I will never use a condom

I learned this today from a subscriber to the Asian gay website Fridae, who was irritated by my tone in an post-midnight interview with Ng Yi-Sheng, a fabulous Singaporean poet. I am more than willing to accept that being snarky about other people’s sex lives is an irritant. But I’m not sure how it leads to this:

I’ve never had to fumble lubily with a condom packet, huh? The potential assumptions about my behaviour are manifold. Here are some that occur to me:

1) I never use condoms
1a) because I’m a slob
1b) because I don’t have sex with people who have penises
1c) because I don’t have sex.

2) I never use lube
2a) because girls (I?) don’t need it even when they are in their late 40s
2b) because girls (I?) never have anal sex
2c) because I don’t have sex

3) Uniquely on the planet, I can always tell which side of a condom is out
(I refer Mr. Tereisias to p 208 of The Wisdom of Whores)

4) I don’t drink alcohol or take party drugs

All of these assumptions are wounding to the core. But it gets worse: not only do I not have boozy but protected sex with boys who might like lube: I NEVER WILL!

Perhaps I’m being over-sensitive because I’ve just put another birthday on the clock, but I’m crushed. Truly crushed. And bent on the sweet vengeance that comes with proving someone wrong on every count…

11/08/12, 05:30. 9 comments

The obligatory Olympic post: a gold I’d go for

Durex takes the heat out of the Olypics

04/08/12, 04:18. 1 comment

You’ve come a long way, faghag…

On a quick sabbatical from my sabbatical, I’ve dipped back to London for the month of July. How better to spend my first Saturday night than at my local theatre, watching a show called “Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore!”.

The night before, I indulged in the things I’ve missed most over the last nine months — good wine and pork products — under giant banners reading:
Mayor of London
Mayor of London

in Trafalgar Square. London’s most public square was getting all gussied up for Satruday’s Pride parade. We take it for granted now that boys dressed in black latex and pink feather boas kiss in public, but in a show that’s just turned 20 Penny Arcade, aka Susana Ventura, reminds us how very hard fought a victory that was. She and I differ, perhaps, on how that past should shape the behaviour of later generations, those who have mercifully not been condemned to live in closets and funeral parlours, but differences are what good drama are all about. And Penny reminds us, too, (particularly in a funny opening riff on the current “controlled for gain” morass) of how far we still have to go. All wrapped around some of the most heart-stopping pole dancing you’ll see outside of the Olympic gymnastics ring.

Have a pint or two and go see for yourself.

09/07/12, 03:27. Comments Off on You’ve come a long way, faghag…

Indonesia: a miracle despite itself

I’m nearing the end of the first (nine-month long) leg of my Indonesian Odyssey and I don’t feel much closer to understanding the heart of this torturously complicated but endlessly fascinating nation. I’ve done my best to try and sum up some of my thoughts in the June issue of Prospect, one of UK’s more intelligent monthly magazines.

For what they are worth, you can now read my reflections on culture, corruption and corpses on Prospect online. And no, Oliver, I don’t think it is at a crossroads…

[Crosspost from Portrait Indonesia]

19/06/12, 10:23. Comments Off on Indonesia: a miracle despite itself

In Indonesia, even “free sex” is safer than going to work

As part of the Makassar Writers’ Festival, I’ve been asked to give a talk about HIV in Indonesia at the faculty of public health at Hasanuddin University. I’m reluctant. I’ve been wandering Indonesia without any thought of focusing on HIV for over eight months now. In that time I’ve met a surprising number of widows, orphans and middle-aged couples who have lost a child. Only one of those deaths has been HIV related. The rest are all in traffic accidents, mostly involving motorbikes.

That’s not entirely surprising. Bike ownership in Indonesia is booming, with 8.1 million new motorcycles crowding on to the country’s shockingly bad (and already crowded) roads last year. It’s perfectly common to see primary school kids driving motorbikes; it’s very rare to see a primary school kid in a helmet. And the industry is not exactly doing a lot to promote norms of safe driving. Here’s how Suzuki was pimping its new (quite girly, automatic transmission) model in Bau Bau, Southeast Sulawesi, last weekend.

Reporting of road accident related deaths is even worse than reporting of AIDS deaths in Indonesia. But working on best estimates, death contracted on the roads far outstrips death contracted in bed or while shooting up. Some 32,000 people died because of road accidents in Indonesia last year alone, a quarter of them teen-aged boys, and 60% of them on motorbikes. Ten times as many were injured badly enough to alter their daily lives. That compares with just over 5,000 Indonesians reported as having died of AIDS, ever. Let me repeat that. Over 30,000 road deaths a year, versus 5,000 or so AIDS deaths over the last 25 years. And yet Indonesia spent US$ 69.2 million preventing HIV infections and AIDS deaths last year, 60% of it taken out of the wallets of taxpayers in other countries, much of it spent very badly indeed. Indonesia does have a national road safety action plan, but, according to the Director of Road Safety in the Ministry of Transport, it has no dedicated budget to cut death on the roads. If I didn’t know better, I might console myself that HIV is not much of a problem in Indonesia precisely because of the prevention spending. Sadly, that’s not true. I also recognise, of course, that death tolls are not the only basis on which to make public health decisions. But it doesn’t take a very sophisticated observer to see that HIV programmes in Indonesia are grossly over-financed relative to other important killers and maimers, notably road death. (Then there’s smoking, but that’s a whole nother post…)

It doesn’t seem like this problem is likely to evaporate. Though the motorbike industry is wringing its hands over the effect that a perfectly sensible new restriction on credit will have, I’m not seeing it in the field. The Suzuki mob were offering new bikes for a downpayment of just 350,000 rupiah (about US$ 38.00). If that meets the 25% deposit requirement of the regulations, which came into effect this month, then it is a VERY good value bike, despite being girly. Even by the most pessimistic estimates, there will probably be another 6.5 million bikes and over 800,000 more cars on the roads by the end of this year compared with the start. Remove the several thousand that will be reduce to scrap by crashes, and its still a huge net addition.

For an idea of how far Indonesia has to go in making its roads safe, check out this presentation by Eric Howard. There’s lots he doesn’t mention — the political incentives to finance the building of sub-standard roads, the fact that Indonesians think road safety campaigns are just another way for policemen to extract bribes — but there are some priceless photos that show just why for most Indonesians, it’s probably far more dangerous to make your way to work or to school than it is to have sex.

[Cross-post from Elizabeth’s current project, PortraitIndonesia.]

17/06/12, 12:50. Comments Off on In Indonesia, even “free sex” is safer than going to work

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