sex work

When Is Sex Tourism OK?

IMG_6834.JPGNote from Timaree: This is a sponsored post.

My latest international travel was to Thailand, a place known for sex tourism. In the party district of Phuket known as Bangla Road, gogo dancers lazily gyrate against poles, tourists are greeted with laminated menus for Ping Pong shows and many white middle aged men traverse the street accompanied by young, bored-looking young local women and men. Massage parlors occupy a substantial portion of the storefronts- some of which specify on their signage “No Sex,” which prompts the question about those businesses without such posts.

Some people back home had asked me if I would try out a brothel, since sex work is not strictly illegal in Thailand, but rather tolerated by an economy that’s heavily contingent on catering to tourists. We know that decriminalization of sex work is critical to the safety and agency of the people in the industry. Instead of protecting vulnerable populations, laws against prostitution only serve to usher in organized crime, drugs and violence. But if I’m interested in participating in this commerce, how can I be sure the worker is there of her own volition?

IMG_6704.JPGIt’s fair to say that the choice to go into sex work in Thailand is not entirely free of coercion, given the economic realities of growing up there. But the same can be said for any emotional or physical labor open to those who are poor and uneducated. It becomes a circular, unanswerable question about whether anyone enters their occupation freely.

The best practices for seeking sexual services is to use a legal means of access. It makes it much more likely that the job is freely chosen, that the worker has agency is respected as an employee. In America, we are limited to areas of Nevada outside Las Vegas and Reno. But other countries have different options. The Nordic model makes it legal to sell sex but not to buy it (an inherently ridiculous premise, but no less so than criminalizing it in general). In Australia or India, where laws vary from state to state, you can go directly to sites like Sydney escorts or Jaipur escorts to arrange for services.

Every purchase is an exercise in ethics, this is not unique to sexuality. We vote with our dollars to support local businesses, sustainable materials, and quality working conditions when we buy everything from milk to phones. It’s impossible to be perfect, but we can do our best to minimize our negative impact.


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