Thailand's provincial girls become sex workers

Updated: Sep 25, 2020

A bar girl is usually a young Thai woman aged 18 to 25 years who has decided to become a sex worker due to some type of family issue or financial hardship. As many as 80% say they do it to support their baby or siblings. They come from poor rural areas and regional provinces where normal work opportunities are limited and travel to big cities such as Bangkok and Pattaya to find work.

The word prostitute is not what they like to call themselves, instead, they prefer to be known as entertainment hostesses. Prostitution is illegal in Thailand so to be known as a prostitute can bring great shame to them and their families.

As employees of bar owners, they have job security and protection, unlike freelance girls who work the streets on their own. They are required to have a pap smear and a blood sample test either once a week in some bars, or twice a month in others. They must produce a medical certificate to prove they don't have any sexually transmitted disease (STD) to be able to continue working.

They are also required to speak basic English, be reliable and take care of their appearance. The older more experienced bar girls teach the younger ones all the tricks of the trade. It's important that they know how to behave and what to say to customers. They are after all entertainers first and foremost.

Thai bar girls are different from Western sex workers in that they don't do it to support a drug habit and pimp. Thai bar girls are employed by the owners of the bar and not by sex traffickers and are mostly drug-free. Those that are more likely to use drugs or be trafficked are freelancers (independent sex workers) and that includes ladyboys (transvestites).

Many bar girls regret their circumstances and don't like being sex workers but have no other choice and most do not have a high enough level of education to get a well paid job. Once they settle in to being sex workers they realize that they are making good money and find it hard to leave. They see themselves not as prostitutes but working for a cause to be able to support themselves and their families.

When money is involved morality always takes a back seat. Some bar girl hopes to meet the right farang (white man) someday and get married whilst others want to have a sponsor. A sponsor is just a man who can be a boyfriend who sends money to her regularly so that she doesn't have to work in the bar. However, some ambitious girls will have more than one sponsor.

A bar girl hopes to meet a farang.jpg
Bar girls working inside a Go-go bar.

5 reasons why young women become bar girls

1- She has a baby and the Thai boyfriend left her. Some Thai men are sexual nomads and need to have more then one partner. Once a baby comes along he may decide its more fun to be with the other woman and leave. Others cant handle the extra responsibility of a new child especially if they don't have a job. If she finds herself unsupported, with no job or she is already taking care of her other siblings the financial strain can soon become to much.

2- Her Thai boyfriend has a drug or gambling habit. Some Thai men have a drug or gambling habit and are not able to provide enough money to sustain her and her siblings. Drug and gambling addiction causes relationship problems and can lead to physical abuse. She may need to become the breadwinner and decide to leave him and take the children with her.

3- She has too many children and can't afford to feed them all. Some young women just keep getting pregnant due to a lack of birth control. Some believe it is sinful to use contraception or have an abortion. With too many children she will let other family members look after them such as an aunt or cousin whilst she goes and works in the bar and sends money to them.

4- Her family needs the money and she is the main breadwinner. Thai's are supportive of their families and if she is of working age and not providing money for her family she will be forced to do so. Other instances may be that the family is in a desperate situation perhaps her father is hospitalized or someone had a motor accident. Young healthy pretty women do not lounge around at home in these situations and must find work whatever it may be.

5- Her friend talked her into doing it for the money. Some girls are introduced to the sex business by a relative or friend who either works in a bar or knows of someone who does. She will become curious and interested in the prospect of making an amount of money that any normal job cannot give her. A bar girl can earn 30,000-40,000 baht a month, not much by western standards but when you consider the average wage is 10,000 baht a month its a lot of money.

The bar girl interaction

Many foreigners that come to Thailand will boast about the beauty of the beaches, the hospitable people, and magnificent scenery. However, they will keep low key about their discovery of bar girls that they really came to Thailand for. A typical interaction will start as soon as you enter the go-go bar. There is a guard at the door who may put a stamp on your hand as you walk inside.

There are different types of bar girls some are the dancers on stage others just stand around waiting for a customer. Either one can be taken out of the bar for sex, that's what they are there for. Once you go inside there will usually be loud music and it will be dimly lit. There will be some girls dressed in either bikinis or some other skimpy attire on the dance floor swaying to the music. You can sit down with a drink and enjoy the show or you can start by talking to a bar girl.

You will be approached by a few vivacious bar girls who will try and start up a conversation. If it's not busy you could find yourself surrounded by half a dozen girls all trying to be the first to win that ladies drink. They will laugh and make jokes as they talk to you and pressure you into spending some money. Soon you will need to decide which girl you find the most appealing and focus on her. There can be too many attractive girls to choose from sometimes that its almost impossible to make a choice quickly if you are the fussy type.

It can be quite overwhelming especially if you are not used to going to these places but it will be heart pounding. Soon the girl you are talking to will politely ask you for a ladies drink and she will ask you the frequently asked questions like where are you from, is this your first time in Thailand and do you have a wife? They like to know who they are dealing with and how streetwise you are. They know that a tourist will be likely to spend more money than say a local expat.

Soon she will politely ask you for a ladies drink. When you order her a drink it will cost twice more than yours. This is how the girl and establishment makes its money. She will get 40% of that amount. Every time you buy a drink it is recorded on your bill and you have to sign for it. This is because if you get too drunk later you cant have the excuse that you didn't order that many drinks. Whilst you can get drunk she will not because her drink will not contain alcohol.

If you want to take her back to your hotel she will inform the mamasan who will ask you to pay what is called a "bar fine". No, it doesn't mean you have done something wrong, it's just the cost of taking one of the girls out of the bar or establishment.

The bar fine cost

The cost of a bar fine depends on the establishment, a more upmarket on will charge more. Usually, a bar fine is 1.000-3.000 baht. Once the bar fine is paid the girl will go and put on her street clothes and then reappear and be ready to go with you. The fee for the bar girl is called a tip and again depending on the establishment can range from 1.500-5.000 baht depending on short-time or long-time and how attractive she is. You will have to negotiate with her if you want a discount but it won't be easy unless you look like Brad Pitt.

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