Readers' Submissions

On Stickman’s Reversal

Imagine someone who made a career on a seedy industry. This person didn’t directly operate in the industry, but his livelihood would have been impossible without it. Also imagine this person doesn’t just get by, but leverages the seedy industry to make a decent life for himself, becoming a small business owner with a stable income, and rising through the ranks of society to become friends with the upper classes. Also imagine this person keeps a low profile and stays at arms’ length from the industry he profits from, thus removing some (but not all) of the risk involved in this seedy industry.

Nothing wrong with this at all; what is seedy to one is not to another and so much of what we consider seedy—especially when it comes to sex—is tainted by Judeo-Christian baggage. When talking about prostitution directly, the negative attitude towards the sex industry is largely a result of high-minded moralizing that has little to do with reality. I say this with some experience; an acquaintance of mine was a prostitute for years in an Asian country (not Thailand). She loved the work, freely bragged about the expensive gifts customers bought her to her close circle of friends, and felt in no way a victim. She also came from a very, very wealthy family. She joined the sex industry because she loves sex, and she enjoyed the naughty thrill of getting paid for it.

The fact is that some prostitutes aren’t just in the industry by choice, but actually enjoy it. Others, of course, are there out of economic necessity. But the economics aren’t bad for those who choose the industry for money. Stats are hard to come by, but we are all familiar with girls who can make over 60,000 baht per month both in Thailand and out of it; considering that’s about 6x the daily minimum wage, and is presumably untaxed, it’s not too bad of a payday. That’s especially true if the girl has the business sense to save, remain her own boss, and remain free from pimps and exploiters in the marketplace. The same could be said for many other industries—a smart computer engineer can do much better if he avoids working for an abusive employer who mistreats and underpays him.

And working on your back is much better than in a rice field, or cleaning toilets. Or even giving massages. I love getting a Thai massage when I go to Thailand, but I always feel guilty when I get one. One hour of rubbing a body with pressure is hard work—and hardly worth gross revenue (not net income!) of 300 baht or so.

If I had to choose 7 hours a day of massages for 30,000 baht per month or sleeping with 30 unattractive people per month for double that, I’d choose the latter any day. I understand these prostitutes’ choice.

I think Stickman once understood and respected their choice. I also think he respected the choice of their customers. Yes, a lot of these older beer-belly touting men are repulsive and kind of pathetic, but that doesn’t make them evil degenerates. On the skytrain a couple days ago I heard a very loud working class Yorkshireman talking about how he spent 300 quid in Nana Plaza the night before—he had just got into town from his job in the Australian mines. As a walking stereotype, he was amusing. But I wouldn’t go as far as many of the NGOs and western suburbanites, who see him as an exploitive imperialist. He’s just a horny lonely guy.

Again, Stickman once saw these guys this way, and it was in his best interest to do so. They were his target audience. His bread and butter. Stick’s dispassionate, level-headed view on sex tourism was one of the appeals of his website for me.

But that is clearly no longer the case.

In his recent weekly post, he talks about the bargirls’ alcoholism and how they use alcohol to handle the ordeal of their lot in life. Previously, he viciously attacked a man for having sex with a consenting adult as a pedophile. <Amusing way to put it and not at all accurate. For what it's worth, you're the first person to ever describe an action of mine as vicious. I think I can safely say I have never done anything "vicious" in my lifeStick> Why was the man a pedophile? Because he is attracted to petite, diminutive women. This reminds me of a law that was discussed in Australia a few years ago, which would ban women with A-cup breasts from appearing in pornography, leading bloggers in the west to ask the question: “If a man likes a small-breasted woman, is he a pedophile?”

This is exactly the attitude towards male sexual desire that many expats in Thailand are freeing from, and which Stick offered respite for years. Now Stick has done a complete reversal, and joined the ranks of his audience’s perceived enemies.

Stick’s attitude in both of these cases is not the viewpoint of a Thai expat, who knows about the low unemployment rate, the level of low economic development, the pressure Thai parents give to their children to provide for them, the rampant sexual abuse in the north, the accepted sale of sex, the transactional nature of relationships in Asia broadly…these are all reasons why many expats in Asia set aside judgment when viewing the sex industry, whether they’re participants or not. This was also Stick’s point of view for a long time.

No more. Now, Stick makes it clear that the prostitution industry is destructive and damaging. He implies the men who sleep with short, thin girls may be pedophiles. He is now suggesting the sex industry in Thailand is the result of extreme poverty, and is more damaging than anything else. And he is doing this just as he plans to leave the country and the industry that provided him an income for over a decade.

Stickman's thoughts:

It might have been more honest just to say that you're jealous of the perceived success of this website and you are uncomfortable when I point out what so many think about large age gaps between young Asian girls and old white guys. But probably the easiest thing would have been to just ask why I am leaving. The answer goes like this:

I initially came to Thailand looking for adventure and a change of scenery for a year or two in a country I had previously visited and enjoyed. The nightlife and the girls was *never* part of the plan, nor was starting a website. I fell in to the bar scene and for a time enjoyed it. But what I wanted was a girlfriend, and I could see that the ladies in the bars really only offered sex so I looked for a girlfriend away from the bars. I maintained a fascination with the bar scene, especially the way Western men fell in love with Thai women from a poor background and how they managed to do very well with from these men. People seemed to like what I was writing so I kept at it. I would eventually become bored of it.

Have I really reversed, or have I matured?