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David Eddie
David Eddie

An acquaintance is boasting about being a sex tourist. What should I do? Add to ...

THE QUESTION

My contractor friend sometimes gets his retired and divorced schoolteacher neighbour to help him with small projects. This neighbour just mentioned he’s going to a third world country (Philippines) for two months where he can “get a woman for the whole day for 10 bucks.” I asked if he told the guy how disgusting that was and how horrible to use poor women (who will probably be younger than his own daughter) for his own gratification. He said it wasn’t his business. I disagreed and told him if men don’t start standing up to other men this kind of abuse will never end. Just because he’s not buying underage girls, it’s still wrong. He said he’d think about saying something to the man. Was I wrong to pressure him? It still makes me sick thinking of those poor women.

THE ANSWER

I think you’re quite right to voice your conscience on this matter.

What your contractor friend’s neighbour is up to goes under the relatively benign-sounding heading of “sex tourism” and although one doesn’t necessarily hear or read too much about it, it’s a major global industry.

Places such as Thailand, Cambodia, Costa Rica, the Netherlands (Amsterdam’s famous red-light district) and the Dominican Republic have become synonymous with the ability to procure cheap, meaningless, no-strings sex – and maybe grab a cocktail and swim after.

(At least, amongst a certain class of people: Personally, I went to the DR for the sandy beaches and hot sun and to spend time with my family.)

A major global industry. In the mid-1990s, for example, well before its peak, according to the International Labour Organization, sex tourists contributed more than $20-billion to Thailand’s economy.

And it’s not just older men such as your friend’s neighbour. More and more tender-aged, Tinder-age sex tourists are elbowing the oldsters away from the bar in places such as Costa Rica to take advantage of supposedly laxer rules and morality in sex-tourist destinations.

(As a 31-year-old sex tourist in Costa Rica told the website Fusion: “The U.S. with its Puritan roots looks down at this type of behaviour. But it’s normal in many parts of the world.”)

Women also are indulging in sex tourism in greater numbers – heading to Gambia for “bumsters,” to the Caribbean for “Rastitutes” or “beach boys,” and the Dominican for “sanky pankies.”

(There is an even darker side to sex tourism: “child sex tourism.” That is punishable by law here in Canada so if you have any sense this guy is up to anything like that you should contact the police. But it doesn’t sound like he is so you’re off the hook for that, at least.)

How you feel about his exploits all depends, I suppose, on how you feel about a) prostitution, b) poverty.

There are those who would opine it’s a business as any other and the providers of services in these tropical climes are “sex workers,” who do it of their own volition and are able to provide for their families where they might otherwise starve.

Me, I’m more inclined to agree with an article I read recently entitled Sex tourism is sexualized imperialism, by a Dominican woman named Raquel Rosario Sanchez, who speaks from first-hand experience.

She argues that it’s a business, yes, but the business is predicated on “the bodies and lives of marginalized women and girls that are commodified and objectified in order to insure … pleasure for the privileged.”

She points out, also, that many of these women are trafficked. Even the Dutch government admits more than three-quarters of those trafficked to the Netherlands wind up in the sex industry – most, more than likely, in the red-light distract.

So, one man’s opinion, but I don’t think sex tourism is all that cute or wonderful or empowering. Many would argue I’m being uptight and applying first-world values to a third-world situation, but personally I don’t want to go into all the complexities: I consult my gut and it tells me sex tourism is morally reprehensible and wrong.

(And btw, my gut is huge.)

Bottom line: I think you have every right and perhaps even a duty to voice your concerns.

But why just put pressure on your contractor friend? Maybe it’s time to think about going straight to his neighbour to express your opinion.

I’d give your contractor friend a chance to do it first – because you confronting the neighbour directly could cause friction for him, Say something to the effect of: “I wish you’d say something, but if you don’t, I will.” That might galvanize him into action.

And if he doesn’t? Go to the neighbour yourself. Of course, be diplomatic. Don’t be judgmental. We all have foibles, and who amongst us can cast the first stone? Just tell him why you don’t think it’s all that cool.

Net result? Probably zero, to be honest – or even negative. He may bristle and return fire with maximum hostility. Oh, well: who cares? Sounds like you don’t even know him.

At least you’ll have acted according to your conscience. And who knows? Perhaps have implanted the notion that his practice of sex tourism is something to be ashamed of rather than boast about.

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