Pattaya is the sex tourism capital of the world, more so called “sex tourists” visit Pattaya than any other notorious sex destination. Does that make Pattaya such a bad place, does it make “sex tourists” seedy or undesirable ?.
I was reading a somewhat long-winded article discussing the reasons why people are compelled to travel for sex, and in particular, why they travel to Thailand, especially Pattaya for sex. This wasn’t a critical article, it was more of an in-depth social study intent on finding the factors which contribute to a persons desire, or need to travel to foreign destinations for sex or company.
Pattaya’s infamous reputation goes before it, I’m sure you have all read reports in foreign tabloid newspapers proclaiming that Pattaya is a playground for perverts and dirty old men, that child prostitution is rife, and human trafficking is an everyday occurrence. I’ve read countless blogs which have labeled every older man who has a young Thai woman on his arm as a “dirty old man”, every young single man is a sex tourist, and as such he must have some serious shortcomings or even psychological problem.
Anyone who travels abroad for a short period, with the intention of having sexual relationships/encounters with locals is termed as A “sex tourist”.
You might be surprised to know that sex tourists are not all seedy little perverts who are lacking in morals or are just unable to attract a partner in their home country. Sex tourists can be male or female, young or old, rich or poor, introverted or extroverted. They are usually from developed countries, especially western countries. For obvious reasons, most sex tourists who visit Pattaya are male, hence we will concentrate on male sex tourists.
There is not a common denominator or a specific reason why people choose to travel abroad for sex, as I said earlier, there is no stereotypical sex tourist, everybody has their own reason and their own goals. See the examples below.
Prostitution is legal in many countries, Holland being the most famous example, and legal or not, prostitutes (sex workers) can be found in most western countries. Common reasons for sex tourists not using the services of a prostitute in their own country include embarrassment, local prostitutes too business like and too expensive.
One thing which the study established is, most sex tourists don’t travel purely for sex. They want more than cold “business like sex”, they want to escape from the mundane routine of their everyday existence, to go about their business openly without fear of embarrassment or shame, they want companionship and freedom. All of these feelings and needs are familiar to all of us, but most people will seek their goals as a family or as a couple, it’s simply a matter of circumstance and choice.
The simple answer is “everything mentioned above”, Pattaya is commonly referred to as the “4 S’s”, meaning “sun, sea, sand and sex”. Pattaya has thousands of available girls, a completely different culture, pleasant weather, it is certainly a world apart from the mundane existence experienced in the west. The girls are fun, sexual transactions are less business like, everything is done in the open and there is no cause for embarrassment or shame.
As mentioned above “it’s more than sex” and if you ask yourself the question “why do people travel for sex”, the answers can be found in Pattaya. According to the sex tourists interviewed for the sake of the study, Thai Bar Girls, or any woman working in Thailand’s prostitution business offered much more than just “business like sex”, they offered companionship and warmth, they generally treated their customers very well, some would even say “they treat you like a king”.
The judgmental onlookers are quick to cry “exploitation”, but how can sex between 2 consenting adults considered to be exploitation. The feminists will claim it is degrading to women, I suspect your average Thai bar girl finds working in a rice field for 100 baht a day more degrading. The righteous will tell you that prostitution is illegal in Thailand, it might be illegal but it is still permitted.
I think ‘Sex Tourist’ is a rather sweeping title, and a somewhat cynical one, sex and sexual conquests are the goal of the minority. The majority of sex tourists could probably be termed as “romance tourists” or “friendship tourists”. The ultimate goal for most is actually to find a partner, just about everybody I know who has married or settled down in Pattaya might have been viewed as a sex tourist before they met their wife or long term partner. To the bigoted visitors they still be looked upon as sex tourists simply because they are in Pattaya with a Thai woman.
Do you remember that old fellow you saw with the young Thai woman, did he look happy ?, did you label him as a “dirty old man” because in your opinion he is not a stereotypical old man, he is not sat lonely and miserable after being widowed five years previous.