Sex Tourism / Romance Tourism.

Definition
Sex tourism and romance tourism are essentially the same thing – travel for the purpose of engaging in intimate interaction with others present at the destination.  The difference between the two is subtle.  Some would say that when men do it, it’s sex tourism because for many, perhaps even most, the primary goal is sexual.  When women do it, they prefer to call it romance tourism because the primary goal is to engage in a romantic relationship.  Even if that includes sex, the primary goal is not sex.  I think differentiating between the two is splitting hairs.

Exploitation
Is sex and/or romance tourism, exploitation?  Exploitation has several meanings.  In this context, it means taking advantage of a unique circumstance for gain.  Sex and/or romance tourism both might be considered sexual exploitation because the traveler is able to have interactions they would otherwise not be qualified to have where they live.  This “availability” is due to an imbalance in the personal circumstances of the parties involved.   

Without getting too philosophical, and depending on your perspective and ethical compass, exploiting for sex or romance may or may not be immoral.  Most everybody has sexually exploited someone in one way or another.  Sometimes it is based on physical appearance, age, position, or economic standing.  Sexual exploitation with regard to tourism in the Dominican Republic is no different.  Some of the local people will trade their edge in physical appearance or youth to improve their personal economics.  Some travelers will trade finance and economic advantages for interactions with beauty and youth.  Both could be said to be exploiting the other.   At least a quarter of the country lives in poverty and the Dominican Republic’s people are well known for their good looks and Latin charm.

Resort Romance.
The vast majority of first time visitors are drawn to the all-inclusive resorts on the beaches.  These resorts provide a safe and controlled environment.  Romantic interactions are generally limited to tourists visiting the resorts and the people that work at these resorts.  Those working at these resorts are mostly local Dominicans but also include some multilingual internationals.  What is common amongst the visitors is that they have enough money to be able to afford an exotic vacation to a far-away location.  What is common amongst the resort staff is that they tend to be young, attractive, and poor.  This is the very dynamic one would find at any resort, any place in the world.  The difference here is in the extremes.

Resort romance usually involves an older, educated, less physically fit and/or less attractive female getting involved with a male resort worker.  The male flirts, smiles a lot, makes jokes, and generally shows genuine interest in the tourist.  Male resort workers are encouraged to be “friendly” with the tourists but most resorts forbid “dating” or otherwise getting involved with tourists.  That doesn’t keep it from happening.  Hints and innuendo are dropped and if the tourist takes the bait, the romance begins.  Make no mistake, the men that work at these resorts are no fools.  The relationship often starts innocently enough.  It might be an offer to show the tourist around town, or to take them out at night to a local restaurant or nightclub.

The very existence of the sexual dynamic between the tourists and the resort staff are key characteristics that make the low paying resort job desirable. They know the score and they know how to work the situation until finally, they have a tourist that either repeatedly comes back to visit just so they can continue where they left off, a tourist that is “helping” them (sending them money), and usually both.  The resort staff aren’t necessarily looking for just cash.  Many are looking to improve the prospects of their future, although this invariably means economically.  This can come through direct contributions from their tourist lover or through the economic opportunities that come from a visa to a country with better economic prospects.  It is far less common for a female resort worker to last as an employee if she were to get involved with a tourist.  Regardless, is it ever really love?  Possible, but not likely.

 

Seeking Sex.
The more seasoned the tourist, the more likely the will venture outside the resort.  This is where many interactions between tourists and locals begin, especially in Boca Chica.  Hundreds of locals work and play in the resort town.  If a tourist meets a local in Boca Chica, it doesn’t really matter whether the local is hanging out or working at a job.  The dynamic is the same as at the resorts with fewer restrictions. 

The government of the Dominican Republic discourages exploitive sex and/or romance tourism.   If you are setting your eyes on local Dominicans under the age of 18, don’t do it.  It’s illegal.  The age of sexual consent in the Dominican Republic is 18.  You can be charged in the country from which your travel began, with a crime.  “It is a crime for a United States citizen or permanent resident to travel abroad for the purpose of having sex with a minor and it is a crime for a United States citizen or permanent resident to actually have sex with a minor while abroad” (ref:  http://www.justice.gov/criminal/ceos/trafficking_faqs.html).  It’s a good idea to ask to see a local’s “cedula”, their national identification card to verify they are at least 18 years of age.  If all they have is a piece of paper or an excuse, they are probably under age.

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