visited a sex-worker in Auckland was, in fact, a “sex tourist.”

Anyway, I ended up on the front page of every newspaper in the country. A politician from the far north demanded the university fire me; callers to talk-back radio screamed that I be deported as well as sacked. Staff at the university wouldn’t have anything to do with me until they knew which way the pontifical smoke was going to blow. People in the bar pointed and whispered about “that” woman. The locals were outraged that I would darken New Zealand’s reputation for being squeaky clean.

The hurricane in a champagne flute culminated with “60 Minutes” doing a favourable piece on my research. It flared up again when Toni, a madam, and I were invited to launch our sex industry advertising site, “Between the Sheets,” at a tourism conference, but that is a story for another telling.

The Service Industry Side of Sex Tourism

Now let’s have an adult discussion about sex tourism, shall we? First of all, what’s wrong with it? So long as it is between consulting adults over the age of 18 and doesn’t involve children, animals or dead people, who cares?

Tourists are on holiday to relax; they want to have some fun and spend some money. And what better way to do it than with an attentive companion? Carlos kept me amused for a couple of days, took me to places I wouldn’t have found on my own and introduced me to his friends. So what if I paid the bills and gave him a present? It was my choice, neither of us felt exploited. We both got what we wanted. People seem to forget that the sex industry is a service industry. Waiters work for tips and so, too, it seems, did beach boys in Cuba in the 1970s.

Further, as long as there have been tourists there has been sex tourism, so it isn’t as though it is a new phenomenon. Carlos told me – and remember this is in the 1970s before the media had even thought of sex tourism being a vice – that he had been with over 700 women. Most of them, I assume, paying in cash or kind.

And with all the bad sex out there, the honesty of buying sex gives boomer women an option and moves them closer to a level playing field with men. Female sex tourists of the world unite and pay for it!

"Freelance writer Jody Hanson"About the Author:
Jody Hanson escaped from the university and is now a freelance writer who lives in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. She is an insufferable travel junkie who has visited 107 countries, lived in eight and holds passports in three. Her — some would say irresponsible — retirement plan is to keep going until she drops. At that time she wants a Muslim burial: wash the body, wrap it in a white sheet and plant it by sundown. In the meantime, Hanson continues to have more than her share of adventures and misadventures, both of which she embraces equally.

Contact Jody by email: jh@j-hanson.com
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  18 Responses to “Confessions of a Female Sex Tourist”

  1. You make it sound simple, and maybe the decision is but how do you know who’s the ‘professional,’ like Carlos, for example, and who’s the rapist/murderer masquerading as a professional. There’s an inherent danger that needs also to be addressed.

    To your point: “the honesty of buying sex gives boomer women an option and moves them closer to a level playing field with men” I say that women, boomer or otherwise, as long as they have the money, have always had that option. The true test is whether those same women who buy sex when they’re on vacation in some exotic destination would buy sex when they’re in their own backyards.

  2. Thanks for the comment Marcia. Much of sex tourism isn’t ‘professional’ as such, rather it is a way for people to supplement their incomes — or make a living. I live in Phnom Penh where there are a lot of taxi-girls and the slogan is “No money, no honey.”

    As with men all over the world, the only advice I can offer is to trust your gut.

    According to my friend who was a hero-gigollo there is a group of professional women — often out of town on business — who want sex-without-strings and they were his clients.

  3. Love the article. Not realizing it, I was a sex tourist in Buenos Aires with “Alejandro,” very good looking and well-built young man I met on Avenida Corrientes. We used to get variously themed rooms at an establishment called Que? (I think), painted and decorated profusely with erotic art, some in the exotic, sexy language of English (“Choke me!”). Mirrors and funky lighting everywhere. The ashtrays were glued to the nightstand as were the variously painted and displayed phalluses on the wall. As an approaching middle-aged woman having sex with a 26-year-old Argentine at Que?, I indulged in campy, frivolous sex and picked up the tab. Liberating? Empowering? I’m not sure, but it helped me out after a heartbreak.

    – Accidental (Sex) Tourist in Buenos Aires

  4. It sounds as though sex-as-therapy was a lot more fun than seeing a psychologist to help you get over a heart break. And younger men who adore older women are so good for the ego.

    Well done! Perhaps more women will follow your example — even if they aren’t in BsAs. JH

  5. […] by Jody on Boomer Women Travelers: Confessions of a Female Sex Tourist Fiji Kava Caper One Woman’s Approach to Healthy Living In the […]

  6. Interesting… As an educated Black man living in Los Angeles on a Suck economy, I have often considered offering a special “service” for women visiting L.A. as a means to make extra money? Or must I be some poor backwards Dude from a Third-World country? Well, Ms. Hanson, if you’re ever in Los Angeles, look me up! EL-OH-EL :o)

    • Hey Jeff,

      No matter how horrible your suck job is, don’t quit and move to the Third World. The beach boys in the Caribbean or The Gambia make enough to get by. Unless they happen to hook up with a rich woman – most unlikely as it is working and middle class women who go to these resorts – it is a hand-to-mouth lifestyle. But it still beats working on a construction site or subsistence farming.

      What you are talking about is becoming a gigolo and offering services to business women who may happen to be in town. A tough market to crack. But if you want a how-to, check the chapter on Anthony in the book I wrote on The Business of Sex — http://www.lulu.com/shop/jody-hanson/the-business-of-sex/paperback/product-1067343.html. The Australian publisher loaded it to Lulu for the American audience.

  7. Hello, Jody! interesting reading …and you live in PP where I would like to live, where I plan to live…
    I just talk yesterday ab sex tourism aspects with an authority of Cambodia, and of possible threats from rapidly growing (sex) tourists inflow to Camb. to young people…How do you see the whole picture and the possible outcome? If it would be possible to have direct contact? Thank you!

    • Greetings. In the Kingdom of Wonder — as Cambodia is known — we are gearing up for high season so there are sex-pats and tourists all over the place. The real choices for basically illiterate young women are to work as servants, in a restaurant, in a clothing factory with six-day weeks for $100 a month or in the industry.

      Sex tourism isn’t pretty, but it is viable.

      Let me now when you get to Phnom Penh and perhaps we can catch up for a drink. JH

  8. […] by Jody on Boomer Women Travelers: Confessions of a Female Sex Tourist Fiji Kava Caper One Woman’s Approach to Healthy Living In the […]

  9. Hi Jody
    Looked up this subject after a conversation with a new friend this weekend. My wife who is pretty open and cool, was shocked about this subject. She is 48 and far from a prude., our friend and I were amused at her.
    Her initial comment was wow sign me up! Lol
    Do you think this is common?
    And not being a swinger , I still had no problem with the subject, am I nuts?

  10. Lol… i loved how both the author and the 3rd commenter made sure to write how they were “accidental” sex tourist. Now, maaaaybe the author is honest: being only 25yo and in 1978, maybe she was naìve enough to believe it was a summer fling. At least for the first evenings, how thick must you be to miss all the signs? But Natalie, the commenter, is pathetic…. middle age, a young argentinian was courting you, unless you are a model or an actress it was OBVIOUSLY all about money, baby 😛
    To be honest this is quite a theme among female sex tourists…. they are not going in africa, or the caribbean, for sex, no: its the search of love. Of feelings. Men back home dont appreciate them any longer, so they go there to be courted by some local men who still appreciate them. Whats wrong with that?
    As with normal prostitution, not much…. under certain condition. While i still think prostitution is overall damaging for your mental health, as an indipendent person you can choose to have sex for money. The problem comes with the variables….. how much of the prostitute (male or female) decision was due to a rational decision, and how much was due to desperation and misery? There is an infinite ladder that connects the high-end cold escort who just enjoy luxury and select its clientele, to the bottom-of-the-rung person who without prostitution would be starving, and hates its customers with all his/her heart. Judgement for the customer…. and pity/disdain for the prostitute, comes at that phase. Not all voluntary exchanges are moral: society would harshly judge someone who paid 2 homeless guys to beat each other up for his fun, while buying a ticket to a boxe match is perfectly fine. Taking an indipendent escort of around your age out for dinner and sex is ok….. being a much older, much uglier customer who has sex with a poor, young-enough-tobe-your-grandchildren is not. Etc etc. Being male or female has no relevance from an objective moral point of view, either a behaviour is wrong or it is not. But it really pisses me off how society and media try to paint the exact same behaviour, sex tourism, as different between male and female customers. Its not. You are paying for sex. And depending on how much your prostitute is “forced” (by circumstances) you can either be an adult minding its own business, or an horrible human being.

  11. I’mm not sure exactly how to answer your response as it is so multi-layered. T

    Through no fault of my own I’ve ended up working as an editor of an English language newspaper in Cambodia. Here is the link I wrote on the topice of sex-pats.

    http://www.khmertimeskh.com/news/2203/in-praise-of-sex-pats/

    Best,
    Jody

  12. Jody
    Boundaries are blurred and your article makes that point very well. Questions of politics, of race, of human conflict overlap constantly into sex and exploitation. The world wars have left volumes of sex crimes and forced prostitution, much of which was undocumented for 40 years. Sex, money and power are forever interlinked in human existence. We may have handy ways of covering our own prejudice, the first reaction is often to aim abusive and condescending comments at the author of a view point that challenges our own views. The old playing the man trick and not the ball.
    We are to believe it is ok to sell your body long-term for the dream world of western material comforts and ‘what we all want’, which is to be seen as successful, or?. It is not ok to sell you body short-term to help provide for basic needs.
    Equally it is ok to buy the long-term option and not ok to buy the short-term service, why is this. Older women and younger women are perfectly entitled to buy short term sex and fake romance.
    I know if I am to be forced into any sales to male or female whom I do not desire sexually, the short term option is more appealing from a personal freedom point of view.

  13. Yes, sex, money and power are all interwoven and I don’t know of any easy way of sorting them out. Further, I don’t see much difference between trophy wives and sex workers, except that the latter are the more economical option.

    As adults I think we have to figure out what we want and then take responsibility for for the decision. No easy answers or one-formula-fits all.

    Best,
    Jody

  14. To be clear, stated up front, I don’t have any issues with women being promiscuous any more than I have any issue with men doing it, and I don’t have any issue with prostitution involving any gender, so long as children, animals, and the innocent aren’t affected. On promiscuity, there is so much bullcrap tied up in gender issues around this that affects both sexes equally and equally negatively. Lots of men aren’t walking dildos and lots of women love penises and variety. Perfectly natural, and nothing wrong with that.

    The issue with sex tourism comes with exploitation – you may not consider yourself wealthy, but to any Cuban or Cambodian you definitely are. There is definitely a racial privilege involved with traveling to Cuba to meet and have sex with some of the largest on average and darkest penises the world has to offer, and I am not surprised you are unable to see your privilege – as a woman and as a white person – as a white male, I know, people with privilege are usually unable to see it, sometimes even after it is pointed out to them. It is easy to say “we are just consenting adults, and sure, I pay for everything, he’s poor and by his standards I am not, and what’s $20 CAD to me? A pittance.” Would he be with you if you weren’t paying, and would you be traveling there to meet him and men like him if they were white, had British-sized penises, and didn’t need your money? Of course not, otherwise you’d be going to Bermuda.

    It’s sex tourism *because* exploitation is involved. You are traveling there specifically because of abundant and cheap low-risk sex. Otherwise, it would just be tourism.

    • Actually Bill, I never forget for a nanosecond that I’m white and that I’m privileged. That is why I take on projects like Down in the Dumps — http://www.j-hanson.com/down-in-the-dumps-not-an-ngo/ and give money to street people instead of wedding presents to my Canadian nieces and nephews — http://www.j-hanson.com/trying-to-find-the-perfect-wedding-gift/. As an aside, how many street people do you know?
      As mentioned in the article, it was 1978 and I was teaching on a fly-in Cree reserve in northern Canada. To reiterate, when it was time to go to the bootlegger, people with money – white teachers or Indians who were working — were expected to contribute more to the baseball cap that was being passed around.
      I went to Cuba to thaw for a week. I wasn’t looking for a beach boy; he came hunting for me. Would he have hooked up with me if I wasn’t picking up the bills? Maybe, as I was 25. It doesn’t matter. Would Melanie have married Donald if he was on a minimum wage salary?
      I see sex-tourism as a business. So as long as white, privileged women realize it is money – not their drooping bodies – that he loves it is a business arrangement. Let’s get adult about it.

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