Readers' Submissions

Stop Casting Stones



I have never been to Thailand. I'm American, 31 years old, and a professor of comparative literature. I have never slept with a prostitute, although I know professors who have. I'm happily married to a beautiful Korean woman and dated several women from Asia, Europe, and North America. I have had sex with 20 partners and I'm slightly bi-curious. I make about $90,000 a year and own my own apartment. I'm perhaps 10 pounds overweight but I work out and try to maintain my physique. I lost my virginity at 17 and haven't had much difficulty finding sex in my lifetime, although I am by no means a stud. In fact, I loathe nightclubs and am very much the sort who likes sitting in a smokey pub with a pint of real ale to discuss Wittgenstein. My wife and I are extremely sexually active, and have had a couple of threesomes with women for fun. We have also gone to a sex club and had sex in public several times. I have also written two books and published several academic articles, and I write some popular pieces for pay on the side to supplement my university income.

These are all disparate facts and I write them both to demonstrate that a man contains multitudes, to paraphrase Walt Whitman, and to make it absolutely clear that I have no hidden agenda on the issue at hand: namely, prostitution and the sexual politics in Southeast Asia.

Despite my emotional detachment from the scene, I am fascinated by it, and read Stickman regularly, because I'm fascinated with all manifestations of human experience, and I don't think one needs to read Joyce and Proust to learn what it means to be human (in fact, too much Joyce and Proust does quite the opposite in my opinion).

For years I had an instinctual, visceral rage at the mere concept of prostitution and would shake in anger at the thought of young, beautiful women being fucked by fat old white men. I have recently realized that this is a very paternalistic attitude–I am infantilizing the women who have pursued this lifestyle, as if they had no other option. This is the typical western point of view, forgetting that there is ample work to be a maid, popcorn seller, or farmer in Thailand. The company has less unemployment than America. Prostitution isn't the final option. It is, however, an easy option, and one that is not available to impoverished young men.

However, all humans tend to have a stronger emotional response to women selling their bodies for sex than to women selling their bodies to, for example, clean the hotel rooms and apartments that HCG sleeps in both in Thailand and the West. For us, sex is special, especially in the West, where Christianity has made sex seem inherently dirty and sinful.

But the fact is, sex is a physiological act just like eating or sleeping.

The East has its own sexual value judgments largely due to Confucius in East Asia and Buddhism throughout the continent. In "The East, the West, and Sex: A History," journalist Richard Bernstein describes the "Harem culture" of the East. Combined with my own experiences with my wife, this book helped me understand Eastern sexuality and come to accept prostitution.

The idea is complex, but I think what we all need to do is think about every individual on Earth as a self-interested agency who interacts with men and women for a variety of reasons. The system isn't inherently unfair towards men, as some expats in Thailand may think, nor is it inherently misogynistic, as HCG and the western feminists may think. Rather, it is a never-ending power struggle in which ideological and economic tools are used by individuals to gain power and impose their will on humanity.

Including feminism.

I want to begin by addressing another response to the inequities of the sexual marketplace in Thailand: BKK Blue's post on why never to take a daughter to Thailand. In her post, she gave the anecdote of her friend's mother, whose husband called her to say "I am out in a bar, having fun, with several young girls all over me! You are ugly and I don't need you, see!"

This is, obviously, one side of a complicated story. I don't know these people, but I know marriage, and any marriage is complicated, and the longer it lasts, the more complicated it is. This outburst did not come ex nihlio in some pathological misogynist rage; it may have been the response to a real or perceived slight in which the husband felt rejected by the wife and need to reassert his value in the sexual marketplace. Which he did.

This doesn't mean his action was justified. It simply means that, at that point, their marriage had become a power struggle between two people. This has nothing to do with Thailand, or the West, or feminism. All marriages are power struggles. All human interaction is a power struggle.

From this perspective, the pay-for-play industry in Thailand is the manifestation of a sexual power struggle that has been going on since before the dawn of human history. We needn't understand it bitterly, as BKK Blue does, or judgmentally, as HCG does. We can understand it pragmatically as a group of white men rebelling against the inequities of a feminist-dominated western world, on the one hand, and a group of Thai women rebelling against the inequities of a Western-dominated global economy, on the other hand. The relationship between Thai sex worker (whether freelance prostitute or high-so girl) and western man as symbiotic.

This state of affairs offends many because it is a manifestation of the inequalities resulting from western imperialism, the industrial revolution, and dozens of other historical facts that we are all victims of. HCG does not recognize that she profits enormously from imperialism and the western-dominated global economy; without that her parents would never have met and she would not have had the opportunity to pursue a career in the post-feminist west. Likewise, the middle aged white men in Thailand benefit in their own way.

For one, orgasms with young girls, for the other, a fulfilling career and nights out on the town sleeping with studs. If we suspend judgment on both parties, we can see the reality beneath the surface.

I'm not going to make false equivalencies between HCG and the men in Thailand. Instead, I'd just like to remind everyone that, from an impartial economic perspective, Charlie Sheen, George Clooney, the 50-partner guy in HCG's post, the ambassadors fucking high-so girls, and the Thai sex tourists are all doing the same thing on a different level.

The only real exceptions to this symbiotic sexual marketplace of pseudo- and actual prostitution are the happy, loving married couples, in which both the man and woman makes an equal amount of money, and both are supportive of each other's sexual needs and desires. My wife and I aspire to this goal, but if I am honest, we probably won't get there. Most marriages in the west end in divorce, and most marriages in the east would end in divorce if the women there weren't so economically reliant on their men.

If anyone out there is eager to judge someone else for their sex life, I would urge caution. HCG may be right that the old men in Thailand couldn't get a hot young thing in a nightclub in NYC. Likewise, I'm pretty sure that, in 20 years, HCG won't be able to get a hot young thing in a nightclub in NYC.

Judge not, lest ye be judged.

Stickman's thoughts:

There's a lot of theory in here and references to articles published on this site quite some time ago.

It's one thing to offer a somewhat informed opinion from afar, but I often think you really do need to see something with your own eyes to get a feel for it. Applying theory to a situation is all very well but seeing it first-hand is the best way to really know what it's like.