But why did I have such a strong negative reaction to everything I saw on Friday night between Hot Male and DJ Station, before and after those ping pong balls started shooting out? It's not as if Hot Male or DJ Station are bastions of respectability. Was I reacting out of a sexual distaste for female nudity -- or women, in general? Maybe I holding women to a different standard of conduct than men. Or perhaps it's just that ping pong shows simply weren't created for gay men?
The latter might certainly be the case, but I've never had a problem with female nudity. Despite my sexual preference, I've always been in awe of the beauty of the female form, and some of my best experiences with nudity have involved women. There was Marisa Tomei in The Wrestler. And there was the time in college when some of my friends and I drove from Gainesville to Miami to celebrate the 21st birthday of the second-youngest in our group. (I had nearly two months to go, so I used my brother Jeff's driver's license as my fake i.d.) His dad took us all out for dinner and a lap dance. At the strip club, I fell for a naked Stacey Q lookalike who, in turn, almost fell into my lap.
"I think we've confirmed tonight that no one here is gay," the birthday boy announced at the end of our adventure with naked women. I wasn't sure if that was aimed at me, or if it was just an innocent observation in a not-so-innocent setting. Whichever one it was, my enthusiasm while watching all of those naked women flaunt their stuff in front of me was no act.
But nudity isn't necessarily sexual, and sex can be anything but sexy. The gay sex shows and the ping pong shows couldn't be less of either. They're emblematic of one of my biggest problems with the Thai sex trade, which, unfortunately, flows over into the general population. When the emphasis is always on sex, especially in such a brutally forthright way, it begins to lose its appeal.
Someone once told me a story about how she quit smoking by spending an entire weekend sucking on one cancer stick after the other. By Sunday evening, she never wanted to puff another one again. I guess the experiment could have gone one of two ways: the way it went, or it could have intensified her addiction. It must be the same way with sex. Because it's so often being shoved in front of my face, my sex drive has never been lower than it has been in Bangkok.
Perhaps it's also the influence of growing up in such a relatively prudish country (the U.S.). Even in my wildest moments, I've always had a bit of a straight-laced side, and living in a city where I can walk down a crowded street in the broad daylight and have spa workers propositioning me and guys trying to sell me gay and straight porn, where I can go into a spa for what I assume will be an innocent hour-long massage and end up being molested by a middle-aged woman, brings out my inner prude.
If we'd been on a date, that would have been one thing. I'm not above using a massage to get my way with someone, but if he's made it as far as my couch, chances are he won't mind. There's no money exchange, though, no undercurrent of violence and pain, all key components of the entertainment at Hot Male and ping pong shows as well as the professional Thai massage. For me, the latter, already such a rough experience, is so less enjoyable with the threat -- yes, threat -- of sex hanging over it.
I once went out with a guy who'd spent a year and half living in Bangkok, and he was celibate the entire time. "How is that even possible?" I asked him. Now I get it.
So why was the ping pong show so much more distasteful than Hot Male? I think part of it was the nature of the show. One (Hot Male) celebrated sex and sexuality, while, in a sense, making fun of them both, and the other was pure onanistic drama. Not only were those women treating their private parts like toys, but they were using them like torture chambers, especially during the bit with the razor blades. It bordered on sadomasochism, which might be one of my least favorite things to watch.
And on a purely aesthetic level, the ping pong show was just such an eyesore. It was dark, drab and joyless. The women weren't smiling, and neither were any of the six customers (including us) in the place. Naked women and their private parts deserve so much better.
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