why is there so much prostitution in thailand

Why Is There So Much Prostitution in Thailand? (And Where)

When someone says “Thailand,” “prostitution” might pop up in your head. Even though this topic is awkward to discuss, you still couldn’t help overhearing its relationship with Thailand in the gossip. But why is there so much prostitution in Thailand?

Thailand is known for prostitution due to its famous sex tourism industry and cultural history. Sex tourism is big business, and the financial incentives lure sex workers into the industry. There is a high demand from tourists frequenting the red-light districts and Thai men seeking their first sexual experience.

But what is the quality of Thai prostitutes that distinguishes them from the rest of the world? Read on to dive deep into the depth of Thai prostitution and the reason for its (in)famous reputation.

Why is prostitution so common and accepted in Thailand?

Without sugarcoating it, prostitution prospers in Thailand because it makes money.

The basics of business

Look at it through the “business lens.” Abandon all your morality. You will see that prostitution has a high potential to make a profit for both the prostitutes and the business owners.

There will always be a demand for prostitutes. Human nature dictates that everyone needs sex. So, it’s only natural that people will find a way to satisfy this need. And with such a demand, many “choose” to make money out of it. Become a prostitute or run a related business.

The prostitutes will earn income from “selling their bodies.” If their service is “extraordinary,” they might even get tips of four digits (in Thai baht, which is still high). And the brothel will also give them a salary, shooting their income even higher.

On the business owners’ side, they can earn cash from wealthy customers who love to pay extra for superb services. And the industry boasts a high amount of cash flow too.

So basically, if you put the question of morals aside, prostitution is just another business. You build up supply according to the demand and sell them to make a profit.

The dark side of the business

Of course, there is the dark side of the business to think about. Some prostitutes were sold by their families to brothels. Some were forced to do it because of financial problems. And some were blatantly kidnapped when they were young.

This dark side is largely thanks to the country’s poor economic management. If wealth flourished, probably no one would choose to be a prostitute. But since poverty plagues the country, many have no other choices.

And with a high number of prostitutes comes fierce competition. Each prostitute has to upgrade their “service” to survive in the industry. 

As a result, many Thai prostitutes know how to “please” their customers. Some incorporate massaging techniques into their session. Others might even use drugs and substances to spice things up.

To this day, poverty is still a massive problem in Thailand. And that’s why you see many men, women, and LGBTQs forced to work as prostitutes.

The cultural history of Thai prostitution

In Thailand, like most other counties, prostitution has never been seen as a “good” profession.

The outlook

This “rough trade” has been considered a disgrace since the day of the Ayutthaya kingdom. People disdained anyone using their bodies as a means to make a living. You might have thought that prostitutes in Thailand had a high social standing like Geisha in Japan. But unfortunately, that was not the case.

This is due to the strong influence of Buddhism. Buddhists considered sex with multiple partners as a sin. So, it was no surprise that prostitutes, who needed to sleep with many, were looked down upon since the old days.

However, this prejudice didn’t stop this trade from flourishing in the country. Why? Because of the economy, of course.

The mechanics

Mostly, prostitution was more of a way to put food on the table rather than a proper job. In feudal Thailand, wealth usually belonged to nobles, the court, and land owners. So, what could the peasants do? 

Yes, they could farm or trade all day, but that wouldn’t be enough. So, prostitution was the answer.

Back then, prostitution was limited to women. Male prostitutes were something unheard of since most men were needed as soldiers. They already received good pay. So, nobody wanted to be associated with prostitution (except when they needed the service).

But as time passed, many saw the opportunity in prostitution as a business. So, “proper” brothels were set up. They sought out poor pretty ladies, forced them into this rough trade, and enjoyed the profit themselves.

Throughout history, Thai people’s attitude towards prostitution hasn’t changed at all. Not until recently when locals see the domino effect of a bad economy. So, prostitutes are mostly seen as the victim of the system rather than the disgrace they used to be.

Is prostitution legal in Thailand?

In short, no.

Thai law forbids any actions associated with prostitution, including purchasing, trading, services, or owning the business chain.

Of course, the law doesn’t stop prostitution from blooming in the country. That’s because the law is not aggressively enforced for various reasons. So, if you go to a brothel in Thailand and purchase their service, please know that you’re partaking in illegal activities.

But you don’t have to sweat it that much.

Why? Because most police would turn a blind eye to anyone with a prostitute. And if they come to you asking questions, you can keep quiet and let the business owner do the “talking.”

If you think about it, the lack of law enforcement is, in a way, understandable. After all, sex is something everyone needs. But not everyone has the “privilege” of a proper partner. So, it’s more “advantageous” to the community to keep brothels around. 

However, this law has proved problematic in Thailand. Why? Because it prevents prostitution from being a proper job. Consequently, many hard-working prostitutes earn less than they should since the law doesn’t secure their minimum wages. 

Moreover, social benefits like health insurance or hospital check-ups for the industry are non-existent. This made STDs (Sexually transmitted diseases) like aids and syphilis plague the country for a long time.

Are prostitutes expensive in Thailand?

Unfortunately, there is no definite answer to this question.

The price you pay for prostitution depends on many factors. For example, the “quality” of your escort. 

Some prostitutes are considered more “valuable” than others because of their skills or beauty. Some are so famous for these qualities that you must book weeks in advance. And these prostitutes will be pricey.

Another factor is the location. If you go to a famous brothel, the price is bound to be high. Some places even reserve their service for VIPs only.

Of course, you can find cheap prostitutes easily. But know that you get what you pay for. Their skills and beauty might be lackluster compared to the high-priced ones. But if you search thoroughly, you might find a hidden gem too.

The problem with cheap prostitutes is usually the STDs. Since they sell their body at such a low price, they couldn’t afford the best hospital service they need. And that created a hideous spiral of suffering. 

Low income. Bad health. Poor service. Even lower income. Repeat.

So, pick your price carefully before you purchase. And if possible, tip the prostitute a lump sum. They are hard workers like you — they deserve more than their base price.

4 Famous Red-light Districts in Bangkok

Bangkok might not be the biggest capital on earth. But it’s definitely dense and populated with people of all backgrounds. And, of course, that includes prostitutes too.

Here are the 4 popular red-light districts in Bangkok:

1. Patpong

If you talk about the red-light district, Patpong is the first place coming to mind. Or at least it used to be.

How famous was this place? There’s even a song describing it as the “destination” for foreigners. The lyrics depict a conversation between a local man and a Westerner named Tom. It goes…

“Tom. Tom. Where [did] you go last night?

“I love Muang Thai (Thailand). I like Patpong.”

“(The prostitutes might have charmed Tom, huh?)”

“I love Patpong, I love Muang Thai (Thailand)!”

คาราบาว – เวลคัม ทู ไทยแลนด์ [Official Audio] (Source)

Recently, Patpong’s popularity might have dropped a bit. And that’s understandable. Hundreds of brothels and other competitors have popped up throughout Bangkok.

But still, Patpong is considered one of the destinations for red-light tourism.

2. Ratchada

If you’re looking for a non-conventional prostitution experience, Ratchada might be a place for you.

The selling point of this district’s prostitution is the “bathtub” setup.

Of course, you can still find bathtub brothels somewhere else. But Ratchada is famous for its bathtub service that includes massage, drinks, and much more.

The downside of Ratchada is probably the price. You’re not just paying for the prostitute but for the bath too. And that can get expensive. But if budget is not the problem, you might want to try it out.

3. Nana Plaza

Prefer the vibe of cabaret clubs to brothels? Nana Plaza is your top choice.

It is more of an entertainment complex than a red-light district. But of course, you can easily find prostitutes here.

And if that’s not your cup of tea, bar girls are always an option.

Enjoy your drink. Get drunk in the conversation. Vibe with the music. And lost in the neon light.

4. Soi Cowboy

Go-go bar is the name of the game here.

As mentioned, Bangkok is populated with people of all backgrounds. That means it has something to satisfy everyone. And if LGBT bars are your preference, you must go to Soi Cowboy.

As a foreigner, you might feel at home in Soi Cowboy more than anywhere else. Why? Because most customers of this small street are international tourists and travelers.

And if prostitutes are not what you are after, the light and sound are enough to get you going all night.

Thailand prostitution “fun” facts

1. Prostitutes are men’s teachers in bed

Sex is an awkward topic in Thailand. So, almost nobody talks about how to perform the deed properly. Even official education does a poor job of explaining to teenagers how they were born.

So, how can Thai men find sex experience in a land where most ladies value virginity? Go to a brothel, of course.

Many Thai males lose their virginity to prostitutes. They consider their first prostitutes their teachers because these ladies introduce them to the ‘real’ world of sex.

Thai men even have a slang “Keun Kru” describing the act of purchasing their first prostitute.

“Keun” means “to get on top.” And “Kru” means “teachers.” So this slang means to get on top of your teacher. And that makes a lot of sense.

2. “Dek Sia”

As mentioned, some prostitutes are more precious than others. And those on the top-tier need to be handled with care. Why? Because, usually, they are “Dek Sia.”

This term is used to describe prostitutes under the patronage of wealthy and influential figures in the area. “Dek” means a child or children. And “Sia” is a rich man.

Generally, you don’t want to use the “Dek Sia” service since they are pricey. And besides, you wouldn’t be able to. A connection to the said dominant figure is required to know the prostitute in the first place.

3. Not all Thai women are prostitutes

Many Thai women — especially those living around red-light districts — have experienced “the incident.”

“The incident” refers to having a foreigner walking up to them and asking “how much” out of nowhere. And as you can tell, this is extremely rude. 

Never ask a woman’s price if you’re unsure whether she’s a prostitute. And even if you know, you still should never ask that way. Just contact the business owner, or wait for her to engage you. Have a civilized conversation first, then ask for a price (in a roundabout way).

Prostitution: The curse and the cure

As mentioned, prostitution in Thailand flourishes because of poor economic management. However, selling one’s body is still a solution to survival for many.

Thai people understand that money is a big deal. Even though it’s illegal and immoral, they still let prostitution grow in the country. Otherwise, many lives might have ended.

Hopefully, Thailand can legalize prostitution and provide all the health security these hard workers need. But until that day, they still have to depend on the customer’s pocket.

Like always, if you want to discover more about Thailand, stay guided with ThaiGuider. You might learn something you never knew about this unique country.


I am working on a FREE Thailand Travel Guide with a FULL 7 Day Itinerary. Be the first to receive it!

Thank you for signing up.

Something went wrong.