Throughout my time here I've seen numbers of old, white men with young Dominican women. While prostitution is common here--hardly a night goes by where I am not solicited--I couldn't believe the audacity of some of these old geezers. Invariabley moneyed and dressed nicely, they go out in broad daylight, to the beach or to dinner in the company of their "mujer".
Seeing something so incongrous and obvious makes it awkward to walk by them and hard not to stare. I keep imagining the face Jim Halpert makes when Michael Scott does something inappropriate in the Office. The face that says, "Really? You're doing that? In public?"
Turns out this is more than prostitution. It sanki-panki (not "hanky-panky" or "skanky-panky", though both are appropriate). What many foreigners will pay a woman a certain amount of money to be their companion. Sometimes for a week, sometimes a month, or sometimes years. It's like hiring a long-term escort. In the very worst cases families will "lease" their daughters out, sometimes at very young ages. There is a well-known Frenchman in town living with a girl of 12. Sadly, it's not hard to imagine that the 12-year old girl will continue to make a living in the sex industry.
It is a symptom of poverty, though that does not excuse it, especially not in the cases of parents selling their daughters. It creates more poverty, dehumanizes women, begets violence, spreads disease and ruins lives.
Most of the foreigners you meet traveling are great people who are interested in seeing the world, learning about new cultures, and/or making a difference like the volunteers here at the Fundacion Mahatma Ghandi. But there's still those few who are here only for a good time, and the Dominican Republic's image as a tropical, live-it-up paradise draws more than its fair share. It's explotation, and it's really sad to see.