Ladyboys, an Alternative View Part 3
Henrik List had built up strong bonds and relationships with prostitute ladyboys in/from Bangkok, and got an exclusive look in their world, which he later on published.
Thailand has never been colonized, which is an interesting aspect, since it has resulted in the Thai culture being more or less untouched. Tolerance towards ladyboys is a common sight in Thailand, which is due to the more relaxed relationship to sex and the respect for peoples’ sex life, unlike the more westernized values which originates from the more puritan Christian values (List H. & Askegaard A. (2006) Bangkok ladyboys).
When asking one of his friends Natascha about how come Thailand is a country known for its transvestites and transsexuals, she replies: “In the Thai culture you must respect your family, especially your parents and grandparents and those who are elder than yourself, and you’re not allowed to act like the youngsters act in the West towards their parents”, Nastascha continues; “As long as you respect the what we in Thailand call riab roi, so as long as you are a decent human, on return they don’t intrude in your sex life”. (List 2006:40)
Ladyboys are seen as a circus attraction, caught between a perception of this, by both travellers and the Thais. As mentioned in our problem area approx. one out of 100 Thai men are ladyboys, which is a very high number. Through our research we have several times come across an obvious popularization of ladyboys through their public and pop-culture. This can be seen in terms of every other TV show has a transvestite or transsexual in their role list. In addition, it is seen as a common sight that SRS (sex reassignment surgery) is advertised in magazines, newspapers, websites and in general openly writing about (List, 2006:26).
Boys who from an early age let their hair grow, experiment with their mother's make-up or begin taking hormones, are not directly considered as a social disaster or result in exclusion from their family. Particularly if it later on in their life results in a money stream to their family gained through a job in a nightclub, cabaret or bar, or if you are lucky a marriage with a Farang (Cohen,1996).
This kind of liberal and tolerant attitude to the phenomena of ladyboys is probably due partly to, as previously mentioned in our contextual chapter, the fact that they through Buddhism consider everything that happens to the individual as a part of Karma, therefore something which is their destiny. But it is important not to over-interpret this and look at the Thai culture as the front speaker of liberalism and see it as total tolerance in a “Western sense”, because sex is certainly not something Thai talk about or show publicly. This is due to the Thai culture prescribing a strict separation between the sexes in public spaces (Nielsen:2002)
This would probably amount to a break of riab roi. As a result of this exact, it is rare that one in public would see Thai couples have a physical interaction that included an emotional sexual element. The normalization of this is seen as a result of the large influx of tourists and the general openness about this liberal public sphere of intimacy which is seen as being a part of the western mentality.
One would therefore see a tourist couple or Thai/tourist couple have this contact as a common view, which only further deepens the existing cultural differences in accepted physical social interaction between the sexes in a Western and Thai context.
The Western approach to sex seems to be a more common sight in the everyday life through the media, public spaces etc. We analyze, interpret and study sex and have a greater tendency to put a label upon individuals, as Foucault also describes in his statements about sexuality being a construction. But this very obvious exposure of sex in the West have spilled over to the tourist-filled cities like Pattaya, Bangkok and the resort island of Phuket, where ladyboys are a common sight.
It is, however, argued that the normal is not something which is defined in a field of reflection, however the very notion of normality has emerged out of a concern with types of conduct, thought, expression deemed troublesome or dangerous. This definition is compatible to be interlinked with Goffman and his definition on normals. A stigmatized individual is somehow different from the expectations of his peers, and is therefore treated differently. But oppositely these peers and others that somehow do not deviate from the common expectations of how people should be, is the normals. Goffman, E. (1968) “Stigma, notes on the management of spoiled identity”, Penguin Books
The phenomena of ladyboys is a very tender subject, and when looking at the sex tourism mainly coming from the Western world, where one would normally shake one’s head and having a certain attitude towards trans-, homo- and bisexuality is being confronted with the Thai’s perception of the ladyboys, this originates from the historical roots and is culturally conditioned.
Let me conclude with something I recently discussed with a friend who has engaged with ladyboys as well as women during the last 12 months and who is a regular reader of this website. I have always considered this friend to be a so called “straight” guy and asked him what was so attractive about ladyboys and he told me: “I've just returned from yet another couple of weeks in Thailand for the sole purpose of spending time in the company of ladyboys and some GGs. I am not attracted to men at all and what I seek sexually is a woman. If she is feminine and with a cock is so much better unless she is perhaps a genetic female, but I consider myself heterosexual.
I also have no issues in eating out with, walking around with and drinking in regular bars with my LBs but am well aware of the stares and curiosity that commonly ensue when in the company of transsexuals, including the occasional unkind comment from the narrow-minded sexually ill-at-ease individuals who appeal to others at all costs that they are 100% straight. And when in lower Sukhumvit I commonly stroll those streets and have several close LBs friends that I see from time to time. In my opinion they are truly sexually exciting individuals.
I am perfectly at ease with my sexuality, whatever you may consider it to be, but guys are of no interest to me as what I see in a ladyboy is a woman who knows precisely how to make a man, such as myself, feel very good, commonly much more so than your average female can achieve although I do happen to enjoy them too. It is clear from the repeated homophobic or prudish comments on this website that LBs are not everyone's cup-of-tea. Therefore, if they are not interested in that area of sexuality then that's their choice. Just as some guys prefer Asian, Black or European girls. However, if they have not tried what on earth affords them the pomposity of expressing forthright views about something they simply do not know.
I agree that occasionally some may not reveal openly their status as they display themselves behind their windows, or may, in their eyes, look horrendous or obviously un-feminine. But it is my considered view that many look stunning and are often more attractive and commonly considered more sexy than genetic females by their admirers. They really do not mind being asked, they get asked for confirmation all the time, even genetic girls get asked too just in case. Just try and treat them like you would any other person with a little consideration and devoid of narrow minded views.
The key to appreciate the experience is to relax and be confident in yourself. Should it truly not be your thing then fine, but maybe you're secretly interested in the concept but need to broaden your own sexuality and discover something new. But please don't accuse those of us that enjoy these potentially wonderful human beings as being something they may or may not be. Those are the choices others are freely entitled to make and labels are not necessary at all. The fact that their views may be published by the owner of a popular website who wants the world to know he is straight and ends up coming across as prudish regarding amorous encounters in the pay for pleasure scene, although he does not mind earning money from multiple banners on ladyboys escort agencies, it does not mean that their views are universally accepted by the readership. They simply have the benefit of a limited website which does not allow for instant feedback to their comments but in truth they do not know.
It is very presumptuous to assume people who like transsexuals are not heterosexual. However, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being non-hetero, or gay. Why should there be? People are people and there are good and bad in all shades of sexuality and race.”
I have no conclusive thought to add other than what I have outlined here and I wish to keep an open mind. Perhaps next time I am in Thailand I may even wish to try. A simple modest direct payment seals the deal on an occasional encounter and, I am told, in the likes of Nana Plaza short rooms within the complex are available and condom and gel provided. Who knows it may be fun.
Do I think that Stick & Co finally liberate their curiosity and abandon their reticent inhibitions? That is not for me to say but after all what was good for Dana should be good for most.
Chok dee everyone