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Tourism that is based on gender and sex has become one of the hottest topics in social studies that have aroused interest in many researchers who wish to find out the relationship between the two and the reasons for its development.
Tourism has developed as a phenomenon since the 19th century when it was first organized by Thomas Cook from a tour to cure curiosity by the rich into an activity that is currently affordable by almost all classes due to the different packages that come with it.
Different places in the world attract different types of tourism from sightseeing to sports tourism and many other forms. Tourism has been further developed by globalization, which can be described as the integration and interaction of the people of the world on different platforms at the global level through government relations, business, and education among other activities aided by information technology.
Eroticism tourism has also emerged among many other forms of tourism attractions. It has found a place in such places like Amsterdam and other cities in the South American States. The Dominican Republic has come out as one of the best-known sex haven tourism spot in the world. The study therefore finds out the contribution and views of Dominican women towards sex tourism and the masculinity of tourism as a factor.
Effects of Globalization and Tourism
Gregory’s work reveals the impact of globalization on “the lives of real people, communities, and nation states” (2007, p. 245). Globalization has developed in recent times due to the information technology explosion that has seen the whole world interconnect seamlessly with so much ease. The development of the internet technology has led to an easy and faster communication processes, which has enabled the whole world to access and exchange information over the internet in real time.
Therefore, the internet can be credited with the fast growth of globalization due to its conveyor effect to information from one point to the other. Globalization has also been accentuated by the liberalization of almost all the economies of the world with capitalism taking the center stage as the most preferred form of the economy by world countries.
Capitalism leans heavily on independence of the mind, which can further be described as liberalism. It allows parties to engage their ideas on the economic scale liberally without being constrained by such issues like social ethics. According to Bear, Freedom is associated with specific forms of capitalist activities (n.d, p 4.).
Globalization and Neoliberalization have changed the living conditions of the poor by further marginalizing them and subjecting them into mere survival and existence.
Although globalization has made the world become seamless with easy movement and interaction of people in the world, it has made it more difficult for the lower class to go up the ladder because it only provides a thriving environment for the ‘have’ who in turn use their economic advantage to exploit the ‘have not’.
According to Gregory, in his book The Devil Behind the Mirror, he explains that an average Dominican family toils and survives on less than $2 per day yet Western tourists pay $200-$300 per night for an endless supply of food. Such inequalities are the epitomes of globalization, which thrives on capitalism.
Under such circumstances, men and women of society are forced to struggle to survive. This survival ends up being survival for the fittest. Women in this case are the most vulnerable. They are forced into commercial sex activities to earn a living for themselves and for their families. Acceptance of this practice is what has fuelled sex tourism in countries like the Dominican Republic.
Role of Dominican Women
Statistics indicate that an average of 60000-100000 Dominican women engages in prostitution, which is a great attraction to sex tourists. The Dominican Republic has been christened as the Thailand of the West in terms of sex tourism.
It is neither legal nor illegal to practice prostitution in this republic leaving it ‘open’ to individuals to decide for themselves. Dominican women have played a big role in promoting the sex tourism business of their country.
They are known to package and or advertise themselves as beautiful, sexy, and ready to fulfill sexual satisfaction of their clients. The biggest notion that has made the Dominican Republic thrive as a sex tourism destination is that its women are beautiful, sexy, and cheap. To add onto this issue, most Dominican women practice prostitution as an accepted social practice.
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In the Dominican Republic, it is easy to pick a woman off the streets and pay her for sex especially if one is a foreigner. Foreigners are known to pay much more for sex in relation to locals. The attraction that drives Dominican women to tourists is the generosity that tourists have when it comes to spending on them and the fees that they are ready to pay for the sex, which are premium rates.
The picture of desperate Dominican women struggling with poverty has been one of the greatest contributory factors to sex tourism in that poverty has led them into descending into prostitution. The availability of prostitution on demand and at every corner has given the country a name as a sex tourism destination and hence a great attraction to tourists who want to satisfy their pleasurable desires.
Dominican Republic is one of South America’s poor countries with very low literacy levels. It main stay economic activities like agriculture does not pay well with most of the agricultural industries that used to run the economy closing down or going under the privatization hammer. Poverty leads to women moving from their villages to the city to earn whatever living they can afford.
Due to lack of education and a limited number of employment opportunities, they end up in the bars and clubs of the city from where they become available for prostitution. Most of the women in Dominican Republic are single mothers and heads of their households. Therefore, they have to provide for their households.
These women earn much more working with tourists than when working in factories and hence the reason why so many of them can be found in tourist spots (Gregory 2007, p.34).
Although some of them are not in the sex industry, it is difficult to differentiate them because the hospitality industry encourages them to provide all the services the tourist might demand. Women always play subordinate roles to men. This nature of submissiveness has seen them become vulnerable members of the society in danger of exploitation by other men and women who run prostitution rings.
Masculinity of Tourists
Masculinity of tourists is one of the biggest catalysts for sex tourism in the Dominican Republic. Masculinity in this case can be described in two forms the first one being the masculine nature of the tourist or simply male desires of the tourists. The second one is the economic power that the tourists wield over the locals.
The Dominican Republic has been structured by a history of colonial legacies that led to unequal social strata after the colonialists had gone (Appadurai, 1990, p. 55). Combining this issue with unequal economic and political relations leaves the majority of the people of the Dominican Republic with little control over their social political affairs.
The old age social practices left behind by colonialists have left the women in the Dominican republic a vulnerable lot who have to live outside the accepted ethics for them to survive. This challenge has therefore left many of them with no option other than to turn to tourism. The location of the Dominican Republic close to the United States of America has made the country easily accessible to tourists chasing eroticism.
Most tourists coming in from the West are well off enough to afford the adventures offered by the Dominican tourism packages because they are cheap compared to other exotic destinations in the world. The ability of many budget tourists or backpackers to afford to come to the Dominican Republic has risen the profile of sex tourism because it come in as one of the cheapest forms of pleasure one can afford.
The tourism masculinity has adopted an oriental form of discourse that tends to follow into the footsteps of the main driving forces of the tourism destination (Said, n.d, p. 48). Tradition in the Dominican Republic has been sold to foreign corporate interests who come in to do business under the license of investors.
Foreigners who market businesses to their fellow nationals with promises of bottomless erotic pleasures to be offered own most of them (businesses) in the tourism circuit in the Dominican Republic. They go ahead to employ beautiful Dominican women as waitresses to serve the clientele that will be coming in.
The masculinities of tourists, which can be described as male tourists therefore feed on the availability of Dominican women who earn more by working with tourists than by working with companies. In this case, most tourists coming are male tourists specifically seeking eroticism. Imperial masculinity, as brought about by tourism thrives on gender, racial, national, and class differences.
It subjects women to subordination towards men. Most Dominican women working in the tourism industry are poor. They try to find prospects from the tourists as a source of a better life. Tourism offers some women hope of finding love and marriage to able foreigners who will take them out of their country and or poverty to new prospects of a good life. The economic power of male tourists is able to buy any activity from a woman.
How do women challenge this representation?
There have been concerted efforts by women scholars to dispel the picture of Dominican women as being a sex market for tourists. These efforts have been in the line of academia from where female researchers have tried to paint a different picture of the Dominican sex industry.
In doing this effort, they have tried to explain the set up of the situation by showing that it is beyond these women’s will to engage in the practice. They have blamed the matter on globalization and the liberalism associated with it.
To prove their point, they have come up with examples of how globalization has opened up other closed cultures like those of the Indian women into a form of eroticism liberalization. Women tend to be the main subjects in this case because they are portrayed as the weaker sex between them and men. Thus, when it comes to survival, women tend to struggle a lot to survive (A Biocathography, n.d, p. 197).
In her book, Reworking the National in Global Capitalism, Bear paints a picture of how women in Kolkota embrace any prospects that can better their lives. In her opinion, gender plays a big role in defining roles in society. More often, women are always disadvantaged when it comes to them competing with men.
Although such scholars have come out to the defense of women, the defense has been found to be largely hypothetical because it picks from the minority of the group as the representation of the whole group.
To most women on the ground, prostitution has been embraced as a source of income that has changed the cultural set up of the community to fit into the changes brought to the community by globalization.
As much as academicians try to paint a picture of an enforced practice because of poverty and other challenges, ethical morals of the community have been left open because prostitution in the Dominican Republic is neither legal nor illegal.
Sex tourism has cut a niche for itself as a form of tourism that is able to move the economy of a given country forward. In countries like Netherlands, it is an organized business that formally pays tax from its income. Thus, its illegitimacy is relative to ones ethical subscriptions. Women tend to be affected most in the case of sex tourism, as they are the most targeted for sex by men who make up the majority of sex buyers.
A Biocathography (n.d). Maids, Neoslavery and NGO’s. New York: Word Press.
Appadurai, A. (1990). Disjuncture in the Global Economy. London: Sage Publication.
Bear, L. (n.d). Rewriting the National in Global Capitalism: Freedom and Consumption in the Lives of International Call Centre Workers in Kolkata. Oxford: Oxford UP.
Gregory, S. (2007). The Devil Behind the Mirror: Globalization and Politics in the Dominican Republic. London: University of California Press.
Said, A. (n.d). Orientalism: Introduction. London: Sage.