Monday, September 20, 2010

Farang And Their Rented Admirers

This photo of people entering a hotel is used with no implications intended or implied whatsoever.

Public displays of affection (or PDAs) are considered to be extremely poor manners in Thailand. The topic was addressed in the post "Hello, Young Lovers" back on August 2nd, if you'd like an overview. Today's post scratches the surface of another aspect of affection - what I sometimes refer to as "rented affection"; club workers who, for a fee, will do far more than merely stroke the egos of their clients.

Heterosexual or Gay, it's much the same - prostitution is the World's Oldest Profession. It's been around since before recorded history and will always be with us in one form or another, I expect. When I was doing a 9-to-5 office job I used to joke with my co-workers how
our jobs were just another form of prostitution, too: we were selling our bodies and minds for a fee and doing things we didn't necessarily like or approve of! My guess is if you're honest with yourselves you've been in a similar situation at some point in your life at least a few times. Oh, go ahead... admit it. Nobody's going to know.

One of many "Girlie" bar streets in Pattaya

Thailand has the unfortunate reputation as being a destination for tourists who are primarily visiting for hedonistic reasons. I know of an unsettling number of folks who have never seen much of anything there outside of Patpong, Soi Cowboy, Soi Twilight or Boyztown - those being a few of the better known areas for finding paid company. It's their great loss.

Club workers in that line of work are usually in it for one of two reasons: cash or security. The cash can be part of an immediate need (food, shelter, drugs) for the day, week or month - or a longer-term need, such as savings for a farm or future for themselves and/or their families. The "security" can be in the form of a mate who will themselves provide the financial or emotional security for the future. There are multiple sub-catagories, but these are the two I've heard of the most often. If you stop to think about it, that's the reason
many of us do our daily jobs, whatever they are. Same same, but different!

Nevertheless, we expect to be treated with some respect while on the job. This is an area of thin ice to be walking on when it comes to prostitution. Although the Thai view of sexuality is far less restricted (read: far less uptight) than it is in the West, most workers I've interviewed don't tell their family and friends back home what they do for a living. More on that another time, too.

What's disturbing is to be out somewhere and be faced with (more often than not) Western males who feel they're free to act inappropriately and make displays of "affection" while with a Thai. Given a little (or a LOT of) liquid courage many seem to believe they're actually as irresistible as
they think they are, and that their advances should be not only welcomed, but received with a certain amount of gratitude. It's rampant in the clubs catering to gay and straight people of both genders, but I've noticed it's both more prevalent (and distasteful) among male customers.

For the workers who can't keep up the
mai pen rai facade it's a humiliating experience, and it always makes me feel a little ashamed for all involved. For example: a 19 year old heterosexual male being escorted out of a bar and down the street by a gay man old enough to be his grandfather. The young man is smiling (as is his job) but it's often a strained smile. The older man often buys into the deception along with the hours, and far too often with it a sense of entitlement, and that's a large part of the problem - "You're mine" as if they're a puppy or a new watch.

They're human beings, people. There are bad folks everywhere and I'm certain there are thousands of stories about customers being taken advantage of, cheated, lied to and the likes - but face it: the workers may
very well have learned it from their customers.

I'm going to draw some heat for this post, but I welcome your constructive comments. I'll be writing a lot more about this, the workers and their stories as we go along.


krobbie said...

Don't forget to mention that prostitution is illegal in Thailand. Both the offering of and procuring of.

We know this is a farce in actuality, but the law still stands and is enacted when it suits the police or they have no other option.

Then of course that leads us to the bribery (tea money) situation ... "more about that later" as you would say.


khunbaobao said...

Good point, Krobbie - I forgot that little kicker, thanks. Because I figured this post might already be an unpopular topic for some of the regular visitors to Thailand I decided to skip the age of consent, too.

Another day, another debate.

John said...

I am going to offer a bit of criticism, not of the specific topic but more generally. It is one I make of a lot of what I read about Thailand and about many people who are frequent visitors to the country. I do not really believe it is intentional, but it does seem to occur regularly when people write about Thailand.

There is a sense one gets, especially if they have never visited the country or have traveled to it only minimally, that Thailand is depicted as an idyllic country of gentle, smiling people who are often intruded upon by boorish outsiders. I am speaking as someone with a deep seated love of the country and with many of its people. However, there are few social ills, be it violence, bigotry, theft, fraud, xenophobia, or jingoism, that Thailand has had any particular success overcoming compared to the rest of the society of nations.

So, I suppose the questions I would ask are: do you believe the ills of Thai society are as visible to you as the strengths? If so, is it a simply a matter of not being interested in the subject and not wishing to write about it?


Was Once said...

I figure, in Thailand things have a way of working themselves out. Maybe not at that exact moment but Thai's have a good shame will happen at some other time.

I am also amazed at how many broken-hearted drunks there are, drinking away their sorrows, alone.

Anonymous said...

It could be that a life-time of home-land pretense leads to some very unpleasant arrogance once it's stoked by liquor and transplanted to what is perceived to be a third-world country inhabited by otherwise naturally gracious people.

Christian said...

"might already be an unpopular topic" not at all, at least not for me! I once entered a hotel with a friend who was so drunk that I had to support him and in another case a friend lost his T-shirt in DJ-station so he was shirtless when we entered the hotel, but your photo with a Thai in swimmwear is priceless!

neil said...

I feel for those boys. The things they do for money and the 'things' they have to 'do' it with. Yuck.

Viagra available in chewing gum yet?

Anonymous said...

I always keep my hands to myself, but the boys simply want to show affection...Eduard

khunbaobao said...

It's all done with smoke and mirrors, Eduard. ;-)

My guess is it's unpleasant work (at best) for at least 90% of them. There are not many of us who would welcome the job of being picked at random from the stage by someone at least twice our age.

Michael Lomker said...

baobao, the go-go bar scene is a small part of it. There's the beach, host bars, and massage parlors. I met a wonderful young man at Babylon. 10yrs my junior and he was educated and not looking for money. I miss him...we didn't keep in touch because we both understood that it was impractical.

khunbaobao said...

True - I guess I picked on the bars more than the rest. The folks in the top photo appeared to be coming back from the beach, and I've heard stories from all quarters. I've also heard success stories of unlikely couples who have many years together as of today. They're by far the exception, though.

Dimi said...

Just come down to say hello, I'm not around much these days but I still come and check the blog up every so often, each time glad to see the level of quality of your posts is still set to eleven :)


khunbaobao said...

Nice to see you back, dimi. Glad you check in as time allows!

beachlover said...

It's an unpleasant job but you can't deny they have made the decision to do it themselves... No one holds a gun to their heads.

Having said that, people who don't have the decency to treat them as good human beings are doing themselves a disservice too... Thas are very good at remaining non-confrontational and going with the flow when a Westerner treats them like crap... so they're probably blind and oblivious to the contempt the Thais they deal with hold for them.

Koz Bur said...

Visited massage parlors many times at my last visit. Liked most of them very much. I was also very friendly and talkative to them, they were usually very happy to see me again. But after all, they are doing it for EASY money. All of the guys have the options to work somewhere else like in a market for 200baht/day as many Thai people do, but these workers find it too difficult and little money. Why I am writing this, is because in the beginning I also felt very pity to these boys, selling their bodies for only about 1500 baht per session, but believe me guys they are not that helpless. If I am wrong please correct me...

khunbaobao said...

Koz Bur I can't say you're altogether wrong, but it's not possible to generalize about any one group. Some of the guys DO just want quick money, but I certainly wouldn't call it "easy".