Beach boys or sexually exploited children? Competing narratives of sex tourism and their impact on young men in Sri Lanka's informal tourist economy

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Abstract

Sex trafficking and the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) are widely identified as global social problems, but each remain politically charged, especially given the disproportionate emphasis on sexual slavery. The current investigation is a case study of CSEC within the context of Sri Lanka's international tourism industry. I draw from data collected during a multi-year field study to analyze and compare those understandings of sex tourism and CSEC driven by local "moral crusaders"-which dominated policy and public discussion-with the experiences of adolescent boys and young men who participated in these markets. Moral claims-making, focused as it was on cultural purity, morality, Western perversions, sexual slavery, and deviance, shifted attention away from the global political and economic contexts in which transactional sex took place. This resulted in both distortions and harms to marginalized youth in tourism communities, and a failure to address the economic realities of those involved in the informal tourism economy, including transactional sex with tourists. The current study thus adds additional support to the concerns raised by scholars and activists about the scope, nature, and impact of efforts to ameliorate commercial sexual exploitation, including the harms that result from narrow foci on individual deviance and sexual slavery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)485-508
Number of pages24
JournalCrime, Law and Social Change
Volume56
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Law

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