Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Army Guys and Porn

Today is Valentine's Day... which may not be such a good time to talk about pornography. I mean, today's the day to be all lovey-dovey and stout-of-heart and not about jerking off and finding release. But then again, when things get a bit too amorous, erotic feelings might just rise their head or throw opportunities wide open. *wink wink.

The prude in you might object. But really, I just want to talk about army guys and porn. If you had been an NSman, you would know what I am talking about. But my first encounter with porn was not during NS. It was during JC 1.

At the time there were a couple of well-off guys in my school badminton team. One of them was a Chinese-Indonesian from Commerce stream and he would share with us magazines like Hustler and Playboy. Actually, these two magazines weren't that terrible or "yellow". Very well-written articles about our social condition could be found in them (rather frank ones, I must add) - especially in Playboy. But I think my teammate cared less about reading and more about eye-candy. He also had porn mags that were rather triple X rated. But somehow, this teammate did not come across as a sleazebag. He seemed more worldly than the rest of us "kwai-kwai" Singaporean types. Still, like the rest of us, he couldn't escape the influence of raging hormones at that vulnerable age.

Come to think of it, that was not my first exposure to such magazines. The very first time was in Sec 3 when we students were out for technical workshop lessons at another school. A classmate showed us where to get some porn magazines. It was also a place where we kids could go gamble if we so wished. That story is over here.

My first real encounter with such salacious content was when I discovered my dad's stash of playing cards. Nothing very suspicious about them except they depicted 1950s naked women in various topless poses. Miss Ace of Spade was particularly fetching. And guess what? There was also a similar pack of cards for the ladies - all 52 cards featuring Brylcreem-haired lads in their birthday suits showing off their pecs and peckers.

For a young boy curious about the female anatomy and where his own manhood was heading, these playing cards were very educational. If anything, these pictures told me that our body forms have no standard template. And like that fruit banana, they too came in different shapes and sizes. Same with papayas and mangoes, I supposed (just to be gender fair in my choice of sexual innuendos!)

For me, it wasn't such a big deal. When I was a little kid in Sarawak, I had seen topless Iban woman bringing fruit to my mom. I am not kidding, the fruit brought to our home were indeed papayas. It all seemed very natural like those topless Bali women that our local artist, the late Liu Kang, liked to paint.

How did my family end up with such playing cards? Well, they were brought back by my dad from working in Vietnam in the 60s. He was there for two years with the Caterpillar Co providing plant-support work to the American war effort in Indochina. 'Plant' to mean heavy machinery like earth diggers and excavators.

My mom knew we siblings were aware of the cards. But she was not too strict about it. All she said was: "Put them back after you are done" and that was that. If we stole any more glances, I am sure we would have gotten whacked with the cane. That had more to do with disobeying her than handling the picture cards. In any case, there's nothing pornographic about a guy or gal posing in the nude by themselves. There was no sex act. It was all very modeling-like, even artistic and educational!

However, that sex act thing would come later. It first happened when I was ten years old and when my parents brought us children to the cinema to watch that unrestrained 1970s documentary called Sex and the Animals. It was meant to be an educational trip. My parents were both open and forward like that. After the movie, I could not forget two incredible scenes: One, an amorous male frog still clamping onto his female partner two weeks after the sex act; two, an elephant's penis dragging on the floor like a long piece of damp rope. For a 10-year-old, that scene was not only mind-blowing. It was absolutely eye popping!

The second time I witnessed such coitus was eight years later when I was enjoying some time-off during my OCS Senior Term.

It was a Saturday morning and we were all in our PT kit relaxing in the cadet mess (army-term for recreational room). We had just cleared our stores (i.e. training equipment) after a major exercise. Someone had brought along a videotape and word was that it was rather special. I think it was Gerard, our platoon resident joker and GSO (girl-supply officer) who, I think, was responsible.

The title of the movie was Lady Chatterly's Lover. My first thought was that it was all very Dickensian. Well, my guess wasn't that far off as the movie was indeed a British period piece of lords and manors. But the story was something else.

We were soon pretty glued to the TV as the story unfolded. There's the fetching Lady Chatterly who was obviously mismatched to her elderly, paralysed and impotent husband. She was obviously suited to the unmarried and studly gamekeeper with the manly mustache. You know what is going to happen soon enough after they bumped into each other in the garden and started exchanging glances. There isn't going to be a three-some in this semi-autobiographical tale by DH Lawrence.

Lady Chatterly's Lover has been hailed as a porn-flick success in the adult film industry. Its portrayal of sexual coitus and lust was gradual and sensual, not wham-bang typical of most porn flicks short on story but long on action (much too long in my opinion).

For once, somebody got the story direction and flow right, of how a lady of the house might fall for hired help and be viewed in a sympathetic light. She's not just some object to be undressed and get banged up without any foreplay.

I liked Lady Chatterly's Lover for two reasons: One, the tender way in which the gamekeeper made love to her (remember that scene where he laid flowers on her naked body?) and two, the proper story that carried all that "hei-sho hei-sho" action (terms as used by Ms Lulu of The Noose). It just didn't seem porno at all. Maybe a tad voyeuristic.

And how we young men and cadets got our eyes glued to the TV that day. We learned not a few lessons, chief of which was how we could all watch that X-rated material and not get caught! It was in broad daylight and near the OCS HQ!

Later, as an officer, I would encounter fellow officers watching porn after 11pm at the officer mess. At 11pm, we would have finished playing snooker and about to head back to our bunks at the E Block barrack. One of the guys was the brother of the girl I had dated. He was supposed to be a very religious young man but yet, there he was getting his porno fix.

Although I never joined those officers in their after-hours movie viewing, I must admit to watching a few when that Annabel Chong's Gang Bang saga exploded on our local news scene. It was more out of curiosity than anything else. But in the process, I discovered that it was very easy to find porno stuff on the World Wide Web. You don't even have to pay for it, why I think parents should be more diligent, especially if their kids get hooked on stuff like that.

The thing with porn vids is that they get boring after a while, why I look back on that Lady Chatterly's Lover flick with some fondness. You meet a girl, you like her and somehow end up sharing the most intimate moments together. Isn't that how it should be? Of course, there's the hapless husband who did actually close an eye to the whole affair so his wife could be sexually happy. True love or simply a naive, cuckolded husband?

Scholars have given Lawrence's story the thumbs up. They hailed it as "not one of sexual passage but that of the search for one's integrity and wholeness." The lady learns that sex is not shameful and disappointing (as often perceived in those corsetted times) and the interloper learns of the spiritual challenges that follow physical love.

An older colleague of mine liked watching porn. I was twenty-something then and it was something I couldn't quite understand. After the initial thrill, porn gets very boring and pointless. It does turn women (mostly) into one-dimensional beings. The sexual act is only great if it is done as mutual sharing. An exploratory act even or worship. But this older colleague had something to say. His reason was: "When you get older and when younger women no longer bat you an eyelid, you'll understand."

I think I understood when I got older. It was during that infamous NYP Tammy video scandal which provided the insight. For some reason, I found her alluring. I guess which guy wouldn't when pandered to by a young thing? So my older colleague was just having a fantasy-substitution ride. "Look," he had said defensively then. "It's just harmless viewing. I don't harass women, call on prostitutes, do kiddy porn...I just watch the professional stuff."  Professional stuff? Ok, maybe he has a point. But the thing with porn is that all that consumer demand has been feeding a rather dubious industry. Were these women exploited? Is it all harmless? Remember, in Japan the porn industry is closely tied to gangsterism (aka the Yakuza) and other underworld activities. It is the same in other countries, except perhaps the United States. In the US, there are strong unions and industry groups for porn (or adult film industry, as they call it).

I like one quote from Gail Dines, the anti-porn campaigner and author of the book Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality. She says: "I am not saying that a man reads porn and goes out to rape. But what I do know is that porn gives permission to its consumers to treat women as they are treated in porn."

More sobering are the stats in her book. For example, it has been found that guys who did kiddy porn will rape a child six months into the habit. This even if they were repulsed by that kind of porn initially.

A compelling insider's story of the porn industry is linked here: Shelley Lubben's story. It's informative on so many levels.

In any case, do behave yourselves this Valentine's Day. Do not get carried away. Love is best expressed as love for that person. Period. Everything else is secondary and time will come when intimacy is called for.

As I've read in Cosmopolitan once of a woman who finally found her true love after several affairs, the feeling of coitus at the time for her was one of sea waves smashing against the cliff rocks; of riding high among rolling clouds in the sky; of thunder and lightning cracking in her joints and loins leaving her weak and scared. Love, she finally realised, required total surrender. It left her pink in the cheeks and chilled to the lips. But she wouldn't have any other way. A guy would be so lucky to be loved (and made love to) like that.

Here's another solid talk about why we should not watch porn. Some keywords: genitalia hierarchy and sexual subordination....etc.
A good talk about porn and all its guises and insidiousness. About genitalia hierarchy and sexual subordination, etc.... TEDx Talk: Why I Stopped Watching Porn

Related story: R&R in Taiwan; Next story: Golf Company

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