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Who would you claim to be the victim: Thai brides or Western men?

Who would you claim to be the victim: Thai brides or Western men?
Author: Emily Carter
1 Commentries
We all have our own opinions on sex tourism right? Well think about who you would consider the victim!

Sex tourism is a much discussed topic within tourism research and the social sciences, both from the angle of prostitution and the behavioural attitudes of the tourists. How authors use the term sex tourism and the sex tourist could make an interesting topic in itself entirety. Are Club 18-30's holiday's sex tourism? Is a sex tourist one that travels simply to exchange money for the sexual act? Is it one that travels to a destination for other reasons and sex is just a part of the trip? All of which create arguments. Another is who is the victim in the transaction, the tourist or the 'prostitute'?

Most of us may have come across Thailand as a popular destination for sex tourists in search of their Thai bride or to get picked up in the go-go bars of Bangkok for a night of 'fun.' The economic development of Thailand emerged from the government's recognition of Bangkok's reputation as a 'sex-capital.' Since Thai women seek out economic support in gaining the affections of well-financed Western tourists and men seek out the attention and lifestyle in paradise consequently sex tourism is successful as a niche within the tourist industry in areas of Thailand (Ryan and Hall, 2001)

The topic of Thai brides is very close to home for myself, I've been a child on looking at the pretty girls in the bars trying to grab my younger brother and giving my Dad flirtatious attention. Continuous trips to this intriguing country are as a result of my grandfather marrying a Thai woman; he built a better life for her and her family of which we were and are still involved in. However this situation is not often the case for the majority of men that travel to Thailand, investigations into the experiences of Western men prove to be revealing concerning the question of who is the victim.

Tourist behaviour whilst on holiday most commonly tends to differ from their tendencies in behaviour whilst at home. There are the stories that commonly appear in the literature about Western men losing their inhibitions, finding love and losing their money. Acclaimed by authors Del Casino and Hanna (2003) 'Thailand is safe, not only because of the traces of a familiar West, but also because it is a space outside the everyday routine of tourists. Thus acts that might be deemed inappropriate are more manifest in this unique and socially distant place.' The foreign currency that is spent in the country by Western tourists contributes to a large proportion of the economies income, and it is these skill-full women that are at the hub of it all (Sims, 2011).

It cannot be taken lightly that sex work is not a glamorous trade, and there are risks that coincide with the prostitution of young women. Although those Western men that travel to the destination with the expectation to find love admiration and become compelled, besotted and often blinded by their charm and attention. Statements from Seabrook (2001) express the experiences of men that get caught into the commodity of Thai girlfriends 'You feel sorry for them, and you know they're poor. She took me up-country, Nakhon Ratchasima. Her house was the biggest in the village. She'd built it on the men who'd been through her; ...I think women have an instinct. They know what they can get away with and what they can't.'

Thai women looking for a better style of life for themselves and their family, have in recent years moved away from the rural villages and to the 'sex capitals.' Often it is their choice, a change in career paths, hopefully short term but they are still open to the risks that exist with sex work. Although it has been said that tourist's behaviours differ on holiday, we are still human and there are aspects of different cultures that we don't understand that create limitations. Commonly there are several differences that Western men struggle with; accepting that the Thai women that they fall for still have to work when they are not around, the multiple boyfriends can in some cases lead to violence. Also, when travelling there is often a language barrier, when married the Western man can demand and expect the Thai woman to learn English; hence communication in long term relationships is a limitation.

The argument of who is the victim in this transaction has been swayed towards to Western man, but classing them as a victim would mean that they have no knowledge of what they are getting themselves into when in fact, they've heard the stories too and still get sucked into the commodity of Thai brides.

After reading, do your thoughts on who is the victim still remain?

Key References

Del Casino, V. and S. Hanna (2003) 'Mapping identities, reading maps: the politics of representation in Bangkok's sex tourism industry' in their (Eds) Mapping Tourism University of Minnesota Press pp. 161

Seabrook, J. (2001) Travels in the skin trade: tourism and the sex industry. London, Pluto

Sims, M, J. (2011) Beyond the Stereotype of the 'Thai-Bride': visibility, invisibility and community [online] Available at: http://xa.yimg.com/kq/groups/23100008/1581460396/name/Sims-ThaiChpv4kcedits.docx [Accessed: 25 May 2012]
Thai Bride or Western Men?
Author: Sarah Clarke
This piece is a really interesting topic, and a defiantly raises awareness to the current situation and the question of who is the victim. My personal opinion at first was unfortunately the stereotypical approach of the Thai bride being the victim however reading this discussion paper I feel it has provided me with a new insight to the whom would be the victim the Thai bride or the Western men. The paper delivers a clear description of the history of the tourism sector and how it developed as well as explaining why and how it continues to this day. The discussion paper states sex tourism is an unfortunate part of the tourism cycle however in every trade or industry there are ways to market and attract the clientele and I feel this paper addresses these issue's in identifying that western men in particular are manipulated and targeted for a purpose. This industry of work is a distasteful sector that regrettably for some women is not optional but a case of surviving and living, however this paper delivers the evidence that this isn't in fact the case for Thai women but they portray this image in both the destination and themselves as a way of attracting sex tourists or even travellers that want a care free short term relationship. This sympathetic image creates the opportunity Thai women to exploit and take advantage of the western men and other wealthy clients that may pass through. Thailand is a popular tourism destination with many appealable factors and tourism incentives that create job opportunities, the paper could of outlined these other work prospects to support the theory that becoming a Thai bride is a choice and a not a sacrifice. The paper dose however underpin that the women have a knowledge of a better life or a more opportunities if married to a western man, and go in to sex tourism willingly hoping to get this chance. There is an example given from the writer herself and her family, where her grandfather married a Thai woman maybe more research could be carried out through the family visiting the country frequently to gain a sample of the Thai women living there and the westerners visiting and both there motivations and influences on the subject. This interesting subject justifies the need for this niche market but states the exploitation being made through the venerable grey market. In effect both Thai women and western men are part of a supply and demand process but paper outlines that the Thai women clearly have more insight and knowledge to the industry and go in to this line of work with a full understanding of there actions and use there availability as a marketing exploitation tactic to gain a higher standard of clientele. The paper is a really interesting and a current subject that could be researched in further details to get the outcomes of the motivations of both the Thai woman and the western men. After reading this paper my views have changed on sex tourism in Thailand and hopefully will raise awareness to others that read it and see that the initial victim that was the Thai bride is now in fact changing to the western man.