Bumsters and Prostitutes: Intersectionality at Work

Jasmine Boutros
NYU Abu Dhabi 2014

prostitute [pros-ti-toot, tyoot] noun a woman who engages in sexual intercourse for money; whore; harlot
bumster [bum-stir] noun unemployed young men who try to hassle and hustle female tourists into giving 
them their money in exchange for sexual intercourse

Common to the beach resort area of many developing countries, is a group of people known as bumsters. Bumsters prowl many a beachfront hotel looking for older women to prey on. They’ll attempt to become friendly with these women and offer them sex in exchange for money and/or citizenship in whatever Western country the women have traveled from. So is bumsterism not to be considered a form of prostitution? Technically, it is someone offering sex for some sort of reward. In this paper I will examine the obvious double standard surrounding bumsterism and female prostitution, and how that affects gender stereotypes in our world today.

First, let us look at the how the terms by which bumsterism and prostitution differ. Bumsterism is described as a personalistic economy. A personalistic economy is the use of someone’s body as a source of income purely because that is his only point of access into the global capitalist system. Prostitution is referred to as commercial sex work, which alludes to the fact that a person is selling their body for money. What is the difference? Maybe sex work is a prostitute’s only point of access to the global capitalist system. The difference lies in gender.

If a woman has sex for money, she is a prostitute. If a man does, he’s a businessman.

This is a sign of the apparent gender bias in our world today. To top it off, women are often the victims of intersectionality, under which someone can be affected by multiple oppressions disadvantages at the same time.

Let’s first look at this from the viewpoint of a female prostitute. For example, let’s say that I am a black, lower class high school dropout with no way of putting myself through university except through prostitution. Society will look at me as nothing but a whore. Not only am I a prostitute, but I’m a prostitute of the wrong race and the wrong class and I’m a woman. The stigma surrounding me is not just a summation of the stigma surrounding each of these individual disadvantages – it is exponentially worse.

Now let’s look at the standpoint of the white tourist in one of the coastal areas in which bumsters thrive. This white tourist is swept off her feet by this charming, exotic man and ends up financially supporting him. She is now disadvantaged by the fact that she is a woman, she is lessening her class status by giving up a sum of money for this man, not to mention the fact that she is probably quite foolish for falling for such a rouse. Again, the combination of these oppressive forces is exponentially stronger than either of the entities on their own.

Finally, let’s take a look at the bumster. He is making money. He is having sex with foreign women. He’s upping his class status. For him, the experience is purely positive.

I believe this is because gender is possibly the biggest disadvantage someone could be put at. When looking at the key tenets of intersectionality, we see that gender is the only oppressive force that is also classed and raced. So it doesn’t matter if a woman is participating in commercial sex work to better herself.

Because she is a woman, she is in the wrong. God forbid she be a low class, minority ethnicity woman.

All in all, I do not see a difference between bumsters and prostitutes. If anything, bumsters are morally worse off because the people paying them for sex are disadvantaged by the behavior. Unfortunately though, until gender equality is attained, such practices and double standards will remain.

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