Sexual Legacy: American Influence and the Southeast Asian Sex Trade Since the Vietnam War

Kevin D. Reyes

Edited by: Yuanya Feng


Since the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 1970s, the cross-cultural interactions between Southeast Asians and the United States industrialized the Mekong region's traditional sex trade into an international market of sexual consumption for American GIs, businessmen, sex tourists, and online lurkers. The issue of coerced prostitution of Southeast Asians, particularly minors, has since not only attracted American sex tourists, but also international concern and law. Unfortunately, following the war, the sex trade in the region has grown in parallel to the globalizing economy and has ineffectively been addressed by American foreign policy. As a part of the overarching issue of international human trafficking, the Southeast Asian sex trade needs continued attention from the United States which, until recently with the W. Bush and Obama administrations, has explicitly made efforts to thwart sex trafficking. Southeast Asia's haven for desire presents a controversial dilemma for human rights, development, and public health that can be traced back to American foreign policy during the Vietnam War. Drawing upon scholarship in the disciplines of sociology, law, economics, criminology, women's studies, and public health, as well as investigative journalism, this article presents a history of the relationship between American foreign relations and the Southeast Asian sex market, and even argues that the U.S. needs to further address this legacy of debasement.

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