Aaron the Asiaphile's Blurty
 
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Below are the 2 most recent journal entries recorded in Aaron the Asiaphile's Blurty:

    Sunday, September 12th, 2004
    12:33 pm
    My Essay an Thai Male and Female sexuality.
    This essay will identify the social and cultural roles of Thai males and females and how these roles fashion their respective sexualities. There is a marked double standard between what is considered acceptable behavior for males and females. This essay looks at the history, the modern standards and the future direction of Thai sexuality.
    During the Sukhothai period of Thai history women enjoyed an equal status with their husbands. Males were viewed as money earners, rulers of the family and protectors of the house hold and family. Women were expected to look after the home, the children, and the family budget. It was not until entering the Ayudhaya period in the fourteenth century that women began to be subject to gender biased laws including the allowance of polygamy for males and punishment of a husband’s wife. In 1804 laws were passed that put wives into three categories, major wives, minor wives, or slave wives. This continued until the abolishment of slavery in 1905.
    Thais of both sexes used to walk freely around the community topless dispelling the myth that Thais are naturally shy and perhaps creating the western myth that Thai women are sexual creatures. In 1596 a merchant visiting King Narasuan spoke of how the King appeared naked except for a small cloth covering his privates. In 1942 a law called the National Culture Act was enforced in attempt to make Thai’s deemed as acceptable in western eyes. This included wearing clothes such as long pants and long sleeved shirts. Thais who wish to be of high status today are still wary of exposing their flesh.
    Modern studies show that the major difference in sexuality between Thai males and females is the acceptance each has in their perceived sexual and cultural roles. Men are perceived as having a large sex drive that needs constant consideration whilst women are understood to be more in control of their sexual feelings which are believed to be far less pronounced than men. Thai males view it desirable to be “powerful man of action who works hard and plays equally hard, is supportive of his friends, fierce to his foes, and also a great womanizer”. Men who do not follow these values and the vices it entails can be derided as being “not a genuine man”. Historically Thai women have been expected to be graceful and unassuming as well as conservative in their sexuality. This may bear some resemblance to the idea of “female mystique” that has come under criticism from feminists in the west but even in contemporary Thailand females view this as a source of dignity that enforces their cultural identity. Adolescent girls learn their cultural place from identifying with their mothers. There is little external learning about their sexuality. Adolescent girls describe female characteristics as being gentle, well-mannered, weak, passionate, emotional, dependent, dedicated to family and they should preserve their reputation.”
    It is considered understandable for married men to desire a variety of sexual partners. Men desire a “change of flavour”. Men and women believe that whilst not all men get bored with their partners many men can become bored with sex with the same woman and need at least an occasional variation in partners. Even women’s magazines reflect this understanding and advise women to tolerate their husband’s behavior. There is some resentment from women who feel they are nothing but a sexual receptacle for a man who prefers to socialize with other males and has a family only to fulfill his social expectations. Men will generally not help with housework for fear of being seen by their friends and being subjected to teasing and told that he is his wife’s slave or has a woman’s face.
    Both Thai men and women believe that a male visiting a prostitute before marriage is common and accepted to the point of being normal for a single male. This is accepted due to the belief that a male needs a sexual outlet. Half of Thai males have sex before eighteen and most of them lose their virginity to a sex-worker. Males who do not show an interest in visiting a brothel can be teased and named as gay. While this may be the case this does not mean the practice receives wholehearted approval by women who are concerned with the possibility of contracting a sexual disease. The advent of the AIDS virus has especially raised concerns but most women are tolerant of their husbands visiting a prostitute before they were married. Males also justify the use of sex-workers as preserving a good woman’s virginity.
    Whilst in the past unmarried couples did not have sex until marriage it is agreed amongst urban dwellers that it is now common for unmarried people to have sex. Rural people are reluctant to show approval of this practice, outside of visiting a prostitute, but accept that modern adolescent Thais are likely to engage in sex before marriage. This introduces a common double-standard between males and females. Most males still feel it is desirable to marry a virgin. This means that pre-marital sex is a practice a male can do without any loss. A female may have pre-marital sex believing she was going to be married but if this does not happen she risks social disapproval. A woman who has lost her virginity before marriage would be considered gullible, immoral, and “blindly following the western code of sexual behavior”. Some adolescent females in rural areas still believe that losing their virginity not only destroys their own worth but that of their family. They identify the fact that unmarried males are allowed to chase as many women as they please whilst a female on losing her virginity would be talked about as a man hunter. Modern Thai males are now more accepting of marrying non-virgins but this view is again tolerated more in urban areas than in rural areas where pre-marital sex can lead to later marital conflict. A point of interest relates to the Akha tribe women who live around Chaing Mai in northern Thailand. Jane Hanks describes a young women of thirteen will begin courting and be “opened up” sexually. She further states that at sixteen the women will move from casual sex to looking for a permanent husband. The Akha’s heritage is Chinese and this study is now relatively old but it does show an interesting correlation between other attitudes and the pure Thai values.
    Rural and most urban Thai women believe it is the male’s responsibility to initiate courting. Good women are expected to be inexperienced and naïve when it comes to sexual matters.
    Both genders did not place sex as being extremely important for a strong marriage. Men did rate its importance higher than females but both agreed that its importance declines after a period of time. Women believed that it was important for them to provide a sexual outlet for her husband but never placed sexual satisfaction as important for her.
    Visiting a prostitute after marriage raises varied views. Most males believe an occasional visit to a prostitute is normal. The condition for this to be acceptable must be that the male does not neglect his family and the importance of protecting themselves from sexual diseases. Married women are far more disagreeable to this practice. Despite this many females express a tolerance for occasional visits to prostitutes by their husbands. Most females viewed this as a form of male entertainment, a fact of life, and not a serious betrayal of their marital trust. The concerns placed on visits by husbands to prostitutes were frequency, discreet, economic, and safe sex practised. Even women strongly opposed to their husbands visiting prostitutes were willing to allow it if there were reasons for them being unavailable to their husbands sexually for a long period of time, reasons such as pregnancy.
    Infidelity, for males with non-sex workers, is considered grave for both genders. There exist different reasons for it to be viewed this way depending on the gender committing the act. Female infidelity is viewed by all to be completely unacceptable. Such an act would cause the end of the marriage and perhaps even perpetuate violence to the women. Males may have an affair with another woman with the understanding that this lady will receive some financial or material support from the male; this is also understood by the wife. In the rare case that the wife approves of the extra-marital encounter the new female will be called a second wife. The majority of women though are concerned about casual affairs because of the economic cost of supporting another female. This would appear to explain why wives are tolerant of their husbands visiting prostitutes as they prefer this to the possibility of a second female causing economic damage to her household environment. Women are now facing a new dilemma with the rise in AIDS. They now know that they are at risk to sexual diseases from their husbands visiting prostitutes but find it to hard to accept a minor wife. They are desperate to keep a stable marriage so the historical value of the males need to satisfy his sex drive causes the wife to tolerate her husbands use of sex workers.
    Thai children do not receive sex education from their parents and Thais feel uncomfortable talking directly about sex. In schools there are many gender differences enforced. Girls and Boys play different sports and are involved in separate school activities. A teacher at one of these girls stated that she tried to mix genders on occasions “but the girls would act shy and try to keep away if a boy got to close to them.”
    Schools put more pressure on girls to act properly and correctly. Teachers will constantly remind girls of the way they sit, dress, speak, and criticise the neatness of their schoolwork. Teachers give boys the physically demanding tasks which strengthen the male view of being a provider and protector and enforce the view that girls are weaker.
    As girls progress through the grades they become more aware and shy about their bodies. A group of sixth and seventh grade girls revealed that were very cautious about how that sat and dressed. They do not wear tight outfits and may wear a shirt under their blouse for fear of it being transparent.
    Teachers tend to assign tasks which are high in responsibility to girls. At home the girls will be learning household chores from their mothers whilst boys are allowed to roam, play sports, and entertain themselves. One mother told Fongkaew that she “warns her daughters not to hang out at other friends houses because this might be perceived as promiscuous behavior by the community even if premarital sex does not occur.”
    While generally accepted that Thai females have enjoyed more freedom and higher status in Thailand than other developing countries gender inequality still exists. Changes in new generation of Thais are apparent. Men are more fearful of AIDS and women are becoming more prone to having pre-marital sex. This is especially true in urban areas where the anonymity is helpful in allowing previously unacceptable behavior. It is now a concern to Thai elders that their children seem to be abandoning the old values. Teen male and females are shown to be having their first sexual encounter at the age of fifteen. It is considered that one of the failings of the Thai system is the fact that the Thai youth can only find information about sex from media sources that tend to give sex an appealing allure. Thai society does not appear to be able to adjust to its requirement to educate their young about sex due to cultural restraints. Ruj Komonbut states that improving sex education relies on a few factors but “most important are the values of gender equality and mutual respect.” Komonbut believes this is still sorely lacking in Thai society. This is where the differences in sexuality may be growing in urban and rural Thailand. Many rural girls still express the importance of keeping their virginity but unlike their mothers now accept hand holding, hugging, and touching. Fongkaew believes western television programs constitute the idea that some sort of affectionate behaviour towards men is suitable.
    In the last thirty years women are increasingly noticeable in public life. The major factors resulting in this has been; improved education, the decrease in fertility rates, women marrying when they are older, the migration from rural areas to urban areas, and the increased employment opportunities for women.
    This essay identifies the double standards between male and females when sex is the issue. It shows that education is poor and the social pressures placed on females to follow social guidelines. The more western view of sexuality is explored and the idea explored that Thai sexuality will now more than ever begin to become more modern and westernised due to external pressures.

    Current Mood: awake
    11:47 am
    My Essay on Prostitution in Thailand.
    In this essay I examine the value that films such as “The Good Women of Bangkok” has in explaining the problem of prostitution in Thailand. Whilst the film plays a role in understanding why a female turns to prostitution, the continual focus on foreign sex tourism allows the Thai government and society to accept the continuation of the real problem present, that the majority of disadvantaged females work in Thai brothels cater for the local male population. I intend to show that a sex worker who works with foreign customers has more choices and a better lifestyle compared to prostitutes who work in local brothels. When attempting to find solutions it should be remembered that the women in local brothel industry require extensive support and help.
    Thailand, like every country in the world, has a long history of prostitution. Prostitution was legal from the 1300’s until 1960 when the Prostitution Prohibition Act was introduced. The Act was not endorsed out of concern for the females involved but for the image of Thailand that was being presented to the world.
    Thai women were involved in a polygamous system and were often part of a harem or were mistresses to richer Thai men, so justifiably were not considered to be prostitutes. Thai men who wished to show high status would have polygamous relationships with either two or more women or as in the case of royalty hundreds of concubines. In the early 1900’s Thailand abolished the western notion of slavery and therefore Thai harems. This led to a sharp rise in prostitute numbers as women who were uneducated and used to the maintenance they received under the old system were forced to support themselves.
    The presence of American soldiers during and after the Vietnam War is often noted as the birth of high finance prostitution in Thailand due to the increase shown in prostitute numbers.
    In 1981 the World Bank gave Thailand a Structural Adjustment Loan that boosted the growth of Thai industry. The shift from agriculture to industry led to a wider economic gap between rural and urban peoples. The poorest from the north and north-east of the country migrated to larger urban areas but mostly Bangkok. This process has affected females more than males, as fewer jobs meant that the males in the rural communities received employment opportunities first. Migrants to the urban area are predominantly female who face low paying employment that gives them enough to live on but not enough to send back to their waiting families. This is considered an important factor in females entering prostitution. It is important to remember that the majority of prostitutes in the city may be from rural areas but the majority of migrants to the cities do not become prostitutes.
    There is a strong and admirable expectation that the daughter will contribute to the support of her parents. Many females who choose prostitution do not see themselves as victims and believe they have an element of choice; they see themselves as breadwinners for their family and in that context are not immoral. There is no other industry that allows young, uneducated females to send such large amounts of money back to their families.
    Many estimated Thailand prostitute figures appear distorted. A figure, still quoted today, was provided in 1990 by the Centre for the Protection of Children’s Rights who estimated there were two million prostitutes of whom 800,000 were children. While the government denied these figures, the result was a heightened international awareness of Thailand’s prostitution problem, which was perhaps the goal in citing such high data. It is agreed that exact numbers would be difficult to determine but using logic and estimations from known research the number of prostitutes is generally accepted at 200,000, which is 0.7 % of the total female population or four percent of females between 15 and 29. This figure is accepted by the National Commission of Women’s Affairs and the Thai Government.
    In attempting to establish who uses prostitutes it is widely acknowledged that Thai males use of prostitutes far exceeds the foreign tourist by nearly eight times.
    There is a double standard in Thai society that believes that men need sex but women of high virtue and standing should remain virgins until married. The answer for the Thai male is prostitution. The Thai government in 1991 estimated that 90% of males had visited a prostitute.
    Thai men show their wealth in one way by increasing their sexual contact with women. The tradition of minor wives is now rarely applied but with the increase of the middle class in a stronger economy this has led to a higher use of prostitutes in elaborate clubs and smaller brothels run by influential people, however there is a well founded point that while Thai consumption of prostitutes far overshadows international consumption, the local sex industry would not be so potent without the economic participation of westerners.
    The difference in the earning power between a foreign client provider and a local provider are evident. A female who works in a local brothel has been shown to earn 50 baht per customer, often without further tips, for a median income of 5000 baht a month requiring her to work with up to 100 customers a month. My personal research in 2002 included questioning twenty bar girls and fifteen go-go dancers in Pattaya who worked with foreigners in the month of May 2002. A bar girl’s average wage for the month was 9400 baht seeing 4 customers. A dancer averaged 14500 baht and saw six customers a month. The typical Thai wage in legal employment in Thailand is averaged at about 6000 baht per month.
    Thailand is continually criticised for child prostitution and females being forced into prostitution. In attempting to understand the difference in western and Thai beliefs of what constitutes an adult it needs to be understood that the support of the family is of high importance for a daughter and in performing this role she is not viewed as child but as an adult. In Thailand maturity is viewed in a different perspective to those in the West. Heather Montgomery states;
    “A girl could be an adult at eleven by having a child and taking care of it, or still be considered immature at twenty because she did not take care of her offspring.”
    In developing countries, such as Thailand, the view that a female under the age of eighteen is a child and cannot work is unsound. As Montgomery expresses, “Such extended childhoods are a luxury of the twenty-first-century, Western thinking.”
    Government supports this theory with laws that make it compulsory to go to school until twelve years of age. The youth can then work part-time until fourteen when they are then allowed to take on full time work.
    The number of child prostitutes is open to much debate. Figures have ranged from two hundred thousand to eight hundred thousand child prostitutes. The Thai government in 2001 challenged UNICEF to provide proof of their estimation of 200,000 child prostitutes. The Health Ministry and the Thai Red Cross put child prostitution figures at 30,000 to 60,000. UNICEF declined to respond.
    Child prostitution appears to allow Thai society to outwardly condemn their fears of foreign influences by making this an anti-foreigner campaign not involving direct criticism of Thais. As Montgomery states, the idea of punishing Thai parents or men means that Thais would have to accept some responsibility, to focus resources on a few foreigners and not the Thai people involved would seem to unhelpfully limit the process of solving the problem.
    Forced sex is an issue, but Thai males frequenting local brothels emerge as the major users of women forced into sex labour. It is not suggested that all women working with foreigners are there by choice but females paying off forced family debts or being sold into a brothel environment to a brothel owner is a problem more associated to the local sex industry.
    In a 2002 questionnaire, Steinfatt shows that not one respondent who worked in foreign bars had been enslaved, kidnapped or forced into sex work by being threatened or abused or sold into “indentured servitude”. Out of the 547 women surveyed 6% had been told by another bar worker of a personal story of indentured servitude and in those cases the object of the story was someone the teller knew. In contrast, out of a small core of fifty two sex workers in a rural brothel interviewed by Boonchalski and Guest, 13.5 % reported being personally forced into sex work whilst out of the fifty four Bangkok massage parlour workers, servicing foreign males, not one reported that they were working because they were forced to. It would seem therefore that forced servitude does not play a role in the recruiting of workers in the foreign sector but does play some role in the local sector. It should not be overlooked that the extremely high majority of workers are free to come and go as they please.
    Due to the continued interest in Thailand’s sex industry the HIV infection rate has been closely watched and documented. 1989 was the first reported case of a Thai female sex worker carrying HIV and now having peaked, the figure is expected to remain at about 90,000 new cases a year. In the year 2000 there were under one million total HIV carriers across the country. A study conducted with 230 prostitutes at 11 local brothels in the Chiang Mai area in 1994 found a 65% overall HIV positive rate. Another study in Northern Thailand in 1997 of 500 workers gave a result of 32% positive with workers who were employed in local brothels marked at 47%. In stark contrast a 1999 report of 500 Bangkok prostitutes, frequented by foreigners, who were tested between 1997 and 1998 a result of 8.7%. The disparity in figures may just come down to the fact that girls in local brothels see more clients than females in foreign areas.
    I have shown in this essay the inequality between sex workers working in local Thai brothels compared to those working with foreign clientele. Thai males are more frequent users of prostitutes than foreign tourists showing that females catering to the local population earn less but work more. Females forced into prostitution are shown to be more likely found in local brothels as are child prostitutes. The danger of HIV is also shown to be higher for females working in local brothels. I have shown that a documentary like “The Good Women of Bangkok”, while useful in highlighting a small segment of an independent prostitute’s plight, mainly deflects the focus away from understanding that it is the prostitutes working in the local sex industry who require stronger social, medical, and legal support than those who work in foreigner frequented bars.


















    Bibliography


    BOOKS

    Eberhardt, Nancy. 1988: Gender, Power, and the Construction of the Moral Order: Studies from the Thai Periphery. University of Wisconsin, Madison.

    Fongkaew, Warunee. 1995: Early Adolescent Girls in Transition in a Peri-Urban Northern Thai Community: Perceptions of Gender Role and Sexuality. UMI, Michigan.

    Ghosh, Chitra. 1990: The World of Thai Women. Bani Art Press, Calcutta.

    Horrocks, Roger. 1997: An Introduction to the Study of Sexuality. Saint Martins Press, New York.

    Rathanamongkolmas, Abhinya. 1983: Developmental Stances of Thai Women Elites: A Study of Socialization, Social Roles, and Social Policy Prescriptions. UMI, Michigan.

    Somswasdi, Virada / Theobald, Sally, 1997: Women, Gender Relations and Development in Thai Society. Ming Muang Navarat Co.,Ltd., Chaing Mai.



    WEBSITES

    Sokn, Chris: http://students.bradley.edu/~csokn/index.html. email:csokn@bradley.edu (Accessed – 12/09/2003)

    Current Mood: content
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