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Ann Landers was a crotchety old cunt popular in the late ‘50s and ‘60s for her newspaper column in which people wrote in asking for advice on issues of etiquette and coping with their miserable little lives, starting each missive with the now famous greeting, Dear Ann. No worries, this is not a new recurring post on my blog. I only qualify for one of Ann’s two adjectives anyway. I’ll let you determine which you feel is most apt.

A reader posted a comment yesterday not quite to the proper article, but close enough at least subject wise to let it pass. I’d have just answered it there, but it fit so well with an article I’ve been mulling over I thought I’d highlight it, and my response, in a regular post. The main article is still to come. The commenter, Michael, hit on a few specifics that creep up often enough that I can not just dismiss them out of hand. And while I disagree with his general observations, his comment did not urge me to call bullshit like other, similar takes have.

I don’t know who first coined the phrase about opinions being like assholes, but that does not make someone’s opinion with which you disagree necessarily wrong. As faulty as it may be. I doubt if this post, or my reply to Michael will change his either. His logic is off, his story filled with problems, but I think his underlying feelings about bar boys is still valid and not that unusual. I’m sharing it here not so much to provide me with an opportunity of ripping him a new asshole (though that in itself is always fun) but rather to provide readers an alternative view of the bar boy world in Thailand. If nothing else it should serve as a warning to visitors that problems do exist within Bangkok’s gay gogo bar world.

Dear Bangkokbois:

My experience in soi Twilight was not pleasant and i totally disagree with you in the respect that you niavely think these Thai men are misunderstood. These so called human beings are nothing but filthy prostitutes. The monkey’s that work in Hot Male Bar are professional con men and thiefs. I met a guy in Hot male Bar and before i knew it he was filling me up with alcohol and conversation. After drinking with this parasite who called himself Joe i decided to pay his bar and take him back to my HOME in Bangkok. This filthy disgraceful Thai man helped himself to my wallet and emptied the contents including 20,000baht, mastercard, amex, i phone, camera, and video camera. I went back to Hot male Bar the next day and confronted this little thief and recieved a beer bottle to the back of my head as repayment and kicked for my effort for trying to get my stuff back.

You should not mislead people to think that these scum of the earth are innocent and trying to make a honest living. For starters there is nothing honest in selling your body for money. This kind of filth gives Thailand a bad name and i pray everyday that Joe will come to harm. I hate being so low in self esteem to go to that disgraceful bar in the first place. If anybody reads this i need for you to know stay home and jerk off. Do not let these prostitutes bring your life to harm. There is no justice in Bangkok and the so called police force is more of a joke than the scum that works in Hot male Bar.

I hope that tourist looking for a holiday in Bangkok think again. Bangkok is hot, dirty and the workers in the sex trade are the lowest form of human beings.

Dear Michael:

First, let me thank you for your comment. I don’t agree with your over-all opinion of Bangkok’s gay gogo bar industry, but that does not make what you have to say any less valid. I also have a problem with your story, it is so far removed from my own experiences I have a difficult time in believing it. But, I’m going to take your claims at face value (for now) recognizing if nothing else you do provide a useful counterbalance to the tales and tips provided by my blog. Your story, assuming it is a true one, highlights potential dangers, or at least concerns, that visitors to that world – especially those new to the bar scene – should be aware of. It would be easy for me to dismiss your comment, or to offer a quick sarcastic reply. I’m not going to do that. As obviously emotional on the subject as you are, and as deeply held as your opinion seems to be, suggests that I should take what you have to say seriously; my reply should be as heartfelt as your comment was.

The crux of your complaint with the industry stems from an incident wherein you offed a guy from a bar on Soi Twilight, took him to your home, and he stole cash, credit cards, and electronics. Your response was to return to the bar the next night and confront the boy. Instead of getting your valuables back you were physically assaulted.

I’ve read for years about customers being the victims of theft when they brought a bar boy back to their room or home. I’ve offed over a hundred guys and have never has so much as a satang stolen. I would assume that it would be much more risky to bring a free-lancer home with you than a boy working from one of the bars on Twilight. But that’s not your claim. So let’s deal with the theft first.

The gay message boards dealing with Thailand and its commercial sex industry – as well as those on the straight boards – are filled with advice from the cautious about locking your valuables away and keeping an eye on your wallet. Some claim its best to have the boy shower first, you can hide everything while he is busy in the bathroom. Others feel it’s better to do it the other way around. Whichever you prefer, the need to secure your valuables is a given. Doing so greatly lowers the opportunity for theft. Some even go so far as to only use one of the hotels that offer short-time lodging; they do not even want to take a chance of bringing a boy back to their room. The BBB Inn and Suriwong Hotel are both set up for this trade; all the boys know where the hotels are that serve as a flop house.

Visitors may also be further protected by choosing one of the many hotels that require the ‘guest’ of a guest leave his ID at the front desk. Many of these, such as Tarntawan check with the registered guest to make sure everything is okay before releasing the boy’s ID at the end of their engagement.

I’ve always held that one of the reasons to use a bar to procure your entertainment from is that the bar will protect you from theft, or worse. All of the bars on Soi Twilight rely on repeat business, and word-of-mouth should theft be a problem will kill off that industry quickly. The police, who are paid to turn a blind eye to prostitution, would have a major problem on their hands if theft from customers was the norm. Whatever the short-time gain may be to a bar boy by stealing from you, the long-term damage, and hassle, faced by the owners and managers of the bars would not make it acceptable in their world. Even as much as Thais live for the day, they do understand the up-side of running clean environments. But you claim your experience was different. Assuming you did get ripped off by a bar boy from one of the clubs, let’s look at what you could do about it.

Going to the police would be an obvious first step to a newbie. Those more familiar with the police in Thailand may consider their involvement as a last resort. You went back to the bar and confronted the thief. Sorry, but that was not a good idea and it held little chance of successfully getting your valuables back. Since you claim you took the boy to your ‘home’ I assume you have some sort of long-term accommodation in Bangkok and some form of long-term relationship with Bangkok. How you could possibly think confrontation would ever be a successful technique for righting a wrong is beyond me. That you got a beating when you decided to confront ‘the little thief’ does not surprise me in the least.

If a bar boy stole from me I too would return to the bar but instead would ask, politely, to speak with the manager. Rather than a confrontational, “Your boy stole from me! I want my stuff back!” I would calmly and respectfully try something like, “I offed one of your boys last night and some of my belongings have gone missing. Could you ask him if he knows what happened to them?”

The manger will know exactly what happened. But you have not accused him, his bar, and his employee of being thieves. He will talk with the boy – more likely he’ll demand the boy return your goods to the bar. And then you’ll get your belongings as though it was all just a big misunderstanding.

A direct confrontation may be what you are used to in the west, but this is Thailand. You are a visitor in their country. Whether you like it or not, if you want to be successful you need to deal with life on their terms. Avoiding confrontation and saving face matter the most to Thais. If you respect that, and deal with it, chances are you’ll be treated fairly. When you scream, “Thief!” at a boy in front of his bar, his boss, friends, and customers – even if he is guilty – his sole option is to take you on. And his buddies will probably join in.

If your respectful and rational discussion with the manager does not work, then go to the police. And be just as polite and non-accusatory. Yes, the police are corrupt. Yes, the police will scam visitors when they can get away with it. But they also really do enforce laws and assist visitors who have a problem. If nothing else the police too will avoid the ‘problem’ by going to the bar and having the manager retrieve your goods for you. And once again, it will have been just a big misunderstanding.

It just so happens that I am familiar with the bar in your story, Hot Male, and with its manager. The bar is not a rip-off joint that would allow its employees to steal cash and valuable from customers. The manager would be mortified to find out one of his boys did so. And would have taken care of the matter for you had you approached him in the proper manner.

Everyone tends to portray themselves as the hero, or victim, in the tales the tell. Still, your argument and warning that all bar boys are thieves, etc. does not strengthen your argument by doing so. Let’s address the issue of responsibility. Or perhaps negligence is a better term. You decided to go to a gogo bar. You imply that you live in Bangkok so exactly what is on offer at these bars could not have been a big surprise to you. Hot Male’s barkers are not aggressive, they did not pull you into the bar. In fact, you had to walk up a steep, lengthy flight of stairs to get into the bar.

You decided to have a conversation with one of the boys, and you decided to buy both of you drinks. And then you decided to off the boy and take him home with you. Your statement ‘he was filling me up with alcohol and conversation” is a bit one-sided and fails to take into account that if you had not agreed to it the boy would not have been conversing with you, and you – and you alone – could decide whether drinks would be bought and consumed.

You could have sent the boy away and not have talked with him, you could have not bought him drinks, you could have not decided to off him, and you could have not decided to take him to your home. You were in control of this part of your evening. Not the boy. Perhaps, afterwards you’ve decided that you should not have done these things. That does not alter the fact that you did. At no time were you forced to do so. Man up and take responsibility for your own actions. You were not a victim of prostitution, you were a willing participant.

Even as angry as you appear to be, calling a group of people ‘monkey’s (sic) suggests an attitude that almost guarantees that you will be mistreated. As for the ‘filthy prostitutes’ “and that there is “nothing honest about selling your body for money,” and that those who do are “the lowest form of human beings” . . . again, while I’d like to take your obvious anger into account I can’t but help to wonder what’s wrong with your moral compass that places all the blame on them and yet allows you – the person who decided to go buy a whore for the night – to remain the fine, moral, and upstanding man you consider yourself to be.

Prostitution is different in Thailand than it is in the west. Both in practice and in how the trade is viewed by society. Yes, there are bad bar boys. And good ones too. Just as there are bad people who work at McDonalds, and good ones too. To many of the guys working on Soi Twilight it is a job, a business, no more and no less than any other. If prostitution offends your sensibilities, there is no reason for you to be on Soi Twilight, no one is forcing you to make that part of the country a part of your experience.

Perhaps it was in fact your ‘low self esteem’ that sent you off to Twilight in search of a prostitute. But then that’s not really a healthy attitude to start with. Many customers do so with no self-esteem issues. It’s a night out, a fun place to visit while on a holiday. But then your attitude does impact the experience you’ll have. So I’ll give you that one. And note that it sounds like you got exactly what you paid for. And wanted.

If you truly “pray everyday that Joe will come to harm” I feel sorry for you. You are devoting a lot of your time to negativity and that is just plain unhealthy. Seriously, you should consider seeking professional advice to help you rid yourself of these feelings. As negative, stressful, and disturbing as this incident may have been to you, allowing it to continue to disturb you to this degree is not good. If nothing else, you need to get over it, consider it a lesson in life, and move on.

Sorry Michael, but I am not naive. Nor do I mislead readers about the innocence, motivation, or honesty of bar boys, and Bangkok’s commercial sex trade in general. I often point out the greed and avarice involved in the industry. I provide warnings about the known scams and possible problems a newbie may have in negotiating that world. Though I often use cynicism and sarcasm to do so. While I strongly disagree with the general tone of your comment, I’m publishing it to give both sides of the coin an airing, while also using it to highlight problems a visitor may experience in Bangkok and its gogo bars.

I think both your attitude and actions were largely responsible for the trouble you had, if in fact your story is true. Regardless, condemning an entire industry – especially in light of the thousands of guys who have had nothing but good experiences – is just as wrong as completely ignoring that problems can and do exist. So at least for that I thank you for taking the time to express your thoughts.

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