chapter  6
19 Pages

Sex Tourism, Beach Ecology, and Compound Disaster

Entangled in manifold circuits of power, and often deeply distressing and desire-fraught, sex tourism evokes a ‘peculiar poignancy’ as the ‘relationship between rich tourists and the sex workers they meet [ . . . ] is one of the rare occasions when privilege confronts poverty face to face’ (Seabrook 2001: xiii). Both discursively and materially embedded in histories of colonial desire, which have fi ve hundred years of history in the Caribbean (Kempadoo 1999) and extend from moments of ‘discovery’ and ‘conquest’ in other postcolonial island states, the intersection of tourism and sex is a potent example of how indices of global economic power, literally embodied by wealthy tourists, can become intensely local in economically underprivileged regions. Part III of this study explores what might be gained by examining embodied experience and its related discourses in island contexts where different degrees of sexual exploitation are bound up in the daily workings of the tourist industry. In particular, it considers how the body’s portrayal as an extremely ‘labile and complex site of reciprocal exchange’ (Balme 2007: 2) provides an interface between cultural and environmental considerations, expressing some of tourism’s most abusive dimensions as people from very different backgrounds are brought into ‘direct, immediate and inescapable’ contact (Seabrook 2001: xiii).