"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

"Here's something to think about: How come you never see a headline like 'Psychic Wins Lottery'?" - Jay Leno


On women in Cambodia:

"An employee of local NGO Gender and Development for Cambodia commented in 2002 that ‘20 people can rape a woman at the same time, and consider this a fun, bonding experience between males’ (PPP 2002: 14). Perhaps the most bizarre commentary on the role of women in post-revolutionary Cambodia is to he found on the Cambodian People’s Party list of important events in Cambodia’s history: ‘20 June 1999 — Royal palace denies rumour of evil god demanding thousands of long-haired virgin girls’ (CPP 2000)"

--- Women's Political Participation and Representation in Asia: Obstacles and Challenges / Kazuki Iwanaga

And, from Lost goddesses: the denial of female power in Cambodian history / Trudy Jacobsen:

"The presence of a pervasive sex industry was also perceived as being a result of female immorality, vanity, and lack of willingness to engage in 'real work'...

It continues to be the prerogative of elite men to demonstrate their potency and superiority over other men through sexual access to large numbers of women. If these women are virgins, the higher the prowess of the man involved, because virginity is an expensive commodity. High-level business agreements are ‘ratified by deflowering virgins procured for the purpose, in order to demonstrate mutual high regard. A Western parallel might be the decanting of a 30-year-old single malt in order to toast the business agreement. Virginity carries with it the assurance that there will he no ill-effects from the encounter (for the man, at least) and some believe that taking the virginity of a girl will remove bad luck, rejuvenate a flagging libido, or cure HIV/AIDS. This is why so many sex workers are young teenagers. Their value is diminished once their virginity has been sold, but they will not physically show the toll that the sex industry takes on their bodies for some years. Another attractive characteristic in young sex workers is that they are socially constrained to be obedient. Most Cambodian men expect their sexual partners, including sex workers, to be submissive and are disconcerted when their expectations are not met. It was extremely difficult to convince any Cambodian man to speak openly about why Cambodian women should not enjoy sex. Many seemed to think that it was an inherent aspect of Cambodian femininity. One moto driver said 'If wanted a srei rijoh rilenh [wriggly woman) I would go to a Vietnamese.’ Ly Ly, a sex worker, told me that she had been surprised at first when her Western clients 'told me to make noise, to move around, to sit on top ... . If I did this with a Cambodian man, he would be shocked and afraid'.

The majority of Cambodian men believe that Cambodian women are naturally timid, docile, and less capable than they are...

I have seen women agreeing to have sex with men in exchange for the price of the moto ride to her own home afterwards (around 50 US cents).

Foreign men come to Cambodia and find their every fantasy can be easily facilitated while not earning any disapproval from society at large because it is acceptable for Cambodian men to do the same. A popular ‘gentleman’s bar’ in Phnom Penh offers a particular service combining the exoticism of the east with the pleasures of the local pub. As soon as they walk in, men are given a complimentary beer. Shortly afterward, a hostess will appear and fellate them against the wall while they wait their turn at the pool table. Disapproval of this and other exploitative practices is portrayed as jealousy on the part of Western women who secretly desire the attention lavished upon their ostensibly more attractive counterparts. A cartoon in a locally. produced English-language magazine showed a Western man dancing with four young, slim, sexily dressed Cambodian women while at a nearby table four overweight older Western ladies voiced their disapproval over their colleague’s contribution to the exploitation of women. In the next frame, each woman had a thought-bubble over her head expressing sentiments such as ‘I wonder how much liposuction costs’ and ‘Can I get out to Bangkok for a facelift before New Year” Criticism is dismissed as jealousy."

Perhaps all this is due to Cambodian history:

"Sexual autonomy seems to have been exercised by women to a high degree, at least amongst women who were not born into the royal family. Zhou Daguan was told that Cambodian women were not likely to remain faithful in the absence of their husbands:

Everyone with whom I talked said that the Cambodian women are highly sexed. One or two days after giving birth to a child they are ready for intercourse: if a husband is not responsive he will be discarded. When a husband is called away on matters of business, they endure his absence for a while; but if he is gone as much as ten days, the wife is apt to say, ‘I am no ghost; how can I be expected to sleep alone?’ Though their sexual impulses are very strong,, it is said some of them remain faithful.’

This is at odds with the inscriptions, which stress the importance of fidelity of women after marriage. Virginity is also the subject of conflicting views. One inscription speaks of a king’s infatuation with a woman ‘of perfect body, of irreproachable face’ waning when he realised that she was ‘already deflowered.' Jayavarman VII was pleasurably aroused by ‘a virginal and enchanting wife, awkward in revealing her charms: According to Zhou Daguan, however, brides and grooms often had pre-nuptial intercourse without social reprisal.” There was one rule for the elite and another for the rest of society."

Or maybe the Cambodians Zhou Daguan talked to pulled a Margaret Mead on him.

And finally, on sex workers in Southeast Asia:

"As highlighted throughout this book. women in the sex industry do not identify with representations that place them as victims of political economy, sex tourists or HIV/AIDS. Indeed. they perceive a negotiated tension between their free will to enter prostitution and the constraints that make this particular type of employment an opportunity for them. Moreover, sex workers do not conceive their encounters with foreign men in strictly oppressive terms. Dichotomous models of power—whether based on the colonizer/colonized or oppressor/subordinate binaries of nationalist and feminist discourse—are necessarily more complex, situated and strategic. Furthermore, the subjects of these models are capable of power and resistance in complex and unanticipated ways. In go-go bars throughout Southeast Asia the differences between white, Western men and Southeast Asian women are worked out, but this negotiation is not based on a clear relation of domination...

This approach to understanding the relationship between sex workers and their customers has much affinity with postcolonial perspectives which seek to disrupt the nationalist ideologies that set up a binary relation between Third World/First World... While the relationship between sex workers and their customers is the most detailed example given here, a similar argument is made about the relationship between Australian NGOs and their Filipino NGO ‘partners’. To define peer education as a purely colonizing discourse, for example, would be at the expense of understanding the Filipino translation and use of the concept.

As this study shows, organizations with specific political agendas utilize dichotomous notions of power which are incommensurable with the lives of women employed in the sex industry. Due to the global concern with HIV/ AIDS, these organizations include an increasingly complex web of international agencies (i.e. the United Nations, aid organizations from the West, etc.), national and local governments, and NOOs carrying out community—based WV/AIDS education projects. Furthermore, the advent of WV/AIDS has brought new voices to these debates, including those from the Western—based prostitutes’ rights movement. Through examining the perspectives of local, national and foreign organizations—as well as the uneasy processes of social and cultural identification between them—it becomes clear that representations of prostitute victims/sex worker agents are also articulations of organizational identity. Because the images the produced by government and non-government organizations are as much about their own positions within debates about sex work and AIDS. it could be argued these images are politically strategic stereotypes—and are therefore fragile and ambivalent. While they might deny the lived experience of sex work, they can also be considered the foundation upon which new identities might be constituted."

--- Sex work in Southeast Asia: the place of desire in a time of AIDS / Lisa Law
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