Tag Archives: prostitution

Kimonos and Fake News

Spoliarium

I’ve been doing a bit of an informal survey after hearing a friend spout off what sounds like anti-Japanese sentiment disguised as facts. In an attempt to disparage the character of Japanese culture specifically and the Japanese people in general, she mentioned that the kimono was designed specifically for the woman to easily have sexual encounters with men at a moment’s notice. That is why what appear to be cushions or pillows are attached at the back of the outfit. This factoid (or to cut to the chase, this lie) seems to be designed to hurt the Japanese image by basically calling their traditional attire a sex attire and by virtue implying that Japanese women have a history of having loose morals.

I’ve been asking Koreans around me about the reason for the kimono’s design and most people reference this rather risqué explanation to different degrees, with some being more polite than others. This was very fascinating since the people I asked were mostly well-educated people who have visited Japan several times, if not lived there for several years. They mostly came up with the same explanation, although some expressed doubts regarding its veracity.

Now, I’ve read about kimonos, seen them worn many times first-hand, and been with people who had it put on. There are many degrees, but kimonos can be quite complicated to put on. It took my friends almost an hour to have it put on them, and this is with a professional assistant. When you see people walking around Japan with their Sunday best kimonos, these are mostly complicated attires with several layers. They are not the fastest things to take on and off. Probably the easiest and least layered kimono I could think of are the yukatas worn in the summer, but compared to the Korean hanbok, they are probably a little more complicated to put on and off, so I don’t understand this idea of “easy access.” As for the cushions or pillows attached in the back. They are otakos or oversized ribbons mainly placed there for aesthetic purposes. I would hardly consider them pillows. One of the reasons for putting so much material around women at the time was that it was considered ideal for women to have a straight, flat figure. It was simply the aesthetic at the time. And as for pillows and the idea of having women basically be on their backs, Japanese women, when fully attired in traditional garb will have a very complex hairdo. Back then, they would never rest their head on pillows for fear of ruining their hair, and instead rested their head and neck on what amounts to a wooden platform. The whole pillow/easy access thing is simply a fantasy.

But what lends it credibility is a bit of truth. One is that there is a history of courtesans and prostitution in Japan which does involve the image of geishas wearing heavy make-up and kimonos. But this is counter to the easy access image the rumor I’ve been hearing. Another bit of truth is that kimonos are usually tied from behind, thus women would often require assistance when putting on such complicated attire. Prostitutes would sometimes tie their kimono in front so they could easily put them on and off without assistance, but that it not the only sole reason to wear a kimono with the ribbon in front. Elderly people for example, would tie their kimonos in front to make it easier to wear them. In any case, there are many reasons why kimonos could be tied in front, but I think the originators of the easy access lie just latched on to the prostitution story and made it true for all kimonos.

But what is the purpose of the lie. I imagine it is a relic of anti-Japanese sentiment in Korea. I ask people where and when they first heard of this explanation and not many people could tell me exactly when. It seems to have been rooted in their childhood. Thus, even when I offer a counter explanation, some find it hard to divorce themselves from the old take. Perhaps it was designed to disparage the Japanese, and in doing so, boost Korean nationalist sentiment. This is not the first time I’ve seen this happen. In the 80s, children in the Philippines were taught that Armando Lite invented the ArmaLite (M16), Agapito Flores invented the fluorescent lamp, and Eduardo San Juan invented the Lunar Rover. There’s a possibility that Eduardo San Juan did exist as an engineer, but there is no record that he was the chief engineer for the Lunar Rover. And as for the other two, they are nothing but clever puns. But why make up the lie? They were designed to boost national pride, encourage children to take up science and engineering, and instill a bit of anti-American sentiment since all inventors were said to have had their inventions stolen and their credits removed, thus making the lies unprovable. I suspect the Japanese kimono lie was created in the same vein, especially since the Koreas were occupied by the Japanese the same way the Philippines was occupied by the Americans.

I believe this is an early attempt at “fake news” or propaganda. Unfortunately, with me trying to disprove the old “fake news,” I could be labeled as “fake news” as well. I’m not sure if propaganda had the same vicious back and forth cycle back then as well. I figure some lies just faded after people saw the light of truth and reason. But maybe I was being naïve in thinking they are not as persistent, after all, what was my friend spouting? And to bring it back to the modern era, I had my wife look up some of the anti-Japanese sentiments my friend was spouting including the kimono explanation online. True enough, she finds them in a Korean anti-Japanese site. Old “fake news” makes it to the modern age.

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Dick Fisted

Korean_brand

I met a Canadian teacher a couple of weeks ago. He’s only been on the country for three months. It was showing because I had to teach him a couple of things regarding Korean table manners, which really made me wonder about his handlers. They really should’ve taught him better or he could’ve been more observant.

My friends and I were talking with him when the subject of the HIV test came up. In South Korea, in order to be issued a visa to teach English, a foreigner must have a criminal background check as well as an AIDS test. Now, I don’t mind the criminal background check. In fact, I believe it should be par for the course for any instructor in any country to have a criminal background check. The HIV test however is a tad insidious.

The requirement was put into law a few years ago at a time when Korea had a rash of high profile criminal cases involving Korean teachers taking advantage of their students and either getting light sentences or being reshuffled back into the system. It was also a time when suspicion against foreign men specifically was being encouraged by a hate group who pushed stories to online outlets and TV networks which were more than happy to propagate them. The media would show stories villainizing male English teachers. Curiously, they tend to ignore female English teachers.

Lawmakers responded by making the HIV test a requirement, ignoring the fact that there were no credible stories about foreign English instructors spreading HIV, and that the law does not address the actual problem of leniency towards actual Korean criminals. Failing the HIV test would prevent foreigners from working in the country. It’s a xenophobic law which suggests that foreigners harbor HIV and doesn’t consider the possibility of foreigners catching HIV from a Korean partner. UN Secretary Ban Ki Moon, who happens to be Korean himself, urged the government to end the tests, calling it a violation of human rights. But the government ignored him, and the tests remain as a requirement for foreign English teachers to this day.

What’s funny is that it being a requirement for English teachers, that in itself reflects on its origins: the suspicion against male English teachers. It is not required for any other work visas, even for entertainment visas, which in many countries have been the avenue to which prostitutes enter. Korean men have also been frequenting South East Asian countries and have relations with prostitutes themselves. There are establishments in these countries that are geared solely towards Korean clientele, and yet no one is checking Korean men for HIV after coming back from their business trips.

Given this background for the law and the test, it was a mixture of amusement and sadness when the English teacher I met said that he too had to take the test, but instead of being annoyed or outraged at the requirement as well as the presumption that foreigners bring HIV to the country, he was rather nonchalant about the whole thing. He said that his handlers explained to him that it was a requirement for health insurance purposes.

Now, I don’t know how much time he spent considering this explanation. But there are so many holes in that excuse that it doesn’t take much to disprove. Are they testing for HIV so they could pay for the instructor’s expenses? If they fail and they are not allowed into the country (only about 20+ countries do this), doesn’t that show discrimination? And if they are testing for insurance purposes, how about testing other medical conditions, something without a stigma, perhaps diabetes or asthma?

Attitudes towards foreign men have slightly improved in recent months. Travel shows dominate network television, and foreign men speaking in Korean now appear in Korean talk television. This new trend has people forgetting that just a couple years ago, the fear of the foreigner scourge has been put into law, and that it continues to be a requirement to this day. And while things are currently better, it will only take one or two high-profile stories before the media sparks another moral panic. The Korean National Police Agency just recently announced a cracking down on crimes committed by foreigners by “forming voluntary crime-prevention groups” in response to an increase in foreigner-committed crimes by 5000 a year. In my opinion, this is small when considering the increase of the foreign population in the country. But I read that action as empowering local hate groups and vigilantism, and I suspect that like before, it is a misguided response to an altogether different problem.

Now, someone please explain to that naïve teacher why the HIV test is a bad thing.

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Resets and Monogamy

death

I had this dream last night where a naked woman was lying next to me, she touched a spot on my back and it triggered a heart attack. She said this way, I’ll die and we’ll end up together for eternity.

Wouldn’t that be great? A quick and easy way to end it all? A great off switch (or reset button, depending on what you believe). I mean sure, a person can just take pills. But taking pills alone isn’t really that quick, painless, or effective. I believe only a small percentage of people actually succeed in committing suicide using pills. Some people advice using a plastic bag over one’s head in combination with the taking pills, but that just sounds too grim.  Of course there’s also Nembutal, but it’s far too difficult to obtain.

I don’t really believe in fate or destiny, but if such a thing does exist, then it doesn’t look too good for my marriage. First off, I just read Chester Brown’s brilliant comic strip memoir Paying for It. In it, he talks about giving up on having relationships and instead just paying for sex. It’s not so much about the adventures of being a john but an analysis of what relationships truly are and what we’ve been conditioned to believe are the meanings of love, sex, and adult relationships.

Around the same time I was reading Chester Brown’s book, I was listening to ‘This American Life’ ep. 95 on Monogamy. Act One, despite being the longest part, was definitely the weakest, and if anything, it reeks of a bored rich couple coping with their failing marriage in ways that doesn’t really connect with most people. “Oh I’ll just spend the weekend decompressing over at the Hamptons!” Nothing against the French, but the husband being French doesn’t help either. The rest of the show was really interesting. Roy Romer talks about how having an affair saved his relationship, and how he was able to separate his sexual needs from his intimacy with his wife. Dan savage examines how successful and how “happy” monogamous and non-monogamous couples really are. And Ian Brown discusses the struggles of being monogamous. In many ways, the show paints monogamy as a romantic fantasy much like a Rockwell painting. If you can be happy with it, then good for you… but then again, it’s not for everyone.

Then on Sunday, I had a rather public fight with my wife in our neighborhood. She ends up yelling at me while I kept my volume to a minimum (I always do). I thought it was rather unnecessary, if not cruel, for her to make such a spectacle. People in South Korea already automatically assume I’m the bad guy whenever we’re in a fight (we’re a mixed couple, she’s Korean). She doesn’t have to yell at me to shame me even further. Of course, one can argue that me posting this online is my equivalent of shaming her. But no one really reads my weekly entries, certainly no one where I live.

Trying times. We’re okay now, but boy that was bad timing.

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Dead Strangers

motivated

I was reading a great obituary over the weekend. It was tragic, but inspiring. It was of this young lady who devoted so much of her life to charity, so much of her life to helping others. It’s really sad, but she was one of those people whose life Lao Tzu was referring to when he talks about flames that burn bright but burn half as long. (http://www.macleans.ca/society/life/jennifer-joy-logan-1982-2015/) Though younger than me, she probably helped more people in her short life than I ever did… than I ever will. I was and am not as generous as she was. And for that I do feel a tremendous amount of shame and regret.

The beauty of such obituaries (and no, I don’t often read strangers’ obituaries) is that not only do they celebrate a person’s life, but they also inspire others. Perhaps they push others to be more grateful for what they have, enjoy the moment more, or in this particular young lady’s case, be kinder to others. It is like the one last good the departed could do, to inspire and teach.

Speaking of death and remembrances, I watched the documentary about Vivian Maier over the weekend.  (http://www.vivianmaier.com/) What a fascinating life! Her works are amazing. It’s such a shame that she didn’t push harder for them to be shown while she was still alive. Of course, the woman was suffering from some mental illness, the film made sure to explore that aspect of her life, but it doesn’t remove the fact that she was an utter genius who had an eye, not just for light and composition, but for human drama.

Again, the documentary, even the current interest in her life and work, serve as form of obituary, a tribute to an artist that was almost forgotten. And while the first obituary I was talking about was about a life of charity and giving, Vivian’s was a life that appears she never wanted to be shared.  She was never particularly kind. In fact, some of the children she cared for described her to be cruel. But she was relentless in her art, and in it, her humanity blossomed. It’s as if what she lacked as a participant, she made up for as keen observer. And what she saw was beautiful.

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Huh… Indecent Proposal?!

beaver

If you could lend your wife to prostitution for a night for a million dollars, would you do it? This is the cornerstone to which ‘Indecent Proposal,’ based on a Jack Engelhard novel, built its hour and forty minute story. I decided to go back and watch the movie after realizing it’s one of those 90s movies I’ve often heard about but was too young to ever care about watching. I believe I was too busy with comic books and video games at the time. So on a Thursday morning I decided to go back to a time when Demi Moore was still quite the vixen on the silver screen.

It didn’t start out well for me. The over-reliance on voice-over narration was a bit of a turn off. You have players on screen! Have them act it out for me. It felt like the movie was rushing for me to get caught up in what the filmmakers couldn’t afford to film. The audience was told how things were instead of being given a proper movie narrative. So by the time things got heated and characters faced their moral dilemma, I wasn’t really too invested to actually care.

But to be honest, I don’t really think the couple, David and Diana Murphy, (David played by Woody Harrelson) didn’t really have too much of a problem with the million dollar proposal made by billionaire John Gage (played by dreamy-eyed, Kennedy-esque Robert Redford). They had one restless evening and off to Gage’s office they go to accept the offer. It was almost a throwback to how prostitution was sometimes dealt with by the wide-eyed 80s, much like ‘Pretty Woman.’

What I have to note however is that contracts which compel parties to perform illegal acts are not legally binding. “Indecent proposals” are illegal in many states, so one might think it weird that a lawyer was involved in arranging the movies’ infamous dalliance. Prostitution is still illegal in Las Vegas, although it is permitted for counties with a small enough population. Even then, legal prostitution occurs under licensed brothels. I doubt if any licensing was covered under the hasty agreement, though articles covering impotence was covered. In any case, if they were caught, I’m sure Diana and John (how subtle!) would’ve only been served with a misdemeanor.

Going back to the film, I felt that the whole movie was rushed, not for wanting it to be longer, but it seems that characters moods and motivations just completely shift on a whim. It wasn’t terribly convincing. There are no build-ups and no believable reactions to things which would otherwise blow a normal person’s mind. I could’ve spent two hours on a different movie about a man dealing with his wife prostituting herself for one night, the mental gymnastics he has to go through. And what about the mental gymnastics Diana has to go through? It seems like she got over it in a day.

I haven’t read any reviews, but I’m sure feminists were up in arms over the movie. The casual treatment of prostitution, treating Diana like an object to trade, and Diana’s almost casual treatment of all the events, and later her falling in-love with her john must’ve been terribly problematic for feminists. It was problematic for me as well, but I felt that all this casual and almost naive treatment of sex and sex trade was again a reflection of the times. It still felt like an 80s movie. But despite its sins, it’s still a more mature and cynical look at the sex trade than ‘Pretty Woman’ was (but that doesn’t say much). And speaking of the 80s, the law office scene with the two screenwriter clients was so 80s that the only thing missing was the funky bass line.

I couldn’t finish this without mentioning how implausible it was to have John Gage, a billionaire who looks like Robert Redford, have trouble finding women, so much so that he has to spend a million dollars per night on other men’s wives. While I don’t blame him on spending money on Demi Moore, I probably would as well if I had the money, but I suspect that the movie makers were either saying A. money doesn’t buy affection, or B. rich men buy affection all the time!

The ending was terribly predictable. It speaks about looking at what you have and returning to what you have left behind, much like the way Paolo Coelho structured his novel The Alchemist. But again, this is a sin I’m willing to forgive. The movie was a product of its time. And during that time, we were willing to have this in our theaters. We were willing to have predictable endings and implausible plots on screen in order to pass time. Sometimes they work to a comedic effect, like Weekend at Bernie’s, and sometimes they work to drive home a sappy message. If you love someone, set them free.

It was good to see Demi Moore when I believe she was at her most attractive. I didn’t find her convincing at all, but I was willing to forgive that as long as she looked good on screen. Misogyny, I know. Woody Harrelson was alright, but I feel like he’s played this part so many times, and for some reason, I wasn’t buying him as Demi Moore’s husband. As for Robert Redford playing a billionaire, he was alright. There was nothing too exciting about him, except that much like Demi, he was candy on screen.

Should people see the movie if they missed it? Probably not. I doubt if they would stumble to any hidden truths about love, life, and laws regarding prostitution. Still, if you are bored on a Thursday morning, there are far worse things you can do than spend your time finding out where the term “indecent proposal” originated from.

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So Sad

sad

So uh, that was pretty sad news the other day. Some sad gunman shot at a bunch of people in a campus in California, killing seven people and injuring several others. The gunman made a series of videos and a lengthy manifesto detailing why he wanted to shoot women and how much he hated them for rejecting him. He hated the fact that women in campus didn’t pay him any attention and that they would rather go out with idiots. In his manifesto, he fantasized about killing most women in the world and just keeping a select few for breeding. What a charmer!

Now, there’s already a bunch of spin on the story. People are rallying for gun control. And yes, it is a bit ridiculous when law enforcement officials have to go through so many hurdles in order to get assigned a pistol, and yet any individual on the street can get a pistol with barely any question asked. Despite, this, I’m sure not much would happen because we’ve seen similar stories likes this too many times and if anything, there have been more pro-gun legislations passed since Obama got elected. People will use the story for their own agenda, and it will probably be the agenda that gets more people killed. Heck, even as I write, I’m looking at a story that blames homosexual impulses on the shooting. Great. Blame the homos. Have more of them stay in the closet and lead unhappy lives.

I saw some of the videos (I couldn’t get through all of it) and read some of the gunman’s writing. Sad. This was a kid who couldn’t get laid despite being the son of what I assume is a fairly successful director. He drove around in a beemer. If a rich kid in a beemer couldn’t get laid, what chance does the kid in a Kia have? This was a kid who had resources. How come those who don’t have money are still able to get laid? Doesn’t he deserve as much? Many people felt that the videos were extremely narcissistic, and they truly are… but I felt more depressed thinking that this was a sad and terribly entitled kid who couldn’t get anything that wasn’t given to him in a silver plate and wrapped in a bow, someone who truly just didn’t understand how humans worked.

The whole thing kinda bugged me, because we’ve all been there. There’s always a girl you couldn’t get. There’s always times when we felt ugly and dejected… hating the girl we like because they’re out with someone who treats them like shit. I know many men in their thirties who are still like this kid, alone and wishing for company. But usually when you feel dejected, you get over it. You move on. You don’t turn and seethe in hatred of the things you desire and can’t have. And you certainly don’t write pages of fantasy manifesto about them.* It’s just terribly unattractive.

As for being a virgin, you don’t obsess about being still a virgin at 22. Who cares? Lower your expectations. Stop aiming for the 10 and aim for the 8. Or wait a while. There are no scoreboards out there. I believe losing one’s virginity is one of the biggest letdowns most people would ever experience in their lives. I know it certainly was in my case. So I’m really lost whenever I hear people obsessing on either side of the spectrum: those wanting to get laid ASAP, or those saving it for marriage like it’s a precious gift. It’s not a rite of passage. It really isn’t. After years of having sex, the first one would most likely be the most forgettable of all if it wasn’t the first.

If anything, the shame of being a virgin (not that there should be any shame to it) is just something that reeks out of people who obsess over it. It just makes it easier to tell.

The gunman actually reminds me of those terrorists expecting to be with 72 virgins after they blow themselves up. If you read the holy text, those virgins they are promised have alabaster skin and golden hair (and apparently, gigantic), much like the blonde sorority girls** the gunman lusted over. It’s like some terrorists’ rage, much like the gunman’s is just rooted in lack of access to sex, and that if the both actually got laid now and then, they would relax a bit and enjoy this wonderful world for what it is: a world of endless sex possibilities. And really, if he was so pent up, why not just hire a prostitute? Heck, hire a classy prostitute. It’s better than shooting people up and dying as a sad loser that people will blog about and criticize. That goes the same with terrorists. There are wonderful women in this world. And beyond the joys of sex, there is greater meaning in life. IN LIFE! You have to be living. Live, get laid, and be happy.***

 
*I never wrote manifestos over how much I hated young, pre-Seal Heidi Klum.

**Beautiful, blonde sorority slut? How creative is this guy’s fantasy? It’s like he was raised on Playboy and Axe Body Spray.

***Now, I realize that the gunman was mentally ill. He was truly ill. And while I wrote more about the common frustrations of wanting sex and not getting any, I think the recent tragedy’s roots are more about mental illness and the need for sensible gun regulations. But that topic has been covered so many times by people smarter and more competent than me. And yet, here we are still.

 

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Morning Commute

Biker_flame

This is probably one of the most normal looking statues I made. Yay for normalcy!

Speaking of normalcy, life is back to normal. No more holiday stuff, so I’m just trying to recover from everything. Rest a bit, stay home for a while, save a bit of money, etc. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to rest much lately. Been busy with work and everything that I haven’t had much time to make art. I’m not really having a great start with my resolution of making more art.

Odd thing, I spent the morning talking about suicide with a couple of people I haven’t seen since last year. Our first conversation for 2014 was about suicide and how Koreans love to hang themselves, jump off bridges, stop trains, and suffocate in cars. I guess it all stems from highly stressful living and the stigma of going to a shrink. In this country, most people would only go to a shrink if they have “mental problems,” and stress, depression, and anxiety aren’t considered mental problems. This is akin to General Patton slapping and belittling “shell shocked” soldiers and telling them to suck it up. I can’t stress enough how valuable psychologists are and how they’ve helped me sort through my issues. I’m not an expert, but I’m sure South Koreans would see their suicide rate go down once going to the shrink becomes an accepted norm instead of being a source of stigma.

Going down the morbid route, one of the people I was talking to suggested that jumping in front of trains is one of the most popular forms of suicide in the country (happens once a week) because it’s relatively quick, as opposed to jumping off a building which takes half a minute, or drowning which could take longer. It’s the reason why the Seoul subway lines now have gates installed to prevent jumpers. Unfortunately, some people think this only increased the number of incidents of bridge jumpers, and some people would travel outside the city for the sole purpose of jumping at an unguarded subway track. Ironic. Travel an hour outside the city for a quick death.

I always thought that suicide should take a long time. It should take a week at least. That’s the way I would do it. Go to a country where you can easily get drugs. Party with drugs and prostitutes for a week. You’re going to die anyway, so might as well go out happy and check a few things off your bucket list. Who knows? Maybe you’ll change your mind in the process. Then after a week, pick a nice hotel, a really expensive one that won’t be driven out of business by the news of someone dying there. Continue partying, or just shoot a lethal amount of drugs in a tub.

Wow, that was a downer. I really should just make art instead of writing depressing things. Why the heck were we talking about suicide on a Monday morning?

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