Sex Tourism: Innocent Criminal Fun? [2022 Statistics]

Sex tourism can be exciting or problematic, depending on how it’s conducted. So let’s find out how big the industry is, where and how it happens, and more.

sex tourism countries

We love to travel for all kinds of reasons – seeing sights, trying new foods, and even sleeping with the locals. In fact, people travel for sex more often than you might think. 

Sex tourism can be exciting or problematic, depending on how it’s conducted. Some countries regulate their sex tourism industries to make them safer and fairer, while others rely on horrific human trafficking practices and spread STIs like wildfire. 

But just how big is sex tourism? Where and how does it happen? We dug through the available data to answer these questions and more. 

Here are some noteworthy sex tourism stats from our research:

  • 16% of men in the U.S. report paying for sex at least once, and 0.5% do so at least once a year.
  • Kenya is a popular destination for older white women seeking male prostitutes.
  • There are an estimated 40-42 million prostitutes worldwide. 
  • 8-8.42 million of the world’s prostitutes are thought to be men. 
  • STI rates for sex workers vary but can be as high as 88% in Nairobi or 44% in Bangkok.

What Is Sex Tourism?

Simply put, sex tourism is when tourists go somewhere primarily for sex instead of to see national landmarks or engage in other activities. 

Here’s the technical definition:

  • Sex tourism is travel explicitly planned for sex, usually to a place where sex work is legal. (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019)1
  • Approximately 250,000 people travel each year internationally to engage in sex tourism with children or youths, generating over $20 billion in revenue. (IAMAT, 2017)2
  • Sex tourism can also be defined as organized trips using the structures and networks of a tourism sector to create a commercial sexual relationship between the tourist and the residents at their destination. (Tourism Notes, n.d.)3

Types of Sex Tourism

Sex tourism takes many forms and doesn’t always involve paying prostitutes (even though that’s a huge part of it). Some people engage in sex tourism for innocent sex or sexual entertainment, while others seek illegal and disgusting activities – such as sex with a minor. 

Modern slavery, usually referred to as human trafficking, can also play a huge role in sex tourism. Here’s a look at the different ways the industry operates.

  • Prostitution is paying for sexual services and is the most well-known form of sex tourism. (Tourism Teacher, 2020)4
  • Sex Shows are live shows involving graphic sex acts, often using props such as eggs or razor blades. (Tourism Teacher, 2020)4
    • Viewers of sex shows usually aren’t the same as people who look for prostitutes; they are often young travelers or party attendees. 
  • Mail Brides is a term from a time when women would actually list themselves in catalogs for sale. (Tourism Teacher, 2020)4
    • Now, women can be found on dating apps or in areas where they are likely to find a partner.
  • Sex Slavery is when someone is forced to do sexual activities. This is commonly associated with sex trafficking, where people are taken against their will and forced to work in sex tourism. (Tourism Teacher, 2020)4
  • Child Sex Tourism is when children are sexually exploited by a tourist who travels specifically to have sex with children. (Tourism Teacher, 2020)4

How Many People Have Been Sex Tourists?

It’s difficult to pin down exactly how many people are sex tourists since they aren’t usually willing to admit it. What we can do, however, is look at the numbers of people from different countries who have had sex during their travels and how many of them admit to having paid for sex. 

Here’s the data we have:

  • A survey of three countries found that 0.29% of Swedes reported purchasing sex in the past six months, 1.3% of Danes did, and 0.93% of Norwegians. (Archives of Sexual Behavior, 2020)5
  • 12.7% of respondents in a 1996 survey had paid for sex before. (Archives of Sexual Behavior, 2020)5
    • 12.9% of Norwegian men and 11-13% of Finnish men have paid for sex at some point. 
  • 16% of men in the U.S. report paying for sex at least once, and 0.5% do so at least once a year. (Archives of Sexual Behavior, 2020)5
  • 10-13% of Russian men have paid for sex at least once. (Archives of Sexual Behavior, 2020)5
  • Comparable figures in other countries include: (Archives of Sexual Behavior, 2020)5
    • 14% of men in Holland have paid for sex.
    • 19% in Switzerland.
    • 7-10% in the U.K.
    • 39% in Spain. 

The Global Characteristics of Sex Tourism

Sex tourism differs between men and women and the young and the old. Locals have conflicting opinions on their sex tourism industries. Many believe it’s immoral but that it still provides necessary income for sex workers. 

This data gives some insight into the characteristics of sex tourists and the perspective of locals.

  • Men are far more likely than women to seek out or try casual or risky sexual behaviors while traveling, such as multiple partners or unprotected sex. (Tropical Diseases, Travel Medicine and Vaccines, 2020)6
    • In a British study, as many as 1 in 10 men had an overseas partner. 
  • A study on local feelings toward sex tourism in affected areas used local informants and found the following data: (Journal of Tourism, 2010)7
    • 71% of informants held a positive attitude toward sex tourism, saying it provides work opportunities. 
    • Over half of the informants still thought that prostitution was immoral. 
  • A 2018 study found that South/Central American and Caribbean countries are more likely to receive sex tourists. (Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease, 2018)8
  • 66% of Australian tourists to Thailand plan on having sex there. (Tropical Diseases, Travel Medicine and Vaccines, 2020)6
  • A study of young adults in Sweden found that travel longer than one month, alcohol or drug use, youth, being single, and traveling with or without friends were all risk factors for casual sex overseas. (Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease, 2016)9
    • About one-quarter of participants reported casual sex abroad. 
    • Casual sex was associated with heavy episodic drinking and drug use for both sexes. 
    • 48% of youths with casual partners did not use condoms, which was associated with poor self-rated mental health for men. 
    • About 10% of participants had more than 2 partners abroad, which was associated with heavy episodic drinking. 
  • Travelers who spend less than 5 days abroad are 20 times more likely to have casual sex. (Global Health Action, 2017)10
  • A British study found that 9.2% of men and 5.3% of women had new sexual partners overseas in the past 5 years. (Sexually Transmitted Infections, 2016)11
    • Of those with new overseas partners, 72% of men and 58% of women said their new partners were not U.K. residents. 

How Many Prostitutes Are There?

The world’s oldest profession has been outlawed or at least looked down upon in many places throughout history, so exact numbers are hard to pin down. 

That being said, we have some good estimates of the total number of prostitutes worldwide. 

  • There are an estimated 40-42 million prostitutes worldwide. (ProCon, 2018)12
    • 80% of the world’s prostitutes are aged 13-25. 
    • 90% of prostitutes are dependent on a pimp. 
    • In the U.S. alone, there are an estimated 1-2 million prostitutes. 
    • 8-8.42 million of the world’s prostitutes are thought to be men. 
    • 50% of children trafficked for sex are boys. 
  • Over $180 billion is spent on the global sex trade annually, with over 10 million women serving as prostitutes. Some of these women are forced into the sex trade through trafficking, and others enter due to financial hardship. (ProCon, 2018)12
  • A compilation of several sources gives the following estimates on prostitutes per country: (ProCon, 2018)12
    • China – 5,000,000
    • India – 3,000,000
    • United States – 1,000,000
    • Philippines – 800,000
    • Mexico – 500,000
    • Germany – 400,000
    • Brazil – 250,000 children
    • Thailand – 250,000
    • Bangladesh – 200,000
    • South Korea – 147,000
    • Turkey – 118,000
    • Taiwan – 100,000
    • Cambodia – 70,000
    • Ukraine – 67,500
    • United Kingdom – 58,000
    • Kenya – 50,000 children
    • Vietnam – 33,000
    • South Africa – 30,000 children
    • United Arab Emirates – 30,000
    • France – 20,000
    • Switzerland – 20,000
    • Poland – 19,000
    • Mongolia – 19,000
    • Israel – 17,500
    • Costa Rica – 15,000
    • Netherlands – 7,000
    • New Zealand – 3,500
    • Denmark — 3,200
    • Ireland – 1,000

Where Is Prostitution Legal?

Prostitution is legal to varying degrees in many places and illegal but prominent in others. The nations of the world have several approaches to the practice; some criminalize prostitutes, others criminalize those who pay them, and some simply regulate the industry. 

Here’s a look at how different countries approach the legality of prostitution and, subsequently, sex tourism. 

  • Prostitution exists with different legal statuses in different countries: Prohibitionism, Neo-abolitionism, Abolitionism, Legalization, and Decriminalization. (World Population Review, 2022)13
    • Prohibitionism is where prostitution is criminalized and prohibited. Selling, organizing, buying, and soliciting sex for money are all illegal. 
    • Neo-abolitionism is a philosophy that views prostitution as violence against women. Technically, selling sex is legal; however, buying, organizing, and soliciting sex are outlawed. 
      • If caught, prostitutes are legally blameless. Instead, their clients and pimps are prosecuted. This is intended to suppress demand. 
    • Abolitionism is where selling and buying sex are both legal, and it’s the most common approach to prostitution worldwide. However, pimping, brothels, and public solicitation are illegal; this is intended to prevent exploitation. 
    • Legalization is where buying, selling, organizing (brothels), and soliciting sex are all legal and regulated. Prostitutes are often required to register, and the practice is sometimes limited to specific districts. 
    • Decriminalization is where prostitution is completely legal or not addressed by law at all. In these cases, it’s subject to little or no regulation. 

  • Here is a list of general prostitution laws and situations in various countries: (World Population Review, 2022)13
    • India – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Nigeria – Varies by state/territory.
    • Brazil – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Mexico – Varies by state/territory.
    • Japan – Prostitution is prohibited, but many loopholes exist.
    • Ethiopia – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • DR Congo – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Thailand – Prostitution is legal, brothels are a gray area, and solicitation is illegal.
    • United Kingdom – Prostitution is legal, brothels and solicitation illegal. Lax enforcement.
    • Italy – Prostitution is prohibited, but many loopholes exist.
    • Kenya – Regulated by local laws in some places.
    • Spain – Prostitution is legal, brothels are a gray area, and solicitation is illegal.
    • Argentina – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Algeria – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Poland – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Madagascar – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Ivory Coast – Prostitution is prohibited, but many loopholes exist.
    • Burkina Faso – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Mali – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Malawi – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Zambia – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal. Lax enforcement.
    • Romania – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Chile – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Kazakhstan – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Guatemala – Prostitution and brothels are legal, pimping is illegal.
    • Senegal – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Benin – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Belgium – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Dominican Republic – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Cuba – Prostitution is legal, but brothels, solicitation, and pornography are illegal.
    • South Sudan – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal. Lax enforcement.
    • Czech Republic – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Honduras – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Portugal – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Tajikistan – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Austria – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Togo – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Hong Kong – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Nicaragua – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Bulgaria – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Paraguay – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Kyrgyzstan – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Singapore – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal. Lax enforcement.
    • Denmark – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Central African Republic – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Finland – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Costa Rica – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Botswana – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Namibia – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • North Macedonia – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Latvia – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Trinidad and Tobago – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Timor Leste – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Estonia – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Cyprus – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Fiji – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Solomon Islands – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal. Lax enforcement.
    • Macau – Prostitution is legal, but brothels, solicitation, & “street prostitution” are illegal.
    • Luxembourg – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Malta – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Bahamas – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Antigua and Barbuda – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Monaco – Prostitution is legal, but brothels and solicitation are illegal.
    • Indonesia – Frowned upon but widely tolerated.
    • Bangladesh – Solicitation is illegal.
    • Turkey – Organized and regulated.
    • Germany – Organized and regulated.
    • Colombia – Organized and regulated. Inconsistent enforcement.
    • Peru – Organized and regulated.
    • Venezuela – Organized and regulated.
    • Australia – Varies by state/territory.
    • Ecuador – Organized and regulated. Inconsistent enforcement.
    • Netherlands – Organized and regulated.
    • Bolivia – Organized and regulated.
    • Greece – Organized and regulated. Illegal prostitution is also common.
    • Hungary – Organized and regulated.
    • Switzerland – Organized and regulated. Pimping and forced prostitution are illegal.
    • Lebanon – Lightly regulated.
    • Panama – Organized and regulated.
    • Sierra Leone – Legal
    • New Zealand – Legal
    • Eritrea – Legal
    • Uruguay – Organized and regulated.
    • Cape Verde – Sex trafficking and child prostitution are still illegal.
    • United States of America – Illegal in 49.5 of 50 states, but still prevalent.
    • El Salvador – Legal in some places, illegal in others.
    • China – Frequent legal exception: happy ending massages.
    • Pakistan – Still common despite steep penalties.
    • Russia – Legal
    • Philippines – Illegal but tolerated.
    • Egypt – Still exists, but not prevalent.
    • Vietnam – Legal
    • Iran – Repeat offenders may be executed.
    • Tanzania – Widespread.
    • France – Selling is legal, but buying, organizing, and solicitation are illegal. Loopholes exist.
    • South Africa – Widespread.
    • Myanmar – Widespread.
    • South Korea – Illegal but tolerated.
    • Uganda – Widespread.
    • Iraq – Buyer, seller, & organizer are all liable. Steep penalties.
    • Afghanistan – Sex outside of marriage is punishable by death.
    • Ukraine – Illegal but tolerated.
    • Canada – Selling is legal, but buying, organizing, and soliciting are illegal.
    • Morocco – Widespread.
    • Saudi Arabia – Steep penalties.
    • Angola – Lax enforcement.
    • Uzbekistan – Lax enforcement.
    • Yemen – Widespread.
    • Ghana – Widespread.
    • Nepal – Illegal
    • Cameron – Widespread.
    • Niger – Widespread.
    • North Korea – Prevalence unclear
    • Taiwan – Technically legal in “special zones,” but none of these zones exist.
    • Syria – Lax enforcement.
    • Sri Lanka – Illegal
    • Chad – Widespread.
    • Somalia – Illegal
    • Cambodia – Widespread.
    • Zimbabwe – Widespread.
    • Rwanda – Widespread.
    • Burundi – Widespread.
    • Tunisia – Legal in two small areas of the country only.
    • Haiti – Still widespread.
    • Jordan – Illegal but tolerated.
    • Sweden – Selling and brothels are legal, but purchasing is illegal. Loopholes exist.
    • Azerbaijan – Widespread.
    • Papua New Guinea – Illegal but tolerated.
    • Belarus – Widespread. Minor offense.
    • United Arab Emirates – Steep penalties.
    • Israel – Selling is legal, but buying, organizing, and solicitation are illegal.
    • Laos – Illegal
    • Libya – Still widespread.
    • Turkmenistan – Widespread.
    • Norway – Selling and brothels are legal, but purchasing is illegal. Loopholes exist.
    • Palestine – Reportedly still legal in the city of Ramallah
    • Ireland – Selling is legal, but buying, organizing, and solicitation are illegal.
    • Oman – Illegal
    • Kuwait – Widespread.
    • Croatia – Widespread.
    • Georgia – widespread.
    • Mongolia – Widespread.
    • Albania – Widespread.
    • Jamaica – Illegal but tolerated.
    • Armenia – Exists but is not prevalent.
    • Lithuania – Widespread.
    • Gambia – Widespread.
    • Qatar – Steep penalties.
    • Bahrain – Exists but is not prevalent.
    • Eswatini – Illegal but tolerated.
    • Djibouti – Illegal but tolerated.
    • Guyana – Widespread.
    • Bhutan – Exists but is not prevalent.
    • Suriname – Widespread. Lax enforcement.
    • The Maldives – Exists but is not prevalent.
    • Brunei – Illegal
    • Belize – Selling is legal, but buying, organizing, and solicitation are illegal. Still widespread.
    • Iceland – Selling is legal, but buying, organizing, and solicitation are illegal. Still widespread.
    • Barbados – Exists but is not prevalent.
    • Samoa – Widespread.

Risks of Sex Tourism

Like any dubiously legal activity, sex tourism comes with a serious set of risks. In developing countries, this can mean a high risk of catching an STI. In virtually any place, it increases the risk of unknowingly sleeping with a minor or a victim of sex trafficking. 

No matter where you go, sex with a minor, human trafficking, and child pornography are crimes. Some countries, including the US, can and will prosecute a perpetrator even after being arrested and punished by the country where the crime was committed. 

For this reason, it’s incredibly important to ensure that any sexual tourism activities are in regulated areas that don’t involve minors or human trafficking.  

  • Sex tourism in countries with high HIV rates is especially risky. (Child Abuse Investigation Field Guide, 2015)14
    • In developed countries, only 5% of HIV infections in men are due to unprotected heterosexual sex, as opposed to 33% of cases in women. 
    • Anywhere from 40-60% of sexually active people say they don’t use condoms. 
    • As many as 23% of heterosexual men and 35% of heterosexual women have had two or more sexual partners in the past 5 years; up to 6% of men and 3% of women admit to extramarital sex in the past year. 
  • A large number of STIs (sexually transmitted infections) come from unprotected sex during international travel. (Tourism Notes, n.d.)3
    • Many sex workers don’t have access to contraceptives and catch STIs. 
    • Sex tourism increased the risk of many STIs. 
    • Many sex workers are forced to have unsafe abortions, and sex tourism increases the risk of unwanted pregnancy. 
    • Sex tourism increased the risk of physical, psychological, and emotional abuse toward sex workers. 
      • Many sex workers suffer emotional trauma. 
  • STI rates for sex workers vary but can be as high as 88% in Nairobi or 44% in Bangkok. (International Maritime Health, 2015)15
  • Rates of curable STIs range from 5-65% in Africa, 20.9% in Brazil, and 0-13.6% in Asia. (Journal of Travel Medicine, 2006)16
  • From 2008 to 2013, 25.5% of all gonorrhea cases in Nordic nations were associated with travel. (Tropical Diseases, Travel Medicine and Vaccines, 2020)6
    • Travel-associated gonorrhea rates increased from year to year in the study.
  • Sex tourism fuels human trafficking (modern slavery), one of the world’s largest criminal industries. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019)1
    • Human trafficking, sex with a minor, and child pornography are always crimes, even where prostitution is legal. 
    • After returning home, someone engaging in these crimes during travel can be prosecuted under the host country’s laws and US law. 

Is Sex Tourism Illegal in the US?

The short answer to this question is yes, but it’s a little more complicated than that. Here’s a look at the legal implications. 

  • At least 8,000 Americans have been arrested since Congress passed the PROTECT Act in 2003. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019)1
    • The PROTECT Act strengthens the government’s ability to punish crimes related to sex tourism with the incarceration of up to 30 years for crimes at home or abroad. 

The World’s Most Prominent Red Light Districts

For better or for worse, the world has several destinations that are known for sex tourism. These range from regulated red light districts to prostitution hubs that are technically illegal but rarely prosecuted. 

  • The ten most prominent sex tourism destinations in the world are as follows: (Tourism News, 2021)17
    • Germany
      • Germany has organized sex tourism; prostitution is legal, even on the streets. 
      • Since 1200AD, Germany has had organized prostitution, and HR companies provide advertisements and job offers. 
    • The Netherlands
      • The Netherlands is widely regarded as a sex enthusiast’s paradise and is one of the world’s most popular sex tourism destinations. 
      • De Wallen in Amsterdam is the biggest and most famous red-light district in the capital. It’s known for cubicle sex and more. 
    • Colombia
      • Colombian women are considered by many to be the most beautiful women in the world. The sex trade is legal in Colombia, but the government has made efforts to curtail gray areas. 
    • Thailand
      • The most popular sex tourism destination in Asia, Thailand draws huge numbers of international tourists for cheap sex. 
      • Prostitution is legal in Thailand, and about 3 million sex workers are employed there. 
    • Dominican Republic
      • Legal brothels, marriage parlors, and street prostitutes are all common in the Dominican Republic – especially in downtown Santo Domingo and Puerto Plata. 
      • The country is the fourth-highest exporter of sex workers in the world. 
    • Spain
      • Madrid, Ibiza, Barcelona, and other Spanish cities have become popular sex tourism destinations and have booming red light districts. 
    • Malaysia
      • Prostitution is illegal in Malaysia but still widely available and practiced. Penang, Kuala Lumpur, and Ipoh are cities with an especially high demand for sex work. 
      • Most sex workers in Malaysia are trafficked from neighboring countries like China or Thailand. 
    • Kenya
      • Kenya has one of the largest sex tourism industries in Africa and is very popular with older white women who want male prostitutes. 
    • Philippines
      • Over 800,000 men, women, and children work in the sex trade in the Philippines. It’s had a reputation as a sex destination since its “girlie bars” during World War II. 
    • Brazil
      • Prostitution is legal in Brazil, but it is illegal to run a brothel or employ sex workers. Regardless, the country has dozens of functional brothels. 

Sex Tourism FAQs

There are several common misconceptions about sex tourism, so we’ll do our best to address them here:

  • These frequently asked questions (FAQs) about sex tourism should shed some light on the practice: (Tourism Teacher, 2020)
    • Is sex tourism legal?
      • Sex shows and prostitution are legal in some countries. In others, there are a lot of gray areas. 
      • Different countries have different laws; sometimes, the sex worker is breaking the law, and sometimes the client is. 
      • No laws cover sex tourism as a whole. 
    • Why is sex tourism becoming more popular?
      • It’s easier and cheaper to travel internationally now than ever before, so the demand for sex tourism has increased. 
      • Every aspect of travel has seen increased popularity and will continue to do so as travel becomes easier. 
    • Is sex tourism mostly or entirely in Asian countries?
      • Sex tourism often makes people think of countries like Thailand or Cambodia. 
      • Sex tourism occurs worldwide. For example, The Netherlands is famous for its lax rules on prostitution, and Germany and France have famous red light districts too. 

Sex Work Without Exploitation

Sex tourism is a global phenomenon where people travel internationally with the primary goal of having sex. As international travel becomes cheaper and easier, sex tourism will only continue to grow. 

This can include your run-of-the-mill prostitution – in brothels or on the streets – as well as sex shows or the cruel exploitation of forced sex workers or minors. There are over 40 million prostitutes in the world, most of whom are ages 13 to 25. 

Prostitution is legal in many places and illegal in many others, but this doesn’t seem to have a huge impact on where the world’s major red-light districts are. However, human trafficking and minor exploitation are far more prominent in unregulated areas. 

This goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway – sex is a celebration of the human form made for pleasure and excitement. It should never be forced on a sex slave or a minor. This kind of exploitation helps fuel sex tourism and causes major psychological trauma to its victims. 

Sex tourism is never going away, but we can partake in the excitement of sex and travel without exploiting vulnerable people. If you want to engage in sex tourism, do it in regulated areas with voluntary sex workers. 

If you see something that looks like human trafficking, you can report it here in the US. For international reporting, please research local resources if you see something suspicious. Sex is one of the best aspects of the human experience – let’s keep it that way.

For more interesting sex studies and statistics, head over to our guide here.

Footnotes

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019. An article by the CDC on sex tourism as well as its legality and risks. 
  2. IAMAT, 2017. An article on the global implications of sexual tourism, including its effect on human trafficking.
  3. Tourism Notes, n.d. An article on the state of modern sex tourism and its impact on child sexual exploitation.
  4. Tourism Teacher, 2020. An article on the top sex tourism countries in the world and the characteristics of the industry.
  5. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 2020. An internet survey of 6,048 Swedish men to determine the differences between men who pay for sex and men who don’t.
  6. Tropical Diseases, Travel Medicine and Vaccines, 2020. A review of concepts related to travel and sex focusing on sex tourism.
  7. Journal of Tourism, 2010. A study on how local communities view sex tourism in their regions. 
  8. Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease, 2018. A study of multiple studies to determine factors associated with sexual risk-taking during international travel. 
  9. Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease, 2016. A study of 2,189 Swedish young adults to determine associations with sexual risk-taking during travel.
  10. Global Health Action, 2017. A study on sexual risk-taking abroad using data from a survey of 2,189 Swedes.
  11. Sexually Transmitted Infections, 2016. A study on sexual activity overseas using data from a survey of 12,530 British men and women.
  12. ProCon, 2018. An article on general facts about prostitution, including the estimated number of prostitutes worldwide.
  13. World Population Review, 2022. An article on the legal statuses of prostitution in different countries as well as what those statuses entail.
  14. Child Abuse Investigation Field Guide, 2015. A book on investigating child sexual abuse and the characteristics of child sex tourism.
  15. International Maritime Health, 2015. A study on travel-related sexually transmitted infections.
  16. Journal of Travel Medicine, 2006. A study on the effect of travel on the increasing frequency of sexually transmitted infections.
  17. Tourism News, 2021. An article on the top 10 destinations for sex tourism in the world and their characteristics.
Dainis Graveris

Dainis Graveris

Over last 4 years Dainis have helped millions of people through his advice on this site (200+ guides and 1M+ visits/monthly). His work & advice has appeared on sites like: Healthline, Vice, Cosmopolitan, Men's Health, WomensHealthMag, MindBodyGreen & more. Read More

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