Thursday, February 09, 2006

Reverse Gender Sex Tourism

I met a German anthropologist yesterday, we walked to a waterfall outside of town together, and had a really interesting chat. She'd been living here in Dharamsala for the last 4 months, and so I got to pick her brain quite a bit.

Given that she was female, I was quite interested to find out how her experiences in India had been (see previous posts about how iffy things can be for women here). She confirmed this, and related a few first hand crowd-molestaton experiences.

However, things got very interesting once we started talking about Sex Tourism.

Many people are familiar with the sex tourism that goes on in places like Thailand. At this point, it's almost an obscene cliche - a balding fat 50 year old white man goes to Thailand for a couple weeks, rapidly finds himself a "girlfriend", who he is with for the next few weeks, and then goes home. Maybe he gives her some money, maybe not. It's not quite the same thing as prostitution, but he is picking up the tab for everything while he's with her, and at the end of their time together, will wthout a doubt be told a sob story about her sick family needing money for medicine etc....

After someone has been to Thailand, it's a refreshing sight to go somewhere where sex tourism doesn't happen - and so, for the most part, I thought India was that place.

The prostitution industry here, while quite large, seems to be focused solely on the needs of the domestic market (I'm sure there are a few sick bastards coming here to sleep with Indian children, but you don't see western men browsing the red light districts - it's mainly bus/truck/taxi drivers, and the like).

And so - foreign men and local women in India do not mix. India is just too conservative a place. Sure, you can go to bombay go out to a nightclub and find a rich young indian woman who might come home with you, but outside of a few metro centers, this just doesn't happen.

However, things are not the same when you flip the genders...

The first time I saw this was in Varkala, a beach town in Kerala (southern India). At a couple restaurants, you'd find very good looking waiters, who spoke very good english, flirted, joked, had long hair and wore the latest fashions. Sure, like the rest of the Indians working there, they got paid less than 100 rupees a day - but these guys had something different going on.... foreign women.

While food and room were included in their crappy salary packages, these beach-boys would rarely spend the night sleeping on the floor of a restaurant kitchen.... They would attach themselves to one foreign woman after another, bouncing from room to room, enjoying alcoholic drinks (and drugs) that they could never afford on their awful salaries, and racking up notches on their bedposts.

Fast forward a few months to where I am now.

Tibetians in general are much more western-fashion orientated than many indians. But yet again, you see handsome 20-something guys, with long hair, excellent english, and a western woman in arm. Some are 20-something israeli/european ladies, but more than a few are 40-50 year old western women... Think Stella Got her groove back, only with a bit of buddhism.

I spoke to the german anthropologist about this at some length. It seems that a number of her tibetian friends do this. Unemployment is rife here, and while some tibetians seem to be quite rich, many others fit the more typical "refugee" image (straight from the mountains, no money, no experience with western ways), and once they have a bit of english, they rapidly start to acquire western girlfriends. And, as she said, spend most of the season bouncing from one guest-house room to another. As they wave goodbye to one girlfriend at the bus-stand, they meet another on the next arriving bus.

I can't fault these guys. Sex is sex, afterall - something that most people are after. However, I'm having a tough time figuring out how I feel about this.

For sure, the state of affairs in Thailand is god awful. Women sleep with men that they would never ever date under normal circumstances, just to keep themselves fed and perhaps send a bit of money home...

The question is.... is the situation with tibetian beach-boys (or mountain-boys) any different?

Am I just jealous because I can't get more than a giggle and a smile out of the local women, or is there actually something wrong with western women (especially older, rich western women) coming over here for a bit of buddhist-flavored holiday romance. Is this a double standard?


dr Jee said...

excellent piece of your mind on life at varkala, i know a lil mo than this .. maybe its useful to ya ..

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