The Implications of Sex Tourism on Men's Social, Psychological, and Physical Health
Bender, Kimberly, Furman, Rich, The Qualitative Report
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
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. These factors indicate that most participants in sex tours will be, at least, middle class. Adams (1987) found that physicians often do not question middle and upper class patients regarding their possible contact with prostitutes because these clients do not fit doctors' erroneous stereotypes of consumers of prostitution. Thus, the interplay between sex tour activities and socio-economic stereotypes may create a gap in HIV/AIDS prevention.
Sexual addiction is another consideration that calls for close attention as a factor that may contribute to the spread of HIV/AIDS in sex tours. Janet Wolfe (2000) estimates that 7% to 10% of the U.S. population is afflicted with some form of sexually compulsive behavior. The National Council on Sexual Addiction Compulsivity confirms these findings and reports an estimated 16 million-21.5 million Americans are sexual addicts (Cooper, Putnam, Planchon, & Boies, 1999). Several aspects of sexual addiction are highly copasetic with expected sex tour activities.
For the purpose of clarity, we will explore the definition of sexual addiction, as this concept is often misunderstood by scholars and laymen alike. In the classic medical model of addiction, based predominantly on studies of substance abuse, the phenomenon of addiction is associated with tolerance, the need for an increased amount of a substance to produce a desired effect; and withdrawal, an intense physiological craving for the substance. Withdrawal from substance abuse is associated with changes in neurotransmission. No clear research has demonstrated that compulsive sexual behavior involves this physiological response. However, self-identified sex addicts have noted that they have experienced effects similar to these syndromes (The Augustine Fellowship, 1986). Additionally, sexual addiction experts have observed the phenomenon of withdrawal (Carnes, 1993; Earle & Crow, 1989).
However, researchers have historically chosen not to utilize a biological framework. W. P. Canopic and T. P. S. Oei (1989) focus on negative internal or external consequences of behavior. Other authors similarly focus on behavioral consequence as defining sexual addition. Raviv (1993) asserts that sexual addiction is sexual behavior that begins to interfere with one's day to day functioning, affecting the addict's work, health, and/or personal relationships.
Earl and Crow (1989) suggest three factors in determining if a behavior is addictive. First, there is an overwhelming urge to partake in the behavior. Second, there is an utter disregard for negative consequences related to the behavior. Lastly, there is an inability to stop the behavior no matter how sincerely the addict wants or tries do so.
Carnes (1983) defines sexual addiction similarly to the previous author. His concept of the addictive cycle is a graphic illustration of how sexual addiction works. The addictive cycle is a four stage pattern that moves repeatedly through preoccupation, ritualization, compulsive sexual behavior, and despair.
Several aspects of sex tourism create negative life changes among customers as a direct result of participation. Because erotic tourism is such a financial burden, men may find that their interest in sex tourism is affecting their financial stability and well-being. Furthermore, with reports stating that the majority of men, who engage in prostitution, are married, participation in sex tourism may place men's relationships and personal lives in jeopardy. Finally, with the international spread of HIV/AIDS a major concern, men, who participate in sex tourism, may be putting their health, and the health of partners at home, in danger.
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: The Implications of Sex Tourism on Men's Social, Psychological, and Physical Health. Contributors: Bender, Kimberly - Author, Furman, Rich - Author. Journal title: The Qualitative Report. Volume: 9. Issue: 2 Publication date: June 2004. Page number: 176+. © 2009 Nova Southeastern University, Inc. COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.