The consequences of sexual tourism for the rest of us

Sometimes when you live in another culture, it’s not always easy to find out the simplest things. I like to think that I have a fairly good relationship with my children. I let them know that I love them and will support them in any way that I can (except for continuing to work next year). I’ve encouraged them to be open with my wife and me about anything that is going on in their life. But, several of my children are teenagers now (one’s an adult living in the States) and one is about to be and knows more than he lets on at times.

How is this related to sexual tourism? Actually fairly simply. There seems to be a trend here in Indonesia lately for sexual tourists to come up with younger and younger partners – and conversely for the Indonesians looking for business to be younger and younger and to be willing to contract out with increasingly older customers. My teenage daughters are quite attractive (please allow some parental pride) and my young son is growing up to be a very handsome boy.

Now, several stories to illustrate my point as this has become a topic around the house and with some of my friends.

The other day my wife, daughters, and some family members were returning from a wedding. They stopped by at a small grocery store that is favored by tourists and local expats because the store stocks a few Western food items, most particularly imported cheese which is not easy to come by here in the north because Balinese don’t generally eat cheese. While they were in the store, a Western man walked in (as my wife said, he was old – something like you, thanks dear) with a very young Indonesian girl (my wife guessed around our eldest daughter’s age – 16). The young lady, wearing a spaghetti strap blouse, had a prominent tattoo on her shoulder – not something that most Indonesian girls would wear. One of the shop girls (they’re quite friendly there) asked the gentleman who his friend was – he replied somewhat hesitantly, my wife. To which, one of the Balinese ladies who was shopping commented to my wife, “His contract wife, young enough to be his daughter.” My children, or so goes the story relayed to me by my wife and brother-in-law, couldn’t stop staring at the girl.

My wife was relating this story to me at breakfast, when I mentioned that the kids wouldn’t go out shopping with me anymore unless Su (my wife) accompanies us, she laughed and said, “They’re afraid of being mistaken for café girls.” And Sam? “He’s afraid that someone will think that you’re a pedophile.”

Hmm…The kids have never mentioned this to me, I said rather perplexedly. “Oh, they don’t want to talk about sex around you. You know, they’re teenage girls, it’s not something they want to discuss with their father. We don’t do that in Indonesia. You should know that.

I guess that I should. I do now anyway.

As this discussion was going on, my mind (lots of things were racing around up there at the time) zapped back to several incidents last year when I was with the girls in Lombok, another island favored by tourists, and we were out in a mall shopping for clothes. I noticed that some people in the shop were staring, but as I live in a relatively remote island most of the year, I’m used to being stared at. I related this story to my wife, and she laughed again – she finds all this somewhat humorous – and said that the girls had been asked several times by shopkeepers who I was and when they said that I was their father, they received several disbelieving looks until they heard us discussing what we were purchasing on my handphone with my wife.

So what are the consequences of the new sexual tourism? My relationship – my public relationship anyway – with my children has become such that I can’t wander around the streets with them anymore because they don’t want to develop a reputation, and they’re embarrassed to explain who I am with me there. The world is getting more complex than I sometimes like to admit – even here on our little island of Bali, some of the ugliness that the Western tourists bring with them intrudes on paradise.

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~ by drbrucepk on January 8, 2008.

One Response to “The consequences of sexual tourism for the rest of us”

  1. Oh yuck! Having lived in S.E. Asia for only 5.6 years, I am well aware of the trade, see “evidence” of it in restaurants and such. I never thought of the consequences for you and your family. What a weird turn of events for you. You never know what life will throw at you.

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