The Flesh Game
By Michael Miller
Sex for sale in Thailand comes in many different forms.
At the bottom of the pecking order, you can meet a prostitute known as a freelancer. A freelancer is a woman who sits in a bar, or after hours club, or a mainstream disco such as the Hard Rock Cafe disco trolling for a fare. A freelancer also can be found walking the street looking for a customer. A freelancer has the option of refusing to go with the customer, moreover the freelancer is often the aggressor in commencing the sexual business transaction.
You can also go to a common brothel, or a special brothel known as a "soapie". A soapie is a brothel where the prostitute takes a soapy bath with you before giving you a soapy body massage on an air mattress next to the bathtub, this soapy body massage is followed by sex in a bed in the same room as the bath and body massage. Both brothels and soapies offer the customer the opportunity to pick whichever woman he wants, and the prostitute has little or no control over whether or not she goes with the customer that favors her.
There is also the common and well advertised go-go bar where the girls are dancing around a pole setting which is very similar to an American "strip-joint". The girls in this environment are paid a salary of about 225$ per month for dancing every day at the bar for 6-8 hours. The costumes range from bikini bathing suits to topless, to nude. The girls wear numbers so the customers can point them out to the "mama-san" or manager to identify them as being pretty or interesting. After the dance routine is over, the mama-san will direct the girl to sit with the customer at which point the girl will attempt to be charming and make small talk. The customer will be encouraged, and sometimes pressured to buy the girl a lady-drink. This is a 2-3$ glass of coke or juice. The girl will receive a portion of this lady-drink price as a bonus on her check at the end of the month. The go-go girl is under pressure to receive approximately 100 lady drinks per month from male visitors to the Go-go bar. There is an interesting relationship that exists between the go-go bar, and the go-go dancer. The go-go bar makes its money from selling drinks to the customers, to include lady drinks. The go-go bar also makes a small profit from the "barfine" paid for a go-go dancer to leave the bar with a customer. But this is where the relationship stops being intuitively obvious. If a man likes one of the dancers, he will negotiate with her a price for either "long time" which means all night, or "short time" which means up to two hours in his hotel room. The go-go girl will negotiate her price with the customer and she will receive all of the money paid to her for her services. The go-go bar will not receive an override or "cut" of her fee for services. If the customer and go-go girl have agreed on a price, then the customer must pay a fee to the go-go bar called a "barfine". This is a fee intended to compensate the bar for the girls wages for the night she will not complete work. The go-go girl will receive a portion of the bars fee, or barfine in some case as high as 40% of the go-go dancers "barfine" will be added to her check at the end of the month. Some go-go bars require that the go-go dancer "go" with at least 5 male customers per month, and some go-go's do not require the dancers to be barfined or "go" with any minimum number of customers. The go-go girl has a large amount of control over whether or not she leaves the bar with a customer. She can inflate her fee to a ridiculous level so her suitor or potential customer will not agree to the transaction. If the mans appearance and demeanor please the girl, she can accordingly lower her fees to a level which promotes the sale beyond the normal fee. There appears to be a small amount of pressure on the girls to go with customers, however the girls are not forced to leave with a man if they do not want to go. The relationship between go-go girl and go-go bar is similar to the relationship that an American hairdresser has with the beauty parlor. The go-go girl has applied to work at the go-go bar for the purpose of being well viewed by the male public. She desires to be well viewed because in doing so she can more easily obtain the highest grade and most desirable of the male clientele available. The go-go bar needs and wants many beautiful girls to be dancing to attract male customers to buy overpriced standard and lady drinks. In the beginning of the evening, the go-go bar is not enthusiastic about the girls being "barfined" because their absence decreases the amount of overpriced drinks that may be sold. However, later in the evening when drink sales are going to be predictably lower, the go-go bar is interested in seeing the dancers "barfined" because the bar will then recoup approximately 150% of the girls daily salary in the form of a "barfine" from the customer.
The girls involved in this flesh trade are in themselves a large population group. Some of the girls are kind and good hearted. Some of them are cold and unfeeling. Some of them have backgrounds of acute tragedy and emergency financial need, and some of them simply do not wish to accumulate assets in a slower fashion that would be possible from a mainstream job. Some of these girls are very pretty, and some very ugly. Most are only poorly educated, and most of them come from rural backgrounds where little opportunity for making money or getting ahead is possible. Most of the girls come from a world where women are not given the same social status and power that women in western industrialized countries enjoy. Many are divorced, have dependent children, or dependent families that rely on the money they earn to make ends meet. The life of a Pattaya prostitute is not entirely sad, or desperate, but it is clearly not the life I would choose for my own daughter if I had one. However, there are obviously good parts to any job, and advantages and disadvantages to any life choice. Virtually all of the prostitutes in Pattaya are very conscious of safe sex practices, and have been very well trained in the use of condoms during sexual acts.
The male customers in the Thai Flesh trade are a large and diverse group.
Many different countries are represented, and many walks of life abound. It would be inaccurate to say that the male/western customers of Pattaya prostitutes are only interested in sex. This is a large population group of western men and while some are clearly interested in only sex, it is obvious that many are also looking for love, or like, and general companionship. The term GFE is commonly used in western parlance when discussing the sex scene here. GFE means "girl friend experience". "GFE" is most often used to describe a multi day "romantic" experience where a male customer contracts with a favorite prostitute to stay with him for several or many days for the purpose of sex, companionship, and to enjoy the mainstream tourist attractions that Thailand offers in abundance.
The male customers of prostitutes include sexual fiends who are so usury and offensive when discussing the local women, that this writer found it hard to not get into a verbal argument with one of the because of his vulgar and tasteless references and attitudes.
You must understand that I am very open minded and to offend me you have to be pretty over the top.
Well, sadly, I have met this man in Thailand, he was mid 50's, well established financially, and had a crass manner of referencing and discussing his desire for "anal virgins". This means that he was constantly looking for prostitutes that had not yet engaged in anal sex. He was proud that when offered enough money, most prostitutes would succumb and agree to anal sex with him. I found this man to be creepy and vial. I was almost instantly angered by his attitudes. His lifelong pursuits include nothing more than sexual encounters with prostitutes. As I said, this individual was sad, creepy, and distressing. I only met him for about an hour and a half. I did not learn his life story, I did not have the opportunity to find out if there was anything redeeming or kind about him. I remember him harshly. Perhaps I am wrong, perhaps this man has qualities that will keep him out of hell someday, but I didn't see them.
You have now heard about the absolute worst westerner I have met while in country. While I make no excuses for a mans lifestyle or personal choices, rest assured that most westerners are essentially good and decent, or at least not as bad as the first fellow I told you about.
Western men have many reasons for sex with prostitutes. Perhaps the most obvious reason is "biological need" or horniness. It is normal that a man would want sex with a woman, and when given an opportunity to have sex with a "pretty woman" most men would acknowledge the fact that their mind responds to the physical markers of health and beauty displayed by many Pattaya prostitutes.
However, physical need does not account for all or even most of the sex trade here.
Before you read further, you must understand something about Thailand itself.
Thailand is probably the worlds finest tourist destination. It is economical, beautiful, exotic, the people are friendly, what can I say, Thailand is great! Sure there are problems here, but pound for pound and dollar for dollar Thailand is crammed full of mainstream travel conveniences and attractions.
There is an interesting relationship between the Thai Flesh trade and the rest of the tourist industry. Each one promotes the other. It is probably correct to say that Thailand's current state of tourist industry would not exist in its present form if it not for its prostitution industry. However, it is also very true that the prostitution industry would not survive two seconds without the mainstream tourist attractions orbiting around it. Whether or not you believe me, it is true that Thailand's tourist industry is totally interdependent on its Flesh trade. Thailand's economy is largely and some say totally supported by tourism, so obviously the welfare of the country is partially dependent on the continued flesh trade. I am not trying to approve this industry, only to put it into perspective for you.
So now you understand that Thailand is a great tourist destination with a thriving sex industry.
Only NOW you can begin to understand the men who come here and WHY.
I have come to Thailand 3 or 4 times now, and I have a quick and dirty rule to explain western behavior here. (if a man comes all the way to Thailand for the purpose of sex with prostitutes, there is probably something very wrong with his personality, or his life in general. AND if a single and unattached man finds himself in Thailand for any significant length of time and doesn't at some point forget himself with one of the local prostitutes, then there is probably something wrong with his personality and his life in general) Whether you agree or disagree with this thought is up to you, but now you have a quick and dirty rule about Thailand.
You should also remember the time differences between Thailand and American Eastern Standard Time. When anyone from the East Coast of America arrives in Thailand at 1050pm or thereabouts, his body's internal clock is set to American Eastern Standard time, which is exactly 12 hours opposite Thai time. This means that at 10pm Thai time, an Americans body thinks it is 10am in Boston, or New York. Obviously this tourist can not sleep, and there are only limited mainstream tourist attractions open in Bangkok at this time. This means that your tourist friend from Boston, or Baltimore will likely find himself in venues that are probably not family oriented to say the least, and when a man finds himself in these types of questionable situations, he is more likely to engage in the activities offered.
What kind of man has used the services of a Thai prostitute? Well we have already discussed the worst, so lets look at others and examine their situations.
There is Alex, a man from Maryland whose wife is not sexually interested in him anymore. Alex is late 40's and is about 5'7" tall and weighs about 204lbs. Alex is friendly and decently mannered. He has a high school education, and earns about 55K USD per year. Alex is in Thailand because he is sexually frustrated with his wife, and doesn't know how to find sex in America within his present marriage situation. Alex's wife understands his need for sex and consents for him to come to Thailand for the purpose of sex with prostitutes.
Klaus is a 54 year old Swiss airline steward in Thailand for his vacation. He is physically presentable, friendly, well spoken, well dressed, and humorous. He enjoys drinking beer and chatting with the local girls in various bars, and sometimes pays one of them for her services. He is divorced and has 2 teenage daughters in Switzerland.
George is a middle aged American executive who is too busy to find a girlfriend in Los Angeles and who has complaints about American women being "too fat" or "too bitchy". George is not happy with the sexual politics on his job in California and believes that American women are all either "fat" or "bitchy". George is divorced, and essentially lives a fast paced life in L.A. He earns about 115K USD per year. George likes to pay Thai prostitutes for sex and is happy when he is in the company of a prostitute. George is not a bad fellow, but he obviously has been emotionally injured in previous relationships and never properly healed from the same. Today he finds comfort in the form of contracted sex with hookers.
Emilio is a low level businessman from Kansas City. He is a slight fellow who speaks both Spanish and English. He is physically presentable, and smiles easily. He is intelligent and honest looking. He earns about 45K USD per year. He is living in Thailand. Emilio would like to have a nice wife someday, and he is not jaded against American women. He is worldly and clever. But he is posted in Thailand on business and he finds occasional recreation in a soapie.
Taylor is a bank manager from Chicago, he earns 75K USD per year and is married with children living in Chicago. He suffers from decreased self esteem resulting from being rejected for sex by his wife. Taylor loves his wife very much, and says she is a good woman. She just constantly rejects him for sex. Taylor is 6'4" tall and has red hair and a red moustache. He is obviously very strong, but is about 50- 60lbs overweight. Taylor works many hours at the bank as a manager and has a part time job on the weekends to make ends meet. Taylor his in Thailand looking for sex to "save his marriage" Obviously Taylor would be happier with more sex from his wife whom he says is beautiful and loving. Taylor feels using the services of Thai hookers is helping him "recharge" or "get caught up" in his sex life. Taylor feels that his hostility for his wife will be decreased if he can simply relieve some sexual tension. Taylor laughs easily and has a college education.
Tom is a mid 30's truck driver from Denver. He came to Thailand several years ago when he won an airline ticket in a company Christmas raffle. He says he never had "yellow fever" and never really wanted to come to Thailand in the first place because he thought it would be "dirty" and "nasty". Tom remembers his first experience with a prostitute as an accident. He arrived to town late and went to a go-go bar for entertainment. He says he was shy, but when an "almond eyed beauty" slid up to him and took his hand and looked into his eyes, he could not resist taking her back to his hotel room. Tom now says he likes Thailand and enjoys coming here, but could "care less" about hookers. He says he could "take them or leave them" Tom just enjoys the country of Thailand and says "maybe he will go with more prostitutes, and maybe not."
Lets not forget the "textbook sex tourist". This is a man who specifically seeks out sexual encounters with prostitutes and feels this "hobby" is normal and dignified. He is known in his circles as a "monger", this is short for whoremonger. This dyed in the wool sex tourist communicates with his fellow "mongers" on organized and highly technical web pages such as Club Hombre and Pattaya Talk. These web sites are designed to facilitate communication between fellow "mongers" about the subjects of where sex tourism is available in the world, and how much various services cost, and what the quality is for the same.
The stories go on and on, stories of broken hearts, low quality lives, sometimes the stories are of happy men who are simply looking for vacation in an exotic land.
It is impossible to categorize all the western "johns" into one specific box. There is a giant population group of westerners here who are looking to prostitutes for everything form love , to sex, to companionship, for someone to protect, occasionally someone to oppress and mildly brutalize.
The bulk of the western men here are just simply lost in their own countries, or just lost on vacation.
Often these men begin their association with the Thai Flesh trade looking for sex, but morph their tastes to "looking for Thai culture and sex" then morph again to "looking for a vacation getaway with the possibility of maybe utilizing a prostitutes services". Sometimes a variety and combination of these and other reasons promote a western man to engage in sex with a local prostitute.
Is it right or is it wrong? Is it good for America? Is it good or bad for Thailand? Are the Thai prostitutes victims getting used and abused? Or are they undereducated feminists utilizing their bodies as they see fit?
What is the definition of a prostitute? Is an American prize fighter a prostitute? He clearly abuses his body for money. Is an American woman who desires to only date a "man with money" a prostitute, she will not give her love for free. How many American women have been extra friendly or "flirty" at a bar in America knowing that by doing so she will be offered a "drink" by one of the men at the bar. This same woman knows the fancy drinks at an American bar cost 5-8$ each, and she knows she could never enjoy very many of them at that price, but she can enjoy them if they are paid for by a strange man with whom she has no intentions of knowing on any level. How many American women are interested in what kind of "car" a man drives, or what brand his "shoes" are ? YOU DECIDE if these attitudes are not similar to the attitudes of a prostitute looking for a "john" in a Pattaya go-go bar.
What is the definition of a "customer or John"? Is an American man who purposely displays his wealth in order to attract a mate a "JOHN". He is not satisfied in being judged only for his personality and his physical attributes? What about all the American men who have purchased sports or luxury cars specifically to attract a mate or date? Maybe this man's transportation needs could have been met on the bus, but he finds a need to "flash" his wealth to attract a woman, or to attract the right kind of woman. How many American men have taken their "dates" to expensive restaurants for the purpose of ultimately "getting some" or "finding love" ? How many American men have managed to suppress their "flinch" response to a giant tab at these same restaurants for the purpose of not appearing "poor" to their "dates" ?
What is right and what is wrong? These and many other questions and issues will be addressed in my upcoming essays about the Thai Flesh Trade as it relates to Family Values, and the American way.
* DEAR READERS OR READER, PLEASE NOTE: I HAVE SLIGHTLY ALTERED THE NAMES AND BIOGRAPHICAL DATA ON ALL OF THE MEN THAT YOU HAVE READ ABOUT. I DID THIS BECAUSE I DID NOT CONDUCT FORMAL INTERVIEWS WITH ANY OF THEM. I ONLY LISTENED TO THEIR STORIES AND ASKED GOOD QUESTIONS OF THEM. I DO NOT PRACTICE AMBUSH JOURNALISM AT MIKES VACATION. IF A MAN IS KIND ENOUGH TO GRANT ME A FORMAL INTERVIEW, I WILL NOT PUBLISH HIS COMMENTS OUT OF CONTEXT OR WITHOUT HIS PERMISSION.
IF A MAN IS NOT AWARE THAT WHILE I AM MAKING FRIENDLY CONVERSATION WITH HIM THAT I AM ALSO GATHERING INFORMATION FOR AN ESSAY, HE WILL NOT BE PUNISHED FOR HAVING HIS GUARD DOWN. ANOTHER WORDS, ALL NAMES AND BIOGRAPHICAL DATA THAT YOU JUST READ HAVE BEEN
SLIGHTLY ALTERED BY ME TO PREVENT ANY OF THE MEN WHO SPOKE TO ME IN THAILAND FROM BEING SOMEHOW INJURED IN EITHER THEIR PERSONAL OR PROFESSIONAL LIVES.
Michael Miller Ko Chang, Thailand January, 2006