The Oldest Profession and the Endless Debate
It’s not surprising how much debate there has been recently about the world’s ‘oldest profession’. The readers of this website are for the most part not exactly neutral when it comes to their opinion of the P4P industry in Thailand. Big surprise eh? The percentage of folks reading this who have indulged in mongering…at least once while in The Land of Smiles is probably high enough to make the current discussion personally relevant to many. I doubt that anyone’s mind is likely to be fundamentally changed by what anyone is submitting, but I think we can admit that at least some genuinely thought provoking ideas have been put forth. Here are a few of my own highly subjective, but what I hope are well reasoned thoughts on the subject.
I have said before, and will say once again, that I do not find the mere exchange of money for sexual services morally repugnant. As long as we are not talking about under aged girls or anyone being forced to participate against their will, then what consenting adults do is okay with me. That being said, I do think talking about the effect of the sex industry on the lives of those involved in it is worthwhile.
Stick, given his long-time analysis of the P4P world, has a perspective that I will certainly never have. Lord knows how many girls he has observed over the years. Certainly he has gathered a statistical sampling, which while may not be strictly scientific, still provides a fairly broad picture of what’s going on. The fact that he can actually converse with the girls in fluid Thai must be valuable in shaping his opinions. Whatever your slant on the industry is, I think he is well worth listening to.
I would like to put the debate over the moral responsibility of mongering in a broader context. We need to ask ourselves a fundamental question. Am I my brother’s (or should I say sister’s) keeper? I mean, am I morally responsible for everyone, whether I personally know them or not? It’s not as easy a question to answer as you might think. For example: How many millions of people around the world are directly affected by what our governments do? Does at least some of the tax money you pay to your government go towards foreign policies that you strongly disapprove of? If so, are you protesting on the steps of your legislature? If not, why not? Innocent people on the other side of the planet may be having a bomb dropped on them. You don’t approve, but are you prepared to go to jail to prove your point? For most of us, the answer is probably no. We go on with our daily lives.
Okay, now let’s say that today you have a sudden craving for a burger and fries. You head over to Burger King and have a Whopper, large fries and a Pepsi. I specify Pepsi, because Burger King is a subsidiary of Pepsico, an enormous multinational conglomerate. The tendrils of this huge corporation snake far and wide. What are the odds that some division of Pepsico engages in some business practices that you personally find immoral? How in the world would you ever know, and if you were, would you shift your burger business elsewhere? I think it’s safe to say that unless you are the fictional hero of a high-tech action movie who can hack into an encrypted computer with a few keystrokes, you aren’t likely to learn much about what any large corporation is doing.
Much of the time when we interact with the world, the best we can hope to do is keep our eyes and ears open…as well as our minds, and try to act in a way that we personally think is ethical. For example, if you knew for a fact, that a company was say, enslaving its employees or subjecting them to horrendous working conditions, you just might choose to do your business elsewhere.
Let me attempt to tie this back to the subject at hand. I have no doubt that many of the girls who work longtime in the P4P industry are not improved by the experience, physically or emotionally. There are many who abuse drugs, tobacco and alcohol. They squander whatever money they earn on gambling, and fripperies. There are plenty of others however who, despite their occupational activities between the sheets, remain decent people. Many completely abstain from alcohol, and would never dream of smoking, taking drugs or getting a tattoo.
Okay, here is a highly absurd hypothetical situation. Before you bar fine that cutie with a twinkle in her eye, you sit her down for an interview. (Only Dana could successfully write about such an interview!) <Dana, are you listening? Put this on your to do list! Seriously, no-one could do the "pre-purchase interview" like you – Stick> What you want to know from her is: How will you spend that money I give you? Will you spend it on supporting your little baby back in Issan…or on yaa baa and a bottle or two? She is brutally honest and tells you that after she leaves you she plans on a marathon dope and gambling binge. If she has a little money left over, she may decide to send it to her mother who is taking care of her child. Knowing this, would you still take her back to your room? Maybe not…or maybe you say what the hell and settle for unabashed monkey-sex. That is of course after you check her ID and see she is of legal age…right?
The point I’m trying to make is that most of the time you will never know anything about the life of these girls. Undoubtedly, with a very few exceptions, they are there for the money. Other than that they are a cipher. Is she primarily trying to provide for her children? Does she dream of saving her money and starting a small business? Is she there because she can simply earn more money in a night than she ever could in a week back in her village? Does she think that her self dignity can damned well take a back seat to that flashy mobile she lusts after? You’ll never know. Is it your business to know?
The point has been well made by others in recent submissions that there are many occupations that have very real inherent dangers. Coal mining is one that comes to mind. Does every teenage boy who enters the mines for the first time know that he may very well die in a cave-in? It would be hard to be completely unaware about the possibility, but young men (and women) rarely think about their mortality. All the younger miner knows is that he is going to be earning money. Black-lung disease? Hey, that happens to other folks! What about the chemical industry? Man, that’s one dangerous way to make a living? By the way, I’m talking about working back in the mines of Farangland. As for working in the third world, the chance of coming out healthy at a ripe old age is slim at best.
Please do not think I am being flippant or callous. While I can imagine a kinder and gentler world, life in the real world we actually find ourselves in is tough. Are you prepared to change any aspects of your life to change it? Do you know where most of your clothing is made, and by whom? There’s a good chance that it’s made here in Asia, by people (often children) in unsafe conditions and for very little money. I personally would be more than willing to pay more for ethically produced consumer goods, but the fact remains that I probably shouldn’t hold my breath waiting for the Chinese or Indians to offer decent pay and free health care. Still, if kind hearted western foreigners were suddenly to boycott Asian made clothing; don’t expect the people who make them to thank you for your concern. They need the work to support themselves and their families. Yes, life does suck big-time for too many people on the planet.
Okay, back to P4P. Since there is no way to know how the cash you hand over will be spent, would it be better to simply stay home and become better acquainted with your right hand? Once again, don’t expect the girls to thank you for your high moral position. I agree with Korski when he says the economic impact of mongering is not trivial. You take into account not only the money paid directly to the girls, but also to hotels, restaurants etc, you are talking about an enormous amount of money flowing into Thailand. In an ideal world, a world most of us would think to be a desirable one, most of the working girls would have real choices as what they can do with their lives. Since Thailand isn’t likely to become the South Eastern economic tiger it potentially could be, good jobs will continue to be hard to find, even for those with a university education.
Note: Please do not think I am implying that mongers should be patting themselves on the back, and thinking that they are foreign aid workers! The money that may come into Thailand as a result of mongering should not be thought of as a justification of the practice!
What’s a pretty young girl to do? Well, she could just stay on the farm. It is a hard life, with your “face to the earth and back to the sky”, but you will probably never be hungry. A farmer’s life is an honorable one, and hey, we wouldn’t be eating anything without them. 98% of Thais are out there everyday putting in a full day’s work…but at the moment we are talking today about the 2% who work horizontally…which is still a huge number!
If every P4P venue that caters to Farangs were to close today permanently, would that be the end of prostitution in Thailand? The Farang aspect of the sex industry is in fact a tiny percentage of what goes on every night in every city, town, village and hamlet here. Most prostitution caters exclusively to Thais.
Note: Recently some wanker asserted that most of the local prostitution in Thailand involves children. I believe that this is complete bullshit. Undoubtedly some child abuse is going on in Thailand, but to state that is the norm when it comes to prostitution is utter fiction. Most child sexual abuse takes place in the home…not in a brothel. If any of you actually know specifics about commercial child exploitation, they should find a way to report it. There may be corrupt police in Thailand, but I’d be willing to guess that most would not allow this to be going on in their jurisdiction.
The Thai sex industry is quite a bit more low key than the one that Farangs are familiar with. Whatever brothels exist here aren’t hanging out colorful neon signs in front…at least in Lampang. I don’t know where they are…and I don’t want to know! I have no idea what prices Thai men pay, but I’ll bet it’s a hell of a lot less than your average Farang punter will ever pay. <The word I hear is that prices have moved up in country brothels and it'll set you back around 500 baht a shot these days – Stick> If there were suddenly no more Farangs as potential customers, I would imagine a fair number would take up the same trade back home…but would be earning a measly few hundred baht and Thai men often do not use condoms. <I believe, but certainly cannot be sure, that this is changing – Stick>
It is worth noting that at least some of the girls in the trade were never of the finest moral character to begin with. The idea of the wide-eyed innocent virgin who, except for her fateful decision to hop on the bus to Bangkok or Pattaya would have led an upright life sounds appealing. It may in fact be true sometimes. But is it true most of the time? We’ll never know…but at least some of these girls, who are now black hearted bitches, would still be black hearted bitches, even if they were selling noodles instead of booty. Many would still be drinking, taking drugs and gambling. Alcohol and drug abuse is a huge problem in Thailand. It would be naive to blame it all on the sex industry, although it is true that if you associate with mangy dogs, there is a good chance of you picking up a nasty case of fleas! It is also true that spending a year or two in the trade may very well make these problems worse. Many of these girls are highly immature emotionally, so it could be said that giving them large amounts of cash contributes to the problem, but still everyone has choices to make.
The big question remains then, do you, by participating in the P4P industry, to any degree whatever, become responsible for the train wrecks some of girls turn into? Let me make a few more analogies.
Quite a few of you out there enjoy a drink or two from time to time. I doubt that you’re a likely supporter of the prohibition of alcohol, right? Yet, the fact remains that alcohol abuse causes more human misery than just about anything else. How many people, right now, while I’m writing this, are being killed by a drunk driver? If you owned a bar or a liquor store, you have to know that many of your customers are alcoholics. Is it your moral obligation to know what happens after you sell someone a bottle of booze? And you sir at the bar, you are aware aren’t you, by buying that beer you are holding in your hand, are directly enabling the bar you are in to sell drink after drink to people who are destroying their lives? Hmm, I don’t see many hands out there asking to get on board the non-drinking wagon…so why are some people so eager to condemn the exchange of sex for money?
Where does the money you exchange for all other goods and services go? Should you not do business with an overweight accountant because your money is going to pay for the fellow’s next ‘heart attack on a plate’ fast food meal?
If you buy an ice cream cone at DQ, you are contributing to the hoards of fat little boys and girls waddling through the shopping mall.
By no means should you ever set foot in a casino! Those places exist to separate fools from their money. You, by patronizing such places, make it possible for tens of thousands of people to flush their family’s savings down the toilet.
This is all absolutely loony of course. You and I are not responsible for how people choose to live their lives! Trying to calculate all of the possible consequences of all of your actions would result in mental paralysis. You would soon become a gibbering idiot. This not to say that we shouldn’t try to act in a way which we believe is life supporting, and avoid things which we know are life damaging.
In the end, all I can say is that you need to follow your moral compass, without trying to force others to share your point of view. If you sincerely believe that mongering is wrong…for whatever reason, then don’t do it! If you are going to be a monger, please try to be a decent human being at the same time. Try to show at least a modicum of respect for the girls.
Much balance is brought to the argument here, looking at both sides of the story.
If you want to know what Stick really thinks, I'll let you know at 6 PM on Sunday. Some people's knickers are going to be in a twist by 6:10….