I will begin this essay with introducing the development and background of sex tourism. Since 1950s, people in western society began to have higher income rate, more leisure and freedom, higher social mobility, higher education level, and more opportunities to travel; in 1960s, 'sexual revolution encouraged more sexual experimentation and sexual activity before marriage'; 'global growth in warmer sun holiday in Mediterranean or tropical climates'; the post-Fordist strategy in tourism with niche markets developed; and sex tourism is a segment in those niche markets (Frankin, 2003:254). 'Men (predominantly) travel from more developed countries to less developed countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean for sexâ€¦' (Frankin, 2003:256). The prosperity of sex tourism industry in these countries might because of the following reasons: 'Hawkesworth (1984) and Roger (1989) argue that prostitution is a direct result of the patriarchal structure of society' (cited in Hall, 1996:269); besides, governments in those societies may play a part in encouraging the sex tourism industry as well. For instance, in the past, 'Thai government placed great emphasis on sex tourism as a means to earn foreign exchange, to the extent that ministers often openly advocated tourism prostitution as a means of job creation' (Mingmongkol, 1981; Gay, 1985; Barang, 1988 cited in Hall, 1996:274). However, Oppermann (1999:251 cited in Frankin, 2003:256) claimed that 'while some countries may be more renowned for the availability of commercial sex, sex tourism exists everywhereâ€¦', so sex tourism is not limited in the above places.
These theories and model which described tourism as pilgrimage could be applied to the sex tourism. A person who went from the western society to places like Thailand, Philippines for prostitution is like he or she went from the first part to the second part of the 'ritual of transition' - from an ordinary condition to a fascinating, extraordinary condition. For instance, O'Connell Davidson talked about the reasons of the men from western countries went to Thailand for prostitution. O'Connell Davidson claimed that 'the cheapness of sexual services furnishes a single, working class British man with a level of economic power that he could never enjoy at home, or in any other European country' and all the male sex tourists that she interviewed thought of themselves 'live like kings' or 'playboys' in Thailand (O'Connell Davidson, 1995:45 cited in Frankin, 2003:258); The 'Macho Lads' and the 'Mr Averages' that Davidson described also commented Pattaya as a unreal place because they could live 'a Hollywood lifestyle for a few weeks with an unlimited number of willing, compliant and beautiful young women' (Frankin, 2003:259). O'Connell Davidson thought that many of these British male tourists are 'casualties of their own looks, their lack of sexual attractiveness to women at home in relation to norms of masculinity and their perceived problems with forming longer term attachments with women at home'; and 'the playful, tender and affectionate approach from Thai sex workers together with the men's relatively heightened economic power in Thailand give them "a greater sense of power over their own bodiesâ€¦' (Frankin, 2003:259). Another reason for these men go to Thailand for prostitution is because they are dissatisfied of the 'unelaborated nature of client-prostitute relations' in the west; they look for 'more warmth and attention, intimacy and understanding' (see for example, Kruhse-MountBurton, 1995:193 cited in Frankin, 2003:257). The prostitutes in Thailand can provide them these internal advantages that they longing for but couldn't find in their own countries. O'Connell Davidson (1995) and Kruhse-MountBurton (1995) called it an 'open-ended or non-contractual prostitution' (Cited in Frankin, 2003:257); this kind of prostitution approaches a 'relationship more closely resembles boyfriend-girlfriend amiability, attentiveness, love and romance' (Frankin, 2003:257). The theory of tourism rituals can be applied to this case because it demonstrated that this group of men was not able to find the things above such as sense of in control, power, love, attention, intimacy, supremacy, etc when they were in the normal place that they came from. However, when they entered this 'sacred' place Thailand they can enjoy all these things and achieve such quality of life that they longing for in their original ordinary society.
There is another example: Pruitt and LaFont (1995) claimed that some middle class western women went to Caribbean for prostitution was because they 'enjoy the control they have in these relationships and express a preference for keeping a man dependent on them' (Pruitt & LaFont, 1995:427; cited in Opperman, 1999:260 cited in Frankin, 2003:261). Once again, these kind of 'romance' and 'in control' relationship could just be found in the 'sacred' place Caribbean but not the original ordinary places that these women came from.
The sex tourism in places like Thailand, Caribbean, etc provide the western sex tourists a chance to escape from the 'secular' world where 'world sexual taboos are often stringent, freedom of sexual access is often obstructed and difficult and the attainment of sexual pleasure is often blocked by social, economic or physical intervention' (Frankin, 2003:260); but help them to enter a new realm which free them from ordinary boring life and provide them new and better identities. When these western people return back from Thailand to their own countries, it is like that they move from the second part to the third part of the 'rituals of transition' theory, returning from the 'sacred' place to the 'profane' places, which they will lose all the things that they enjoyed in the wonderful place such as great sense of in control, power, love, attention, supremacy, etc but once again become ordinary people.
In addition, Erving Goffman's 'front-back dichotomy' suggests that 'tourists try to enter back regions of the places they visit because these regions are associated with intimacy of relations and authenticity of experiences' (Maccannell, 1973:589). MacCannell stated that 'the modern world to be inauthentic and troubling and tourism was the somewhat pathetic and pointless search for the authentic and an antidote of some short-lived kind' (Frankin, 2003:29).
Goffman's theory about tourism as searching for authenticity could be applied to the sex tourism. Cynthia Pope in her study about female sex work in Havana wrote that 'the image of exoticness is created, diffused, and reified through tourist pamphlets, guide books, word of mouth,â€¦the Internet' (Pritchard and Morgan 117 cited in Pope, 2005: 102) about the Cuban women; 'several web sites indicate that women of color are "naturally" sexy and thus possess the essence of femininity' (Pope, 2005:102). Besides, the western media like the film, music, fashion industries still have kept 'the old-school racist emphasis on blackness as physicality, but repackage and commoditize this "animalism", so that black men and women become the ultimate icons of sporting prowess, "untamed" rebelliousness, "raw" musical talent, exotic beauty, sexual power and so on' (Hooks, 1992 cited in Taylor, 2006:52).
Due to the influences of the western media, many westerners who look for prostitution will travel to these places like Cuba and Caribbean to search for these prostitutes who are in their mind more real and closer to the nature. For example, some western men travelled to Cuba for prostitution is because 'these women are often represented in publicity as more "natural" than women in industrialized nations' (Pope, 2005:103) and they believed so. Many of these western men 'view these women as a welcome break from the "frigid" women of North America and Western Europe' (O'Connell Davidson and Sánchez Taylor 43-47; Pettman 97; Pritchard and Morgan 125 cited in Pope, 2005:103). These western men found that the Cuban prostitutes are more real and natural than the prostitutes in the western societies and this built up their interests travelling to Cuba for prostitution.
In Jacqueline Sanchez Taylor's study about female sex tourists travel to Caribbean, the reason that these female sex tourists travelled to Caribbean for prostitution was because they wanted to search for '"real men", rather than a "New Man", and black men are perceived as being hyper-masculine'; while the 'homophobic sex laws and attitudes in Jamaica and homophobia in the Dominican Republic bolster this fantasy of black men as "real" men', these Caribbean men are 'supposedly closer to nature,
more intuitive, irrational and emotional than white men' in these western female sex tourists' eyes(Taylor, 2006:49).
However, in the theory of Erving Goffman's front-back dichotomy, 'it is also found that tourist settings are arranged to produce the impression that a back region has been entered even when this is not the case; in tourist settings, between the front and the back there is a series of special spaces designed to accommodate tourists and to support their beliefs in the authenticity of their experiences' (Maccannell, 1973:589); as Maccannel stated that 'it is very difficult to tell for sure if the experience is authentic in fact; it is always possible that what is taken to be entry into a back region is really entry into a front region that has been totally set up in advance for touristic visitation' (Maccannel, 1973:597).
For instance, in Taylor's study, some local men in the Caribbean who had sexual economic trades with the western female tourists were actually acting according to the 'stereotype of the black stud' in order to gain the material benefits from the tourists (Taylor, 2006:54). These men might not really have the characteristics that the western female sex tourists thought of but just pretended or acted that they had.
Also, some of the female sex tourists might think that they had already entered the 'back stage' in Caribbean and their relationships with the local men were true. However, this is most likely wrong because local men who involve in sexual relationships with those female sex tourists are same as 'workers in the formal tourism economy are engaged in an economic (and so an instrumental) relationship with the tourists they befriend, and not pursuing intimacy for personal reasons'; as MacCannell described 'the relations of power that exist on the front stage are also "woven into the fabric" of the back regions' (MacCannell,1976: 91 cited in Taylor, 2006:55). The above examples demonstrated how Goffman's theory of front-back dichotomy fit in with the sex tourism.
To conclude, this essay revealed how the theories about pilgrimage and searching for the authentic can be applied and used to understand sex tourism. Moreover, through viewing the studies about sex tourism some changes among the tourism itself could be seen. For instance, some studies about sex tourism revealed that 'even though the visual tourist gaze is still a major feature of tourism, there is a trend towards more active, muscular and sensual objectives' (Frankin, 2003:263).