I have been in Thailand for over 14 years although I have traveled around to scuba dive and meet women, professional women, many times during that period: Philippines, Madagascar, Vietnam, Cambodia. But lately I have taken a break from all that rigorous social research to fulfil other responsibilities. But last weekend I took a break from my routine to visit the resort town of Pattaya, Thailand. As it turns out Pattaya is also a highly regarded sex tourist destination. I have been there many times before. I will tell you about something I observed this trip.
There was a time for a few months where I worked for a Thai scuba dive shop as an intern – no money, but lots of free dives. The shop was located on Beach Road, a place famous for having many freelance ( usually street) sex workers. In previous research efforts I counted, with a clicker, more than 600 sex workers along that street. On another occasion, in an off season, the count dropped to about 400. I also learned that the number of sex workers in any part if that street went up or down depending on whether there was one o more STH (short term hotel) close to that location.
Although I worked every day helping the scuba customers, I was aware of a series of four rooms located 30 or 40 meters behind the scuba shop, But I never saw them in use. I worked days. But last weekend in the evening, about 9 pm, I was surprised to see an attendant renting those rooms. As I approached from the Second Road side I saw a woman and three guys walking toward me, but too far way to see details. They were all relaxed. The woman was laughing and seemed to be the leader. All four went into a room and closed the door. Please note that several sex workers have told me that one irritation they have to put up with is certain ethnic groups insist on negotiating a lower price for sex and possibly asking for sex for 2 or 3 men to get the same price. I wonder if that is what I was seeing?
As I walked further past that STH I saw a huge tattooed man holding hands and waking with a very attractive, small, youngish woman. As they went by, I turned around and followed at a distance. She was seriously cute (but not suspected to be younger than 18 years), I saw them pay the attendant and go into a room. Maybe I would have a better story to tell if I had hung around to see how long they were in their rooms and see if everyone seemed outwardly happy, or the opposite.
Freelancers, like these, are considered among the most endangered from violence by customers. I saw no evidence of that. But a major Thai university made the claim that 29% of this kind of freelancer experienced violence every week. This seemed so extreme that it caused me to copy as much as I could from that universities’ methodology section. They asked their questions to 128 freelance sex workers many in that same boardwalk along the beach. I interviewed 500 with help of two Thai women. Instead of 28.%, only .13% said that in the previous 7 days they experienced violence.
Half of them blamed police who harassed them the previous day. The shocking difference, in my opinion can be attributed to that claim is the of extreme claim that anti-sex organizations wish to see and will pay well because kind of claim will further their mission. Or who knows. But I don’t get money in donations or government grants so I can just tell the truth. All over the world the claims of violence against sex workers is exaggerated.
Freedom in Pattaya expressed my way I sat in the excellent Sportsman Bar and restaurant for breakfast last Saturday. It wasn’t crowded but this is a famous place among expats located a block from the Pattaya beach. In walked the most beautiful woman I have seen in quite a while. She was short like me. About 25 years old, was my guess. Slim and sexy in exactly the way I like. She was a dream in mid-breakfast. And after her in walked the man she was with. Maybe 50 years old and large. He wasn’t fat as some men this age are in Pattaya and are often considered to be fat, but he was large and bald too. But he was with a woman who was shockingly beautiful, in my opinion. They sat at a table in front of me and all I could see of her was the back of her head.
Of course, I wondered about their relationship. Was she his girlfriend? Maybe his stepdaughter by a Thai wife who chose to pass on breakfast and stayed in bed. Maybe he met her on the beach boardwalk at 10:00 the night before where many women are waiting to be found. Maybe they were a dedicated couple who have been enjoying great sex for over a month or a year. Who knows. Certainly not me. But that was my curiosity.
They barely talked. He, like so many people, was playing around with his smart phone. She mostly ate including a second helping of Thai food. I had a second cup of coffee while splitting my time between the back of her head while waiting for her to turn to the side for a better view and I also watched the news on BBC on a big screen TV behind the man’s head, my excuse to get away with staring at this pair. I had another cup of coffee and they got up to leave. The dream was broken. She was not the dream as my imagination had led me to believe. But she was still very nice. If he did meet her the night before down by the beach, I should take a walk there later myself.
Crazy as it might sound, this part of what I call the mystery and the thrill of Pattaya, and many other sex tourist destinations. Back home in America, or almost anywhere away from the sex work destinations, women look different. Maybe that is just my imagination or maybe it is real. It seems, true or not, that many women who have had a child and a husband change and no longer have the appeal that brought them to that stage. They gain weight and never lose it. Attitudes change too. Feminist influences are often attributed, these days, to a hardening of young women’s expectations.
Women can be lonely too. Maybe more than we realize. In Pattaya, and many other red-light areas around the world, there is a mystery that a woman whom you and I, speaking for men, find attractive or maybe, just maybe, are “available”. But I do not mean available in a tradition or religious sense, but mean that, yes, if she is here in Pattaya she may be someone I may discover to be available for me to spend a night with. Many older men suffer from loneliness. I am older now. Many men may have missed that kind of causal sexual relationship which seems common for young men these days. Pattaya is different,
With some shopping for the right partner, in a place like Pattaya and most sex tourism destinations, men can find sex as a missing component in their lives or has been missing from their lives all their life until now. Maybe for an hour, or for a night, or for a week men can dispel loneliness or emptiness in their lives because of the availability of recreational sex. If they give some money to a woman or she has other needs he can help with, that is a fair exchange. It is possible that, if the man and woman are both nice responsible people, this kind of equal exchange can lead to happiness for both parties to consensual recreational sex. But is is often better just to fall in love for an hour.
Of course, that is my conclusion after seeing a surprisingly attractive women with a much older foreign man in a bar/restaurant at 8 am last week in Pattaya.