The Behavioral Ecology of Sex Tourism: The Consequences of Skewed Sex Ratios

Florian Kock*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The operational sex ratio (i.e., the ratio of reproductive-age females to males in a population) shapes both animal and human behavior in important ways. Drawing on research in evolution and ecology, the author proposes that a local male-skewed sex ratio (i.e., a surplus of males) influences local men’s attitudes toward sex tourism. Analyzing historical field (study 1) and experimental data (study 2), the author demonstrates that male-skewed sex ratios increase men’s sex tourism rationalization and intent, while women’s predispositions are not sensitive to sex ratios. Sex tourism is explained as a subconscious ecological plasticity in response to perceived increased intensities of same-sex competition for mates, signaled by male-skewed sex ratios. The findings demonstrate a link between mating ecologies and sex tourism, with the latter serving as a compensatory behavior of same-sex mating competition. This research contributes a novel, biological perspective on sex tourism with implications for future research and practice.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Travel Research
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)1252-1264
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Published online: 11. August 2020


  • Behavioral ecology
  • Evolutionary psychology
  • Human mating
  • Sex ratio
  • Sex tourism

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