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From an October 27, 2009, statement by the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers, based in Bangkok. In a 2005 book, The Bad Life, French Culture Minister Frédéric Mitterrand wrote about having sex with young male prostitutes in Thailand; the passages were widely discussed in the French press last fall, after Mitterrand protested Roman Polanski’s arrest. Mitterrand later said that he had sex only with adults.

It has come to our attention that there is continuing debate around Frédéric Mitterrand’s admission that he paid for sex with male sex workers in Thailand. We have seen attacks on him from both the left and the right—attacks that we see as both homophobic and anti–sex worker. Worse, we see the racist, orientalist views of elites who construct Thai sex workers as somehow “backward” and unable to choose what we do. In Thailand, all male sex workers are referred to by the term nong, which means “boy.” We are not duped underage boys forced into “sexual slavery.” We are people in a poor country making the choice to earn money to support ourselves, our families, and our country.

The money we send home to the rural areas of Thailand is far more than that provided by any international development program and supports far more people. Tourism is our country’s second biggest industry, and people have sex on holidays. Are they meant to be celibate? If French politicians are concerned about our exploitation, they would do better to support labor laws for sex workers and to push the ILO to recognize sex work as work. Until the left and right agree to substantially increase development aid to redistribute the wealth that France and other former colonial countries stole from the developing world, we would appreciate it if you keep sending us your tourists so that we can show them a good time and get some of your hard-won cash.