Connect to share and comment

Romance on the road: what women want

A Q&A with Jeannette Belliveau, author of "Romance on the Road," on women who travel for sex and companionship.

GP: So what's in it for the men, if not money?

JB: Africa isn’t doing very well.

Paul Theroux in his latest book “Dark Star Safari” — he finds that anyone with any gumption kind of wants to get out. They don’t want to stay and contribute.

When you get in parts of the world that are that bleak, a foreign woman really is an avenue to a new life more than cash or prostitution. So it really isn’t analogous at all to the Red Light District in Amsterdam. There’s a bit more desperation in it.

There’s plenty of historical precedent for people marrying to relocate. I look in my book “Romance on the Road” at how conquering soldiers through time have taken local women as part of the spoils of that clash of encounters. Today, the conquering hero is the Western woman who has a good job as a nurse or professional or writer or whatever. And she can have her pick of men.

The transaction isn’t just simple money for sex at all. The guy — he’s got more attractiveness, he’s got more availability than the men in the woman’s home city … More time for her.

The guys in her office are probably very, very busy, trying to get a better car or a better job, and they’re getting beaten down by their boss. They’re not as manly as they maybe could be. They’re wealthy, but they’re in prison in certain respects.

If you go on vacation, if the guy has all the time in the world to borrow a boat and show you the starfish in the lagoon, and talk to you afterwards and have a meal, and rub your back, he’s a more attractive mate. And if you buy him a meal for that, well you’re getting into — it is an exchange, but I wouldn’t call it a prostitution one. He’s got time and good looks, and she’s got money and a lack of affection, and those can sort of be traded.

I took econ in college and there’s a trade going on but, if that trade leads exactly as it does in the West to marriage and children, then it’s no different than any relationship.

Mate selection is always a market — what can I get for what I have? Can I get Donald Trump or can I get a cab driver?

How is this different to the guy going to Thailand to hire a local go-go girl? It’s a mock companionship. The woman might be checked out of the bar, but it’s not really for a night, it’s for a two-week vacation where she’s kind of the girlfriend, and she showers this lonely guy with affection. Is really that creepy because he can’t find love in his home country? Possibly yes, possibly no. I mean there are so many obstacles to partnership in the West. I think we ought to be a little bit forgiving as long as it’s for the less crass forms of these encounters. For both the Western men who travel to Asia and the Western women who go to Africa and the Caribbean.

There’s a trajectory into very sincere relationships. As it always has in history, the physical can lead into the real bond.