Wild Life

By Hartley, Aidan | The Spectator, October 23, 2010 | Go to article overview

Wild Life


Hartley, Aidan, The Spectator


Bangkok

'Any Thai man who is not married is gay, ' said a Thai woman to me. 'You could say that about many places, ' I observed. 'Yes, but 80 per cent of Thai men are also effeminate, ' said a second Thai woman in the room. We were waiting to see a top politician. There were no local men present. I've never heard people complain like this about their males, except perhaps in Britain. These were Thais, not British women. I was delighted. I felt a wave of empowerment. I am no Greek god.

But nor am I a ladyboy.

Out on the streets of Bangkok, though, the pressure is pretty intense. I am glad we clearly stood out as journalists, rather than sex tourists. I mean, Matt the producer held a big camera and I was rigged up with a microphone. This kit separated us from the hordes of Western men my age stalking around with much younger Thai women. Except, that is, when we had arranged a secret rendezvous with a source in a hotel room that we rented by the hour, and went up to prepare with an earnest local female journalist. 'Yes, you have nice time, ' nodded the receptionists with knowing smiles. All three of us were blushing deeply. We knew we were conducting an interview about human rights for British television, but everybody else thought we were making a cheap pornographic film.

In restaurants, I was fascinated by these Western-Thai couples: Brobdingnagian giants shovelling protein into their mouths next to child-bodied escorts eating like birds.

Many were hookers and punters. Some looked like legitimate relationships. Most of them looked quite happy. They were chatting away. They looked more comfortable with each other than most couples you see in London. It was like a Michel Houellebecq novel come true. I had to consider this: is it only because these Westerners have a little money that they get to be with all these very attractive, very young females? Could it be that these women volunteer to be with Westerners precisely because beer-swilling, balding, paunchy, boring, smelly white men like me are eligible since they are considered straight and manly?

I do not know. But there's something going on that is explained not just by economics. I did not see any non-Thai women with Thai men. Not one. Back home in East Africa, it cuts both ways. …

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