Although the Dominican Republic has long had a reputation for prostitution and sex tourism, officials are making efforts to curb the problem. In the late 1990s, Sosúa was like one big red-light district, with European male travelers coming specifically for sex tourism. Town fathers have made vigorous efforts to clean things up—and they have—but prostitution still exists in the now designated Zona Rojas. It's traditionally been a different story in Cabarete, where young, local surfer boys target northern European girls, who end up paying the freight. The real action goes down in Punta Cana, with the infamous gigolo-like "sanky panky" boys—resort employees, often waiters, bartenders, and animation staff (those in charge of the entertainment, games and sports at resorts)—who seek out single female guests, especially older ones, lavishing attention on them, saying, "Meet me in the disco." Such a rendezvous often ends up in a seedy, drive-up, by-the-hour motel. What some unsuspecting ladies don't realize is that not only will they have to pay for the room but for the boy's services as well. Other sanky pankys may wait until marks have returned home to e-mail or phone them with a sob story about sick relatives or about losing their job.
In Santo Domingo, prostitutes are alive and not always well (diseases are a real threat). They ply their trade, roaming casinos and hotels, though top properties vigilantly thwart their efforts. Throughout the Dominican Republic, sex bars are usually called "gentlemen's clubs." There's substantial gay prostitution as well. Child prostitution has almost been stamped out, but not entirely, and the government will prosecute tourists who have sex with minors (under age 18), and they may also be prosecuted in their own country. It is not uncommon in certain areas, like Boca Chica, to see European men over sixty with girls who could be their granddaughters.
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