On a warm January night in Bangkok, the Patpong night market bustled with heaving humanity as always. The clamour of bargaining between tourists and stall vendors mixed with the loud music pumping from the roadside bars. This defined the unique character of the street. Michael and I took a post-dinner walk along Silom Road, accompanied by, John and Krit, our friends from Pattaya. At the Twilight Soi bar street entrance, groups of Thai touts called to us, “Show? Gay show?” I knew what the go-go boy dance show would be, but had never watched one before. To satisfy my curiosity, John randomly chose a bar and the night safari began!
The bar was small, dark, and rank with stale cigarette smoke. Through the dim light, I vaguely saw some boys in tiny swimming trunks sitting next to the front door and measuring us with their eyes. Once seated, I could otake a closer look at the venue. The setting was like a small fashion show. The T-shaped stage extended from the back of the bar to the centre, the audience seats surrounding the stage on three sides. Apart from us, there were many other spectators, not only guys but also some women and a couple with their teen daughters. What an open-minded family!
A few minutes later, “Bad Romance” rang out. Two hunky boys in half-zipped overall came onto the stage and slowly swung their bodies along to Lady Gaga’s voice. Soon, the boys unzipped and exposed their genitals to the audience. The colored spotlight illuminated their sweaty bodies while they struck a series of erotic poses. No more than three minutes later, the lighting faded to darkness. End of part one! The following performances were similar and actually quite dull, nothing more than posing and displaying their cocks.
John told me that the recent international moral crusade had put a stranglehold on local activity and killed the notorious fuck show, even the full frontals. Not tonight, apparently. But what else could the boys do? He also told me that most of the go-go boys came from poor villages and wanted to earn more money through the show. The performance, however, was not the key point but just a way to promote them to the potential clients. The boys made their money through having paid sex with clients. So the simple equation that they faced was: no sex, no money. That explained why they tried so hard to attract members of the audience. Indeed, I saw one mature white man pick a lucky boy and take him away after a little chat about price. I couldn’t help wondering if “lucky” was the appropriate word to describe that boy.
A half-hour later, ten boys lined up on stage for the climaxing group performance. Each boy, one by one, hit a thin steel pillar with his cock to show off the hardness. We could clearly hear the sound of the erection smashing into the pillar. After that, all the boys put their swimming trunks back on and came to the audience for tips. However, that tiny piece of cloth was too tiny to hide their manhood. I was a bit helpless in that situation because it was my very first time to have 10 (almost) naked men standing 3 inches in front of me! I tried so hard to keep a distance from their outstanding organ. Well, obviously, I was the only one who freaked out because I actually saw a man sitting next to Michael grab the performer’s hard-on with a 100 baht note in hand and a big smile on his face! The boy was so grateful to get that note from a stranger who was holding his cock. With that scene in my eyes, I began to think about the value of dignity.
Money or dignity? How would you choose? Dignity, I suppose. For people, like us, fortunate enough to live in the developed countries, well educated, and able to made money with our knowledge, the choice is easy to make. However, for the boy from a poor village whose family waits for him to send money home, there is no choice. Do they enjoy hitting the pillar every night? Do they really hunger for sex with strangers? Are they actually all gay? I guess not, but the pay of sleeping with a man for one night might possibly be 10 times higher than working as a laborer for a month. So, there you are!
Our very first lesson at school taught us that the sexual organ is a very private and special part of a human body, so it was tragic to see the go-go boys’ penis being used as a tool – a cold, mechanical money making tool. And when I saw them coming to the audience with a big smile and that pumped erection, the pride that showed on their faces was just incomprehensible. I questioned myself, “Was my sympathy superfluous? Were they really proud of this job? Or did the look of pride mask the sadness of knowing all too clearly the situation in which they were trapped.”
I don’t know how they feel and I had no chance to find out, but, no doubt, each go-go boy has his own story to tell. Anyway, no matter how the go-go boys value dignity, next time you watch their show or bring one back to your the hotel room, do reflect on this reality. You were once a boy too. Like you, the boy is an individual, full of hopes and dreams. Unlike you, his freedom to love has been hi-jacked by economic necessity. Hopefully you will treat him with the basic respect that every human deserves.
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