The sex tourism industry is about a century old, but when the Internet first became publicly available, sites like World Sex Guide allowed perpetual whoremongers to form communities online. Founded in 1994,WSG today
has more than 30,000 pictures of prostitutes posted by men who talk to each other over the site each day to share insight and exploits.
This is one subculture that has been pretty reluctant to embrace web 2.0 technology -- and many of the most popular sites promoting the lifestyle/hobby are pretty hokey-looking by today's standards. Message boards still predominate, likely because they allow for relative anonymity.
Slowly but surely, though, men who promote sex tourism are turning to social media in an attempt to monetize their photographs and promote products like e-books that describe how to negotiate with prostitutes in the Caribbean and Latin America.
David Strecker -- better known by his alias Cubadave -- is the most visible of these gringos. He's a 62-year-old former athlete who now gets his glory by sleeping with Dominican prostitutes and discussing it on Facebook. He also feels he is helping local women in impoverished places make ends meet by putting their pictures online and getting them more ex-pat customers who can shop for women before they land at the airport.
In this enterprise, Strecker is mostly consumed with keeping up his image, and his sexual performance. The Key West resident is amazingly fit-looking for his age. The man behind the brand, who goes by the pen name Daniel Caro, maintains Strecker's online postings and optimizes it for social sharing. Stecker already maintained the blog Adventures of Cubadave when he met his future business partner, but now they post in a way that allows the site to be tracked by Google and that encourages commenting. Now a typical post on Dave's blog gets between 50-150 comments and his rabid followers number in the thousands.
"The problem was that his photos used to be too explicit," Caro explains about his re-branding strategy. "We agreed that the non-nude photos were far less problematic, and in general the girls still want to pose and express a desire to be published on his blog or on Facebook. He is actually sought out by the girls in [the Dominican Republic.]"
He notes now that prostitutes didn't used to mind posing for photos because the Internet hadn't yet taken hold in the third-world. Women in the Dominican Republic started gaining limited access to Facebook only recently, and now they have become more cautious.
Strecker's blog is also starting to get too popular for its own good, and there have been crackdowns on prostitution in the Dominican Republic as politicians attempt to clean up the beach. Authorities there want to make them more family friendly and encourage the government to allocate national spending there.
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Regardless of who wins this battle -- the ex-pats or the local officials -- sex tourism is a whack-a-mole phenomenon, meaning that as soon as its shut down one place it will pop up in another. As the men who promote this industry slowly start to move away from message boards and into social media, it's hard to say if the community will flourish or buckle under its new visibility.
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Follow Allie Conti on Twitter: @allie_conti