Fatal Attraction: A Qualitative Study of Western Male Clients of Sex Workers in Thailand

Rosanne M. Rushing, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Juan Manuel Contreras, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

Globally, young women are trafficked into sex-work to meet the demand of clients. The sex industry would not exist without the demand-side which has had limited research. Consequently, the characteristics of clients are almost unknown. This paper explores the perceptions of Western male clients of female sex-workers in Thailand to gain an understanding of the demand-side of the sex industry. This qualitative study took place in entertainment venues in Thailand. The study identified factors common to clients of sex-workers: fulfillment of masculine roles, social and sexual acceptance and supply of sex-work. Findings suggest clients’ need to assert masculine identity through power and control over the sex-worker and the need to feel accepted. Clients seek extremely unequal relationships in order to fulfill masculine hierarchal roles. In most cases, these men cannot fulfill these roles in their own countries. The socio-cultural context plays a crucial role in the encouragement of this problem.

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Presented in Session 104: Making Sense of Sex, Risk, and STDs/AIDS