In Marco Polo’s Travels he writes of villages in China where the women came out to sleep with the passing travelers in return for such small trinkets as they could be persuaded to part with. These were then proudly displayed as proof of a girl’s popularity and demonstrated her superior worth as a marriage prospect.
If that was a modern day phenomenon the queues might stretch back as far as India.
In more recent times, frequenting the brothels of the world was once considered part of a European gentleman’s education as he made his Grand Tour. Foreign prostitution was a welcomed safety valve for the asphyxiating propriety that had to be observed back home and the risk of syphilis was simply a hazard of nature.
In fact the Pox (one of the biggest 19th century killers, hence the diminutive smallpox ) was in some ways the equivalent hazard of today’s AIDS. Syphilis was such a crippling disease that it even claims the first instance of biological warfare when Spanish prostitutes were sent over the battle lines to successfully infect Italian soldiers in a war between the two countries.
The military continued to lay the foundations for sex tourism all over the world, notably with the Japanese army’s use of Filipino and Korean ‘comfort women’ for the poor sex-starved Japanese soldiers. The poor girls were abducted and then forced to spread their legs for the glory of the Nation for the Rising Sun. Japan’s government still refuses to publicly apologise for this, some 60 years later.
And then of course the US army turned Bangkok into Asia’s sex capital with tens of thousands of Vietnam soldiers on R&R, equipped with US army rubbers. By the time the war was over, the sex shows and the red light scene had already found a place on the map and the blossoming budget travel industry took over from there.