2019 Conference
All Conferences
Contacts & Support
TSVC | Tourism Students Virtual Conference

Sex Tourism in Kenya: A study into the sex tourism industry in Kenya from the male workers perspective, using the film “Paradise:Love” as an analytical tool.

Sex Tourism in Kenya: A study into the sex tourism industry in Kenya from the male workers perspective, using the film “Paradise:Love” as an analytical tool.
Author: Sean-Paul Lynch
1 Commentries
Abstract: This paper discusses sex tourism in Kenya from the male worker’s perspective, using the film ‘Paradise:Love’ by Ulrich Seidl as an analytical tool. This under-researched topic of the behind the scenes world of sex workers in Kenya involves the exploitation of men as sex workers. Research indicates that the beach boys are mainly motivated by economic gain, but may also be influenced by the desire to have sex with white women.

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 tourists’ 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 “Paradise:Love” 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 “beach boy’s”.

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 men’s goals to raise themselves to the same status as white males; this provides an explanation for the beach boys’ 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 men’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; Sánchez 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 “Paradise:Love” which is used as an analytical tool to view the portrayal of the “beach boy’s” 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 “beach boy’s” 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 boys’ 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; Sánchez Taylor, 2000). Much more research needs to be done in this area however if beach boys’ 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.

SÁNCHEZ TAYLOR, J. (2000), Tourism and ‘embodied’ 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.

Paradise: Loveless
Author: James Calvert-Hollis
Purpose: The reason for choosing this paper to comment on comes from a shared interest after also watching the referenced movie 'Paradise: Love', a film that humoured and shocked - highly recommended viewing.

The author of this summary has clearly referenced and shown that the male side of sex work has and still does remains an under-researched area; which is surprising considering the very different motivations, social status and 'rewards'. Historically, male sex work has always been less of a public health concern than female sex work because of issues of sexism (e.g. men may receive less scrutiny for open and diverse sexual expression) (Burnes, 2015). It is very interesting to read that there are 'no simple cash transactions' taking place between the 'beach boy' and their 'host' - which complicates things further and makes for an interesting discussion point. Current research has made a move away from simplistic accounts of heterosexual sex workers servicing homosexual clients, to more sophisticated accounts of the male sex industry; in which both worker and client are acknowledged as having complex and varying sexual histories (Minichiello et al., 2013). The author acknowledges this, as he has described the various motivations that include the different perspectives on white female sexuality, as well as the gift and non-direct financial gains, while also acknowledging the complexity by highlighting that the workers often have relationships with local women and have children (Phillips, 2008).

Of course, if the primary motivation is economic, and it is largely accepted within the local culture - with men even being respected for it (Sanchez Taylor, 2000) - then it further adds to the complexity as it has become so 'normalised' that any research on the subject would likely be externally driven and any homogeneous research would likely ignore contributing factors. Additionally, research on sex workers have traditionally focussed on street sex workers, which are estimated to only represent 10% of the overall sex work market (Perkins, 1991; Weitzer, 2005; Smith & Grov, 2011).

As also argued by the author, economic gain was presented as the sole motivator in the film 'Paradise: Love' but the research he has presented shows that it is not the only motivator, as more complicated issues such as self-actualisation and role fulfilment (e.g. Phillips, 1999; Sanchez Taylor, 2000; Kibicho, 2009) play their part within this environment, further adding another layer of complexity; both to study and to possibly solve. Of course, race plays one of the most significant roles concerning the 'beach boys', as was shown in the summary; and this commentary obviously does not have enough of a word count to fully explore the stereotypes and race-relations that have formed, but it is important to note and consider carefully.

As was stated, more research needs to be done on male sex work and especially concerning 'beach boys' and discovering how and why this has become so integrated in to the community, as well as discovering whether this is permanent or temporary, and if so; how long will it continue for and what would influence it's demise?


Burnes, T. (2015) "Let's Talk About Sex [Workers]: Critical Contexts and Evolving the Discourse: Male Sex Work and Society by Victor Minichiello & John Scott (Eds) Book Review." In Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, Vol. 2 (1). pp. 106-107.

Minichiello, V. and Scott, J. and Callander, D. (2013) "New Pleasures and Old Dangers: Reinventing Male Sex Work." In Journal of Sex Researcdh, Vol. 50 (3-4). pp. 263-275.

Phillips, J. (2008) "Female sex tourism in Barbados: A postcolonial perspective." In Brown Journal of World Affairs, Vol 14 (2). pp. 1-12.

Perkins, R. (1991) "Working girls. Australian Studies in Law, Crime and Justice Series." Australian Institute of Criminology.Canberra, Australia.

Smith, M., & Grov, C. (2011) "In the company of men: Inside the lives of male prostitutes." Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.

Kibicho, W. (2003) "Tourism and the sex trade: Roles male sex workers play in Malindi, Kenya." In Tourism Review International, Vol 7 (3-4). pp. 129-141.

Weitzer, R. (2005) "New directions in research in prostitution." In Crime, Law, and Social Change, Vol. 43. pp. 211–235.