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Sex Tourism in the Dominican Republic

This chapter explores how Dominican women and German men, who are unequal in power and wealth, imagine one another across national borders and then examines what unfolds once they actually become involved within the sex trade in Sosúa, a small town on the north coast of the Dominican Republic.
© Brennan, Denise. “Sex Tourism, Globalization, and Transnational Imagining.” Gender in Cross-Cultural Perspective. Ed. Brettell, Caroline B. and Carolyn F. Sargent. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education, Inc. 2013.
Please read the article below : Sex Tourism, Globalization, and Transnational Imaginings, written by Denise Brennan
This chapter explores how Dominican women and German men, who are unequal in power and wealth, imagine one another across national borders and then examines what unfolds once they actually become involved within the sex trade in Sosúa, a small town on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. Sosúa has become a popular vacation site for German male sex tourists. Poor Dominican women are drawn into Sosúa’s sex trade and new migration patterns are set in motion. Dominican women migrate from throughout the Dominican Republic to work in Sosúa’s sex trade where they hope to meet and to marry German men who will sponsor their migration to Germany. And, some German tourists and sex tourists fall in love with living in a Caribbean “paradise” and move to Sosúa permanently. With a large German population living in Sosúa and a constant flow of European tourists, Sosúa has become a transnational sexual meeting ground, a “sexscape” of sorts, for two groups of individuals between whom there is a vast disparity in power.

Sex Tourism – Fantasy v Fact

Fantasy clearly plays a large role in sex tourism. But the male sex tourists are not the only ones who travel to Sosúa to fulfill fantasies. Fantasy also plays a role in the experiences of Dominican women. Many women look to these relationships to provide not only much needed money but also possibly marriage, visas and greater gender equity in the household. They might also hope for romance and love, but their fantasies are generally about resources and an easier life, rather than romantic bliss.
Just as Dominican women look to German men to be better providers than Dominican men, German men, too, compare Dominican women to German women. They imagine Dominican women as more sexual, more compliant, and having fewer commodity needs and desires. In fact, as Dominican women hope (but do not expect) German men to break with traditional assumptions about gender roles, German men expect Dominican women to adhere to very traditional – and regressive – understanding of gender roles. And race plays a central role in how the white German sex tourists imagine Afro-Dominican sex workers.

A Colonial Fantasy

In examining desire in colonial Southeast Asia, Stoler looks at the myths of the sexualized other in colonial texts, commenting that “…colonialism was that quintessential project in which desire was always about sex” and that “sex was always about racial power, and that both were contingent upon a particular representation of nonwhite women’s bodies” (Stoler 1997: 43). In sex tourism, we are well familiar with first-world travelers/consumers seeking exoticized, racialized “native” bodies, in the developing world for cut-rate prices. These two components – race and its associated stereotypes and expectations and the economic disparities between the developed and developing worlds – characterize sex-tourist destinations throughout the world.

Dominican Sex Tourism – a Common Misconception

Through news articles and sex-tourism websites, there has been an ever-increasing association – both on the island and in Europe – between the sex trade and Dominican women. This association has worried Dominican women who never have been sex workers that the families and friends of their German boyfriends/spouses might wonder if they had been sex workers. And, since Dominican Republic, women’s participation in the overseas sex trade has received so much press coverage in the Dominican Republic, women‘s experiences living or working in Europe are suspect. “I know when I tell people I was really with a folk dance group in Europe, they don’t believe me,” a former dancer worried.
Often, in casual conversations with shop owners or friends (who were not sex workers), when Sosúans spoke of a woman working overseas as a domestic, waitress, or dancer, they inevitably would raise the possibility of sex work, or, explicitly rule it out, by vouching for the authenticity of a particular woman’s version of events abroad. One Dominican café owner cynically explains why everyone assumes that Dominican women working overseas must be in, or have been in, the sex trade: “Dominican women have become known throughout the world as prostitutes. They are one of our biggest exports.” Elena’s German “husband,” Jürgen, also comments on this association, “Everyone in Germany knows about the Dominican Republic, you know, like Thailand.”
© Brennan, Denise. “Sex Tourism, Globalization, and Transnational Imagining.” Gender in Cross-Cultural Perspective. Ed. Brettell, Caroline B. and Carolyn F. Sargent. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education, Inc. 2013.
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Global Intimacies: Sex, Power, Gender and Migration

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