Pattaya – Sex in the City

Pattaya – Sex in the City

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An Evening with the BoyzBoyzBoyz Boys

Insights into the Commercial Sex Trade

Boyz sign

Welcome to Boyztown. As we were headed back to our hotel from dinner, the touts (who are all hanging in the same street, vying to get you into their bar) chat us up. There aren’t that many mixed-gender couple in this part of town, so I guess we’re a novelty. As we’re talking, scantily-clad boys wander in and out of the bar. Kathy is starting to enjoy this way too much. After standing in the street for about half an hour, we decided to have a drink at Boyz… to watch the world go by. We stay for about three hours.

This is the sort of thing where “a picture is worth a thousand words”, but photos are “highly discouraged” even outside the venues, and prohibited inside. Why? What’s going on is not exactly hidden from view?

It’s a Living, but…

On the surface it appears that the avenue is filled with flamboyant gay men — but as our restaurateur has told us (and I’ve heard it before) — perhaps 80% of the “Go Go Boys” are actually straight. Doing this is a living, by rural Thai standards it is quite a lucrative living. But the boys (and female CSWs [Commercial Sex Workers], for that matter) aren’t especially interested in having their pictures taken under these circumstances. Thais, like most Asians, are quite modest (see this link for a digression on that topic) and to be in the sex trade… isn’t “something to write home about”. When these rural kids — practically — age 18+ leave their village and head for places like Bangkok or Pattaya, and start sending home cash, what the kid is doing really isn’t discussed. It is one of those “I know, you know, I know you know let’s not talk about it“, things. It doesn’t carry quite the stigma it would in North America (“What’s your kid doing these days?”, “Oh, he’s prostituting for gay men in Bangkok. His girlfriend works in a bar too”) and the trade is regulated.

As the world goes by

The touts are bored — they work from about 8pm to about 3am trying to attract customers, and it has to get pretty old pretty quickly. They work 28 days per month, 7 days per week — two days off per month. One guy is falling asleep while standing in the street. Says he got to bed at 3am (this would have been the previous morning, it’s now around midnight the next day) — and couldn’t sleep. This guy is running on empty.

We’re a novelty (most “mixed” couples are just walking through the neighborhood to gawk) — they’re not hanging around. Thais are naturally inquisitive, so we exchange the usual pleasantries (“Where you from”, “Hold old”, “Any children?”). Kathy asks one of the guys if he has any kids. He beams — Thais love kids — their own; everybody elses. He goes and fetches his wallet, shows us the kid’s photo. Its an intimate moment with a complete stranger in a strange land. Later, one guys purchases a couple of champoo‘s (they’re a waxy fruit that is sort of pear shaped with a slightly tart flavor and consistency of an apple). He brings one to our table and gives it to us. Another touching moment.
Speaking of touching, the baby-photo-guy is getting increasingly “familiar” with Kathy. Thais believe that the head is the most reverent part of the body (you would never touch a Thai’s hair, for example). He walks by, gives Kathy’s knees a little rub. This continues through the night. A knee, a thigh-touch, handshake, shoulder. In a North American setting, the typical husband would invite the guy outside for a fight. But this seemed innocent albeit a bit flurtatious; one stranger reaching out to another.

The Wacko

What happens next is initially a bit scary but ultimately ends up somewhere between annoying, and entertaining. A tall, wild-eyed foreigner walks up to our table (its a table for four) and promptly sits down. Doesn’t ask, just sits at our table and engages us like we were old friends. We try to be cordial; he has an accent that suggest Germany or Holland, we ask. “Originally? From Japan”. OK fine, here’s a Netherlander who happened to be born in Japan. Could happen. But every question we ask solicits an off-the-wall answer. “Your skin is light”. “Yes, I’m Indian”. “You know Indians?” He is manic (Bipolar Disorder), we’re guessing — and we hope he leaves as spontaneously as he arrived. And soon. He stays around 10 minutes. The touts see our predicament — we’re pondering whether to leave, ourselves, to get away from this nut. The touts make the universal “crazy person” symbol (a finger rotated around the temple). This is a sort of signal to us that he’s harmless — but he is annoying. One of them comes to our aid — the champoo guy — and escorts him into the bar (we’re outside). We don’t seem him again.

Boys come, boys go

There are maybe 50 or 75 young men (they’re 18+ and this is enforced, but they’re all referred to as boys, not men), parading around in short, white, skin-tight pants. There is little left to imagination; their short pants extend perhaps four inches lower than their briefs, which are entirely apparent. There’s no question as to which boys have the “assets” and which don’t. Some have cell phones tucked in the back — looks kind of silly but it a status symbol. Many have tatoos. Some are flamboyant; most not. This is the ultimate in meat market.

Inside, there’s a stage where the boys can “dance”. They’re more or less parading around, they rotate; each boy is on the stage for maybe 10 minutes. During this time, he hopes he’ll catch somebody’s eye; maybe the customer will take him home. This is called “Offing” and we’ll get to it next. So here are these guys, most of whom are not gay anyway, trying to look appealing while being literally “on display” — they’ve got number tags on their shirts or shorts. “I want #77 for 2 hours”, perhaps a customer tells the Bar Manager. The boy is “Off’ed” from the bar. Incidently, I’ve been in the “Girlie” bars too — its just the same. More on this later. Very few of the boys look like they’re actually having a good time. It’s sad; kind of pathetic.
There’s limited seating in the bar, and of course, the objective of a bar is to sell drinks and boys — the mananger tries to optimize the number of potential customers and their “prospects”. The boys may sit in the bar, but if a customer needs a seat, the boy gets ousted. Or maybe they’ve got a break time. In any case, there’s a continuing stream of these scantily-clad boys going in and out of the bar. They come outside, use their cell phones, have a cigaratte perhaps. One attractive woman shows up, says something to one of the bar staff. A cute boy comes out and she gives him some money — we’re thinking its his girlfriend — they seem close. It’s surreal.

“Offing”

First, a disclaimer — neither of us has any first-hand experience with this… what follows is a description thoughtfully provided by our hotel. Secondly, we’re describing a procedure here — not particularly making value jugements about it.

Offing” is the term applied to the financial transaction that occurs when a customer decides that he wants some “off-bar” interaction with a Go Go Boy (the procedure is the same in straight bars). The boy and the prospect discuss the potential interaction (we’re trying not to be too graphic here). If they agree, the customer must pay the bar a fee — between about $5 and $7 — to allow the boy to leave the bar. If the boy merely interacts with the customer for any length of time in the bar, the boy will ask the customer to buy him a drink. Drinks are typically in the $3.50 to $5 range, so this is a fundamental way that the boys make money for the bar.

Once the “Offing” fee has been paid, the customer and the boy go off, do whatever they do — and the boy returns to the bar. If the customer wants to keep the boy all night, the charge is higher. Multiple days? Return to the bar and pay an extended fee. Negotiable. Many bars provide rooms by the hour for the convenience of the customer.

According to the guide in our room, the “tip” given to the boy for his services is at the discretion of the customer. It might be as little as B800 (about $20). Doesn’t sound like much of a living, but if the average income for a rural villager is $200/year, and the boy services 5 men a week at $30 each — that’s almost $8000/year.
So there you have it. How to get a teenager for a night of reckless abandon. Or two. This is not slavery, this is not child prostitution. Its a business transaction, authorized and regulated by the government: “dancers” (Go Go Boys and female equivalents) get weekly STD [sexually transmitted disease] tests, and monthly AIDS tests. They are educated in safer-sex techniques. At least the ones working “above board” in bars are protected, to an extent.
We’re quick to judge; we suffer moral outrage easily — but this is not our culture, not our country, not our lives. It is arguable that regulated prostitution is far better than unregulated — which is what we have in the vast majority of the US.

Ref: Travel/Asia/Thailand/ThaiIndia-0104/PitsanulokSukhothai.html”>Pitsanulok
Ref: Travel/Asia/Thailand/ThaiIndia-0104/Pattaya.html

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