Girls who buy sex from beach boys: Sex tourism in Bali

beach boys sex touristsBeach boys and women sex tourists: every journalist’s dream topic. A Swiss television reporter interviewed me about a documentary he was making, incorporating footage from Cowboys in Paradise, a film about Kuta Beach in Bali. I happened to be in Basel, nearly missing Catherine MacKinnon when the reporter contacted me, so he came into the room where I was giving a talk and interviewed me afterwards. Some bits of those are cut into this 11-minute television clip, and although most of the English and Indonesian are overlaid with German, the pictures are good and you can follow the narrative easily. Note especially the testimonies of two women: one is the young wife of a beach boy who feels okay about how he makes his money and the other is a young Swede who asks why she shouldn’t have whatever sex she wants.

[The original embed-code is kaput so here’s a link to the video. Note here the tourists are young women. Reporters want to know if the boys are ‘really’ prostitutes and why the girls are paying; they have trouble figuring out who is exploiting whom. It’s a bias, of course, to insist someone has to be exploiting since money and sex are involved, rather than seeing these as ordinary relationships, the kind that travelling people have been having since human life began. Some want to believe that women are morally better than men and therefore won’t pay for sex just because they have the money and freedom to allow them to fly to places like Bali and do it. I don’t think women have any moral traits as a class, and the fact that some like these breezy holiday situations the same way men do doesn’t surprise me. (That’s why I end up laughing during interviews like this – because to me what I am saying is just common sense not requiring any professorial analysis.) There’s a theory that women are more keen to be romanced than men, which I consider pretty silly since plenty of male tourists have stars in their eyes and are wound around the little fingers of those poorer women they are said to be exploiting.

Then some want to see these largely white-skinned women as racist, an interpretation I also don’t share, for the same reason: travellers like to meet others who seem interesting and different; they like to talk, drink, eat, dance, tour and have sex with them. That’s banal. In such situations, travellers often can and are willing to pay for their fun, and since I don’t see having sex as different from those other activities I’d have to condemn travel itself if I am going to condemn the sex. Unless people are wanting a condemnation of global economic inequalities that mean the beach boys don’t have lots of other great ways to make money: well, fine, I condemn that. But please note that the boys interviewed here find pleasuring tourists a lot easier and more fun than other jobs. And that they don’t see themselves as sex workers or as prostitutes; no professional identity need attach to ambiguous relationships. Is this all the erotic side of imperialism? I guess so. But we are all caught up in it; there is no perfectly clean place to stand; telling people to stay home is no solution, whether they are tourists or migrants.

Other stories about sex tourism here.

–Laura Agustín, the Naked Anthropologist

15 thoughts on “Girls who buy sex from beach boys: Sex tourism in Bali

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  4. Sergio Meira

    Is it the case that those who would condemn those female sex tourists do so only because money (or some similar compensation) is involved? If the very same female tourists went to the very same places and managed to get the very same beach boys in bed without any monetary involvement, direct or indirect (no payments, no dinners, no gifts, nothing) — if they managed to win the boy’s interest simply because they, the female tourists, are also attractive — then there would be no objection to what is going on? (I wonder if, in this case, said female tourists wouldn’t be praised for their non-conformist stance on sex, not unlike SlutWalks and similar movements who want to praise female sexual agency.)

    1. laura agustin Post author

      It is not just the money but the unequal ‘power relations’ said to be involved. Race, class, opportunity. As you see at the end of the Swiss documentary, the Swedish woman sees herself as doing the same as men, achieving gender equality. But those who hate all tourists’ having sex with poorer people is exploitation, and orientalism.

  5. Rainer

    My German girlfriend had paid sex with a thai guy during our holidays in Bangkok. For me, as a white male, it was a very humiliating experience to have to share my girlfriend with a young asian,…but I finally accepted her holiday lover, who basically targeted our holiday budget, had good fun and sex with Claudia. If you are interested in this subject, you may google “my girlfriend had paid sex with a thai boy”

    1. Steven

      Do you guys have an open relationship?? And are you comfy with that. Some guys are and some guys aren’t. Do yourself a favor and have sex with other girls too otherwise you’re just a cuck.

      It’s not unheard of for married aussie women to have shock affairs in Bali with kuta cowboys without their husband finding out, but in your case, you are perfectly aware of it. And your gf actually sharing all that to you. That is weird.

      Personally I can never be comfy with that. And not because he is Asian. But because I prefer a monogamous relationship. But I’m not like everyone and people are not all wired for that.

  6. cheryl overs

    Great article as always Laura. Love the line ‘no professional identity need attach to ambiguous relationships’.

    I once had a guy on a beach in Venezuela solicit me on the basis that he sold romance not sex. Paulo, who seemed asleep on a nearby deck chair said from under his hat “you just lost a customer my friend’

    1. Laura Agustín

      aha, the backfiring of romance and love as a gambit. once in dominicana when a guy similarly propositioned me and i said no, he came right back with ‘you dyke-bitch’. so much for sales techniques.

  7. mike

    “But please note that the boys interviewed here find pleasuring tourists a lot easier and more fun than other jobs.”

    Spoken like a true pimp! 🙂

    1. Rainer

      ….for Khun it was not only pleasuring my girlfriend but also about prestige, to have sex with a “weak westeners” white guys girl, to humiliate the “rich tourist” in front of his girl, and to live on our holiday budget…. in our situation clearly the white western couple was on the hook and “the victim”,….but Claudia enjoyed sex with him anyway…a 19 year old thai guy, who suddendly turned out to be extremely dominating and controlling, once he suffocated my weak resistance

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  9. dp

    as long as the males are called nothing like “prostitutes, whores, sluts even with a male prefix, then there is nothing “immoral” about it!!!!! the males although doing exactly the same, they are not “reduced” even to be called with the same name as their female coworkers!
    needless to mention that the females are seen as a costumer but not as the sex worker women see the costumer. They are seen rather as Rainer have said as a trophy because after all, they are women and are seen from the southern males as objects. that is why they have wives and children. Imagine the average “whore” in the west or the north having he husband and children and all knowing of her job and being ok with it. It is still a man’s world, no matter what. Not to forget that a man cannot be raped by a woman. If he has no erection he will just not have sex with his penis, no one will violate his body, and that’s it! as for a woman, things are different as we all very well know. So where is the comparison in male sex work? I think there is none, except if the males live the life of a female sex worker in all its spam, which i never see to be the case.

    1. Rainer

      ..absolutely right. My than girlfriend (now wife) was a trophy for the young asian guy. Khun did not consider himself a male whore, rather as a stronger male competing for the female of a weaker male. This although Claudia paid him in the first place for sex,…but once he choked my resistance he mutated simply in her holyday lover and took my place. Unlike a white competitor probably wanted, he did not insist that I leave or wanted Clauida and mine relation to collapse, but I had to play a clearly subordinate role in the hierarchy he imposed on us. I accepted that.


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