Yes, I know I rag on Pattaya’s gay sexpat community far too often, branding them all as disgruntled prissy queens who live for yet another drink while yearning for a taste of fresh Issan boy-flesh. I’m sure there are plenty of gay expats living in Pattaya whose lives do not revolve around boys, booze, and the blue pill. And there are plenty of gay touri who visit Pattaya for the sun, beach, culture, and camaraderie, not for the cheap boy-whores of questionable age and the cheap alcohol of questionable proof.
Face it, the sin city of Siam is a mecca for the disgruntled and disenfranchised as well as the for deranged and sexually depraved. If its inhabitants were of a jollier sort it’d be my kind of town. But all one need do is read a day’s worth of posts on one of the gay Thailand message boards to quickly be clued in to how unhappy Pattaya’s sexpats are with the paradise they’ve decided to call home. Where else in the world can you find that many old gay men who bitch and whine about everything. From tiny restaurants that won’t take a dinner reservation to the nationality make-up of visitors to music volume, smoking policy, boy-count, drink costs, and size of the bars they live their lives in, regardless of the subject Pattaya’s sexpat community willingly demonstrates how disgruntled with their lot in life they are.
How can a tropical paradise filled with readily available boys, cheap food and booze, and a built-in community of like minded individuals result in such unhappiness? Why do so many of Pattaya’s pensioners turn to alcohol to numb their senses?
Yup, smells like science to me.
Or maybe that’s just the stench of the waters off Jomtien Beach . . .
Thanks to research done by neurogeneticist Galit Shohat-Ophir and her team at the University of California, San Francisco, Pattaya’s sexpats will be glad know the blame is not with the grumpy old codgers or the bars who offer them libations in which to drown their sorrows, but with the boys. In fact I’m sure they’ll be ecstatic to know that once again they have something about their miserable lives they can blame the boys for. The English playwright William Congreve may have claimed that Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, but science has now proven it’s the men who have been rebuffed that you really need to worry about. And rejection makes them drink like a fish too.
The researchers studied a brain chemical called Neuropeptide F (NPF) in fruit flies, which works similar to Neuropeptide Y (NPY) in humans. Neuropeptides are small protein-like neuronal signaling molecules that influence the activity of the brain in specific ways. They either excite or inhibit neurons and are involved in particular brain functions, like pain alleviation, reward, food intake, learning, and memory. Both NPF and NPY work on the reward section of the brain. When levels of these neuropeptides are low the brains attempts to mediate the shortage which can have striking effects on behavior.
Alcohol influences NPY levels in humans as does NPF in fruit flies. Scientists already knew that when fruit flies drink alcohol, reward pathways in their brains are activated, making it a “pleasurable” experience. They also knew that social interactions are among the most rewarding experiences, rising NPY and NPF levels even higher. So the wanted to see whether the two types of rewards were connected in the brain.
The scientists put 24 male fruit flies in one of two situations. Half the males were placed in vials in groups of four, each group with 20 female flies that were ready to mate, allowing the males to mate with multiple females. The other half of the males were put alone in vials, each with one female that had already mated, making her reject any courtship advances. After four days of repeated mating or rejection – a routine typical of your average Pattaya sex touri and sexpat alike – the male flies were moved to new containers containing set amounts of food, half containing alcohol and half without.
The researchers expected to find that all flies prefer food soaked in alcohol, a pleasurable experience that raises their NPF levels, regardless of whether or not they just got laid. What they found instead was that the rejected males had a high preference to the food with alcohol while the mated males had an aversion to the alcohol-containing food. On average, the males who didn’t get any nookie drank four times more alcohol than those who had a happy ending, showing that much like males of our own species, male fruit flies when spurned, drink to numb the pain of rejection.
The dramatic results – the first discovery of a social interaction that influences future behavior – were unexpected, but according to Dr. Markus Heilig, the clinical director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Reading this study is like looking back in time, to see the very origins of the reward circuit that drives fundamental behaviors like sex, eating and sleeping.” Understanding the brain pathways responsible, he says, could help explain more broadly how rewarding behavior is reflected in the brain, and how the brain mediates complex behaviors.
Not that members of Pattaya’s sexpat community has even been accused of complex behaviors, or having a brain, but the results of Shohat-Ophir’s study does help explain their predisposition for consuming large quantities of alcohol: too many duds, too many bar boys who do too little, too many nights spent in the pursuit of dick with no happy ending in sight. But then cheap booze is always more fulfilling than cheap sex, and since Pattaya’s sexpats take pride in obtaining the latter it should be no surprise that they over indulge in the former.
Ah well, bottoms up!
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