Sex tourism is nothing new, it’s actually something that has been around since humans first started to travel for fun. Seriously, the Romans loved to travel and they had a penchant for prostitution.
But in todays modern world, where do we stand with sex tourism? Is sex tourism something that is acceptable? And actually, what defines sex tourism?
It’s a term that is often frowned upon, with many looking down on those who travel for sex. But the truth is that travelling to get laid is not uncommon. Look at the hedonistic activities in Ibiza, Miami or on the backpacker trails of South East Asia.
However, travelling and getting laid is not necessarily sex tourism – this is something else entirely. So…
What is sex tourism?
What defines sex tourism? Travelling to specific place with the intention of pursuing sex, or for sexual gratification, is sex tourism. This may be paid, for prostitution, strip clubs, hiring escorts or gigolos, or any other form of paid sexual activity.
But also getting into situations where you can enjoy consensual sexual encounters is sex tourism too. By definition though, when we think of sex tourism, it’s often the world of paid sexual services.
Places that are known for sex tourism often have loose laws around the actual practices of paying for sex. Some of the more popular places however aren’t entirely legal, but are relaxed about enforcement. Most countries have some form of street prostitution, but some countries designate entire areas for sex such as red light district or hedonistic towns.
While we’re on the subject, many of the popular sex tourism destinations are often tarred with the brush of child sex exploitation. This is undeniably an issue when it comes to the issue of commercial sex, especially in low income countries. We’ll look at this in context later in the article, but we’ll focus first of all on the legal issues around sex tourism.
Is sex tourism legal?
There is no blanket answer to the legality of sex tourism. In some countries it is entirely legal to pay for sex.
The Netherlands for example have a well known sex tourism industry, with the red light districts of Amsterdam a popular haunt for those happy to pay for prostitutes of all varieties. However, prostitution here is not technically ‘legal’, but is ‘decriminalised’. This means that those practicing are not subject to police harassment, and the punters are free to visit their choice of red window.
Contrast this with Thailand, where prostitution is illegal. However, because of loose application of the law and little desire to clamp down on the sex industry, prostitution is openly sold and is rife in places like Pattaya and Bangkok. And of course, both Thailand and the Netherlands are seen as some of the best destinations for sex as a travel experience.
The side effect to these loose applications of the law is the booming trade in sex shows, strip clubs and other forms of titillation. This means that even if a visitor isn’t looking to pay for the actual act of sex, they can still enjoy the thrill of seeing naked women (or men, if that’s what they’re into) performing for their entertainment.
Countries where prostitution is legal
There are many countries where prostitution is legal and sex tourism is openly accepted. These include:
- The Dominican Republic
- New Zealand
- Parts of Australia
- Costa Rica
- Some states of the USA
There are many countries where prostitution is legal but where the open practice or promotion of it is off limits. This includes countries like India, Senegal, Indonesia and Singapore.
This definitive list of countries where prostitution is legal only tells half the story. Although you can legally pay for sex in countries like Bangladesh, the country is not seen as a popular sex tourism destination for a number of reasons.
Countries where prostitution falls into a grey area
However, there are also countries where it is entirely illegal, but there is still a booming sex trade industry.
These are countries like:
- The Philippines
- United Arab Emirates
- South Africa
- South Korea
It should be noted that even in countries where prostitution is legal, there are many factors that still apply. For example, child sex trafficking is always a punishable offence, wherever you are in the world.
As we’ve mentioned, when talking about international sex tourism, there is often an element that will be looking for underage sex… Hopefully that’s not you, and to be clear we DO NOT condone child prostitution on this site – in any context.
Countries like Cambodia and Thailand have long faced issues with tourists arriving looking for child prostitution. And when there is a grey area, or if prostitution is outright illegal, it can be harder to police.
Are there benefits to sex tourism?
Tourism in general is one of the biggest sectors of the global economy. And travel does undoubtedly broaden the mind.
Let’s also be honest here and say that travel and sex are perfect bedfellows. Excuse the pun.
Travelling to foreign climes means you’re already in the mind to try new experiences, and hey… Having sex with the locals falls into that category.
Although it might be argued that the sex trade can absolutely lower the standards in some places – I’m looking at you Pattaya – it can also bring benefits in other ways.
For example you will likely see a high quality nightlife and cultural attractions, and the adult sex trade is definitely lucrative. In 2017 it was estimated to have accounted for $20 billion, worldwide.
To add to this, it is a form of employment, often for people from poor economic backgrounds. And although there are definitely issues with exploitation, sex trafficking, abuse and drugs, for many (not all) the opportunity to perform sex work is beneficial to them overall.
Remember that sex workers are real people with a livelihood, and so they deserve to be treated with respect. Violence or other non-consensual acts against sex workers will likely result in police action wherever you are.
Sex tourism isn’t all about prostitution
Many people also enjoy travelling to places where the chances of getting laid by a fellow traveller are high. So no, sex tourism doesn’t necessarily mean brothels and strip clubs.
Every summer, people flock to tourism hotspots such as Ibiza, Crete, Cancun, Koh Phangan, Florida and Bali in the hopes of meeting fellow travellers who are game for some consensual sexual activity.
Granted, these travellers might not be going exclusively for the potential squelchy – but it is often an influencing factor.
There might not be a red light district, but where there are parties, bikinis and wild times, chances are there is gonna be some sex.
Travelling for sex tourism
So long as you’re travelling to enjoy consensual sexual activity, and you’re obeying local laws and customs, there isn’t anything wrong with a bit of sex tourism.
Although men are more likely to travel for sex, women do too… So there is definitely a culture of female sex tourism too. It aint’ just a pervy guy thing!
I’ve had some epic nights in places like Thailand, the Dominican Republic (specifically Puerto Plata), Amsterdam and various Eastern European hotspots. So I understand that sex tourism is an aspect of travel that is very tempting and enjoyable for many.
A night of strip clubs and sleazy strip clubs is tons of fun. Although it can get super expensive very quickly.
If you are travelling anywhere to engage in sexual activity, we recommend:
- Bring condoms- for yours and their sake (yes women too, bring protection so they don’t have an excuse. And yes of course women can be sex tourists)
- Respect local customs – breaking laws means you lower the reputation of tourists and you could even end up in prison yourself
- Understand where the sex trade areas are. These are usually specific areas in the nightlife district of wherever you’re going.
- Be respectful. Sex workers have to put up with a lot of shit from idiots. Don’t be one of them.
- Child prostitution is NEVER OK. If you suspect child prostitution is happening, report it to local law enforcement.
We’ve also looked before at countries that offer a fun playboy lifestyle option.
Have fun out there and stay safe!