Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Thailand's Flourishing Sex Trade

An excerpt from Just Another Number 
Number 11

By the time we pulled into Phuket, we were exhausted from months of labor in the sweltering Persian Gulf heat. We were so close to coming home that the adrenaline rush we had from pulling into exotic lands had long disintegrated. We were overworked and homesick.
After months of the mindless elbow grease, incessant ship dusting, alarming drills, and rigid military bearing we were expected to uphold at all times, we were fully charged by each other’s friction and on the brink of eruption.
Thai prostitution was a haven for the men and a nuisance for the women. The streets of Phuket were outlined with bars ready to nourish thirsty sailors with euphoric intoxication to smother their pinched nerves from their personal lives deteriorating in their six-month absence.
Thailand truly lived up to its port reputation. Hundreds of bikini-clad prostitutes littered the strip. Slim and petite, their narrow hips and flat chests appeared to be the appropriate age for the pink plaid schoolgirl skirts, dress shirts, ties, and pigtails intended to entice pedophilic eroticism. They wore heavy coats of pastel liquid shadow that clashed against their yellow tinted tans. They awkwardly wiggled to a nauseating blend of techno and Reggaeton as cotton-haired granddaddies lustfully gawked at them. Any Caucasian male cannot trek a block without the treatment of a pop culture heartthrob with a trail of Thai teens at his heels.
            Wan hunnet baaht!” they taunt in a nasal screech. “Wan hunnet baht and I suck yo cock!
            The oriental beauties cup their fists and hold them to their mouths as they wiggle their tongues against their cheeks to provide a clear visual for their performance skills.
            It’s easy to dismiss the humanity in Thai prostitutes. Their splotchy, heavily accented English allows the language barrier to muffle signs of intellect. They’re overtly sexual in their crotch bearing ensembles, loud and vulgar invitations, and provocative dancing that makes even corner butcher shops feel like Vegas strip clubs. Swarms of them linger in front of bars holding cardboard signs scribbled with magic marker that offer a blow job with the first beer purchased. Their eyes burn into passing tourists, with acute radar for creamy, sun-flushed complexions and potbellies - signals of the deep pockets of white male privilege.
It is difficult to see the souls within the women who stand along the streets to claw for their customers like zombies in a haunted house. We overlook the fact that they are zombies. Their key to maintain a physical life was likely an emotional death.
            Western tourists transform Thailand into its own little planet of indulgence. Time has no relevance and debauchery, no consequence.
Thailand has been dubbed a lustful playground where it is overlooked when a straight male foggily awakes with new tattoos, missing limbs, and a torn anus from a belligerent romp with a transsexual ladyboy. As my shipmates perpetually claimed in defending their infidelities, “Hookers don’t count. They’re not real people.”
But beyond the cultural and geographical distance from home, wealth is the true fuel to Thailand’s wild nights and ethical negligence. One American dollar is worth about thirty-five Thai Baht. A lap dance, threesome, gangbang, golden shower, pedophilia, or any other sexual deviances shunned by conventional lovers are roughly twenty bucks - a modest ATM withdrawal.
“It’s so sad that they sell themselves like that,” I once said on deployment.
            “But you’ve gotta think,” more seasoned sailors would explain, “They are actually really smart women. Thailand’s a developing country. We’re kings there. A woman can support herself for a month with one night’s work.”
So, we chock Thailand’s flourishing sex trade up to a rigid tradeoff in an unfair world. We use them, do our best to forget them, and thank our lucky stars that we’re not one of them.

Oriental Dolls

An excerpt from Just Another Number
Number 11

The dim club sparkled with the multicolored lights that outlined the stage. Blood red bulbs blared behind the boyish, flat-chested bodies of Thai adolescents scantily wrapped in lingerie. A strobe light flashed and white disco dots swam around the ceiling, walls, and floor. The strip club was strategically designed to be our funhouse of guilty pleasure. We, the wealthy westerners, were dukes and duchesses, while they were our jesters and whores. We gulped tequila shots as we sat atop our thrones. We cackled at the spectacle of people becoming objects.
            I was supposed to be having the time of my life.
            I felt nauseous.

            But the real show was offstage. Dozens of men lounged along the tables that circled the main attraction. They ranged from eighteen to eighty, skinny to fat, stout to lanky. I saw home in them. I saw fathers, grandfathers, brothers, boyfriends, professors, bosses, and preachers. I imagined their houses, their families, their jobs, the coffee shops where they bought breakfast pastries, the hospitals their children were born in, and their neighborhood route for their dog’s morning walk. I saw the gleam in their eyes as the girls swiveled around poles, sashayed in their direction, and sat atop their laps like children visiting Santa Claus. They seemed to love their oriental dolls with a toddler’s English fluency. They had their happy endings. They would soon be boarding planes, flying far away from the poverty, the mental and emotional collateral damage, and the possible babies they conceived. Thailand was theirs. It was their escape, their medicine, and their sanctuary of sin.