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Sex tourism is a multibillion dollar global industry wherein individuals (sex tourists) from industrialized, developed nations travel abroad with the distinct purpose of purchasing a variety of sexually associated services. Destinations vary, but most sex tourists seek the services of individuals from developing nations. Sex tourists’ travel and consumption, facilitated by technology and an unequal and increasingly interconnected world system, have raised the profitability of this industry to a historically unprecedented level. Blending global race, ethnicity, class, gender, and age inequalities with capitalist consumption, sex tourism creates and perpetuates a range of problems for sex workers and host countries. A growing body of interdisciplinary studies reveals a complex blend of exploitation and agency involved in sex tourism, the links between local and global, the need for inclusive and further study of homosexual, trans-gendered and bisexual, as well as heterosexual sex tourism, and the importance of understanding rather than stereotyping workers and experiences.
Sex tourism is credited with both the creation and intensification of micro and macro social problems including, but not limited to, violence against individuals (workers and tourists); disease and morbidity; child prostitution; and social/environmental destruction. Sex workers often suffer abuse and exploitation from clients, including refusal to wear condoms, physical or emotional violence, and failure to pay. They are likely to experience harassment by club operators and law enforcement. In most countries the sex trade is illegal and sex workers are unlikely to be legally protected. AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are prevalent and can impact buyer, seller, or future and present sex partners and children. Paradoxically, the threat of AIDS is reported to appeal to some sex tourists who regard it as adventure and high-risk sport. Child prostitution, reported in many areas, has attracted international attention. International actions, such as passing legislation to make those who engage children as prostitutes liable abroad and in their own countries, may deflect attention and resources from adult workers and may make them scapegoats for the sex trade.
- Ryan, C. (2000) Sex tourism. In: Clift, S. & Carter, S. (eds.), Tourism and Sex Culture, Commerce and Coercion. Continuum International, New York.