I arrive anticipating rays of sunshine, rumbling of waves, golden glimmer of sand, and friendly folks. I find them, and more.
Walking through the streets, buzzing with energy and vibrant colours, I notice them outside one massage parlour, then another, then another on a street that seems never-ending. I know it is purportedly ‘the oldest profession in the world’ but being confronted with these young women ‘plying their trade’, it becomes a heart wrenching reality.
The vacant smiles, the calculating eyes, the hopeless gestures… they are my sisters. My sisters who have few choices to survive their existence, whose ‘career choice’ may be a family inheritance. I do not presume to know their lives, but I know it must not be wholesome to see one’s own body as a commodity instead of a sacred private temple, to see one’s own body abused and sometimes brutalised instead of respected and worshipped. I can only imagine the damaged psyche that accompanies each of them.
Why am I here?
For it is people such as I who contribute to the economy here, made up primarily of tourism. I know my tourism monies contribute to other things, beyond prostitution. I know the economics of demand and supply. So, it is also I who violate them. For aren’t we one? Aren’t I not part of the humanity which does this?
No, I will not blame, for history will tell us, blame is destructive. I will not fault my sisters for doing what is necessary to survive their existence, for wanting a better material life. I am not naïve – some of these women choose to be here, though I cannot put aside the idea that a forced choice is not a choice at all. They, my sisters, bear the brunt of poverty. For this is systemic, outcome of a flawed economic structure and an unforgiving patriarchal legacy.
Then I look at the men – yes, they are all men that I can see on the street who buy ‘the services’, and I wonder what brought them here. Are we born with a disrespect for our sisters, are we conditioned to sexually objectify them? Does this then justify our actions, allow us to do what we do with less regret, less shame? What circumstances compel them to seek here? How sad is our humanity that somehow this is perceived as pleasure? That the harm to another is not seen thus ignored? How sad is our humanity that this is what we resort to in our bid for intimacy, sex, companionship, connection…?
And yes, I have used the pejorative ‘we’ because we are responsible for each other, in our humanity.
I do not have the answers, I do not presume to understand, and I am doing my best not to judge.