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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sex in Southeast Asia

Whatever your opinions are on sex, there certainly seems to be a lot of people doing it.  This is no different with couples traveling together or perhaps an occasional lover on the road.  Given that Southeast Asia is also the world mecca of sex tourism, with Thailand being a particularly favored destination, there are also a lot of risks involved.

As a friend once told me, "You can get a funk there that will rot your #*%& off!"

Condoms and Equipment

A word of advice: it is probably better to pack condoms with you from home unless you are planning on a very long sojourn.  While you will certainly find them in Southeast Asia in most drug stores and convenient stores, you might have difficulty finding the brand, type, and size that you prefer.  Also, that way you can ensure that you have condoms that have not expired, particularly important if you use condoms pretreated with a spermicide.  If you use other sexual aids, like lubricants, spermicides, or any sex toys, it is best to bring them with you as you might not be able to find what you like.  Sex toys can be very hard to find, even in Bangkok.  If you do just have to have a vibrator and forgot your own, try asking street vendors you see selling adult DVDs if they know where to find them.  While unsure, there are reports that sex toy stores are being legally prevented from opening in Thailand and several have been raided, and in 2001 Cambodia's only sex toy store was raided and shut down my police.

Prostitution in Southeast Asia

Prostitution is fairly common throughout Southeast Asia.   In places like Thailand, it has been around as a part of the culture for centuries, with men,women and transsexuals--the or katoi or bondon--all working in the sex trade.  Prostitution also doesn't carry the same social disapproval as it does here in the West, with Thai men, for example, being less hesitant to marry a woman who was working as a prostitute.  This also made Thailand at one point one of the hottest places on earth . . . for HIV.  Outreach, though, has brought infection rates down and now prostitutes feel empowered to tell their johns to "put a helmet on it" or get out.  Programs like the playfully named Condoms and Cabbages restaurant in Bangkok (Sukhumvit Soi 12, Bangkok - 02-229 4610) which gives you colored condoms rather than breath mints after your tom yam help promote sex safety.  It is a fun place to have a meal in Bangkok, and and while the food is good and the place is fun, the mission is very serious.

The risks associated with prostitution are high, but the men, women and transgendered who sell their bodies are at the highest risk.  The health risks they take even by engaging in protected sex are high.  The Center for Disease Control says on its condom fact sheet that "consistent and correct use of latex condoms would be expected to protect against transmission of genital ulcer diseases and HPV in some, but not all, instances."  Since genital ulcer diseases are not something you want to bring back as a souvenir from your recent trip to Asia, you are advised to avoid prostitutes.

Furthermore, it helps reduce the human cost.  It is thought that as many as 1/4 of the sex workers in Southeast Asia are in forced bondage, having been sold by their parents or tricked into traveling "for work" only to find it is actually prostitution.To stay updated on human trafficking news, you can sign up for the Examiner's Human Rights News Round-Up.   We also suggest Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade--and How We Can Fight It by David Batstone.

STDs in Southeast Asia

Perhaps you brought it with you, but now you are in Southeast Asia and something burns, has bumps, or is discharging something that makes you think something isn't right . . . "down there." Finding a clinic where someone speaks a language you understand, or going with someone to translate you is a must.  You need to understand what it is you have and how to treat it since I am sure you don't won't gonorrhea to cut your Southeast Asian adventure short.  Your hotel or your guest house is the best place to ask, but be prepared to answer some potentially embarrassing questions. 


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