The Implications of Sex Tourism on Men's Social, Psychological, and Physical Health

Article excerpt

This article explores sex tourism and possible concerns for the male sex tourist through a content analysis of sex tourism web sites. This qualitative, exploratory study describes the manner in which sex tour web sites attract and maintain male customers. Findings related to men's psychosocial health are placed within an international context. Recommendations are made that pertain to international social welfare. Key words: Men's psychosocial health, Sex tourism, Sex addiction, International Social Welfare, and HIV/AIDS

Introduction

Sex tourism is a growing social phenomenon engaged in by many western males. While an increasing number of men are participating in adult travel, sex tourism remains a fairly obscure and unknown activity to the general public, academia, and helping professions. This article explores sex tourism and possible concerns for the male sex tourist through a content analysis of sex tourism web sites. This qualitative, exploratory study describes the manner in which sex tour web sites attract and maintain male customers. The data leads to several important implications in regard to men's psychological and social well-being. The authors provide a rationale for the study of sex tourism that includes a brief discussion of the interlocking social problems of sexual addiction and risk of HIV/AIDS infection.

A Rationale for Studying Sex Tourism

Sex or erotic tourism involves male tourists vacationing with the expectation that part or all of their vacation will involve paid sexual experiences. These experiences might range from visiting strippers, using escorts, or engaging in sexual experiences with prostitutes (Evans, Forsyth, & Wooddell, 2000). Sex tourism occurs in several developing countries, but much of the sex tour industry revolves around the areas of the Latin America and the Caribbean, Thailand, and other Southeast Asian countries, and to a lesser extent, the Netherlands (Bishop & Robinson, 1999).

Men make up the majority of sex tour customers (Abu-Nasr, 1998). Primarily men from developed countries, specifically from the United States, Western Europe, and Japan can afford and choose to participate in erotic tours. While there is very limited data on foreign prostitute customers, several studies have explored characteristics of the western male customer of prostitution in the Unites States. Literature on prostitution in the United States shows that male customers of prostitution tend to deviate from the traditional stereotype of unattractive and unsuccessful males. Studies show that most male consumers of prostitution are married, college educated, not physically unattractive, have had no trouble finding nonprostitute sex, and earn an average of $30,000/year (Adams, 1987).

Sex tourism is associated with both the spread of HIV/AIDS as well as other sexually transmitted diseases, and with sexually addicted behaviors. According to the Centers for Disease Control (2001), an estimated 21.8 million people have died from HIV/AIDS since the beginning of the epidemic. Furthermore, it is estimated that 36.1 million people are living with HIV/AIDS today (Safyer & Spies, 1988). UNAIDS (2001) reports that 75-80% of AIDS sufferers in Western Europe and North America are adult males. These reports indicate that 19.6 million men live with HIV/AIDS today (UNAIDS, 2001).

Prostitution is identified as a major HIV/AIDS risk factor. Sex tourism, a form of organized prostitution, should be included in the areas we examine as high-risk behaviors for contracting and spreading the HIV/AIDS virus. Sex tourism creates conditions in which multiple partners participate in anonymous, repeated sexual acts, often without protection. Several interlocking factors make the engagement in sex tourisms and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases highly likely.

One such factor is the high socio-economic level of sex tour consumers. To engage in sex tourism, one must have the financial resources to travel to another country and the sufficient leisure time to do so. …