Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Different Kind of Tourism

Sometimes I'm embarrassed to be a westerner. When I visit places like Koh Phi Phi, Bali, Cabo San Lucas, etc. It seems a shame that the impression we leave of western culture is that we like to be loud, drink-till-we-puke, and buy tacky souvenirs. Could we leave a worse impression? I was reminded tonight that the answer is yes.

Erik and I arrived in Phnom Penh this afternoon, marking our return to urban Cambodia and the return to a heavier flow of tourism. A different kind of tourism. The kind marked by solo male 'tourists'.

The sex trade itself is something that I have never fully understood, but I realize that it is one of civilization's oldest professions and that scientists have recently shown that even monkeys will engage in forms of prostitution. But in civilized society, the service itself seems something that should not be exchanged for money, unless it is entirely voluntary. For this reason, I can get my head around Heidi Fleiss style prostitution, in which buyer and seller engage in trade on fair terms (i.e. neither party is compelled to trade as a consequence of some other factor). But situations in which buyer and seller are on completely unequal economic terms (for example, the seller's alternative is extreme poverty) and the service involves something of this nature, does not qualify as trade.

People come here to do something that they can't do at home. More specifically, to do something that they wouldn't admit to with their friends or family (isn't that the basic rule to know if what you are doing is right or wrong?). Sex tourists are filth. And this is the impression that the western world leaves in Phnom Penh? Really unfortunate.
Sent via BlackBerry from SingTel!


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