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Unpacking the landscape of female sex tourism in Kenya: a film analysis of Paradise: Love

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This article examines Paradise: Love (2012, Dir. Ulrich Seidl), a compelling filmic account of the problematics of race, ethnicity, gender, and nation that organize contemporary accounts of female sex tourism. The storyline and visual imagery of the film positions Kenya – and a Eurocentric, homogenized, and reductive (mis)understanding of parts of ‘Africa’ – as an imagined site of racial and sexual adventure for older white Western women seeking intimate relationships with a category of local black men, many of whom enter into these sexual relationships in order to supplement personal and family economic shortfalls. This economy of intimate exchange is positioned as a trade of these black Kenyan men’s desire for money, local status, and the potential to travel to the West, for white Western women’s desire for sexual fulfillment from young black men’s bodies and their assumed sexual prowess. Deconstructing the discourses of female sex tourism through Paradise: Love centres the visual and representational components of processes of racialization and sexualization, wherein beach boys and white Western women gaze upon and ‘Other’ each other through essentialist and fetishized understandings of racial and sexual difference. In focusing on the power dynamics of female sex tourism in particular, the film plays up the shock value of women sexually exploiting men, pushing viewers to question: who counts as a sex tourist? Ultimately, this article seeks to enrich and extend scholarship that troubles intersecting power structures that shape and inform transnational inter-racial intimacies within economies of eroticized exchange.
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Keywords: Female sex tourism; Kenya; fetishization; film analysis; neo-colonial scripts

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Women & Gender Studies Institute, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

Publication date: April 3, 2018

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