Overheard: A Prostitute's Wages


Overheard is our series of snippets/conversations that we have with other travelers and/or locals along the way.

Ever since Thailand, I've been wondering how much the prostitutes in SE Asia actually make. It's a strange obsession, but I was hoping it would help me understand why there are so many young women willing to sell their bodies for money.

The answer, from an expat living in Phnom Penh, is nothing but depressing. Based on her conversations with some of the ladies in her neighborhood, it seems that $15/night is the going rate when it comes to hooking up with a Western guy. Getting paid that sum usually requires the girl to be extremely pretty and well-dressed, and also conversational in English.

Those who lack the looks or the skills are often passed over by the white men and end up having to go with the local men, for whom prostitution is a way of life. For what sounds like a gang rape—multiple men in a van, one by one—these girls get $5. All together.

You have to wonder how desperate people have to be do this. It starts to make a little bit of (horrible) sense when you realize that $15 is what most well-employed Khmers get paid for a week of hard labor in a factory...

More Cambodia

If you haven't already, read our post on the Killing Fields of Cambodia. It is equally sad in other ways. Also, check out our Cambodia destination pages for tips on backpacking Cambodia.

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