White space, graphic designers will tell you, is one of the most important design elements in layout. What isn’t there highlights what is. White space allows you to focus on the important parts. It’s a minimalist approach to maximize potential.
It’s not by chance, or due to fat fingers, that I use a bit of white space in the phrase ‘Noom my bar boy friend and current love of my life.’ It’s a small amount of white space, a small difference in meaning, but allows for a large dose of reality. Bar boy friend is not the same as boyfriend. That’s not to say I regulate Noom to a spot beneath that of a boyfriend, or that I love him any less. If anything, it focuses on what is more important, that he is a friend. Besides, my choice of using that bit of white space isn’t about him, it’s about me. It’s not about the status of our relationship so much as it is about keeping me firmly grounded in the real world.
Punters on the gay Thailand forums have always had a problem with those who use the word boyfriend to describe the bar boy they’ve become attached to. They’ve always been quick to point out a bar boy whose time you pay for, who you see only a few times a year, and who lives thousands of miles away is not a boyfriend. But then those posters tend to take delight in throwing up roadblocks to anyone’s happiness. About anything. The boyfriend issue is just a convenient one to do so with. For a while it was the fashion to instead use ‘boy special’ rather than boyfriend. I don’t know why that term has always made me cringe. Perhaps because it implies that the guy you’d like to call a boyfriend but can’t is just one in a long line of guys whom you regularly spend time with. And if that is the case, he never reached boyfriend status anyway. That’s a fuck buddy.
There’s a space between both bar boy and boy friend in my chosen designation; perhaps there should be two spaces after the word boy. People tend to want to match the boy to friend when it actually pairs with bar. Noom is a bar boy. Who happens to also be my friend. Do with that what you’d like, but the important part of the phrase to me is that he is a friend. Just as the important part to my libido is that he is a bar boy. How ever you want to group the three, the idea, among the disgruntled and disenfranchised, that you can not be friends with a bar boy has always amazed me. And so often it comes from frequent visitors to Thailand, or from those who live there. I’ve never quite understood why they would put up an obstruction to the possibility of making friends with a bar boy. Especially when it is those same guys who seem to have so few friends in the first place. Or maybe that makes perfect sense.
So here’s a big secret about Thai bar boys that even those who prefer to be detractors seldom mention: Most of them suck at sex. And I don’t mean suck in a good way. For a group of people who make their living providing sexual services to strangers, their abilities and skills are sub par. Some would say that’s because so many of them are straight. But if you’ve ever had sex with a straight boy outside of the bar world you’d know how ridiculous of a claim that is. Those boys positively explode with eagerness, their sudden voracious appetite for all things dick puts those sexual trysts at the top of the pyramid. And besides, Thai sexuality is fluid – straight doesn’t really translate well into their culture.
Others will tell you that the problem is not with the bar boys as much as it is with the customers they have to service. Fat, old, myopic . . . if the boys even manage to get hard they should be commended. I can’t really argue with that logic but at the same time know the problem with that stance is that it puts sex at the forefront. And that’s not always the case.
Many customers see their interaction with a bar boy at its most basic level, a cash for sex transaction. Jaded bar boys do too. They typically want as much of the former for as little of the latter as possible. With the exact opposite in the minds of punters. Neither walks away happy. The tip is never as grand as hoped for, the sex never as satisfying as dreamed about.
That seems to be a dynamic more prevalent in Pattaya – more and more I read about boys who watch straight porn on their cell phones to get into the mood. That certainly isn’t a harbinger to a fun night in bed. It’s kinda like going to a restaurant where the cook comes out, takes one look at you and says, “Yeah, well, I’m not going to bother heating up the stove for whatever you order.”
Thai bar boys did not earn the glorious reputation they have because they are good in bed. They aren’t. While it may be the initial attraction as well as an important part of the affair, sex was never what traditional Thai bar boys were peddling. The boyfriend experience was. The sex, good or bad, was always just a lucky bonus.
For decades, men from all over the world have fallen in love with Thai bar boys. You don’t hear of that phenomenon involving commercial sex workers in Brazil, Amsterdamn, Montreal, Cuba, Prague, or any other place where the sex trade for gay men flourishes. It’s not because Thais are better looking, better built, or better at sex. What they have always been better at is providing the experience that the connection is real, that they love you, care for you, and want to be with you. You pay a prostitute for sex, you pay a Thai bar boy for pretending he is your boyfriend.
Some say you don’t pay a bar boy for sex, you pay him to leave after the sex. I get that. I understand that some guys don’t want friendship, a relationship, or even to know the guy’s name. No problemo. Except if the sex is all you are interested in, heading to Thailand seems an awfully expensive way of going about it. And the odds are the sex you have, if you are even lucky enough to get that far, won’t be very good. Coming into town, hooking up with a guy you like, and then spending the next week or two enjoying his companionship however . . . Thai guys excel at making that fantasy reality.
It’s a unique occurrence in the world of travel that a gay man can travel solo to a foreign country and almost immediately no longer be alone. That’s part of what makes Thailand amazing. You can have a companion, a tour guide, and a sex partner, someone to laugh with, to see the sites with, and to wake up next to. It’s almost like having a boyfriend back home. And it is what has made countless gay men fall in love with Thailand.
For some, that fantasy never ends. They continue the relationship after they’ve left the country and count down the days until they return again. Others fly away with a satisfied smile on their face and pleasant holiday memories playing through their mind. And they’ll do it again, with a different guy, on their next trip. Those guys are almost always satisfied customers, they paid for sex and found companionship instead. Having not yet sampled every bar boy in Bangkok I can’t tell you if their sex was good, but can guarantee you they didn’t spend part of the evening watching their guy trying to get interested in them by watching straight porn on his cell phone. Even if he was straight.
Sometimes it’s better to treat sex as though it is white space. Sometimes it’s better that sex is not your focus but rather a vehicle to emphasize those things that can be more significant. And pleasurable. Sex with Noom is great (thank the gods). But my white space approach to who we are to each other, a friend, is what makes the relationship special.
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