Global tourism and the sex trade have made the world "a gigantic theme park", it has been said. That picture apparently applies to tourists of both genders. Female sex tourism (or "romance travel", as some call it) goes on everywhere from the Gambia to the Holyland, for primal reasons.
"I totally understand why more and more British single women like me are going on holiday looking for sex," corporate head-hunter Nicky Jardine told the UK's Daily Mail in a 2008 story about female sex tourism. "It's the easiest thing in the world to pick up a young, handsome guy who will tell you you are beautiful and make passionate love to you," said Jardine.
Some exotic gigolos will do much more than that, according to the author of a book that addresses the "revolution in mate selection", Jeannette Belliveau. "If you go on vacation, if the guy has all the time in the world to borrow a boat and show you the starfish in the lagoon, and talk to you afterwards and have a meal, and rub your back, he's a more attractive mate," Belliveau told Globalpost in April this year.
In the past [2006 Observer], Belliveau has slammed anyone who thinks that adventurous women should not date outside their race or economic group. According to Belliveau, critics who take that line are like members of the British far-right National Front party.
Her anger underlines just how much bad blood that female sex tourism generates. She was, she claims, smeared by a British tabloid that depicted her as a reactionary who saw exotic gigolos as "sexual conmen".
No wonder the female sex tourism scene is so secretive. Few except zealous opponents care to discuss the subject. For a suggestive peek behind the curtain, read our guide to destinations that lure female tourists in search of steamy flings with "tour guides".
1. Kuta Cowboys (Bali)
Bali hit the headlines in April this year when Singapore film maker Amit Virmani released a documentary on the bronzed Indonesian surfers who sell erotic services to Japanese women and other female tourists who throng the island on sex holidays. The young men's athleticism and appetite for serial romances have earned them the nickname "Kuta cowboys".
The documentary trailer features Kuta cowboy pick-up lines. One cuts to the chase and maps out a future in five steps. "Hi girls. I think I know you from last night. What are you doing tonight? If you don't have any plans you can come with me tonight. I love you," a cowboy tells the camera. In a response to the documentary that may well have harmed the island's image more than the cowboys could, the authorities rounded them up in "gigolo raids".
2. Sanky-panky (Jamaica)
Jamaican gigolos have two nicknames: Sanky-panky and "big bamboo". White women glom onto them and "rent" them because they see Jamaican men as outstandingly virile: equipped with basketball- star physiques. In turn, the Sanky-panky reportedly see their customers as "milk bottles" that need filling up.
"It's a social arrangement," one Sanky-panky hunter told Reuters in a 2007 report. "I buy him a nice shirt and we go out for dinner. For as long as he stays with me he doesn't pay for anything, and I get what I want a good time. How is that different from a man buying a young girl dinner?"
3. Marlboro men (Jordan)
The heart of the Holy Land might seem a strange place for women to hunt commercial sex, but desert resorts such as Petra are becoming a magnet for love-hungry Western women, according to Globalpost. The women apparently hook up with Bedouin men keen to sell their bodies or their magnetic personalities. The women succumb to the guides' charm rather than any rippling muscles on display, it seems.
4. Bumsters (Gambia)
Easily recognisable, bumsters sport brightly coloured vests, T-shirts or the Rasta colours of green, yellow and red. Stationed outside hotels and on the beaches, the gaudy studs get their share of takers. "The sight of middle-aged white women walking around hand-in-hand with Gambian men 20 to 30 years their junior is not uncommon," noted a 2006 BBC report.
Bumsters dream of being whisked away from Gambia's poverty, which is summed up the fact that one of the country's few exports is peanuts. Despite bumsters' needs, according to several sources, their exploits are "frowned upon".
5. Drummer boys (Senegal)
Senegal's gigolos actually have no nickname. But, according to a source quoted in a 2010 Globalpost report, female tourists target "rastas" who play the djembes (drums), because drummers are good in bed. Some observers brand the Senegal scene as male prostitution. Others see it as a harmless commercial take on dating.
The deal is a woman hits up with someone half her age and gives that new friend an all-expenses-paid ride in exchange for sex and a new lease of life. The Senegal gigolos apparently see themselves as tour guides who offer extras: a familiar pattern that puts the tour industry in a new light.
Are you for or against the "romance travel" industry?