I am writing this because I am tired of reading about the exotic hook-ups of White women in the travel groups on Facebook. Let’s be honest they are just writing about another form of sex tourism. Like most other subjects in the travel blogging space White women’s escapades through the Colored World dominate the conversation. They are the female face of sex tourism—the White woman of a certain age or the overweight White twentysomething who runs off to Jamaica or Zanzibar in search of some attention from a well-fit young Black man. Don’t sleep—sisters are doing it too. To be clear, this article is not about the women and children who are victims of sex trafficking—it is the about men who by choice or necessity sell their time and bodies to tourist women of all colors, shapes, and ages.
Do you prefer calling it a beach fling, vacation romance, sexcapade, or close encounter of the Third World kind? Female sex tourism is on the rise especially with the women dominated international Black travel movement. A roll in the sand with Dexter Saint Jock, to get over recent heartbreak and that 5-day vacation hookup fall within the sex tourism spectrum. I am not judging anyone’s choices—own your sexuality. But, I do hope that if this is your choice you do it safely. With female condoms widely available and the ability to put them in up to eight hours before intercourse that tipsy trip back to your cabana after a little wind-me, wind-me should be safe and on your terms.
“Women enjoy casual sex and prostitution, too, but with far more hypocrisy.”
When contemplating the larger picture of what you leave behind after your trip to Cuba, even where money has not directly exchanged hands, the action of taking care of your Latin lover can have rippling effects within the local community. While you may see it as “romantical,” is it really anything more than a rent-a-date? Do you speak his language or only hear his professions of your beauty and his love of your [insert attribute here]? Are you only hanging out in tourist zones where without you, he would not be welcomed? What do you know about his family, kids, girlfriend, or wife? Nirpal Dhaliwal, author of Tourism says, “Women enjoy casual sex and prostitution, too, but with far more hypocrisy. They help themselves to men in the developing world, kidding themselves that it’s a ‘holiday romance’ that [it] has nothing to do with the money they spend.”
A few years ago, I was in the back of a shared taxi riding to Ramallah when the subject arose. David, an Irish documentary filmmaker with whom I had been working on a project in Bethlehem, was adamant that sex tourism was a one-way street—it only applied to men who travel and sexually exploit women. I vehemently disagreed recalling an article in The Independent about British women taking organized sex tours (my word not theirs) to The Gambia. His argument basis was a quote from a 2007 Reuters article where Jake Grieves-Cook, chairman of the Kenya Tourist Board stated female sex tourism is not seen as an evil.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention definition of sex tourism starts out as “travel planned specifically for the purpose of sex.” Okay, that may not be the purpose of your trip—maybe it is diving, shopping, hiking, or tanning and the romance just crept in there. Women engaging in holiday affairs often desire something which lasts longer than a cash exchange for sex. Perhaps, this is why female and especially women of color sex tourist do not receive as much media attention as their male White in Asia and Black in Brazil counterparts. Jessica Neuwirth from Equality Now uses what I consider a euphemism, “courtship.” She explains this alternate view may come from the idea of a role reversal, where women travelers are footing the bills for meals and activities for their local toyboys in the same way in which their dates in the States pay for them [traveling women].
Female sex tourism hasn’t received as much attention in the media as male sex tourism, perhaps because it’s seen as harmless.
It’s not harmless and the men making a living off the tourist ladies walking down the cruise ship plank are also being exploited. They are products of poor educational systems, cycles of poverty dating back to the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and often corrupt regimes which keep all the legitimate tourist dollars in the hands of multinational resorts or the local 1-percent. When speaking of American Black women who enjoy their vacation flings, the key descriptor is American. According to Reuters, approximately 80,000 North American and European romance-seeking women travel to Jamaica every year. Sure most of them are White, but they are not all White. Lynn Meisch, an anthropologist at St. Mary’s College of California in Moraga, says, “Women don’t just want sex, but a full cultural experience.” Often, women consider these men as more than just flings, they are temporary boyfriends who act as tour guides, suggest where to eat, bargain with vendors for souvenirs, and protect them from others who may be trying to take advantage or swipe their well-earned meal ticket.
When Caribbean beach boys were polled about their preferred type tourist lady, White Canadians ranked highest. When asked about Black American women, the men were only really interested if the sisters were How Stella Got Her Groove Back rich. These wealthy Black American women offer the possibility of not just a few hundred earned during a vacation but a chance at a green card. Sadly, we know how Terry’s story ended, “It was devastating to discover that a relationship I had publicized to the world as life-affirming and built on mutual love was actually based on deceit, I was humiliated.”
Enjoy yourself, be safe and remember what the Brazilians say, “Amor de praia nunca pode voltar para casa.”
Love from the beach can never come home.
The photo is from Medellin, Colombia part of an anti-sex tourism campaign