My Sex Education in Singapore
Sex texts, escorts and ‘four floors of whores’ – the city-state can be a real eye-opener
We've been in Singapore since the end of May and except for a few trips to Hong Kong, this is by far the longest stretch of time I have spent in my home country since the mid-80's. A lot has changed, both for better and for worse.
Yesterday, I had a curry meal with two of my cousins and it proved an eye opener.
While munching our way through a hot and spicy lunch, we carried on a conversation about – what else – food. Discussing where to get good noodles and seafood without paying an arm and a leg, Geylang and Katong cropped up as places to find decent food at reasonable prices.
For those of you who have not visited and/or do not know Singapore, Geylang is an area famous for its eating places, and almost equally infamous for its brothels (according to web pages I looked at last night, prostitution is legal here but pimping and operating a house of ill repute is not).
As if on cue, one of my cousins fished his cellphone out of his pocket and muttered, “I don't know how they got hold of my cellphone number, but I get messages like this everyday,” showing me a screen that was almost identical to the one below.
When, the day after, I asked him to forward me the message, he said he'd already deleted it but would send that morning's message to me, which he did:
There is more, but this screenshot suffices to capture the essence of the message he received. It contained attachments featuring photographs of the girls, accompanied by their professional names, nationality, vital statistics and – need I add – titillating descriptions of the girls and their services.
I am far from being a prude and consider myself reasonably worldy, but I have to say that some of the acronyms are beyond my ken! I shall have to have lunch with my cousins again, if only to ask them for a much needed lesson in the glossary of sex services available here.
As I was writing this, I recalled an incident a few months earlier: we had dinner with friends, one of whom was visiting from Hong Kong. After dinner and a long chat we all walked her back to her hotel on Tanglin Road.
On our way there, we had to pass Orchard Towers, which is often referred to in conversation and on the web as the “four floors of whores” for its many massage parlours, KTV lounges and bars.
As I often walk past or into the two buildings that comprise Orchard Towers (they do have legitimate businesses there), the sight of scantily clad women of all ages, nationalities, shapes and sizes in that vicinity seems quite normal to me.
Outside, they stroll on the sidewalk, lean against railings and pose on the steps of the buildings along the road although they are less evident in the daylight hours.
However, our friend from HK was caught unawares by their obvious presence in the ‘tony’ Orchard Road area and remarked that in Wanchai the ‘working girls’ stayed close to the entrances of their bars and clubs.
What made it remarkable for her is that this happens in ‘squeaky clean’ Singapore. It made her mind boggle.
It just goes to show that life is not starkly black-and-white, but various shades of grey. And this is a surprise in Singapore only because of the image that the government tries to project.
Given that people all over the world have had greater exposure (thanks to visitors and immigrants, to studying, working and travelling abroad, and are better educated than before), perhaps there is a case for dropping pretences and calling a spade a spade?
In the meantime, I am eagerly awaiting my next family lunch when I can learn even more about the Singapore that I do not know
The writer, as Singapore's baby-boomer generation may remember, was as at one time the fastest woman in Singapore. She is still so far the only female to win a race in the history of the Macau Grand Prix.
This post was originally published on Chewing the Cud on February 10, 2011.
Image source (on home page): Shadow Traveller on Flickr