Romance tourism and the modern woman
March 10, 2008 11:41 PM   Subscribe

Romance tourism, with predominantly middle-aged heterosexual white European and American women looking for younger black men, is flourishing. Short TV documentary on the phenomenon; long documentary taking issue with the hijacking of Rastafarianism by the "Rent-a-dreads"; comedy skit on rent-a-dreads, complete with offensive finale; Grenadian newspaper article blaming HIV spread on sex tourists; discussed by academics; and don't forget the classic film portrayals in How Stella Got Her Groove Back and Vers le Sud/Heading South.

Female sex tourism is not just a Caribbean thing -- see Kenya, Thailand, and other places where comparative wealth and freedom from routine social conventions combine. Steamy, semi-steamy, and non-so-steamy books on the subject are available. Want some theoretical context? Google romance tourism syllabus for a fantastic array of tourism-related syllabi.

(This post was sparked by this MeFi discussion; some links via; official Rent a Rasta film site (autoplay sound); most links NSFW because of language, drug use, general offensiveness, racist, fatist, and misogynist caricatures, and worse.)
posted by Forktine (26 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Soooo women are just catching up to what men have been doing for...a looong time?
posted by P.o.B. at 12:14 AM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Tom Conti has a lot to answer for.
posted by seanyboy at 12:42 AM on March 11, 2008

I can see it now. The next Elliot Spitzer news conference.

"I didn't bring the girls across state lines for prostitution.
It was Romance Tourism. Pure and simple.
Can I have my job back now?"
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 12:47 AM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

"He's part of her holiday package, and she's part of his earnings"
posted by blasdelf at 1:02 AM on March 11, 2008

There was an article in Der Spiegel a few years ago about German women travelling to Africa to meet young black men unspoiled by civilization. It's too bad they don't have old articles online -- the attitude of these women, the way they fetishized Africans, was quite breath-taking.
posted by creasy boy at 1:39 AM on March 11, 2008

I've always felt sorry for poor Stella, ever since I heard that her groove turned out to twist in the opposite direction. And if that guy on the beach at Hedonism at 4:41 in the first link doesn't at least swing both ways, then my arse is a cream bun.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:49 AM on March 11, 2008

Yeah, there is (was?) a similar thing happening in the Gambia.
posted by chuckdarwin at 2:07 AM on March 11, 2008

Not news to Mrs Wentworth Brewster.
posted by emf at 3:41 AM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

I wonder how many of these women, particularly white women, would deny adamantly that they are bigots living some kind of colonialist fantasy, because the guy they're renting is black? Because, you know, a dreadlocked black guy from their own town would be a problem, as he'd be "real" and there'd be a possibility that friends or family might see her out to dinner with him... but slap an accent on him and he's acceptable?

If they opened a resort in Samoa, I can see a market for "His n' Hers" Colonial Fantasy packages. Just what the world needs...
posted by Grrlscout at 4:16 AM on March 11, 2008

I saw a lot of french, belgian and german women in their 40's and 50's making out with young men in Senegal. I was even offered services from a man that said he was a musician and that he could keep me company. And when I hurriedly and politely replied "Non, merci", he said that if I've had never slept with an African man I didn't know what sex was. I guess that's their slogan.

I don't agree with the colonial fantasy thing. These women are not looking for romance so going out with the black guy next door in their hometown is not an alternative... That's the same as saying that the men who go to Thailand for hooker holidays should go on dates with the asian woman neighbor instead.

Is this paternalistically called "romance tourism" because the clients are women? That's silly. These women want steamy sex with gorgeous looking, muscled and fit black men who pretend to like them. Also, they're probably cheaper and they'll be far away and forgotten by the next week. Isn't that what sex tourism, male or female, is all about?
posted by lucia__is__dada at 4:38 AM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

he said that if I've had never slept with an African man I didn't know what sex was.

I guess I'll never know what sex is, then...
posted by DreamerFi at 5:46 AM on March 11, 2008

Rasta rent boys? Soon come, indeed.

Also, is anyone else imagining a TV ad for one of these services using "Could You Be Loved?" as the jingle or is that just me?
posted by jonmc at 6:08 AM on March 11, 2008

Feelin' Eyrie

Sure, they want sex, lucia, but it isn't exactly hard for women to get sex with hot men of any race in their own home towns. Just like men who go to Thailand, it's about the power dynamic as much as it is about the actual physical jiggity.

The men are the same way in Turkey and any resort holiday spot - it's a given foreign women the world over are easy with their bodies and their cash.

I think the reason it's "romance tourism" is because it really is the romance of the sex they're peddling. It isn't just an anonymous grind with someone whose name you don't remember in a brothel. These holidays are marketed with couples at the beach in the sunset, candlelit dinners, the man giving massages and being attentive. It's all about the promise romance with guaranteed sex on the side with a man who's poorer than you and so grateful for whatever trinkets you have to give him. In other words, rubbish!
posted by Grrlscout at 6:19 AM on March 11, 2008

It's all about the promise romance with guaranteed sex on the side with a man who's poorer than you and so grateful for whatever trinkets you have to give him. In other words, rubbish!

Do they throw in a plate of beans, too? (Grrlscout, I get your point, but I think you're 1. reading way too much into what is still when all is said and done, the oldest profession and 2. kind of being judgemental and puritanical about something that at the end of the day is none of your or my business)
posted by jonmc at 6:27 AM on March 11, 2008

I have done this.

During the romance itself, I was nagged by feelings of being exploitative, but I brushed them off. I just couldn't let go, I was having such a good time and it was so different than my normal experience.

Near the end of the trip, I went out for a lobster dinner with my friends, and they were all pretty impressed by my stories. To this day, I've got a great story to tell at a party, which never fails to entertain.

Eventually, though, all good things come to an end. After experiencing the heartbreak that came with parting, I'd say it wasn't worth it. And I still feel kind of bad about the whole experience, and wonder if that woman felt exploited. After that summer, I decided to leave the tourists alone.
posted by lostburner at 6:27 AM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

Also, I think I'll start one of these for foriegn women visiting New York City: Rent-A-Mook, perhaps?
posted by jonmc at 6:32 AM on March 11, 2008

I forgot to include the wikipedia entry on female romance tourism.

Part of what is interesting about romance tourism is how segregated it is. Meaning, if you are a gay man, you go to one resort area, if you are a straight woman you go to another, if you are a pedophile you go elsewhere, and so on.
posted by Forktine at 6:44 AM on March 11, 2008

seems more like a Mandingo Party to me.
posted by caddis at 7:10 AM on March 11, 2008

jonmc, I've already started a similar business in South Philly - visit us on the web at However, business has not been great as no one comes to visit here.
posted by Mister_A at 7:52 AM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

I have to agree with Lucia on this. The women have the money and interest to go on vacation and have a fling with a good looking guy. And there are lots of poor guys in the pretty resort countries who are happy for the money, the attention, and the sex.

We're more familiar with the other side of the story, the poor women who are looking for the same things (money, a good time, perhaps fleeing the country.) Only that's "bad" and "shameful" because they're women trading sex. As if women don't enjoy sex. Or is it that we assume that those powerful guys with the poor women are bad in the sack?

And if it's men trading sex, then somehow the women in the power position are now poor "romance" victims, potentially being tricked by these wiley, apparently well endowed, and attractive men.

This is women with power. It's good. Let them all have fun. No one here appears to be getting exploited. I hope they're all using condoms.
posted by Red58 at 10:08 AM on March 11, 2008

This doesn't have to happen out of the US. Apparently, Hawaii is far enough away for "under-served" females to indulge in these kinds of escapades. If you've ever heard of the fabled Waikiki Beach Boys of yore, a good number of them lived off the generosity of female patrons. Those men were legends for many reasons, but their kind is a dying breed.

Nowadays, a surf legend is less prone to have "booty call" on his resume, but you can easily setup a quickie with a hotel worker. I've known guys who work at hotels just for the fringe benefits. Lots of women come here with their husbands on business and end up spending a lot of time on their own. A quick call for room service or to restock the mini-bar, some hasty shenanigans, a hefty tip, and they still have time to chill at the pool and fix themselves up to meet their husband for a late dinner. Guys would actually trade shifts when they knew they had a regular coming to town, or trade off servicing rooms depending on the chances of scoring.

These guys aren't broke and living in slum conditions. In fact, the hotel work is usually a second job. My only point here is that: travel makes people horny.
posted by krippledkonscious at 12:31 PM on March 11, 2008

Romance tourism

I think they picked that term because it sounds more tasteful than "Big Honkin' Mandingo Wang-Dang-Doodle Tourism."

(Or whatever the local variations on that phrase might be.)
posted by jason's_planet at 3:06 PM on March 11, 2008

Not new to Indonesia. But "romance"?

Or what jason's_planet said.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 5:52 PM on March 11, 2008

Rasta rent boys? Soon come, indeed.

Nah, you're probably thinking of The Harder they Come.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:46 PM on March 11, 2008

Forktine (and others), if you're interested in reading further on the topic, Sexing the Caribbean: Gender, Race, and Sexual Labor is a really interesting looking at sex (or "romance" if you prefer) tourism in the Caribbean. It's an academic book, but actually far more readable than most (sorry academics!).
posted by librarylis at 11:19 PM on March 11, 2008

I'm not in the habit of deleting comments other than spam from my site, but when I posted on sex tourism in Kenya I got a lot of "comments" from boys advertising themselves to potential clients. Ah, globalisation and the power of the web.

re Indonesia: it used to make me laugh to see the boys weeping as they sent their loved-ones off on the flight to Sydney (having secured promises of tickets, visas etc.), then nipping around to arrivals in time to greet the next wave of girls, off the very same plane, as they wandered out of customs...
posted by Elizabeth Pisani at 3:48 AM on March 13, 2008

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