Whiteness, women and sex tourism

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Abstract

I present a conceptual argument which interrogates female sex tourism to the postcolonial world through the lens of whiteness theory. I argue that extant research on female sex tourism, while they might touch on issues of race, fail to explore this topic using critical insights from whiteness studies and are thus under-theorised. This lacuna is surprising given that most female sex tourists to the Global South are white Western women. Ruth Frankenberg, a pioneer of the postdisciplinary field labelled ?white studies?, argued that race is not only of relevance for black women, but that it also shapes white women?s lives. For Frankenberg, ?white women?s senses of self and other, identity and worldview are also racialized? (1993, p. 239). She used the term ?whiteness? to describe a set of three interlinked dimensions ? (1) a location of structural advantage, or race privilege (2) a standpoint or place from which white people look at themselves, others and society and (3) a set of cultural practices that are usually unmarked and unnamed (1993, p.1). She suggests further that whiteness is not an empty signifier, but is instead a ?daily experience of racial structuring? (ibid). Whiteness thus becomes normalised and is rendered invisible. I suggest that in sex tourism, whiteness theory urges white women to reflect on their own racial identities and culture, the privileges that accompany them, and importantly, how this serves to legitimate racial inequalities in the sexual experience. Indeed, I make two contentious arguments in this conceptual discussion (1) whiteness underpins female sex tourism and perpetuates racial inequalities and (2) the structural privilege associated with whiteness enables female sex tourists to disrupt traditional gendered constructions during the liminal postcolonial tourism encounter.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 1 Feb 2018

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