Last week we spoke with a group of Pattaya bargirls. The girl go-go scene is quite visible and known to all. This week we would like to give the men and boys who work in bars an opportunity to tell their side of the story. There is more mystery in their world, and a greater degree of discretion is required. They are hit by a double whammy from society; it’s not okay to be a whore and it’s not okay to be gay.
This reporter interviewed three workers from a Pattaya bar. Anu, the oldest was thirty. Looking like an Asian Brad Pitt, he was calm and thoughtful. Torn, 24, was outgoing and higher voltage. He had the look and manner of Tom Cruise, in the movie Cocktail. Chai, 26 dark and muscular, was the most sure of his answers. We spoke in the central Thai dialect.
JP: You aren’t what I expected. Are you typical?
Torn: You were expecting katoeys?
Torn: Never mind (laughs). Katoeys are very visible. We’re not.
JP: Are you gay?
Anu: Yes, I am.
Torn: So am I
Chai: I’m not.
JP: You’re sure?
Anu: No, he isn’t. He has a wife and kids.
JP: I’m confused.
Anu: Being gay or straight doesn’t matter. We’re here to make money.
Torn: Sometimes straight guys have it easier doing this work.
JP: (Looking puzzled) ???
Anu: (thinks) You see, Chai is lucky. He just does his job and goes home. There’s no emotional investment for him. He has a family.
Chai: Yeah, right. When I’m finished I leave and forget it.
Torn: If you’re gay and do this type of work, you feel like your emotions are in a food processor. We don’t feel being gay is wrong, but in this scene, sometimes we wish we weren’t.
Anu: Our customers. Some are very nice, but they get bored with us.
JP: May I ask, are you attracted to any of your customers?
Torn: Yes. Some of them.
JP: Which customers?
Torn: Yes. Mostly Asians.
Chai: Anyone’s fine. As long as they pay.
JP: Why Asians?
Anu: Because we can relate to them.
JP: I don’t understand. Aside from Thais, it must be difficult to communicate with Japanese, Koreans or other Asians.
Anu: But they look like us and our cultures are similar. They want fun, so they are kind to us. I also find some of them attractive.
JP: Could you explain?
Anu: Very simple. We’re gay men. We take all customers, but it’s easier if they’re our type.
Torn: Easier? Sure. I remember that Taiwanese guy. You almost went bananas!
JP: I’m in the dark.
Anu: I met a very handsome, 25 year old law student from Taiwan. He was very generous and kind. He bought me gold and clothing. I really became infatuated. He even took me to Taiwan. After a week he sent me back here. I couldn’t be a real part of his life. It hurt.
JP: What about the Farangs? (Silence). Please be open. What do you think?
Torn: We find farangs to be the least desirable type of customer (pause).
Anu: Several reasons. Farangs have this idea that 500 Baht is the market rate. They usually give us no more; often less. Also 99.9% of the Farangs who come here are not the least bit attractive. They look down on us. Their attitude’s wrong.
Torn: Women bar workers are luckier. They can fake it. If we can’t perform, customers get upset. We usually fantasize.
JP: Speaking of the fantastic, do any unusual things happen with customers?
Torn: Yeah. I had one who was so afraid of disease; he wore three pairs of surgical gloves and three condoms.
JP: No, really?
Torn: Yes, really. He disinfected himself with Dettol afterwards. He was strange when he first came in. Wouldn’t touch any of the doorknobs.
JP: You don’t find Farangs attractive?
Chai: Most of the guys don’t. But some only like farangs over forty. They don’t feel the same warmth with young men.
Torn: The ones I like usually speak fluent Thai, and don’t like bars.
JP: Oh. And you, Chai?
Chai: I just think of the money and it works!
Anu: Chai’s lucky. No emotional conflicts.
JP: Are there any positive points about this work?
Chai: For me, the funny things make it bearable. A guy took me to his hotel room. He had a valise full of make-up and women’s clothing. He had me dress up. Imagine me in drag? Ha! He spent the whole night cooing about how beautiful I was. Otherwise, he didn’t touch me. And he gave me three thousand baht. An easy trick. I described the dresses to my wife. She said they sounded dreadful.
Anu: The first two years are fun. I was young, fresh and popular. I got taken out almost every night. Customers bought me gifts. I felt really desirable.
JP: Why don’t you find other work?
Anu: Once you do this for about six months, you’re trapped. We become used to the money. And we can never save any. It comes too easily.
JP: Anu, where have you been, aside from Taiwan?
Anu: Macao and Belgium.
JP: What did you do?
Anu:. I did this type of work. My customers were Thai women who worked in bars there. They were lonely for Thai men. I only stayed a month.
Anu: Because I’m not attracted to women and they were neurotic. Too many hassles.
JP: (to Chai) How does your wife feel about you doing this?
Chai: (Laughs) She was the one who told me to do it! She works in a bar herself. She just asks me not to go with women. We hope to save enough to start a business.
JP: Do your families know you do this?
Torn, Chai: No.
Anu: My mother pretends she doesn’t know. My brother is a real bastard. He called me names. I pointed out I was the one who had paid for his education and marriage by selling myself. I told him if he didn’t like it, to leech off someone else!
JP: What’s the most difficult thing in your work?
Anu: A lot of Western men are kinky and want us to do things we find distasteful.
JP: May I ask what?
Anu: Usually sado-masochism and other things. I’m not in to giving and receiving physical pain. And the other things? Think about it. Yuegh!
JP: Do you have any future hopes?
Anu: A man from France comes here every year on his vacation and always spends it with me. I’m not in love with him. He’s not my type. But I like him as a friend. He promises that he will take me to France to live with him. But it hasn’t happened yet.
JP: How long have you known him?
Anu: (Smiles ruefully) Seven years.
Torn: Anu, you’re a pessimist. I do this because I want experience. Friendly customers are okay. It’s better than loading rice barges.
Chai: Yeah, and I’ve had customers help out my family!
JP:. I’m sorry for taking up so much of your time.
All: That’s okay. There are no customers.
JP: When we publish articles we usually have an illustration. How would you like it to be?
Anu: Maybe you shouldn’t make it look as if we’re all happy.
Anu: Chai’s not gay and Torn’s still young. I’m thirty and don’t have as many customers as before. I had a Thai lover for three years, but we separated. I was too old for him. Most gay men like younger people. After our looks go, it’s difficult to find customers or life partners. I’ll not have children, and what would I do at home? The future seems lonely.
Torn: (his face is bleak) Why did you have to mention that?
JP: I’ll try with the illustration.
JP: Thank you.
Torn: Come back and talk again.
JP: You want to talk to a farang?
Torn You’re not a farang. You’re Thai. Wanna ride home? I’ve got a large motorcycle with a small seat.
JP: (JP actually blushes).