Tag Archives: sex tourism

Sex Industry Pictures: Sex work, sex tourism, brothels, history

There is now a sex industry picture gallery on this website intended to informally illustrate the variety of commercial sex. Nothing x-rated in it, actually, but the gallery shows something of the diversity of activities and places encompassed in the idea of a sex industry, across time and geography. By no means encyclopedic or representative it also does not include every picture ever used on this website. The gallery is imported from facebook, where I have been keeping it for the past couple of years; I didn’t take the pictures myself but have given credit where I could. Contact me if an uncredited picture is yours and you want your name to appear or the photo removed or if you have more details about a picture (or comment directly on the picture’s page).

The collection is part of my effort to break down the monolithic term prostitution that exercises such a strong hold on the popular imagination. People say prostitution as though it were completely obvious what it means, as though we all knew – and then, quite often, as though we all were in agreement that it is bad and wrong. Nearly every media article reporting about the sex industry uses the same tired image of a woman in fishnet stockings and high heels or high boots leaning into a car window or standing in the street waiting for a car to stop. This stereotype is what sticks in everyone’s brain and is associated with the sex-money exchange that most bothers everyone: the one that neighbourhood leaders protest about, and police try to get rid of, and researchers show to be most violence-prone and where the classic pimp figure is most likely to be seen.

In this collection, people are often shown socialising, not just standing about being symbols. Some of what’s shown is undoubtedly not fair and not legal, but only if we understand what people are actually doing can we hope to improve the world overall. Included here are images of tourism and sex worker activism, both interesting facets of the industry in our times. Campaigning against the industry is not included – you can find those images all over the place.

Words are my own usual vehicle, as in my proposal for a Cultural Study of Commercial Sex, which I have written about several times. But images do something else. I look at pictures to process ideas differently, and I actually like that this gallery doesn’t classify in any way – there is no meaning to the order of the images, though facebook provides the date on which I happened to decide to upload the pictures to that website. The whole collection, which updates when I update at facebook, is a page on the menu at the top of this site.

Sex tourism at guesthouses by older lgbt people? Bring in the anti-trafficking police immediately

Sex tourism, gays, western perversion – what is this story, and these arrests, actually about? No mention is made of any trafficking accusation in this report of a police raid on a brothel in Cambodia – just the cop’s satisfaction at having spent a month investigating a place where people pay for sex. The rather ridiculous salacious slant would have us believe that this brothel is different because gays, lesbians, old ladies and foreigners use it. Well! Presumably the most special customer is a non-young non-Cambodian woman who likes women? Is this a category the police are afraid of? Are we meant to read between the lines that anyone employed in this brothel must have been trafficked and forced (are old-fashioned heterosexist brothels better, then?

It is old news that the US imperialist Trafficking in Persons report has caused Cambodia to institute legislation that has police persecuting sex businesses on principle. This is merely an early stage of the movement that now has a new name: End Demand, which can be followed by several phrases: sometimes we hear End Demand for Sex Trafficking, and sometimes End Demand for Commercial Sex Exploitation, and then there is End Demand for Modern-Day Slavery. All are semantically strange, since the demand these campaigners don’t like is a demand to pay for sex. The demand isn’t for the process – traffiicking, slavery or exploitation. I wonder why the whiz-kid business consultants didn’t make sure the slogan was clearer.

Perhaps there was a special frisson in the fact that a guesthouse has become a brothel, although the report also doesn’t explain what the evidence for that is, either. Presence of sex workers in the building? Manager shows guests an album with pictures of possible escorts? Or is there something noteworthy in the fact that the business is the type associated with alternative-style travel, less luxe, more home-like, cheaper?

Note that all this surveillance for a whole month netted them 14 people, only 3 of whom can be charged with anything – the clients and workers they don’t know what to do with.

Raid closes specialty brothel

Buth Reaksmey Kongkea, 27 February 2011, Phnom Penh Post

Anti-human trafficking officials last week cracked down on a guesthouse in Phnom Penh’s Prampi Makara district that offered sexual services for a select clientele. Keo Thea, director of the municipal Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Office at the Ministry of Interior, said a raid of the guesthouse-turned-brothel in Veal Vong commune netted a total of 14 arrests, including the guesthouse owner, two accomplices and 11 sex workers, on Saturday. “We have been investigating this house for about a month before we took superb action in cracking down on it,” he said. Keo Thea added that the guesthouse offered specific sexual services.

This place is hidden and illegal and provides sexual services for [gay] men, lesbians, old ladies and foreign people in Phnom Penh.

He said police research had uncovered that the guesthouse had been a popular destination for people seeking its specific services for many years. The detained were being held at the Phnom Penh Municipal Police Department for questioning prior to being sent to provincial court today to face charges, Keo Thea said, though he expressed doubts about the fate of some of the people arrested during Saturday’s raid.

We are now waiting for the order from our superiors about what we should do with these 11 people, who are sexual service providers and those who had come for sex. But for the house owner and the two accomplices, we will send them to court for charges.

–Laura Agustín, the Naked Anthropologist

Bisexual men have wives, tourist boyfriends and also sell sex in Kenya

Those who work in outreach know the fluid, category-resistant sexual behaviour common amongst so many people. So-called sexual orientation, ideas about family and a distinction between sex-with-money and sex-without-money cease to be very useful, as this story shows. Note that homosexuality is illegal in Kenya, as an earlier story about MSM relationship explained.

Kenya: Bisexual male sex workers run big risks

20 April 2010, Irin/PlusNews 

Photo: Jimmy Kamude/IRIN

At a nightclub in Mombasa, on the Kenyan coast, Tito Bakari a local man, and Leonard Smithberger, a tourist, make out in a dark corner before the bouncer asks them to leave. Hand in hand they walk to another bar nearby, where they party through the night. “My love from Germany has been here since Easter – the party has just begun,” Bakari told IRIN/PlusNews. Smithberger visits Kenya a few times every year and showers gifts and money on Bakari, who moves out of the house he shares with his wife and child and into his lover’s hotel.

Up to 60 percent of male sex workers in Mombasa also have female sexual partners, according to a recent study presented at the 17th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in San Francisco. “Although most sex partners of MSM-SW [men who have sex with men sex workers] are men, sex with local women is also common, usually transactional, and often unprotected,” the study noted. . .

My wife knows that I am bisexual, but I provide her needs and equally satisfy her sexually. I even have two children with her, so she never complains,” said Ben Maina*, a male sex worker in Mombasa who doesn’t always use condoms with his clients, and never with his wife. In 2007, another study in Mombasa found that the high prevalence of HIV in Kenyan MSM was probably due to unprotected receptive anal sex and low condom use. Despite the risks and the lack of acceptance by society, Maina makes too much money to consider leaving the trade – in a country where half the population lives on less than US$1 per day, he can earn up to $365 per week. “The cash assists me in providing for my family,” he said. . .

Dr Mary Mwangombe, a researcher at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), in the coastal town of Kilifi, said HIV programming for men who have sex with men and their partners – both male and female – was difficult because of the illegal nature of homosexuality and the public’s intolerance of it. “Most male commercial sex workers live and go about their business secretively to avoid being victimized, either by the council officials, the police or the public at large”. . .

Policing sex trafficking in Rio, with farcical elements

Sometimes the Rescue Industry reverts to farce. Take the recent history of Brazil with its efforts to appear ‘modern’ and world-powerful through militaristic social-control operations. Before I even got to the part of this article that mentions carnaval, I had thought ‘circus’ to describe what I was reading. These are excerpts from Operation Princess in Rio de Janeiro: Policing ‘Sex Trafficking’, Strengthening Worker Citizenship, and the Urban Geopolitics of Security in Brazil, by Paul Amar, in Security Dialogue 2009; 40; 513.

. . . Operation Princess and its sister campaigns were launched by the police in seeming disregard for the fact that prostitution is legal in Brazil. The Pentecostal evangelical leaders of Rio  . . . gave biblical legitimacy to the campaign, brushing aside questions of legality or sex workers’ resistance to being ‘rescued’. . . .

. . . proclaimed he would purge corruption and promote moral rectitude . . . by bringing back the spirit of the Vice Police stations (Delegacias de Costumes), which had been closed for the most part in the 1940s when prostitution was legalized. Simultaneously, President Lula declared a nationwide war against sex trafficking . . .

. . . ‘Operation Princess’ resonated perfectly with the 19th-century iconography of missionarism, child rescue, and abolition in Brazil. . . Avenida Princesa Isabel is the grand boulevard that brings travelers . . . into Copacabana Beach, a mixed-class and mixed-race coastal community that also serves as a center of sex tourism and international diplomatic conferences. Copacabana was a focal point of the new vice-policing operations. . . the statue of Princess Isabel, with her arms outstretched, blessing those she liberated from slavery and radiating a spirit of tolerance and welcome at the gateway to the topless dance clubs and all-night saunas of the Lido.  . .

. . . [the] Black Movement in Brazil ha[s] rigorously critiqued the ‘Princess Isabel Syndrome’, or the commemoration of this child monarch as the agent of abolition. . . it takes credit away from the centuries of sacrifice and mobilization among Brazil’s Afro-descendants and their efforts . . . Thus, the princess metaphor in Rio de Janeiro . . . resonates vibrantly with the politics of social ‘whitening’ (embrancamento), infantilization of black slave agency, and religious moralization.

. . . By the time Lula assumed power in 2003, a massive child-rescue initiative was deemed essential to Brazil’s plans to legitimize and empower itself on the world stage, as well as to address social-justice concerns at home. For Brazil to assume leadership of the democratic global south and make a claim to the proposed new seat on the Security Council, it wanted to change the image of Brazilian law enforcement from death squad to rescue mission, authoritarian to humanitarian. The national landscape had to be cleared of lawless, victimized children.

‘Operation Carnival’ became the first test of this revived vice-police campaign. As if to mock the new police operations, a ‘Group A’ Samba School . . .  celebrated ‘Prostitution in Copacabana’ as their theme that year; their 4,000 sequined dancers, the ‘Lions of Nova Iguaçu’, marched through the downtown Sambadrome, singing a samba about the joys of the sex trade. In its debut, the police’s anti-sex-trafficking campaign netted a total of one arrest . . .

During ‘Operation Shangrilá’, the Federal Police raided a showboat in Rio’s Guanabara Bay. Forty Brazilian prostitutes and twenty-nine American tourists were arrested for having committed the crime of ‘sex tourism’. This incident was immediately trumpeted as a major bust of a ‘human trafficking’ operation. . . . But . . no Brazilian law had been violated. None of the prostitutes were underage, nor had they violated any pimping or brothel laws. The only way this situation could be imagined as ‘trafficking’ was because the tourists had crossed international frontiers, although without breaking any laws or visa restrictions. Furthermore, ‘sex tourism’ is not against any Brazilian law, unless one assumes that sex tourism is the same thing as forced sex trafficking.

–Laura Agustín, the Naked Anthropologist

Hay que tener una visión de las cosas: Mujeres brasileiras en la industria del sexo en España

Con todo el debate ideológico sobre la prostitución, salen poco simples testimonios de personas que han decidido viajar y trabajar en la industria del sexo. Cuando digo ‘decidido’ quiero decir que puede que tengan pocas opciones para salir adelante pero sí tienen algunas y pueden preferir unas a otras. Es un planteamiento básico, que no niega el sexismo del mundo ni la injusticia para los países menos ricos sino que destaca la dimensión personal donde el candidato a la migración mira su situación y opta por viajar. Y muy fácilmente sale una historia no solo de ganarse la vida sino una visión empresarial y emprendedora, de personas que calculan sus chances, planifican sus futuros y son todo menos víctimas. Los siguientes relatos vienen de un trabajo de Adriana Piscitelli, de la Universidade Estadual de Campinas/UNICAMP, Brasil. He marcado frases en las que se puede oir la voz de personas que están informándose mediante redes, que están tomando decisiones y que tienen una visión a largo plazo de sus vidas.

    ‘¿Salir de mi país para trabajar para comer? Comida tengo en mi país. No preciso estar lejos de mi familia para comer. En Brasil si plantas una mandioca, crías una gallina, comes. No es hambre. Es tratar de hacer algo… Siempre me preocupé por el día de mañana. Cuando tenga 60 años… Tengo un objetivo, quiero juntar dinero para mandar a Brasil y hacer las cosas… Y aquí, si fuera a trabajar en otra cosa, ¿en que sería? ¿Limpiando pisos? Eso no entra en mi cabeza porque se gana muy poco. Si ganase bien, barrería la calle, sin ningún problema. ¿Pero trabajar y ganar 800, 900 euros?

Cuando él [cliente italiano que pasó un período de vacaciones en Fortaleza] se fue, me mandó un e-mail… Empezamos a hablar varias veces por día. . . .  En un mes pagó las deudas que yo tenía en Brasil. Me mandó dinero para que comprase mis cosas, para que hiciera la documentación… Y compró mi pasaje. . .  Hice lo que tenía que hacer, porque si no me casaba tenía que volver al Brasil… Y funciona así. Si una brasileña conoce un extranjero, tiene que casarse porque si no, no deja la vida de allá.

Yo iba siempre a una discoteca… Y había un taxista, que era conocido nuestro. Y me dijo: ¿nena, no quieres ir a trabajar al extranjero? Invitó también a una amiga y a una prima mías… Dijo que se ganaba muchísimo. Le dijimos que sí. Fue con nosotras para que sacáramos el pasaporte. Y un día llamó avisando que íbamos a viajar… Nos dieron el pasaje en el aeropuerto, fuimos a San Pablo y ahí tomamos otro avión. Vinimos por París… Teníamos que venir a Bilbao en tren, donde nos esperaba un hombre… Cuando nos encontramos, nos llevó a tomar café y después a la casa de él, para descansar y después nos llevó al club…  Ellos pagaron el pasaje, la deuda fue un poco más de 3000 euros…

Había una amiga mía que conocía otra, que conocía otra… Y así conseguimos la información, en una agencia de viajes que tiene contactos con clubes de Andalucía. . .  si tú sabes del sitio específico, club de José o de María, pues bien, te damos la información, te ponemos en contacto con la persona. Fui primero a un club de Almería… No era un lugar muy bueno. Pero yo tengo una amiga y ella tenía contactos con una chica de Barcelona que había trabajado en un club y era muy amiga de la dueña. Al final la dueña de ese club de Barcelona nos ha enviado el dinero para pagar nuestra deuda y para venir hasta Barcelona… [Cuando llegué a Barcelona], me quedaban 800 euros por pagar, pero en la primer semana tuve suerte porque he cobrado 1700 y pagué y me quedó dinero para enviar a mi país y ya.

Mi hermana está haciendo una carrera en Brasil, en diciembre acaba y como no hay trabajo, ella viene a España y pagaré yo el billete. Está intentando venir con contrato de trabajo. Eso se consigue en Brasil en el consulado de España. Podría trabajar media jornada en trabajo normal, en el área de ella, ella hace tecnología de producción en Brasil, trabajar en esto y la otra media jornada en la prostitución… que es donde se gana el dinero.

Pagué la deuda en un mes, decidí quedarme [en el club en Bilbao] hasta completar los tres meses. Volví a Brasil. Pero cuando volví, mirando el cambio, me di cuenta que no compensaba más hacer “programa” allá. Dejé pasar los tres meses necesarios y volví a España. Llamé al club y pedí que me enviasen un pasaje, que quería volver para trabajar. Y en una semana estaba de vuelta.

Planeo volver. Tal vez tarde diez años, pero quiero comprar unas casitas, pequeñas, de R$10.000,00 o R$ 15.000,00 alquilarlas y vivir del alquiler. Digamos que compre cuatro casitas baratas, y las alquile a 100, 200R$, ahí tienes un dinero fi jo, sin hacer nada. Y, al mismo tiempo, puedes tener un negocio. Digamos que tienes 6.000 euros, y si aquel negocio no va bien estás arruinado. Pero todavía tienes el alquiler de las casas.

Todo el dinero que gano aquí, lo invierto en Brasil, porque en dos o tres años quiero estar allí. Quiero estar aquí tres meses y tres meses en Brasil con mi familia. Tengo tierras, tengo vacas, en Rondônia. Mis hijos están en Rondônia, entonces mi hijo cuida de estas cosas… Voy enviando dinero para mejorar, para no tener que trabajar más en un par de años. Mando más o menos 1500 por mes para Brasil. Por eso, siempre di valor a lo de aquí. Tengo paciencia con los [clientes] viejos porque sé que con los 20 euros que me dan por veinte minutos, pago cuatro días un peón, allá, en el campo. Hay que tener una visión de las cosas.’

Relatos extraídos de ‘Tránsitos: Circulación de Brasileñas en el ámbito de la transnacionalización de los mercados sexual y matrimonial,’ Horizontes Antropológicos, Porto Alegre, 15, 31, 101-136, 2009