Have you ever heard of ‘Sex Tourism?’ If you have, you might know that Thailand is on the top list of such countries. But do you know why Thailand is famous for its sex-oriented tourist attraction?
Thailand is famous for sex tourism because it has abundant options that serve the needs of sex-curious tourists. From go-go bars, cabaret clubs, massage parlors, and spas to brothels and the notorious ping-pong shows, people go to Thailand for sex because its red-light districts have something for everyone.
Even if you’re not interested in partaking in such tourism, you might want to know what it’s like. What makes Thailand what it is? Read on to discover the world of lust and desire in this unique country.
Why Is Thailand Famous for Sex & Why Do People Go?
When it comes to sex tourism, Thailand has everything. No matter how rare or niche your sex taste is, this country can scratch that itch.
Some of the services or shows can only be found in Thailand too. Like the infamous Ping-pong show.
If you don’t know what it is, the following question might give you an idea. “Can you play ping-pong (table tennis) without the paddles, but with your… vagina?” And you can probably guess the answer. It’s called the ping-pong show, after all.
Even such a unique show exists in this country. So, you can definitely find “your thing” here.
Moreover, the Thai sex industry isn’t only about the variety but the quality too.
Every sex-related business in Thailand has fierce competition. If you want your place to survive, you step up your game. The prostitutes will do whatever they can to provide the best services, including masterful techniques, decorations, and substance use.
The last one might sound dangerous to both the customers and service providers. But it shows how far the sex worker is willing to go to “please” you.
However, with high quality comes high prices. You need to pay extra for the top service, or it’s “pay less, play less.”
And that’s only the surface of Thai sex tourism. If you dig deeper, you will discover a darker side to the business too. After all, the sex trade in any country tends to attract issues such as human trafficking, kidnapping, scams, etc.
Some people go to Thailand to make deals on these shady businesses. And they make a ton of cash. However, if you’re not in the know, you will never see it with your own eyes. You can only hear about it in the gossip or local news.
So, sex tourism in Thailand is not only about pleasure. It can be about money too. This country really has everything.
Who Goes to Thailand for Sex?
The answer is quite obvious. It’s mostly men.
And the age range is wide too. Some young male tourists come to Thailand to enjoy themselves and go. And there are the so-called “sex-pats.” You guessed it. It’s ex-pats who stay for the sex. Mostly, this group is middle-aged men. But of course, there are the younger ones as well.
Why Is It Popular Among Men?
But why men? If Thailand really has something for everyone, why not women too?
Well… It’s the nature of these businesses. If you think about it, it’s simpler than you might imagine. When anyone says “brothels,” is “male prostitute” the first thing popping up in your mind? Probably the opposite, right?
Of course, “female prostitutes” attract men more than women. No matter how diverse the services Thailand offers, these businesses will still primarily target men.
And besides, Thai female prostitutes have a reputation for their beauty, personality, and skills.
For foreigners, Thai women are more… exotic.
They uphold different kinds of beauty and values. As a result, they are automatically a mystery worth exploring. And there is a superior female population in Thailand too. So, it’s comparatively easier to find female prostitutes here.
But of course, this doesn’t mean there are no sex tourists of other genders. After all, Thailand has everything. Some women come to have fun with male prostitutes too. Thai Ladyboy prostitution and go-go bars are also a thing, so sexuality is not a problem.
Furthermore, there are “show businesses” that target audiences of all genders too. Like the mentioned ping-pong show. The drag queen and cabaret shows are also non-gender specific. You can enjoy these entertainments for their fashion and aesthetic.
However, no matter how you look at it, men are still the dominant sex tourists in Thailand. It’s just the way things are.
▸ Find out why ladyboys are common in Thailand here: 5 Cultural Reasons Why Thailand Has So Many Ladyboys
Is Sex Tourism Allowed in Thailand?
Is it allowed? Yes.
Is it legal? No.
Okay, this might sound confusing. So here’s an explanation.
All forms of prostitution and related actions are prohibited by Thai law. Running brothels and similar businesses is punishable. However, the enforcement of this law is weak. The authority would let these businesses operate as if they don’t see them.
But why is that the case?
Well… deception is key. Most brothels operate under different fronts to appear legal — like a hotel, motel, massage parlor, or spa. This allows them to hide in plain sight. As a result, the police can’t do anything about it. They are technically legal.
And besides, Thai people understand that prostitution is not only about right or wrong but also survival.
You see, most prostitutes didn’t choose to do what they do. Their circumstances forced them to.
Everyone needs to work and make money. But since most prostitutes come from poor backgrounds, they couldn’t afford a good education. So, they lack the crucial skills the workforce needs. That leaves prostitution as their only choice.
After all, a physical body is a minimum requirement for the job. And everyone has that.
The pay, of course, is also as minimal as the requirement. But it’s enough to keep these poor prostitutes away from starvation. So, if you look at it differently, prostitution keeps these sex workers alive.
If the authority decided to abolish prostitution entirely, these people would be left to die in poverty. Thailand’s social security is far from ideal. Hardly anyone survives without a proper job and money here.
But if the government really wanted to get rid of prostitution, it needed to improve the citizens’ quality of life first. But with the current political turmoil in the country, it’s hard to say that will happen soon.
As a result, Thai sex tourism is “illegal” but “technically allowed.”
▸ Learn more about Thailand's laws on prostitution here: Is Prostitution Legal in Thailand? (Thai Law & the Reality)
The Truth About Sex Tourism in Thailand
Unfortunately, sex tourism is not the most moral thing the world has seen. And like most immoralities, it involves a hideous dark side.
As mentioned, most prostitutes are forced to work as sex workers. And sometimes, the things forcing them are not just poverty and the economy but other people.
Some parents are willing to sell their children to brothel owners for money. Why? Because unwanted pregnancy is also a massive issue in Thailand.
Many new couples couldn’t afford to raise a child. So when their kids were born, they had to find a way to rebalance their expenses. But what would happen if they can’t accomplish that?
Yes. Instead of sending unwanted children to orphanages, they chose to sell to brothels. After all, the latter pays better.
It may sound like a tragedy from TV dramas, but it’s real in Thailand. And surprisingly, this is not the saddest part of the story.
Some human traffickers even kidnap pretty boys and girls and raise them into prostitutes.
In the early 2000s, news about mysterious van kidnapping children terrorized Thai parents. Few claimed that they later found their children as beggars on the street. But others weren’t as lucky.
Chances are these missing children became prostitutes somewhere underground. Some of them might even get exported to… who knows where.
These things happen daily in some dark alleys of Thailand, and the solution is still far from reach.
Moreover, this dark side doesn’t end with the prostitute themselves, but also the tourist.
Remember how fierce the competition in this business is? It’s so fiery that those who can’t compete, need to rely on trickery.
They would make a B-grade copy of their competitor’s services and offer it at half price. As a result, many tourists leave Thailand unsatisfied.
The prime example of this practice is the fake ping-pong show.
The real ping-pong show demonstrates more than just how to play ping-pong with your genitals. They also show “weight-lifting,” bottle opening, and much more.
The fake ping-pong show would give you less than half the experience. And some places even use tricks to perform.
Tips for ‘Sex Tourists’
The only tip you’ll ever need as a sex tourist in Thailand is “do your research.”
Even though Thailand has everyone’s niche, you might run into a scam. So, make sure you go to the right place at the right time to get the best experience.
One of the best ways to pinpoint where to go is to talk to the locals. They are the inside men, after all. Nobody knows better than them.
However, choose your conversation partner carefully. Or else you might run into yet another scam.
If your general destination is Pattaya, avoid asking Pattaya people directly. Why? Because they might have their own business. And they might try to convince you to go to their place.
Instead, talk to people who “have been” to Pattaya. They will give you more insight into what to do and avoid. They might share a first-hand experience with scams with you too.
Now. The problem is whether you can communicate with Thai people. If you somehow acquired Thai as a second language, that would be a cakewalk. But if you didn’t, that could be problematic.
Even though many Thais learn to speak English, only a few master it. Their English could be so broken you end up relying on their body language.
So, learning a few tourist phrases in Thai would be a solution.
What Is Thailand Trying to Do to Improve Its Image of Sex Tourism?
As of January 2023, not a lot.
Thailand remains in “denial” mode regarding prostitution and sex tourism. Officials often rebuff the current prostitution issue, as, after all, it is illegal in the eyes of the law. And being a Buddhist country, it is attested that it is impossible for such immorality to be occurring.
So, on a large scale, Thailand hasn’t done anything to improve the situation. And the Thai citizen doesn’t seem to mind it either. It’s business as usual.
On a small scale, however, voices from the younger generation suggest that “we should embrace sex tourism.”
The young Thai seem to think that prostitution should be legalized. Then, the country can fully profit from this business.
Thailand’s tourism has been declining for many years — especially after COVID-19. The country lost a bunch of tourists to its competitors like Korea, Japan, and even Myanmar. And it’s time to step up the game.
It might be a controversial move internationally. But everyone already knows that Thailand has “sex tourism.” So, better make something out of it.
Even though Thailand wouldn’t be the first country to embrace sex tourism, it will still be one of a few. And the young Thais believe that it will revive Thai tourism.
Of course, there hasn’t been any actual change. The young generation’s idea hasn’t been realized yet. And the progress is lackluster.
You can safely assume that nothing is going to change until 2025. Or even further than that. As of 2023, Thailand is too busy developing its domestic foundation to spare time for tourism of any kind.
▸ Learn more about Thailand's law on minors here: What Is the Age of Consent in Thailand? (Law on Minors)
So, Is Sex Tourism Good for Thailand?
Yes and no.
In its current state, Thailand still needs to handle prostitution more carefully. Even though the profit can be huge, the money doesn’t go to the country. It goes to shady figures behind the scene.
But still. Money is money. Generating cash can liquidate its economy and keep its people alive. And sex tourism still has the potential to bring wealth to Thailand. They just need to play the game right.
So, you have to wait and see what will happen. It’s too early to tell now.
Like always, if you want to learn more about Thailand, stay with ThaiGuider. You might discover something you never knew about this unique country.
▸ Learn more about prostitution in Thailand here: Thai Prostitution Culture: Why It’s Well-Known & Accepted
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