Keywords: Kenya, Sex Tourism, Postcolonialism, Male Sex Workers.
Summary: Sex tourism accounts for a significant proportion of tourists visiting developing countries such as those in south-east Asia, the West Indies and parts of Africa which includes the popular coastal area of Kenya. However, the topic of male sex workers and their treatment by both tourists and residents is under-researched; this paper aims to speculate further into this fairly secretive world of male sex workers in Kenya. De Albuquerque (1998a) explains that sex tourism is where the touristsâ€™ main motivation is to engage in commercial sexual activities; however this is not the lone motivation for travel as the tourists still engage in other tourist activities. This paper will then go on to look at the film â€œParadise:Loveâ€ by Ulrich Seidl and see how the male sex workers are portrayed in the film. While the men are not the focus of the film, it allows for discussion on the lives of the â€œbeach boyâ€™sâ€.
The current literature on sex tourism leans more toward female prostitution but this paper aims to look more into the male perspective. Firstly, looking at the motivations for the male workers and their decisions to enter this nature of work will be looked at, then moves on to look at the treatment of these men by both the female sex tourists and their peers.
In the case of Kenyan male sex workers, there are no simple cash for sex transactions taking place, so therefore their motivations are different from conventional sex workers. Instead the emphasis is on love, empathy and romance; in return the men may receive material goods, dining out and even travel incentives (flight tickets or short holidays) in lieu of cash. The men may spend a lot of time with each woman as they see the time spent with the women as an investment in terms of social and economic capital (Kibicho, 2009; Phillips, 1999).
A second motivation for male sex workers highlighted in the literature relates to race and perception. Although that sex for cash and goods is the predominate motivation for these males, other motivations stem from black masculinity and the postcolonial period where young black men must affirm their masculinity among his peers in order to gain credibility, independence and freedom. Former colonies such as Kenya still have great influence from the west despite their decolonisation in 1963. Phillips (2008) reports that the internalised inferiority of black men with regards to white men has resulted in black menâ€™s goals to raise themselves to the same status as white males; this provides an explanation for the beach boysâ€™ inclination to fraternise sexually with white women.
The literature argues that the effect of sex tourism on the local culture is largely social. With Phillips (2008) describing that the differences in black and white female sexualities contribute towards the menâ€™s choices to sleep with white women as they are considered to be more open with their sexuality than black women when it comes to sex. However, in contrast to this; SaÌnchez Taylor (2000) argues that these men experience no stigma for their activities and instead they are respected by other black males.
The second part of this paper concentrates on the film â€œParadise:Loveâ€ which is used as an analytical tool to view the portrayal of the â€œbeach boyâ€™sâ€ in the film. The film revolves around a 50-year-old single Austrian woman (Teresa) who leaves her daughter behind to travel to a luxury Kenyan beach resort; where she finds herself having several sexual relationships with local men. The â€œbeach boyâ€™sâ€ sell trinkets on the beach as a way to lure these women and further their relationships into that of a more sexual nature. The entire process is repeated for every sexual encounter Teresa embarks upon, where she is fooled into a false sense of being loved, and then money is requested for an unrelated matter e.g. a sick child or relative. These direct solicitations of cash are not congruent with the literature, which emphasises that men often get gifts of great or small value rather than cash. Additionally, while engagement in sex tourism can lead to marginalisation in the local community, the men seem to still have some connection to the community and have relationships and children with local women, as highlighted by Phillips (2008).
As highlighted in the film, beach boysâ€™ primary motivation for fraternising with older white tourists is economic gain. This is presented as the only motivation in the film, but the literature indicates that male sex work in this context can also provide an avenue for self-actualisation and role fulfilment for black males (Kibicho, 2009; Phillips, 1999; SaÌnchez Taylor, 2000). Much more research needs to be done in this area however if beach boysâ€™ motivations, treatment, and lifestyle are to be better understood. This is likely to stem from the fact that women as buyers of prostitutes are lesser acknowledged and so understudied as well (Weitzer, 2009; Cabezas, 2014). It is therefore recommended that more research is carried out in order to ascertain how gender structures the experiences of sex workers.
KIBICHO, W. (2003), Tourism and the sex trade: Roles male sex workers play in Malindi, Kenya, Tourism Review International, 7 (3/4): 129-141.
PHILLIPS, J. (2008), Female sex tourism in Barbados: A postcolonial perspective, Brown Journal of World Affairs, 14 (2): 1-12.
SÃNCHEZ TAYLOR, J. (2000), Tourism and â€˜embodiedâ€™ commodities: Sex tourism in the Caribbean, in S. Clift and S. Carter, (eds.), Tourism and Sex: Culture, Commerce and Coercion (p. 41-53), London: Pinter.