Why Is There So Much Prostitution In Thailand?
It is basically to do with the need - or desire - for money, combined with a person's individual value system.
All people have a value system, which is normally determined by the society in which they live. For example, religion may not be important to many Westerners, but in a Muslim society it is not only extremely important, it defines every aspect of life.
In the past, in northern England, maintaining an immaculately clean door step was regarded as being very important. Women would spend hours scrubbing their front door steps. However, most other people would not find this important at all.
We all have things we believe are important, and things that aren't.
Money is at the very top of the value system in Thailand. Many foreigners think this is because Thais are greedy and materialistic, which is sometimes true, but in many cases it isn't.
Money is essential to buy the necessities of life and it is very difficult to come by in Thailand. The cost of living in Thailand keeps rising and food keeps getting more expensive. Many Thais are poor and not only do they have very little money, they have very few opportunities to earn money.
A Thai politician once made the comment that youngsters from the north-eastern (Isaan) region could only ever aspire to be room maids or petrol pump attendants. These words were harsh, but there is an element of truth to them.
The culture of taking care of one's family is also very strong in many parts of Asia, including Thailand, and therefore many Thais will feel pressured to earn money not only for themselves, but to take care of their families as well.
The welfare system in Thailand is limited. The government provides assistance with medical bills and there is a very small old age pension (about Bt500 per month), but there are none of the other benefits that you might find in other countries, such as child benefit allowances and unemployment benefit. For many Thais Thailand is a very tough country to live in.
Against this background, if there was some way that poor girls could earn very good money they would naturally take it. It so happens that there is. Prostitution.
Depending on an individual girl's value system, this profession may be unacceptable. It would be to many girls, including many Thais girls. Even though there is a lot of prostitution in southern Thailand, very few of the working girls are from the south. Most come from the poor Isaan region.
The following is a job advertisement that I saw as I was wandering arounnd one day. By working as a prostitute a girl can earn in excess of Bt150,000 per month. To put this into context, a doctor was telling me that his salary at a public hospital is Bt27,000 per month. He studied for six years at university and had 12 years' experience after graduating.
My wife was offered an office job working long hours six days a week that paid a salary of Bt12,000. When you start to understand how important money is to many Thais and how much can be earned by a girl selling her body you can start to understand why so many girls go into the industry.
In Thailand you will also hear stories about university girls who go into prostitution just so that they can get money to buy clothes and iPhones, etc. No doubt this is true, but I suspect there are far fewer girls working as prostitutes for this reason and far more because they have families to support.
Job advertisement for commercial sex workers
The location is in English. Underneath, it says they are accepting job applications for staff, and underneath that three positions are listed.
Position two is a sales job and there are no gender or age restrictions. There is a monthly salary, commission and a bonus.
Position three is for serving staff and bartenders.
Position one is the most interesting. The first, most important and, in fact, only requirement for this position is that applicants must be beautiful girls. That's all. Nothing else.
The income, which is guaranteed, is Bt3,000 to Bt5,000 per day, or more. There is no job title and no job description of any kind. Of course, every Thai who reads this job advert will know exactly what the job entails.
And what about Thai attitudes to prostitution?
Thais aren't exactly keen on it, they would rather there wasn't quite so much as there is, and they don't boast about it. It's quietly accepted without being spoken about. Thais are extremely image conscious, and with Thailand having such a notorious reputation for prostitution it gives them quite a big problem.
Above all else, Thais are pragmatic. With so many people desperately needing money and with so little opportunity to make decent money, this is one way that an attractive girl can earn a big salary. It doesn't need a university degree or much experience and there is never a lack of customers, both foreign and Thai.
In addition, the money earned from prostitution finds its way to a lot more people other than the girls at the front end. Brothels have owners and staff, who all receive a cut.
Everyone in Thailand knows where prostitution takes place, but it is illegal. Money is therefore paid so that people turn a blind eye. In 2016 a brothel in Bangkok was raided and a small black book was found. In it were details about how much, and to whom, money was paid each month. Some recipients those you might expect, but others weren't.
There is a saying in Thailand about not messing with other people's rice bowls and messing with the commercial sex industry would mess with an awful lot of rice bowls.
Once you have an idea about the economic background for many people in Thailand it's not too difficult to figure out why there is so much prostitution.
The industry is highly unlikely to change because firstly it benefits a lot of people, both directly and indirectly, and secondly because without it there wouldn't be any other opportunities for girls involved in the industry to make decent salaries.
For this to happen there will need to be some radical change in Thailand to even up wealth and opportunity, but these changes can only be made by people in whose interest it is not to make these changes.
Relationships With Prostitutes
Since I started this website many years ago, several men have written to me about their relationships with Thai girls and many have become involved with prostitutes. Foreign men who take vacations in Thailand and want to meet Thai girls are often in a hurry and want to meet someone immediately because their time in Thailand is limited. This isn't recommended, but I can understand why they do it. The quickest way to meet a Thai girl is to go to a beer bar and just wait to be approached by a bar girl.
The term 'bar girl' sounds better than prostitute (or one of the many other words for prostitute), but that's all they are. 'Bar girl' is simply a euphemism. The main aim of the girls is for a customer to pay a 'bar fine' so that they can leave, sleep with the customer, and earn some money.
Admittedly, experiences with prostitutes in Thailand are very different to experiences with prostitutes in other countries. The girl normally stays with the man for a long time, as opposed to simply having sex and leaving, and rather than the man being treated like a client he is often treated like a boyfriend.
The two will have dinner together, go travelling together, and act just like two people in a normal relationship. Nonetheless, the girl chose to enter a profession in which she offers sexual services for money,
Can such relationships work out? Every man who has written to me about his bar girl girlfriend tells me that his particular girl is different to the rest and that she hates what she does for a living.
Sometimes it can work out. A Thai girl might sell her body because she, or her family, have serious financial difficulties and this is the only option she has. She might jump at the chance to have a relationship with a foreigner who will take care of her.
On the other hand, some of the girls are quite mercenary and only ever think of money. Some are honest and will tell a man that if he can match what she can earn as a prostitute she will stop working.
Others will accept money from foreign men and tell the men they have stopped working, but will continue working.
There's no easy answer and a third party know anything about the girl. It's a case of following your instincts and gut feelings after getting to know the girl better.
If you have serious doubts or if you find that you just can't trust her, I would advise just ending the relationship. I honestly wouldn't waste money on trying to find out what she is really up to. If you start thinking along these lines it means that your instincts aren't good. That being the case, just end it and spare yourself any emotional and, quite possibly, financial damage.
Thailand for Tourists
Living In Thailand
Thailand is an incredibly photogenic country, both for its landscapes and its people. Regardless of whether you enjoy large Asian cities, beaches and islands, or rice fields and mountains, Thailand has something for you and it is a dream destination for photographers.
One of the great things about visiting Thailand is that hotels are plentiful and a lot cheaper than in most other countries. I always use Agoda to book hotels in Thailand. The company was established in Thailand and has great local knowledge, as well as a huge inventory of hotels.
If you click on one of the destinations opposite you will get a list of hotel deals from Agoda. It's generally a good idea to book on-line because you will get a good room rate and you won't suffer the disappointment of arriving at a hotel to find that it is full.
I book hotels regularly in Thailand and I have always found Agoda to be the best on-line travel agent. At times I have spent a lot of time researching hotel prices and although other deals sometimes look better at first I always end up returning to Agoda.
If you don't wish to pay for your hotel at the time of booking, Booking.com normally allows you to pay when you check in at the hotel. Some people prefer this method, but I have always found Booking.com to be more expensive than Agoda.
If you want to compare prices between different on-line travel agents (OTAs) for a specific hotel, you can use a company such as HotelsCombined. However, you will normally find that Agoda is the cheapest and therefore you can save yourself time and money by just booking through Agoda in the first place.
Images of Thailand