‘Total Girlfriend Experience’: Examining Marketplace Mythologies on Sex Tourism Websites

The purpose of this study was to conduct a systematic content analysis of sex tour websites to understand how sex tours are marketed to potential clients. A total of 380 web pages from 21 sex tour websites were reviewed. The sex tour websites sought to promote privacy and hassle-free travel with a local ‘escort’ and the opportunity for ‘hooks-ups’ with no strings attached. Three themes emerged around the description of sex workers: (1) enjoyment and complete acceptance, (2) a ‘total girlfriend experience’ and (3) exoticisation of the ‘Third World’ woman. The majority of the sex tourism websites used marketplace mythologies concerning racism, sexism and imperialism to appeal to sex tourists’ desires for fantasy experiences, power and domination, and a renewed sense of identity. Legal and STI-related information was largely missing from the websites, and when it was included it was aimed at protecting sex tourists, not sex workers. It is of importance for researchers, social workers and others engaging with sex workers and sexscapes to recognise the power of language, cultural myths and framings and their ability to generate real-world social and health implications.
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