|SEX IN DEPTH
My short time with Tito
By William Sparrow
BANGKOK - It certainly isn't unusual to find a bunch of eager-looking women
working, dancing or freelancing on the bar scene in East and Southeast Asia.
Often times these women tend to be of the golden-skinned variety, hailing from
Southeast Asia and looking to turn a quick buck. At some clubs in Asia though,
fair-skinned women of the West can be found plying the sex trade.
In a Southeast Asian town awash in tourists and entertainment zones one can
stumble on a bar with a dozen or so attractive Western women dancing away in
stripper-esque performances. Entering the club it's hard not to recall the
strip clubs of the West. And it's not just the girls, the style of the show is
the same: one
girl dances on each small stage, strips down to just a thong, then makes a
round of the bar lap-dancing for each of the patrons hoping for a tip.
Certainly, this is not the standard fare of go-go bars in Asia. Idle ladies
sitting between sets looking sullen, self-absorbed and studiously ignoring the
customers also gave the place a Western touch.
In an effort to learn more, an Asia Times Online correspondent sought the
company of one of the young women. An initial approach was immediately met with
a convincing "die in a fire" look of scorn. But, when a drink was offered, her
mood seemed to lighten. It was soon discovered why a "lady drink" costs about
US$10, hardly comparable to local places that charge no more than $3.
She assured him that she got to keep half the price, "It is one of the ways we
make money here," she said.
"Girls dance about one set per hour. There are private rooms in the back for
private shows. It is [$30] per five songs, per girl," she explained. "To take a
girl out of the bar it is [$60] for two hours." In comparison, this would get a
guy two locals for an all-night stay - with no holds barred.
When asked about arrangements outside the bar, the svelte, leggy blonde was
aghast. "Sex? No way!" she said. "If a guy wants to [have sex] he can go find a
local girl for 'boom-boom'."
Delicate prying - and more plying with drinks - soon gleaned more personal
facts. The attractive blonde's name was Dasha. She was 21 years old and
originally from Ukraine, where she was a college student, but low on cash. "I
can come to work in Asia for a year and save up enough for another year of
university, I hope," said Dasha.
A friend in Ukraine had referred her to an "agent" and soon she was on "the
circuit". Attractive women like Dasha are ferried around East and Southeast
Asia on a circuit strongly influenced by organized crime groups such as the
Russian mafia, Japan's Yakuza and Chinese Triad gangs. The top money-making
stops on the cycle are made in Japan, Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore, while
stops in the rest of Southeast Asia or mainland China are layovers - places to
wait for the new visa needed to get back to the higher earning ports of call.
"Girls are from all over: one is from Georgia, another from Lithuania, two
girls are from Ukraine, like me. Oh, and Olga is from Russia," Dasha said,
pointing at the sexy brunette gyrating around the pole in only a pair of heels
and a G-string.
"Japan is the best. Even without sex the men will pay thousands just for your
company, to tease them," she said. "But if you are one of the girls who is
reluctant to [have sex] it can be harder to earn decent money in other places."
Dasha estimated that she would earn several thousand US dollars from her 30-day
stint in the Southeast Asia club, but was looking forward to greener pastures.
Eventually she revealed some details about the sexual aspects of her work:
"First answer is 'no', but some of the girls will have sex with the customers.
I'd consider it. If I can feel some sort of physical attraction, then maybe."
"The girls can choose who they go with, no one forces them, the bodyguards look
after us," she continued while pointing out a bulky fellow near the door with
no neck and enormous arms. "It is up to the girl what she wants to charge, but
most wouldn't dream of going with a customer for less than $500."
Dasha soon stopped talking, and with the research completed - and the fact that
the bruiser by the door had taken more of an interest in the exchange - the
journalist paid his bill and made for the exit. With much relief he noted that
the barroom Neanderthal was nowhere to be seen.
Outside the writer was not so lucky. At the base of the stairway the bouncer
rounded the corner and blocked his path. "I want talk. Let's go for walk," he
said with unspectacular English.
The correspondent's efforts at protesting were met with frustration. "I ask you
to talk, nothing else. If I want to hurt you, I hurt you here. You think anyone
care? Now, come," the bouncer said with a gesture for him to follow.
After half a block of weaving through the crowd, the nearest road came into
view and the journalist immediately noticed two equally big bruisers on Harley
Davidsons - not totally unusual, but rare in this country. When the men started
their engines, he knew they'd been waiting for them.
"I thought you said we were taking a walk," the correspondent said lightly.
"Yes, we walk motorcycle. Come, get on," the bouncer said.
The ride was short - five minutes or so - and took the reporter to a part of
the town he was unfamiliar with, but still with a number of pubs and
restaurants. They stopped in front of a place that had a sign in Cyrillic text.
The riders hung back, allowing the bouncer and reporter to enter the
establishment on their own. A few glances, and a cold stare at the reporter
from at least one patron, was all that greeted them. Making their way to a
private table in the rear, the bouncer nodded once or twice and said "das ve
dania" in greeting to several patrons.
The dimly lit nightclub was swarming with beautiful Western women wearing only
thongs. There was no pretense of stripping: women walked around, settled into
tables, chatted with customers and shared drinks with them, all while
essentially nude. The atmosphere was very similar to Japanese hostess clubs.
Once settled at a table, the burly bouncer said, "It is private club," and
dismissively waved a hand at the scene. "Who are you? What are you doing at
club? Asking girls questions."
After a few awkward and increasingly tense explanations the bouncer - whose
name turned out to be Tito - seemed satisfied that the reporter offered no harm
and even began to give suggestions ("Don't name the bar," he recommended).
As Tito loosened up, he had some mostly naked girls join them and ordered shots
of Russian moonshine - no chaser offered - he even began to disclose some
details of the so-called "circuit" of Western sex workers in Asia. "The house
makes 50% of what girl makes," he said. "But we give them place sleep, food to
eat and arrange their air tickets and visas."
As the night drew to a close, and the wobbly legged reported graciously
accepted a ride at the insistence of his new friend Tito, one last nugget of
knowledge was passed along - one the reporter won't soon forget: "Never screw
William Sparrow has been an occasional contributor to Asia Times Online
and now joins Asia Times Online with a weekly column. Sparrow is editor in
chief of Asian Sex Gazette and
has reported on sex in Asia for over five years. To contact him send question
or comments to Letters@atimes.com.
(Copyright 2008 William Sparrow. All rights reserved. Please contact us about
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