Some beach reading, a Margarita in a coconut, and a little bit of romance on the side. Sounds like an average holiday, right? Well, for a growing number of middle-aged women, an innocent time this ain't. According to the Daily Mail, sex tourism is experiencing a little bit of a boom — and this time, the women on holiday are the ones paying. Even crazier, they don't even know they're engaged in a prostitution deal.
The men, called "bumsters" in Gambia, "Rastitutes" or "beach boys" in the Caribbean and "sanky-pankies" (yup, that's right) in the Dominican Republic are from poor families and have little to no education. But these men are no innocent victims — instead, they usually trick women into a deal.
The women are almost invariably white and middle-aged, from North America or Europe. They don't solicit male prostitutes. Instead, these women on holiday believe a gorgeous local has mysteriously fallen under their spells. Barbara, one such victim of sex tourism, told the Daily Mail the first time she realized her new buddy was a sex worker was when he told her "No money, no sex" when she wouldn't give him cash for a drug deal.
The transactions aren't as upfront as you would expect. Most of the time, male sex workers will build a pseudo-relationship without any mention of money. Calling it "romance tourism" seems more accurate given women's view that these men are actually their boyfriends. The demands for cash only come later, often in the form of pleas for help for such things as "sick relatives." So basically, these are some sexy con artists.
These women must seem like easy prey for the "beach boys." They're often travelling alone or with other girlfriends. Older women with low self-esteem and failed marriages are easy targets for these sex professionals. And apparently, loads are falling for it.
Given the blurry lines of this job, and the fact that many women don't even know what they're involved in, it's hard to come up with official figures. But research in 2001 showed that almost a third of women on the beaches of a resort in Jamaica and two resorts in the Dominican Republic had had sexual relationships with local men during their stay, of which a significant portion is assumed to come from sex workers.
And the men seem to enjoy their gigs — or at least they say they do. "Of course I have sex with them, but that’s because I’m not gay — I like women," explained one Jamaican man to the Daily Mail.
It's hard to figure out who is exploiting whom here. While the men often express a level of disgust with their clients' appearances behind their backs, they still see sex work as an affirmation of masculinity. On the other hand, the Daily Mail points out that the older women often expect to get whatever they want from their beach boys, and relish the experience of dating a younger black man.
The pristine appeal of a resort can easily fool anyone into feeling safe, but locals are good at finding ways around this. Some women remain fooled for years, returning to their tropical destination to visit their "boyfriends." But if these women stay for too long, relationships that were never honest from the start will often turn sour. Really, it's mostly sad that these women are relishing a romance that's totally a scam. Next time, they'd be better off keeping their noses in their beach reading.
Image: Artur Staszewski on Flickr