Let’s Talk About Sex: Female Sex Tourism in The Gambia

Gambia Sex Tourism

If you’ve reached my site because you are searching for sex tourism in the Gambia (and my site statistics tell me that a fair number of you are), I’m afraid you have come to the wrong place. However, please read on before you click-off. Sex tourism is a complex subject and the following represents my views, but I urge you to consider them in the hope that the lives of many, yourself included, can be improved by more thoughtful consideration of this issue.

The Gambia is a small slither of land than carves up the greater mass of land that is Senegal in West Africa and to look at the tourist brochures you’d think it held little more than the innocence of virgin beaches. Yet there is nothing virginal about this country, where sex tourism is sufficiently rife to give Thailand a run for its money.


A Different Game: Female Sex Tourism in The Gambia

Unlike Thailand, however, sex tourism in The Gambia isn’t raging with 50-something Western men paying to get their rocks off with seemingly barely pubescent Thai girls. In The Gambia it is middle-aged Western women that are throwing down rolls of Dalasi, the local currency, in exchange for a grapple with the firm bodies of the young Gambian men.

I have not led a sheltered life and my friends would place my behavior closer to sinner than saint. Consequently there is very little that tends to shock me, but the extreme levels of male prostitution in this country have done exactly that.

I did little research before coming to The Gambia other than to check it had an under 7-hour flight time from the UK and had sunshine in March. The images of eco-lodges promised lazy days idling in a dug-out canoe and temperatures capable of changing my skin from grey to pink appealed. Add to the fact that Africa is on my travel wish list and I booked without much further thought. Tickets were purchased and travel took place four days later. Had I planned a bit more I would have realized I was wandering into a country that has a dark side shady enough to blot out the sun.

For two days I grappled with some unfinished work, caught up on some missing sleep and lay horizontal on the beach for several hours turning only with the shift of the sun, but last night, with the company of my good female friend and travel partner, I ventured out.

The very use of the word Strip used to define the street with bars and restaurants was enough to inspire shudders as banished memories of trips to Spain riddled with Brits Abroad hit my mind. However, craving something more lively than the promise of bingo with the geriatric holiday-makers and a cup of Horlicks that awaited at our hotel, we hit the Senegambia Strip and were taken completely by surprise.

In hindsight, the hints had been there – we had already been warned to avoid the local ‘Bumsters’ that hang around the beach and outside hotels willing and able to offer any service you might imagine from tour guiding to fruit selling to picture taking. However, it wasn’t until we sauntered down the Senegambia Strip that it dawned on me that the offer from several Bumsters to experience ‘The Real Gambia’ might well have had illicit undertones.

It wasn’t the only warning sign – the night before we had giggled like adolescents at the sight of two fellow female hotel guests flanking a good looking local guy all but dragging him back to their room, his feet barely touched the ground in cartoon fashion as they marched. It was a sight so absurd and irregular we dismissed it as the quirky behavior of the curious looking Scandinavian girls. Sadly, such behaviour wasn’t uncommon.

Gambia sex tourismAs we sat in a restaurant last night feasting on good, local humus and awaiting the local reggae band our eyes peeled increasingly wide as one unlikely couple (or triple) after another took their seats. There were two consistencies – the youth and good looks of the local guys and the unattractiveness of the Western women who most likely fit the bill of social outcasts back home.

The first example we saw was an obese German girl who looked like she had escaped prison. She smoothed her hands with greed over the firm body of a black man that was so slight he must have weighed in at a small fraction of the kilograms of his date. Two tables over a pair of females perched on the wrong side of their 30s and looked set to share a buff man so slickly oiled I had to wonder if they would get any traction.

To our left a woman plied her young man with drinks and whispered hell-knows-what into his ear while a woman I assumed to be her mother sat across from the ‘love-birds’ staring into a middle distance that had to be preferable to the reality in front of her.

On the dance floor, a lanky guy with funky dreadlocks bounced to the beat while a mid-fifties woman shuffled from foot to foot in the way only an aunt at a family wedding can, no eye contact passing between them but the inevitability of a night (or an hour) together a deal already done. And that was not the worst of it.

My friend spotted it first – a women slowly entered the restaurant, her Zimmer frame squeaking across the concrete floor. Slowly, she took a seat opposite another example of tragedy – a young Gambian guy ready to spend a night trading Dalasi for his body.

As the night unfolded and the dancing increased, paranoia circled. We were two single white Western women of an age that could no longer be considered our twenties and we fit the profile of Sex Tourists perfectly…save for our complete unwillingness to participate in such a vile form of exploitation.

With paranoia ramping up, I pulled my cardigan closer across my body and stopped making eye contact with the men. An invitation to dance, an opportunity to meet new friends – usually innocent encounters, but not in The Gambia.

The Great Debate: Is It Wrong?

We spent our entire night engaged in debate about the issue. Few people would disagree that the situation in Thailand is unacceptable as young girls and women trade the sanctity of their bodies for the necessity of money. But is the situation different if the person selling their body is male? Is it really a problem? I’m sure many of the women involved in The Gambia’s sex tourism justify their actions on the basis that the men get to have sex and get paid for the fun of it, so is there really any harm? It’s certainly one theory.

Our conversation extended to the waiter, the taxi driver on the way home and a number of locals at our hotel and the answer was consistent amongst us – a resounding yes: it is a problem and there is harm. Any ‘relationship’ that is born out of need rather than want is exploitative regardless of whether it is a man or woman paying for sex. And of the many pairings I observed last night it is hard to conceive any scenario where the men involved would willingly select the abominations that were their highly unmatched pair.

Prostitution is a profession as old as time and the smallest part of me takes some controversial comfort in the idea that sexual equality has progressed to the point that women now have sufficient power to exchange cash for sex. Yet there is a much bigger problem that persists and one that makes me sick to my core – the enduring exploitation of people from ‘poor’ countries (The Gambia and Thailand to name just two) by those from richer nations (Europe, the USA and Australia amongst them).

I don’t suppose for a second that I have the power to end prostitution, but I can spend my Dalasi wisely, encouraging a different, more wholesome kind of tourism by using local tour guides, buying fruit from the beach sellers, eating in local restaurants and investing in handicrafts.

Tonight we have an invitation from two Gambian guys to a nightclub where a famous Jamaican DJ is playing. Would we like to go? Yes. Did we consider the preferential position of going under the company of two men and therefore warding off the advances of many? Yes. Did we decide it was much easier and far less risky to stay home alone with our own club beats? Yes.


There’s More to The Gambia Than Sex Tourism

The Gambia is a very beautiful country with many men and women earning a living outside of sex tourism. It isn’t my intention to put you off visiting, only to tell you what your tour operator usually won’t – that there is a darker side to life in The Gambia. However, with the assistance of a recommended driver or tour guide, it is perfectly possible to enjoy a sex tourism free stay in this beautiful swatch of Africa. I know, because I intend to do it!

Where to stay

I stayed in Kombo Beach Hotel and I’d have no hesitation recommending this place. Clean, well located, safe and with great staff and facilities, Kombo Beach Hotel is a great option and is within the top 10 hotels in the Kotu (tourist) area (according to Trip Advisor).

If that doesn’t take your fancy, you can find the full list of top 10 hotels on Trip Advisor. Senegambia Beach Hotel, Sheraton Gambia Hotel Resort & Spa and Coco Ocean Resort and Spa were all on my short list.

Planning your trip: I used the Lonely Planet Guide to the Gambia and Senegal. Although it’s not filled with pictures, it’s got all the details you need including the main sights and local maps.

Update: During the rest of my trip I did go sightseeing. You can read about my experiences here:

A Day Exploring the Sights of The Gambia

The Sights of Senegal: Fathala Wildlife Reserve

The Gambia’s “Roots”: When Good Intentions Lead to Bad Tourism

And if you’re looking for a really local experience, you can try a full-day Gambian Home Cooking Experience.

Want to read more travel articles for Africa? Click below.

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66 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Sex: Female Sex Tourism in The Gambia”

  1. Hi.I stayed at kombo beach with two friends while working in Ghana in the medical sector.We thought the country was beautiful,and the people wonderful..yes we did notice a large number of older white women with local men.Mind you all three of us were in bed with boys there.I dont think there are many women who would go there and not be tempted by beautiful strong black men.

  2. You are right about what you saw, I see it everytime I return to The Gambia but I have to say you may see me and judge me but you would be wrong. I am married to a Gambian and its a marriage of love on both sides. Its not based on him wanting a visa or money because I have none, every penny I have goes on flights and I stay at his home with him taking care of me. Yes I am older than him but that does not mean our love should be judged by others. We are happy and I don’t care if that love offends you.

    • Hi Lynda, thanks for taking the time to comment. Also thanks for your honesty. It’s privileged westerners taking sexual advantage of people in developing nations that bothers me. True love never offends me and I’m happy you’ve found it 🙂 Say hi to the Gambia for me.

  3. Hello there. My name is Alex and I am a third year Media student. I am doing my dissertation on female sex tourism and your article offered me a great insight. Is there any chance you would be willing to offer me an interview about what you have seen in this country, and maybe others about female sex tourism? I know we live in a very busy world, but your experiences would help me immensely. I left my e-mail here, hopefully you will find a bit of time in the near future. Have an amazing day!

  4. Hi, at first when i came across this blog i was really pissed off at the subject of this post but later came to realise that ok, not all tourists that visit The Gambia are bad and sex related. Before this, if one would have asked me my perceptions on tourism in The Gambia, i would have given you a negative reply. But thanks for this post!

    • Thanks, Patience. I had a great time in the Gambia despite this undercurrent of activity going on around me. With a good pair of blinkers, you can have a great experience in Gambia. I just hope the political situation calms down 🙁

    • I do wish people would do some quick and basic research before jumping to inflammatory conclusions. If you’d like to understand more about the surge in HIV cases, which has not been in any way linked to female sex tourism in Africa, please read this:

  5. There is a big difference between women or men being forced in to selling their bodies for sex and those who do it as a way to make a buck. If a person is to enter the sex trade on the own accord, why is there a problem?
    If a person is sold in to a life of sex slavery, that is different kettle of fish and should not be acceptable anywhere of by anyone.
    Writing about ugly western women looking for Gambian men is a bit of a cheap shot, it sounds as if you where a little jealous of them getting all the attention.
    It all comes down to freedom, we have the right to sell our bodies or rent someone else’s, and so long as both parties are in agreement and neither where forced in to the act, all is well.
    I am a 35 year old man, I’ve spent time in South East Asia and in Africa and I admit that I’ve paid for sex in both parts of the world. I feel that as long as each parties oblige in the act and a level of mutual courtesy is given, why should a third party have anything negative to say about the transaction.

    • “If a person is to enter the sex trade on the own accord, why is there a problem?” if you’d bothered to actually read the article you’d have stumbled across the word ‘exploitation’ more than once.

      “I admit that I’ve paid for sex in both parts of the world” – funnily enough, I guessed as much from your first sentence – you and all of the ‘where’s the harm’ guys who have commented on here all have that in common.

      “…sounds as if you where [sic] a little jealous of them getting all the attention” ha ha ha – yep, you got me!

      But on a serious note, as a self-confessed sex tourist, I’d implore you to take a few minutes away from trying to justify your actions and instead try to see this ‘business’ from another perspective. Is it really as harm-free as you’d like to think? Imagine if you had a Thai daughter, would your views change?

      Thanks for stopping by and giving this topic some thought.

      • Well articulated Jo. I am a Gambian backed with a BSc Degree in management, I will appreciate if we can do a combined research regarding to the issue.

        • Hi Jarjou, thanks for your comment – I’ve removed your email address so it isn’t public. If you’d like to email me personally with your question, please head over to my Contact page.

  6. ” Few people would disagree that the situation in Thialand is unacceptable……with girls trading the sanctity of their bodies..” This exemplifies the ignorance of people who usually have not spent any significant time in the country and who use demeaning language based upon their own westernised perspectives. Most Thai girls who work in bars and AGoGo, despite popular belief, have an abundance of opportunities for alternative types of work in a country where finding employees can be difficult. Furthermore, girls in their late teens and early twenties the world over go out, have fun dancing, and engage in sexual acts. In Thailand, the western taboos and negative associations associated with a transaction being involved are not exactly the same. I have lived in Thailand for some time and I see people, both the girls and the men, having fun. The girls are very friendly and usually are not nasty rude people, as Western girls can be. When I go to western nightclubs and see western girls being downright nasty to some guys, then being all over the most despicable examples of men imagine able, that makes me sick! Not what I see in AGoGo in Thailand, where many of the guys are a decent sort of individual, and the girls are pleasant, not ignorant and nasty. Like many men, I find girls in their late teens and early twenties attractive. If that is perverted, then I have been that pervert since the age of 13. I find the idea of a guy being paid to go with a woman of fifty more rational than not being paid for it. For those who have been in very long lasting relationships, that of course is different and I mean no disrespect to such people in the words I have used.

  7. Thanks for this really interesting article. I am working as a researcher in a sub-saharan African country. Am 30 years old who got involved with a much poorer 32 year old guy in a tourist area. We never slept together – despite him trying! I did however give him money for a ‘sick relative’ who almost certainly didn’t exist.

    Had no idea that I had almost unintentionally become a sex tourist until I came back and did my ‘research’ by reading academic and media articles like this one. Naturally I feel incredibly stupid, sore about being used as well as embarrassed, but also can’t shake a feeling of guilt that I was complicit in this system of exploitation.

    Know this sounds awfully arrogant but I’m not ugly, old, morbidly obese or desperate – we looked cute together! There are degrees of transactional sex and complex power dynamics in these relationships. Think it’s important not to over generalise when discussing these issues. However, absolutely agree that the situation is messed up.

    • Isabelle, thanks for stopping by and sharing your personal story. It is a very complex issue and I can see how these guys, who are skilled at deception, can trick an otherwise logical and sensible person into all sorts of things. I’m glad that you realised before you got too deep into things.

    • Having travel to Gambia and many other countries of the world it seems to me that you cannot avoid any form a sexual exploitation whether it be a woman to a man or a man to a woman a contract is broken on where there is an exchange of money both parties are aware and are consenting Adults however the moral aspects are of personal choice I was approached on several occasions are females young enough to be my daughter and declined forcibly not to mention I was flattered and interested but we all have our own conscience have the girls in question of been my age group would I have considered paying the answer would have been yes if the risks been acceptable they are only trying to make a living in an already corrupt system prostitution is one of the oldest forms of Commerce known to man while I do disagree with forced sexual exploitation I do not frowned upon it between two consenting Adults who am I to judge until I have walked a mile in another person’s shoes

  8. Hi, I’m a female and traveled in the past 3x to the Gambia.And the last time! In the beginning I didn’t know about male prostitution in that country. First time I just spent 7 days and did every day an exursion which was pleasant. I wanted to return as “the shower” wasn’t enough, I wanted “a bath” in the culture… Fortunately I met there a Ghanian lady and a group of Guinean musicians with whom I spent daily otherwise my vacation would have been spoiled by all those men hunting whites. As single lady it’s not recommended to walk alone because you are disturbed ALL THE TIME by male prostitutes. Let it be clear, I have nothing against prostitution – adults do with their body whatever they want as long as there’s no abuse-. Gambian males, do not understand “NO, not interested”, THEY insist… In the Gambia, don’t worry those males are not “exploited” by white women, I’d say it are rather the white women who are exploited by those heartless (married) men , convincing to marry them (moslims can have several wives) , to give presents (mobiles and brand clothes, other materialistic things) , money to the whole family (even to the wife & children, but most of those whites even don’t realize they are last choice as they don’t understand one of the local dialects) – several women are unfortunately so stupid? desperate? in love? and sell their house in their homeland to spend it there, building a house for her lover – a lot of those whites are left in debts, depression and misery… Also some Gambians are using those white women as a visa to a western country, once here, the marriage takes an end, and they disappear. Friendly people? In the Gambia, the word friendship has the meaning of money… And for those who have negative comments like “ugly, fat, old saggy women/men with a younger partner… why not? what’s the problem? If they cann’t get the attention they want, are rejected in their own country? The more, African men are master in lying, they believe their own lies, they are very persuading and for people who are in some of our eyes “old,ugly, fat wrinkled” thus unwanted, it’s like a song in heaven, they loose reality – they do not realize that a Gambian man will NEVER marry an “old” Gambian woman, they marry very young gambian girls (could sound like paedophilia) – the more an African man wants children.
    Oh yes the third time I went to Gambia, was to accompany a friend because she didn’t want to travel alone – although she had a Gambian lover (in the meanwhile married with him) . Not only single ladies go to the Gambia, also a lot of retired couples travel to it, it’s out of Europe, not a long flight, hot weather , cheap food and the SENEGAMBIA area, restaurants and bars. For me, NO MORE GAMBIA – I prefer the respectful, polite behaviour of Thai people and the beautiful nature f.ex. The Gambia, “The Costa Brava of Africa” …

    • [EDITED: Biran, I’m afraid I’ve not published your comment because it is abusive to another reader. I’m happy to tolerate healthy debate on here so if you’d like to come back and reword your comment, please do so.]

  9. I stumbled across this article after seeing a movie called, Paradise Love, which prompted me to google, “do women go to Africa to have sex?” I’m very fascinated by this subject now too. I agree that it is sex tourism, prostitution & the men are getting exploited. I have mixed feelings though because I feel sorry for the pathetic, lonely, generally unattractive women who want to feel desired. There is an emotional level to it. There is for some men engaging in prostituion as well that want companionship but it’s less common so it’s harder to feel the same compassion for men as a whole when majority of time it’s JUST a (non emotional) sex act they are after.

    • Tiffany, it’s definitely a thought provoking subject and I hand’t heard of that movie, so I’ll have to go and check it out.

      • actually,life is like this. everyone has his own way as times goes by .western women can enjoy the happiness in gambia

  10. I came here expecting the usual rationalization of female sex tourism…. and i am happy to see that i was wrong. Maybe you could like my comment in an article where they did just that, and i tried to analyze and explain my moral opinion on prostitution in general.

    “To be honest this is quite a theme among female sex tourists…. they are not going in africa, or the caribbean, for sex, no: its the search of love. Of feelings. Men back home dont appreciate them any longer, so they go there to be courted by some local men who still appreciate them. Whats wrong with that?
    As with normal prostitution, not much…. under certain condition. While i still think prostitution is overall damaging for your mental health, as an indipendent person you can choose to have sex for money. The problem comes with the variables….. how much of the prostitute’s (male or female) decision was due to a rational, free process, and how much was due to desperation and misery? There is an infinite ladder that connects the high-end cold-hearted escort who just want luxuries and select its clientele, to the bottom-of-the-rung whore which without prostitution would be starving, and hates its customers with all his/her heart. Judgement for the customer…. and pity/disdain for the prostitute, comes at that phase. Not all voluntary exchanges are moral: society would harshly judge someone who paid 2 homeless guys to beat each other up for his fun, while buying a ticket to a boxe match is perfectly fine. Taking an indipendent escort of around your age out for dinner and sex is ok….. being a much older, much uglier customer who has sex with a poor, young-enough-tobe-your-grandchildren is not. Etc etc. Being male or female has no relevance from an objective moral point of view, either a behaviour is wrong or it is not. But it really pisses me off how society and media try to paint the exact same behaviour, sex tourism, as different between male and female customers. Its not. You are paying for sex. And depending on how much your prostitute is “forced” (by circumstances) you can either be an adult minding its own business, or an horrible human being.”

    • P.Alessio, I’m glad to hear that my article didn’t say what you expected. I had this same conversation last night with a travel friend about justifying female sex tourism. You’re right – it is a complex subject with many variable and a spectrum of harm ranging from your high-end hookers to those who are engaging in prostitution for the purpose of eating and just about living. What bothers me most is people who do rationalise their actions just to suit their own sexual needs. Glad you found my article and thanks for adding to the debate.

  11. I have just returned from Gambia, blissfully unaware before I set out that this even existed. However, I think I must have been in the same Serokunda bar you describe, right down to the gyrating dancer and the oversized ladies. The group of us their tried in vain to rationalise the situation, but in our heads we came down to money as the driving force. We also spotted it was not just middle aged women, but middle aged men were also to be seen with young, slim and attractive women on their arm.

    I’m glad some-one is writing about this, and I’ve come across your post trying to find out what was going on, to make sense of it. Gambia is a great place to visit, and this can be put into the minority and inconsequential box it belongs. It’s easily avoided, and as long the parties are consenting adults, then they should be allowed to get on with it. However, that being said, I am not a single female traveler, and for those this could be intimidating if unexpected.

    • Matthew, your description of the bar takes me immediately back there (with a shudder) and I know what you meant – I spent the whole evening discussing the topic with my female friend and we reached the same conclusion. I saw a few men too, though it didn’t seem as prevalent when I was there. Yes, the topic does need discussing because until people start to think about the subject a bit more deeply beyond “I want and money can get me”, nothing will change.

  12. I have been traveling to The Gambia for some years and have to agree there is a high volume of sex tourism which is very visible. This seems to have increased over the years and there are lots of marriages between western women and men and Gambians. It is difficult to say if these relationships are genuine or based on need of financial help. I have witnesed Gambian men marrying western women when they are already married to Gambians. The level of poverty is some parts of the Gambia is terrible and people do what they have to do to get by, its life.

    • Sally, I saw a lot of the marriages too and actually a number of the couples seemed happy even though there was a notable disparity in things like age and…I’m going to say it…attractiveness. I absolutely know those factors are not indicative of a financial versus attraction based relationship but in a country where sex tourism is so prevalent, I can’t help but wonder about the initial basis either.

      I wasn’t aware of married Gambian men marrying other women. So sad, for all involved. But yes, sadly a fact of life in some countries that experience such poverty.

  13. Editor’s Note: If you have tried to submit a comment to this post but have found it has not been published, it is because your comment contains inappropriate content. While healthy debate on complex subjects is absolutely tolerated on this site, abusive, racist and offensive language is not. If you have a comment that has not passed moderation, please feel free to re-phrase your comment in a non-abusive or offensive tone.

  14. I did come across your site while seeking info on sex tourism in The Gambia – not because I was interested in participating myself but to learn. I just returned from a trip to Senegal and The Gambia – I’m a university prof and I took a group of students to study health systems in both nations. This search was prompted by experiences similar to yours – discovering (with chagrin) these “odd” couples and trying to make sense of it.

    I do wish to emphasize that as others have posted, both nations are incredibly beautiful and the people warm and gracious! I met people who I hope to collaborate with on research of mutual benefit, but also with whom I hope to have lifelong friendships with. Even the poorest villagers warmly welcomed us, and what these people can do with so little should be a lesson to those of us suffering from “affluenza.”

    I will go back to The Gambia . . . albeit with my husband the next time 🙂

    Thanks for your article. It was quite informative.

    • Thanks Lisako. I’m glad you came across my article and found it helpful. Yes, it’s quite the “interesting” topic and I’d be fascinated to hear about your findings and whether you see any impact from a health perspective. I’ve recently spent time in Cuba and sadly the issue is prevalent there too. Sigh. I feel like now I’ve opened my eyes to the subject of female sex tourism, I’m seeing it more and more. Glad you had a good and useful trip to the Gambia and Senegal and I couldn’t agree more – beautiful countries with very beautiful, warm and kind people. Hope you have a great return visit.

  15. It’s funny how these Thai expats continue to talk about this issue as if the only reason women oppose sex tourism is because foreign women are “stealing their men” when in reality, most of the men who prey on women in these foreign countries are REJECTS in their home countries so no one even wants them. Just like the gross women described above going to the Gambia. When the playing field is level, they can’t get a man. When the playing field is level, the men can’t get women (in the Thai situation).

    It’s also quite funny how all of these men are self-proclaimed ‘experts’ on the sex industry. They talk as if they’ve known every prostitute since birth and can personally attest that exploitation doesn’t occur. To suggest that the BUYERS of sexual services are the ones being exploited (which someone above did) is absurd. You cannot exploit someone without a vice or some way to limit their alternatives. The Thai women have no vice over the foreign men. The men SEEK the women there, just as these women are clearly seeking men in the Gambia. When sex is part of your travel plans, you are by no means being exploited when you make it happen.

    Jason is right that the women are involving themselves in sex tourism and exploitation in the Gambia just as men who do the same in other countries are and should be called out in the same way.

    The men in Southeast Asia will also have ‘girlfriends’ that they fund for non-sexual purposes and they may even get married, but that doesn’t mean the relationship isn’t exploitative or derived from\fueled by sex tourism, the sex industry, sexual slavery, etc. They’re all woven together.

    Many expats get quite defensive and try to reason and rationalize that all issues and criticisms are predominantly false and “blown out of proportion” because they partake in it and dont want to think seriously about their own actions/behavior/lifestyle.

    • Levi, I don’t think I could have said it better myself! Well articulated, great points and I completely agree!

    • Levi.. I am one of these men whom have posted here and I do object to your tone and dismissive attitude. I completely agree with your first paragraph. However, I, unlike many female tourists who travel to The Gambia, and men who travel to Thailand, do not use prostitutes, either male or female, pre~pubescent or otherwise. I have lived in Thailand for 8 years and I can attest to what actually happens here. Many male buyers of sexual services are actually victims or end up that way. Sorry If this goes against your feminist mantra but it is the truth. I guess you are too blind to want to see it…of course some exploitation takes place on both sides, such as in any industry, but it is very wrong to Inflict your preconceived western Morals on a completely different culture and value system.

  16. I am a male gigolo from Mumbai n I am into this profession for one year now
    I have clients from all over the world
    Women want to be treated as Goddesses and they don’t mind paying for someone who makes them feel special.

  17. Hi again. Thanks for the response, and possibly the person you spoke to who knew about money changing hands does genuinely know of such situations, but that has not been my experience. In fact I have several friends who are ex-pats there, one of whom is married to a very much younger Gambian she met on holiday there in just such a situation I spoke of in my previous post (yes we can agree she is a sex tourist if you like but she would heartily disagree, as many of these women will) and this is a subject we have often talked about. Its always been a topic of conversation how its not quite like prostitution since money does not change hands in the traditional sense.I’m just giving ou my experience of the situation, it may be that there is a contingent that do it for money, but in my visits I have never come across it. Its not all about visa though as you say – they often ask for a few hundred dalassi here or there to help their family, or buy malaria treatment etc etc but mostly the women are happy to help out because they view these men as their boyfriends. Its not prostitution in the form of x amount of money for x services. Anyway, this is just my opinion and experience, but its a subject I am interested in and have spoken to many visitors there about. You are right in that the analogy of the gold digging is slightly different in that their only other option is poverty, but to be honest with you, when you’re in poverty you will do anything to survive and this includes stealing, conning etc. I agree its exploitation, but frankly who is exploiting who?

    • Yes but men who find love overseas are readily labeled sex tourism, its just more of the ignorant arrogant attitude that is driving men away from western women. For example its claimed women in Thailand are exploited, but that also is not the case, they are rarely forced into the sex trade and when it happens its almost exclusively for local Thai consumption.

      But nowadays its open season on attacking, denigrating and insulting males. These women are sex tourists or men doing the same are not. Cannot have it both ways. Just because women cloak their desires in the term LOVE and claim men’s similar activities are just SEX, does not make it factual.

  18. I have spent a lot of time in the Gambia, in fact I have just returned from my second trip in 3 months, since I work with a charity out there supporting children in poverty. I can see what you say but you miss the point that the women don’t pay these guys. They do it for perks, food, drinks and the possibility of a visa, and this is why they call it romance tourism. No money changes hands in the traditional sense of prostitution. Compare it to a golddigging wife who marries someone she doesn’t love who she may even find sexually repulsive, for the chance of living a much better life. In this scenario, its the older husband we feel sorry for since he thinks he can buy his wife. I think this is an interesting debate, but you need to understand the dynamics of the situation properly.

    • Shelley, thanks for stopping by and contributing and sharing your insights. I was aware that that there was an indirect financial side to this industry and met a couple of western women who had married local guys under the kind of arrangement you talk about. I’ve heard the gold-digger analogy before and agree with it to some extent. Where I think the analogy departs is in the circumstances when the gold-digging woman is acting out of greed and desire for more (e.g. she has a moderate life – can live comfortably, afford sufficient food etc. but would like to upgrade to a Chanel and Champagne fuelled lifestyle) compared to, at the opposite end of the spectrum, sex workers whose only real alternative might be poverty. I spoke to several local people about the subject while I was in the Gambia and was led to believe money changed hands in many cases. After all, many of the women who go there (like the two women in my hotel) are seemingly there for a brief, holiday fling and not looking to forge the longer term kind of relationship that might ultimately lead to a visa. I’d be interested to know if you have any information on this way of things?

    • What rubbish, because its women you just cannot bear to call it prostitution, sex tourism or exploitation. Yet when men go to Thailand and do the same thing you spew venom at them (you as in females in general), rest assured it is all sex tourism and women are just as capable of doing bad things as nay man. Stop trying to justify women. Money does change hands, I bet you are one of these people who thinks Thai women from example are sold into or forced into the sex trade and that they have pimps who get the money. You have no idea and you are a hypocrite. Just cannot accept men can be victims of female sexuality too.

      • Jason,

        Its quite cear you have no idea what you are talking about so please shut up. Thailand is renowned for pre pubescent sex whether you like it or not. Its no coincidence that many peodophiles in UK travel to Thai for this very reason. Gambia has a lot of old women with young males which i witnessed myself and found quite shocking. They were not however under age – just a very large age gap. Its sounds like you are trying to justify yourself for being married to a Thai bride. I wonder what the age gap is between you?

  19. I lived in Basse and Serekunda, Gambia for many years. I have never heard of the problem like you discribed above. I think it is really disgusting that these middle age tourists exploiting the locals.

    • Abdul, I’m surprised (but actually pleased) that when you live in Serekunda you didn’t come across this problem because it is very common (I’ve no knowledge of the situation in Basse). When did you live there out of interest? I wonder if the problem has worsened in recent years. I should also add that it wasn’t just middle age tourists – there were younger tourists doing the same. So sad.

  20. If prostitution were legalized, controlled and taxed, worldwide, women would be WAY better off. There would be way less trafficking of women bringing them in to places where prostitution is illegal, so they can’t get enough local girls to do it.

    If a woman was trafficked, or beaten up, if it were legal, she could confidently go to the authorities, and they would help her: They wouldn’t make her feel bad, not investigate her problem, or arrest her.

    “Exploitation”: The main reason I am working for my employer is that I desperately need money. My employer provides it, and sometimes does not treat me very well because of my crazy travel schedule. But, I do it, because I need the money. Your “Exploitation” is my “Great Job”.

    I asked a girl who worked in a massage parlour, where they would offer sexual services for extra money, if she liked her job. She said that she did like it, overall. It wasn’t her first choice, but it was much better than most of the jobs she could get in her city. You could say she was exploited, but she chose the job. There were many other jobs she could have chosen, but she didn’t want to do them as much as she wanted the job in the massage parlour.

    We should legalize and regulate prostitution, drugs, and gambling worldwide…it would solve a LOT more problems than it would create, and it would save many governments, including mine, BILLIONS of dollars per year in enforcement costs.

    • Cliff, I find it telling that the only people advocating legalisation of prostitution in this thread are men. Further, I wonder what research you and other commenters have done into the reality surrounding legalised prostitution? It may seem an idealistic cure-all (to you) but (forgive my lawyer past creeping in) the evidence simply doesn’t support it. In fact, in countries that have embraced legalised prostitution, trafficking and child sex worker numbers have increased, not decreased. It does not protect women and in a survey across 5 countries, the women involved in the sex industry did not want decriminalisation, one woman stating, “Prostitution stripped me of my life, my health, everything”.

      Janice G Raymond, a professor and expert on the subject from the US puts the points better than I do. She says “The popular fiction that all will be well in the world of prostitution once the sex industry is legalized or decriminalized, is repudiated by evidence that the degradation and exploitation of women, as well as the harm, abuse, and violence to women still remain in state-sponsored prostitution.” Her full report can be found here and I’d highly recommend reading it if this is a subject your keen to debate on (and would ask that you read it fully before you reply, if you intend to reply):

      As an aside, I find it interesting that you make your case for legalisation purely in relation to female prostitutes when, actually, my post was about male prostitution.

      I don’t know about your personal work circumstances, but I would assume you are not subject to risk of violence or health issues at work. From your statement that your government pays “BILLIONS of dollars per year in enforcement costs”, I assume you are from North America and therefore your country has excellent workforce protection laws and a capitalist economy that would enable you to find an adequate, less exploitative alternative job. And, if your travels are the source of your “desperate need for income”, you’ll find plenty of tips on this site for reducing your travel costs.

  21. Hey Jo Fitzsimons., been in the hotel’s and senegambia area have proof you wrong about Gambia..such a beautiful country and beautiful people….i have live in the UK for 1 year and i was suprise, because any time i go to a bar or a club, there is always UK girls seeking for sex when they get drung and is not 1 or 2 times, but always and i will like to know how would you call that…drung prosecution, intress prosecution or one night stand prosecution??? sorry with my english cause im italian…

    • Hi Lucio, thanks for taking the time to comment – you’re English is actually very good! I completely agree that the Gambia is a beautiful country and the people are also amazing – it’s a country I would return to for that reason – but there is sadly a darker side where the country attracts sex tourists. I see this even on my own site where many people arrive at this post from having searched on Google how to get involved in the sex tourism in the Gambia (Google provides website owners with the terms people search for). I’m sorry your experience of UK bars if of girls getting drunk and looking for sex. I can assure you this is not standard…let me know what city you are in and maybe I can recommend some better places to go out and gain a better experience my country. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen – both girls and boys in the UK and around much of the world head to bars and clubs to have a good time and hopefully meet a partner…whether for the night or long-term. I personally wouldn’t call this mutual relationship prostitution and consider it different to paid sex. However, as has been debated in the comments above, this topic isn’t straight forward. Do seriously get in touch if you want any good bar and club recommendations. Hope you have a better experience with the UK nightlife!

  22. I studied in The Gambia for four months and I rarely stepped foot in Senegambia besides when I needed to go to a bar to blow off some steam. You are right that there is more to The Gambia than sex tourism. I would go further and say that there is more to The Gambia than tourism. Go outside of the tourist area and you will experience a culture that is so beautiful it will stay with you forever. The people are friendly (as long as you respect their culture and religion by not wearing booty shorts and you say hi when you pass by). Their way of life is so peaceful and amazing. You could meet your best friend in this country if you just give the people a chance. If you are reading this comment and plan on visiting The Gambia please do me a favor and learn a couple phrases in the local language and get to know a Gambian. If you are going there on vacation and really have no intention of getting to know the culture at all then I’m sorry for you because you are missing out on an amazing experience. I’m not suggesting a lot of effort. Just talk to a waiter or hotel worker about their life. They’d appreciate it.

    • Hi Becca, thanks for taking the time to comment. I agree there is a lot to see in the Gambia beyond the usual holiday spots. I spent a wonderful boat journey learning the basics in Mandinka and Wolof, taught by some local guys. The hardest part for me was figuring out which language to start with when I met someone new. I’d end up going with a mix of both, to the delight and amusement of the locals! Fortunately the Gambian people seemed so happy that someone was trying, they didn’t mind my inaccuracies! Nice tip on speaking to your waiter and hotel workers. I think the same applies the whole world over 🙂

  23. Toubab is the local term for white person – you probably had kids cry “toubab” at you, but if you don’t know the term, perhaps didn’t realise. Some say it’s from colonial days when kids would ask white people for 2 bob. So, for me toubab food is pizza, hamburger, hummus, curry…anything that avoids rice and fish!

    I once wrote a post about a large concrete chicken I saw in Vietnam (the height of a house). Calling the post “large cock” also led to some disappointed visitors!

    Drop by if you return to Senegal…

  24. Hey – I live in Senegal (Casamance – you should have ventured south to my side!) and often visit the Gambia. I go to Senegambia sometimes for “toubab” food and wifi. I agree with all you say and am amazed at some of the sites I see (substitute zimmer frame for hunch back…). I’m totally amazed at the number of european ladies I meet who believe their rasta is different. My wife is Senegalese (we met well away from from the tourist areas) and tells me it is always about the money/visa and never love (she talks to the guys and asks them). I suppose there is a debate about who’s exploiting who.

    • So, my first question is what is “toubab” food?! Feel like I missed out on something tasty! I definitely want to explore more of Africa including Senegal. I was inspired to visit by an English documentary maker I’d met who had spent a lot of time in your country and couldn’t say enough nice things about the people 🙂

      Yes, it’s a sad and distressing topic and definitely with an argument that the exploitation goes both ways. I get a lot of hits on my blog because of this topic but from people who seem (according to my site stats) to be looking for sex in the Gambia rather than trying to understand more about the subject. Those numbers are frightening.

  25. This is the comment you made that requires me to correct your bias.

    “Unlike Thailand, however, sex tourism in The Gambia isn’t raging with 50-something Western men paying to get their rocks off with barely pubescent Thai girls.”

  26. I think you need to be more honest, the vast majority of men going to places like Thailand for sex holidays are not paedophiles, nor are the bars staffed by under aged girls. It obviously happens here but it happens everywhere, but you make it seem like its epidemic, well its not. I have lived in Thailand (Pattaya) for 2 years with my Thai partner and have never seen child or under aged prostitutes. I am sure they exist, but you paint a very biased picture in your comments and I challenge you to come to Thailand and find these things you assert are the normal goings on. The woman choose this work to make money. Cases of forced or kidnapped sex workers or parents selling their children are exaggerated to say the least. What the world needs is a regulated sex industry to protect clients and workers alike.


    • Jason, thanks for taking the time to comment on what is an important topic. If you have fully read my post you will see no reference to the men visiting Thailand being pedophiles nor that the bars are staffed by underage girls. My blog recounts my observations during a recent visit to The Gambia, where sex tourism (in this case predominantly paid for by women) was the concern. Bar a fleeting reference, my post was not about sex tourism in Thailand. However, since you raise the point, I would like to respond by saying that I have visited Thailand, spending over a month in the country and during that time I did witnessed first-hand the sex tourism that exists there. I disagree with your statement that the women ‘choose’ the work for money. Of course, there may be individuals who may prefer to earn their Bhat in that way. However, for many women the reality is that the alternatives are so limited as to be non-existent and in those circumstance I ask whether there is really a choice at all? If the women (or men involved) have little or no realistic alternative then in my view the exchange of money for sex once again comes down to a matter of exploitation and in those instances sex tourism surely has to be a harmful practice. I can’t comment on your personal situation. Perhaps your own relationship with your Thai partner is born of equality and love and in which case I commend you. What seems to be lacking in many cases of sex tourism (male and female alike) is that the person paying often seems to lack the necessary honesty to see their actions as exploitative, effectively using the argument that everyone ‘wins’ to justify their actions and ultimately suit their own sexual desires. Do feel free to respond if you disagree. I accept this is a complex subject with many grey areas.

      • Unfortunately for you I live in Thailand and have a Thai partner, we both understand thai culture and am happy to point out how wrong you are. The exploitation side of it is actually that the sex workers are exploiting the men, sex for money is a perfectly legitimate industry, although non sex worker women see it as a threat to their ability to get a man, I understand that. Thai sex workers for example generally make ten times the average wage. They firstly get money for just being in the bar/gogo @10,000 baht a month, then they get a cut of the barfine payed so they can leave with a customer usually between 300-600 baht which they get 100-200 of that, then they negotiate their own price with the customer short time or longtime, generally 1000-3000 baht depending. I know of many girls in the trade who make 3000 baht up a day, when labourers or rice farmers are lucky to get the 300 baht a day that is supposed to be the minimum wage.

        My Thai partner is traditional, in our relationship the man is the leader and head of the family and get the most respect. Thai women see it as marriage is an elephant, the many is the front legs the woman the back, the man is meant to lead. So I doubt we would qualify for your idea of equality, but definitely we have the love. We understand that men and women are NOT equal, but are in fact complimentary opposites.

        Anytime you come to Pattaya we will happily take you around where you can meet the thousands of sex workers happily and willingly making their living from selling sex, not love, sex is a product like no other. Only women who want to control men and have power of them try to say love and sex must happen at the same time.

        Any person who enjoys the buying power of his money in a foreign country could equally be labelled as exploitive, so that means all the people that travel to poorer countries for a holiday, accomadation, sightseeing and food etc at cheaper prices than at home.

        Whilst some criminality exists in all business, including the completely acceptable sex industry, it is not the norm. Sure a 100% safe regulated sex industry would be ideal, but I feel for sure you are against any payed sex, especially as it gives men the opportunity to reject the concept of marrying some western feminist lady.

        Feel free to continue our dialogue, I hope to educate you or perhaps point out the mistakes in your position and opinion.

        • I agree with you Jeson, prostitution would be better if legalized, I have been living in Thailand for 20 years and I’m only 40, I’m sure most of the sex workers have a choice, big money and lack of education help to make the wrong choice, I’m sure that selling their bodies it is not like selling candy, it will leave a scare in the soul and many ladies in the business need to get drunk and high to have the illusion to be happy.
          About child sex it is not so common, but I can guarantee that I met few perverts in Thailand and if you open well your eyes maybe you will start to recognize them, they hide very well as they hide very well in western countries and more often are Thai citizens to abuse child.
          Latent prostitution exist in western countries, most of the women and men would sell their ass for a million dollars…it is just an order of magnitude.

          • It’s such a complicated subject. I can see the arguments for legalisation but still I’m not sure…particularly if it equates to legalised exploitation. And then, as you say, there are those cases of women and men who “sell there ass” for a million dollars – a very large sliding scale of greyness in the world.

          • I have no problem with any adult selling sex if they want, the girls in Thailand for example are not uneducated fools duped into the trade in most circumstances. They know what they are getting into, but its easy money.

      • Interesting… It could be said that Pattaya on the Coast of the Gulf of Thailand is the place where dirty old men goto die. however, prostitution in Thailand is a complex business, with most of it being Thai on Thai… so to speak…. The “50 something western men paying to get their rocks off” that you so eloquently mentioned in your article, although visible, are very much in the minority.

        • Mark, I wasn’t aware that there was more Thai on Thai prostitution than western men taking advantage of the local girls. If there an article somewhere with those stats that I can read?

          • Sorry, no article that I know of although I have lived here for some time and have a large number of Thai friends who who know about this…. But if course prostitution is illegal in Thailand and therefore never happens. I would take issue with the supposition that it is always old men “taking advantage of young innocent girls..” It really is nearly always seen as a mutually beneficial arrangement with both parties taking “advantage” of the other. Local wages for a 12 hour sweatshop shift would be 300 thb or about 10usd, whereas the security of a relationship with an older stable man who would often look after not only her but her children, (because in Thailand if you are not married then you are not liable for your out of wedlock children), as well as her family, pis often seen as very desirable. The man, possibly in some cases moderately socially inept, on the other hand gets the attention of a much younger female. Knowing this, who honestly do you feel is taking advantage of whom?

            • Mark, I’m afraid we don’t see eye to eye on this subject. I’m in Colombia at the moment where the sex tourism industry is booming and sadly there are a large number of young innocent girls – actual legally defined girls – being taken advantage of. The same happens in Thailand and it shouldn’t. Between adults I question the “consent” when the women (or guys in Africa/Caribbean) are selling sex in order to have a quality of life that we take for granted e.g. being able to eat, put a roof over their head and help their family. Sweat shops are bad too. But imagine if you had a life where your only choices for food and security were a) work in a sweat shop or b) sell your body to a person you don’t find attractive. In both cases the “boss” (sweatshop owner or person paying for sex) might be nice enough day to day but in both cases the “boss” is taking advantage of the persons lack of alternative options. In fact, the “sex tourism is a better option/offers a nice lifestyle” largely seems to be an argument presented by guys (and women) who engage in sex tourism who are keen to justify their actions.

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