A few weeks ago via a link to an article I’d found on the internet, I briefly touched upon fang muk (no pun intended). In the real world, I briefly touched on fang muk too. There was a muscle bound bar boy at Hot Mail whom I offed who unveiled that not so little surprise when we got back to my hotel room. Unsure of exactly what I was dealing with, our time together was short, and I never bothered to off him when he moved to Tawan a few months later. Fortunately I’ve never had the pleasure of that experience again, but statistically there should be numerous peni that have been enhanced with fang muk in my future. I’m not sure how I feel about that. Or how they will feel.
But knowing the odds are against me, I thought I should do a bit of research, at least enough to know the difference between fang muk and genital warts (though if I had my choice I’d avoid both like the plague). Boys and their toys, go figure – the phenomenon of men inserting little balls of glass, metal or pearls beneath the skin of their penis is not uncommon in Thailand, and it’s practiced throughout SE Asia and parts of Asia too. The Filipinos call them bolitas, in Japan they are known as tancho balls, and Korean men call them chagan balls. The more modern term is pearling, but historically they were known as Burma bells and their use originated in Burma and what is now Northern Thailand. Perhaps it is not surprising that those areas of the world were this practice caught on are known for men of lesser stature; supposedly the purpose of fang muk are to provide women greater degrees of pleasure. Every centimeter helps when you start off small. More surprising considering their purpose, is that historically the advent of fang muk had much to do with homosexuality.
According to Ralph Fitch, an English merchant who visited Chiang Mai in the late 1500s when the city was under Burmese rule, it was considered quite fashionable for men to insert small bells made of copper or silver in their penis. He said these bells served two functions: for the greater gratification of the women, and to break their menfolk of their addiction to sodomy, an extremely common practice in the North of Thailand at that time with some historians even considering it to be the cause of the area’s sparse population.
The European record of fang muk use centers around the land of Pegu, which today is part of Burma, where several travellers recorded their experience with its common use. Flemish diamond trader Jaque de Coutre wrote that he had witnessed many men who wore at least two bells on the glans of the penis in both Pegu and Siam, which “look as big as nuts and their sound is very clear.” He was told the inventor was a queen of Pegu who took several unusual steps to alleviate the widespread practice of homosexuality in her kingdom. By law, women had to wear an opened underskirt that exposed their thighs while walking (thinking the sight would entice men away from other men).
What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, so the male side of the equation began ornamenting their best buddies with bells; women would know when they passed a man who was interested in them from his sudden stiffy ringing out loud and clear. (Note that while there is no reference as to Burma bells being the predecessor of the modern door bell, the logic of the progression seems obvious.)
Other European records also mention penis bells among the Siamese, including those of Portuguese Tomeì Pires in 1515, the Florentine Francesco Cerletti’s observation of Siamese sailors in Macao in 1600, and the account of a Dutch visitor to 17th century Pattani – now Ayutthaya – who was so confused by the sight that he reported both that “men provided with these bells never have had intercourse with women,” and also that “women experience a sensual enjoyment beyond words on account of these bells”. Most reported however that men who did not sport bells were sodomites and were not considered good prospects for marriage. So it appears it was not a question of belling the catamite as the Dutchman reported.
The Eastern historical record took note of both fang muk and Burmese bells, starting with the report of the former by Zhou Zhizhong during his travels in the 14th century who said it was customary among the men of Siam to ”cut their penis to insert eight gems, so that people will marry their daughters to them.” Another Chinese voyager, Ma Huan, visited Ayutthaya in 1433 and reported in great detail not only on the use of fang muk but on the procedure of implantation noting that there were “a class of men who open shops to specialize in inserting and soldering these beads for people; and they do it as a profession.”
According to his account, the more wealthy citizens had beads of gold or silver inserted in their penis, often hollow with a small pebble inside so that when they walked around they made a tinkling sound, which was considered quite beautiful. Or as Julie Andrews would put it, the hills are alive with the sound of music. It was a century and a half later that Coutre visited the same area and found the use of fang muk still much in favor. Use of Burmese bells in Thailand, Laos, and Burma continued to be documented by travellers to the region well into the late 1700s.
The historical record of use of fang muk in Thailand drops off at the beginning of the 1800s, perhaps the mode of body decoration fell from favor, or perhaps visitors to the Kingdom were less interested in the peni of Thai men. Perhaps too it was Jackie Kennedy’s observation that “Pearls are always appropriate” that led to the modern day use of fang muk and their and popularity. But I’m guessing on that one.
The use of fang muk was again brought to the eye of the Western public in 1990 during research on risky sexual behavior and HIV infection. One research paper reported fang muk are mostly common among drug addicts, with “one in two of those Chiang Mai methamphetamine users interviewed for the paper reporting they had either scarred their penis, inserted a fang muk, or injected their penises with oil or wax.” While the paper did note the practice was more common in Northern Thailand than elsewhere in the country, it also concluded that rather than pleasuring women it hurt them, that fang muk were responsible for the spread of HIV, and that they frequently lead to condom breakages, leading one to believe the researcher was more interested in landing employment with a self-righteous NGO than in scientific accuracy; tweekers rarely have much interest in anything other than their next hit and it is generally agreed that sex holds little interest to them.
Other researchers into the use of fang muk report that it is mostly confined to working class men and those in the military and/or who have spent time in prison. In fact, in Thailand men with penis inserts are perceived to be those who are, or have been, involved in criminal groups. The practice is widely reported to occur in prison, with one reference to forced penis inserts being a normal occurrence for new inmates in Bangkhwang Prison. One study found that 80 percent of participants who had penile modifications had fang muk implanted in prison or detention, and that the same percentage reported having the procedure performed by friends in prison. A prisoner interviewed on the subject estimated one in three men serving time sported fang muk. This practice among the prison population may partially be due to the wide-held belief that in Japan, Yakuza (Japanese Mafia) insert pearls underneath the skin of their penises for each year spent in prison.
So what are the chances you’ll run across fang muk during your adventures in Thailand? Probably greater up north than in Bangkok, and to an even lesser degree down south. But even then I wouldn’t get my hopes up, or become concerned. I’ve only run across one guy sporting dick pearls so far, and while there was a report of a bar boy at X-Boys who had them a few years ago, it doesn’t seem to be a popular tradition among bar boys. But then again maybe I just haven’t met the right ones.
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