Learning the Thai Sex Trade

Every year, hordes of Western and Asian men flock to ‘the
brothel of the world’ to take their pick of pliant young women with
the famous, demure ‘Thai smile.’

The women’s wages — pocket money to many clients — offer
income above and beyond what’s available in the impoverished
countryside. As a saying there goes, ‘The land a girl child ploughs
lies between her legs.’

But Thai prostitutes aren’t just economic engines for their
families back on the farms. As a Thai economist points out to
writer Alex Renton, there are ‘many people beyond the prostitutes
themselves who make a living on the back of Thailand’s sex
trade.’

They include the predictable folks like police eager for bribes
and the slimy ‘sexpatriates’ who’ve set up shop as purveyors of
women free from the influence of ‘feminazis.’ The government,
through taxes, gets a cut too.

Perhaps most unsettling though is the industry that’s sprung up
to study and combat prostitution and human trafficking. ‘The books
on why people have sex in Thailand line the bookshop shelves next
to those on how to have sex in Thailand,’ Renton writes.

Some 21 UN agencies and nongovernmental organizations concerned
with trafficking are based in Bangkok, which seems to play host
every few weeks to a new conference, seminar, or forum on the
issue. Human trafficking is considered a cash-cow cause, and
funders like to see figures. That means a lot of statistics have
been tossed around with little care or attention to reality —
adding to the fantasies generated by the Thai sex trade, Renton
writes.

Renton admits to taking a liberal view of prostitution. But as
someone who lives with his family in a Bangkok neighborhood dense
with Thai women and their groping Western patrons, he’s not blind
to its deleterious effects either. To assuage them, he argues,
takes honesty from the NGOs flush with millions for the cause, and
action from the government when it comes to combating poverty,
corrupt police, exploitation of the underage, and
trafficking.
Hannah Lobel

Go there >>

Learning the Thai Sex Trade

Related Links:

Related Links from the Utne
Archive:

Comments? Story tips?
Write a letter to the editor

Like this? Want more?Subscribe to Utne
magazine

UTNE
UTNE
In-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.