Female sex tourism is travel by women, partially or fully for the purpose of having sex. The practice differs from male sex tourism in that women do not typically use the structures of the sex industry (e.g. strip clubs, sex shows and organised tours) to meet foreign partners.
The phenomenon has been explored by French Novelist Michel Houellebecq in his novel Platform and in the non-fiction book Romance on the Road. These works 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 disharmony between the sexes.
The primary destinations for female sex tourism are Southern Europe (mainly Italy, Turkey, Greece, Armenia, Macedonia, Croatia, Israel, Slovenia, Spain, Portugal, Azerbaijan, Kherson, Crimea); also Lebanon; the Caribbean (led by Jamaica, Barbados, the town of Camuy in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic); Southeast Asia, (Bali in Indonesia and Phuket in Thailand); Dubai; and Gambia, Senegal and Kenya in Africa. Lesser destinations include Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Fiji, Ecuador and Costa Rica.
An estimated 650,000 Western women have engaged in travel sex since 1980, many of them multiple times. By some estimates, 80,000 North American and European women travel to Jamaica for sex every year.
Lesbian sex tourism is nascent but evident in Lesbos (Mytilini) in Greece, Bangkok and Pattaya in Thailand. The men used by tourist women are termed kamakia (“fishing harpoons,” Greece), galebovi (“seagulls,” Croatia), гларуси (glarusi) (“seagulls,” Bulgaria), 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), jinetero in Cuba, "gringa hunter" or caza-gringas in Ecuador and brichero in Peru. "Beach boys" is a more generic term.
"A holiday fling" or "a holiday romance" may refer to either sex tourism (having sex with a local) or an affair with a fellow holidaymaker, possibly from one's own country or indeed package tour. Either may be called "fun in the sun".
Barring some isolated cases of women traveling for sex among North American Indian tribes, female travel sex (involving American and English women) began in Rome in the late 1840s, at the same time as first wave feminism, which encouraged independence and travel.
Affairs and intrigues, particularly between American heiresses and impoverished European aristocrats, continued steadily until World War I, inspiring a whole genre of literature such as 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.
Coincident with the explosion of leisure travel in the 1960s and second wave feminism, sex tourism by women re-ignited, first via French Canadian women travelling to Barbados and Swedish and Northern European women to India, 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.
Today, many other destinations are popular, including Egypt, Morocco, Nepal, Thailand, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Mexico—everywhere with beaches (or in Nepal's case, mountains) and a surplus of underemployed men.
Social reasons for women seeking promiscuous and no-strings-attached sex 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 especially to drive sex tourism by Australian and Japanese women, and to a lesser extent, German and Scandinavian female tourists.
The changing theme of pop culture in the wake of the feminist heyday in America and elsewhere cannot be ignored. From the 1970s onward, the emergence of stronger, independent character roles for women in film, music and television doubtlessly influenced the expectations of ordinary women viewers everywhere in the western world.
The men may do it for the money, or for other unresearched reasons. Women usually give clothes, meals, cash, sex, and gifts to their male prostitutes. In some destinations, there are "going rates" for male companionship, ranging from $50 to $200. In other destinations, especially in Southern Europe, Turkey, and the French Caribbean, men do not expect to be compensated.
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" subheading, 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. Stella led to a quantifiable increase in trips by women to Jamaica. Important works of fiction include, in addition to Michel Houellebecq's Platform, Erica Jong's Fear of Flying, which coined or popularised the term "zipless fuck".
Risk of diseases
HIV/AIDS infection rates are among the highest in the world in the Caribbean, second only to those of sub-Saharan Africa: 5.6% of the adult population in Haiti, 3.2% in Trinidad and Tobago, 3% in the Bahamas, 2.5% in Guyana, 1.7% in the Dominican Republic, 1.5% in Barbados, and 1.2% in Jamaica.
Those rates are much higher than in Canada (0.3%) or the U.S. (0.6%). Even so, female sex tourists in the Caribbean are not especially preoccupied by the risk.
Major academic publications
- Jacobs, Jessica. 'Sex, tourism and the Postcolonial Encounter: Landscapes of Longing in Egypt' 2010 Aldershot Ashgate
- 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, University 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.)
- Bali gigolos
- Clarke, Jeremy (2007-11-25). "Older white women join Kenya's sex tourists". Reuters. http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSN2638979720071126. Retrieved 2007-11-30. "Hard figures are difficult to come by, but local people on the coast estimate that as many as one in five single women visiting from rich countries are in search of sex."
- Women going on sex tours look for big bamboos and Marlboro men, Pravda.Ru
- Sex tourism: When women do it, it's called 'romance travelling'
- Martin, Lorna (July 23, 2006). "Sex, sand and sugar mummies in a Caribbean beach fantasy". The Guardian (London). http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2006/jul/23/jamaica.theatre.theobserver. Retrieved May 2, 2010.
- Michele Faul's Associated Press article, 12/6/1998, “ ‘Stella’ the Movie Attracting Single Women to Jamaica.”
- HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate(%) 2007 country rankings - Flags, Maps, Economy, Geography, Climate, Natural Resources, Current Issues, International Agreements, Population, ...
- "Sex tourism as economic aid". The Sydney Morning Herald. July 12, 2003. http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/07/11/1057783358449.html.
- Romance on the Road: Traveling Women Who Love Foreign Men
- Book review of female sex tourism history Romance on the Road
- Rose Kisia Omondi: Gender and the Political Economy of Sex Tourism in Kenya
- Dominican Republic Sanky Panky, dr1.com
- Emily Monroy, Interracial Sex #5: The White Woman Abroad, Interracial Voice, July/August 2002
- Sex tourism as economic aid
- CAPE VERDE: Sex tourism on the rise?
- Kenya Cracking Down on Beach Boys, Gigolos Serving Tourists
- Jamaican beach boys a tourist temptation
- Women who travel for sex: Sun, sea and gigolos
- Sex, sand and sugar mummies in a Caribbean beach fantasy; Sex tourism in Jamaica, The Observer, Sunday, July 23, 2006
- Sex tourism: When women do it, it's called 'romance travelling'
- Sex tourism in full boom, Ottawa Citizen, Monday, January 8, 2007
- Women going on sex tours look for big bamboos and Marlboro men
- "Older white women join Kenya's sex tourists" by Jeremy Clarke, Reuters, November 26, 2007.
- The Jordanian Desert's Other Delight: Sex Tourism
- Senegal Draws Tourists with Sun, Sea...and Sex