Jamaica News: What are the ethics of exploiting ethnic minorities in sex tourism?
They fly to exotic, foreign countries to find sex. They pay to have their sexual desires fulfilled in so-called “vacations,” in which they may purchase hotel rooms, food, and clothes. These people are sometimes called sex tourists, a euphemism for supporting prostitution and in some cases sex trafficking.
Sex tourism is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as travel planned specifically with sex in mind.
What started off with predominantly white men from industrialized nations such as Europe and the United States has now broadened to include women and women who are the seekers of these sexual services. They fly to the Caribbean, Asian, Africa and other countries presumably to buy love. But in the process, they raise questions about how sex tourism can be a form of sexual racism and enslavement.
Regardless of gender, men and women who participate in sex tourism may find it empowering to be able to purchase sex from whomever they want whenever they want at these locales without considering the deeper ramifications.
It’s easy to be in denial and justify these behaviors as contributing to the economy, giving sex workers money that’s helping their families or insisting these men and women engage in these behaviors willingly. But there is limited autonomy is selling your body for sex, even if one is doing it with their own free choice. It may not be a choice they would make given other financial circumstances but one that is taken advantage of due to the social, political, and economic disparities of the buyer and seller.
For example, in poor Asian countries such as Cambodia, families commonly sell their children to human traffickers where parents are generally aware of what they are agreeing to, thinking the financial advantage outweighs the spiritual and psychological devastation imprinted on their children. Due to the collective acceptance (i.e. familial, communal, and governmental) of commercial sex work in these countries, the conscience of the buyer is further insulated from reality.
So can you be an ethical sex tourist? The answer depends on how you define your own ethics and morality. If you wouldn’t want your own children (adult or otherwise) trading their bodies for money, then you have your answer.
Does this change if you are a female sex tourist? This is further complicated by the possible assumption that men historically have enjoyed gender superiority over women and women paying for sex/romance with men may feel like they are balancing the playing field. They may also naively believe men enjoy getting paid to have sex with strangers. Jo Fitzsimons is a female freelance writer, who travels extensively internationally and finds this behavior equally unethical.
“Any ‘relationship’ that is born out of need rather than want is exploitative regardless of whether it is a man or woman paying for sex. And of the many pairings I observed last night it is hard to conceive any scenario where the men involved would willingly select the abominations that were their highly unmatched pair,” she writes.
Regardless of gender, the larger issue is the sexual exploitation of people from these countries from their richer counterparts. Exploitation is exploitation and I dare say no one leaves unscathed as the sex tourist must also contend with his or her own cognitive thinking errors that make their behaviors permissible.
By Sam Louie MA