Why I Hate The Term “Sex Tourist”
Sex Tourist In Pattaya, Thailand

Why I Hate The Term “Sex Tourist”

I have had sex with at least one local person in every country I’ve visited. In fact, I try my best to have sex with one local in every city, unless I’m traveling somewhere repressive like Muslim North Africa.

Some people I know have criticized me for this behavior. My Shanghai roommate Kenneth, who has taken no vow of celibacy himself, went perhaps the furthest of anybody. “You’re a sex tourist,” he said, upon hearing I’d bedded a local man in Nha Trang, Vietnam.

Initially, I shrugged it off. I’m not a sex tourist, I thought. A sex tourist is someone who travels to a particular destination with the goal of having sex with local people as his first priority. It’s never more than a secondary priority for me!

As time passes, and my sexploration of the world around me continues, I realized that I don’t have a problem with Kenneth having characterized me as a sex tourist — I have a problem with the terms “sex tourism” and “gay sex tourism” themselves, and all they connote.

What Are Sex Tourism and Gay Sex Tourism?

As I mentioned earlier, the popular definition of sex tourism is that it involves traveling to a particular destination with the primary goal of having sex with local people. To say it another way, sex tourists travel for the primary (and, some argue, sole) purpose of having sex. Gay sex tourism is the same thing as sex tourism, just for gay men.

My problem with this notion is manifold. To start with, how many people don’t have sex (or, at least, don’t want to have sex) when they travel? In my experience, both abroad and at home, the loudest critics of casual sex are those who have difficulty finding it.

For other opponents of so-called “sex tourism,” the issue is not so much sex, but the fact that said sex is with local people. To them, sleeping with a local person is inherently predatory, and precludes prostitution and even pedophilia by default. But more on that later.

The concepts of sex tourism and gay sex tourism have become so accepted as a truth that certain destinations have are all but officially-designated sex tourism hotspots. Places like Pattaya, Thailand and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where liberal attitudes toward sex prevail, come to mind.

I take issue with the terms “sex tourism” and “gay sex tourism” not simply because they exist, but because they are used exclusively to shame people, both the so-called “sex tourists” and the local people they bed. Plus, the people pointing fingers have absolutely no idea what they’re missing!

Why I See Sex As An Essential Part of Travel

For me, having sex with local people when I travel is not an option. A freelance anthropologist of sorts, one of my greatest joys during travel comes from gaining an understanding of the subtle cultural nuances of each destination, from table manners to bedside manner.

As I describe in my article about casual sex in Brazil, I assumed the first Brazilian man I slept with was a prostitute because of how unbelievably adept he was at sex. As I slept with more and more Brazilians I realized that, for the most part, they were all “like that.”

In Israel, I found it curious that in spite of previous military service, Israeli men put up no guard when it came to physical encounters. The existential threat Israelis perceive, it seems, has created a carpe diem approach to life that also manifests itself in sexual relations.

I could go on and on and explain what I believe my sexual encounters with local people in different countries have revealed about their respective societies. I probably will someday soon, in the form of a secondary blog; keep an eye out.

The point I’m trying to make is that in addition to physical pleasure, learning first-hand how people make love in certain places — or in others don’t, instead simply fucking with wild abandon — gives you as much of an insight into their cultures as eating or taking tours.

Pedophilia, Prostitution and Consent

Of course some of the implications of “sex tourism,” the fallaciousness of the term notwithstanding, are decidedly negative. A small minority of travelers do step far outside the bounds of the law and morality.

Specifically, certain individuals believe that it is OK to have sex with minors in foreign countries, sometimes extremely young boys and girls. If you’ve traveled in Southeast Asia, you’ve no doubt seen the posters reminding people that this disgusting behavior is wrong.

Regardless of their sexual partner’s age, other individuals also make a habit of paying for sex. Although prostitution is legal in many parts of the world, I would argue that it is detrimental to both parties — but that’s a topic for another article.

Whether you only have sex with people in your hometown, or in every town you visit, it is essential that both (or, if you’re into group sex, all) parties consent. Children are not able to consent to sex; certain prostitutes, I would again argue, are also unable to do so.

Allow me to be clear: I am 100% in support of people traveling and having as much sex as they want, so long as their sexual partners are all consenting adults. If you have sex with people who don’t or can’t consent, however, I hope you go to prison and, if it exists, hell.

Are You A Sex Tourist?

I would imagine the majority of you reading this article fall into three categories. Some of you are probably curious. Others, I’m sure, are reading this article with judgment and disdain. A certain segment of you, however, know exactly what I’m talking about.

My appeal to you is simple: If you hide the fact that you seek out sex when you travel from other people you meet, stop. I’m not asking you to tell your mother or your co-workers, of course, but if you’re telling a detailed story about your travels, don’t leave out the best part!

Indeed, the only way to build tolerance and understanding is to build awareness — and if we want people to become tolerant and understanding of the fact that, for some of us, sex is an important part of travel, they need to know that we find it important.

To be sure, they also need to know that we’re only seeking consensual sex with adults and that, if we can avoid it anyway, we aren’t paying for it. Indeed, the flip-side of so-called “sex tourism” is that allows locals an insight into foreign behavior as well.

I doubt this article will do much to remove the terms ” sex tourism” and “gay sex tourism” from the lexicon. And I’m fine with that, so long as more and more of the people who use them begin to understand the underlying issues more fully.

About The Author

is the author of 669 posts on Leave Your Daily Hell. Robert founded Leave Your Daily Hell in 2010 so that other travelers would have an entertaining, reliable source of information, advice and inspiration at their fingertips. Want to travel more often? Subscribe to email updates today!


  informs, inspires, entertains and empowers travelers like you. My name is Robert and I'm happy you're here!


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  • http://waegook-tom.com Waegook Tom

    Great post, Rob. I think for most travellers, hooking up with locals is just part and parcel of life on the road (unless you’re in a non-open relationship). I went to Sydney during Gay&Lesbian Mardi Gras a couple of years ago, and got laid on 3 of the 5 nights I was there (the last two were lay-free due to painful, agonising sunburn.) It’s no big deal, as long as you’re safe and stay within the law.

    As the old slogan goes, make love, not war. Breaking down barriers, one bedroom at a time.

  • https://plus.google.com/116480057469316097585?rel=author Robert Schrader

    I love that last bit! Interesting about Sydney — I felt it pretty lacking in hot guys actually! I felt much more “at home” in Melbourne. Although I guess Mardi Gras is something else entirely…

  • http://www.babblebob.com bob

    Interesting post, Robert. I feel you could contribute to all of our knowledge with a specific ‘anthropological’ article/study on the people you’ve been with (given its broad generalities). Most people don’t want to “kiss and tell” but you seem uniquely able to break this knowledge-block most of us have about other races and nationalities and physical attributes…it might even be a whole new area for your writing (and photography)…which is always entertaining.

  • http://1dad1kid.com Talon

    Enjoyed your article and agree with a lot of what you had to say.

  • http://www.findingtheuniverse.com Laurence

    Sex is an important part of life, let alone travel. Some people like getting it more than others. For some reason the others end up looking down on the getting it crowd. Probably because they’re too busy not getting it.

    My basic philosophy for this is, If you’re not harming anyone, and everyone is having a good time, rock on (and rocks off!).

  • https://plus.google.com/116480057469316097585?rel=author Robert Schrader

    Exactly! I think the problem occurs when people meddle in the business or two (or more ;)) consenting adults!

  • https://plus.google.com/116480057469316097585?rel=author Robert Schrader

    How do you go about, um, taking care of your needs as a single dad on the road? That must be quite difficult!

  • https://plus.google.com/116480057469316097585?rel=author Robert Schrader

    Actually, Bob, I have a new site I’m going to be launching at some point that will deal exclusively with this topic. Stay tuned!

  • http://www.edgyjunetravels.com Laura

    What a brave and honest post. I do think the term “sex tourist” the best way to describe those people who travel to countries specifically for sex with prostitutes or minors. I don’t think “sex tourist” is an accurate description of a hot backpacker looking to hook up with a consenting local adult; that would be: “hot horny foreigner”. But pleasepleaseplease wear your raincoat.

  • https://plus.google.com/116480057469316097585?rel=author Robert Schrader

    Ha! Always do. 😉 But yeah, I felt the need to clear it up after having been mischaracterized one too many times.

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  • DBII

    I think you are missing the issue with “sex tourism”, or at least with your actions as a whole. The issue with “sex tourism” as your roommate described is the psychological effects such behaviors have on local populations. I am not sure if your realize, most “westerns” and I use the term loosely here do not, that your are “fetishizing” the other. In this case, you are “fetishixzng” foreign exotic men for your individual pleasures. There is a very significant power play with these sort of behaviors, as it leaves many local gay populations feeling that their height of self-worth is having sex with “western” white men, again the terms are being used loosely here. While you enjoy the luxury of traveling the world, and bedding as many foreign men as you please most of your partners will not. You do not have to travel far as I am sure you can clearly see the power plays in sexual relations between black and white men here in America. Before you right off the issue of race, I think you should really take the time to learn how societal barriers effect different groups of people. Sex has been and continues to be used as a control mechanism by dominant populations. The “fetishzing” of the other, has left a serious void in terms of gay experiences around the world. While, “western” men have traveled to Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East to fulfill their sexual desires the local gay populations have been left with little or no realizations of equal rights both culturally and as a matter of law. While, you are able to pick and enjoy a rather free life these men are still left with the daily struggles of there existence. Sex in this sense is not a means of cultural understanding, but rather a tool of cultural dominance.

    I ask while you have enjoyed bedding these men, have you made any attempts to understand the struggles the location populations face as a result of there identities? Furthermore, have you made any attempts to change the heteronormaitve environment in many of these countries? Again, I ask you to look at issue of gay culture here in America. While, black and latino men are lusted after as “mandingo men”, tools to satisfy the other, has there really been any conscious attempts by the “white” gay power elite to ensure equal representation of all gay minority groups? I think me and you both can agree, that there has not been. There has been little or no attempts to reach on the other side of aisle to ensure that the most vulnerable populations in the gay community receive adequate and equal access to resources. Gay elites have done very little to address the overarching issues that make being gay and a minority a much more daunting experience.

    In this sense, sex is not just sex nor is it a tool of cultural exchange. It is a tool of cultural exploitation that continues to plague the gay community here and abroad. There are a number of articles written by cultural anthropologist and sociologist on this issue. I will be gladly to forward them to you, if you would like to gain a little more cultural knowledge.

  • Frank Flores

    Mr Best, Thank you for your input. I’d love to get some articles about written by the ‘specialists’ mentioned. I don’t really understand the exploitation, when two people meet respectfully and have sex. On the other hand, I absolutely recognize the elitist position in which a white gay traveler bathes. And how much hope for a better life you give bedding a local. But this mechanism takes place at all levels, in any kind of meeting.

  • http://leaveyourdailyhell.com Robert Schrader

    Thanks for your perspective Frank!

  • Dan

    I completely disagree. Your argument puts the author as somehow superior because he is white. There is nothing in this blog that indicates the author behaves like this. He is out to to travel and learn as much as he can wherever he goes including having sex. You cant take American sociology and apply it to the reat of the world. I am a black man ftom the UK and find this article highly relevant and informative. Race has has little to do with it. While travelling it is perfectly normal to want to hook up with the locals it is curiosity. One could argue that it could be seen as racist or superior not to want to.

    Robert is presenting his experience and that experience could be just as useful to a guy from India or Brazil as it could to a white American (or any other American)

    I think Robert is very responsible in his actions and love his stories. Keep up the good work.

  • http://leaveyourdailyhell.com Robert Schrader

    Aw Dan, thank you so much for your support and for your thoughtful comment. It means a lot!

  • tin

    He doesn’t have to list the names, you can just google “sex tourism” and find loads of scholarly articles written about the subject, and DBII only touched on a few. I think the biggest problem DBII points out is the total ignorance the “sex tourists” have in regards to these issues, and their role as the dominant, yes dominant, party.

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  • Frank

    I do agree with DBII on that white male tourists have elite powers and much better chances of sleeping with locals everywhere around the world. Myself for instance, as a gay Asian, I traveled to Argentina in 2013 and Australia in 2014, with goals to score at least one hot local guy (besides sightseeing of course) but it wasn’t long before I realized most of my outgoing messages on grindr and the likes went unreciprocated and the few ones I got were either kinda creepy or endless chatters… All this energy and time wasted searching for a cute local for some fun was cutting into what I was there for… to experience local scene and culture! Mind you, I did enjoy gay clubs in buenos aires but didn’t get approached or much eye contact, so don’t say get off grindr meet guys offline, the fact that I’m not the type to jump all over a guy doesn’t help either I suppose. Truth is my experiences traveling over the past couple years have in a way helped me prioritize my travel goals, since I’m not getting a lot of dicks on the road esp. in Western countries, might as well do I’m really here to do, travel, if the stars align and some cute local guy appears ready and willing, well I’ll gladly take one, or more in moderation. Btw I really don’t agree with the idea of gaining knowledge of a culture thru sex with locals. Sex is sex imo.

  • http://leaveyourdailyhell.com Robert Schrader

    Thanks for providing your perspective, Frank! Happy travels!

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