A Thai take on Spitzer

A Thai take on Spitzer

Tom Plate shares his Bangkok-based friend's view about the decriminalization of paying for sex

By Tom Plate
Pacific Perspectives Columnist

Friday, March 14, 2008

Los Angeles --- The American way is not the only way but sometimes it is not even the better way. This point recurs often during reporting trips to Asia, where one observes superior public education (Singapore), superior sense of tradition (India), more rapid economic growth (China) and a generally more refined and subtle culture (Japan).

This comparative list goes on and on, and by raising these points, we are not at all intending to be mean or disrespectful to America -- which is still the greatest country on earth, etc., etc. But from time to time, a friend and frequent column reader will pitch in with an idea or suggestion about the superiority of this way or that way of doing things. Some of these ideas are bang-on, others more dubious.

The latest idea winged in from Bangkok, courtesy of a good friend and a great artist, who offered a most unusual perspective on the ex-New York Governor Eliot Spitzer sex scandal.

Urgent Note: Your humble columnist is not (repeat NOT!) endorsing either the morality or the ethics of the following cost-benefit analysis. Important issues of right and wrong are un-addressed here. But just as the late, great syndicated columnist William F. Buckley Jr. was a long-time champion of decriminalizing our draconian drug laws, on the utilitarian ground that they clearly caused more overall harm than benefit, this still-alive, much-less-great columnist does favor a Buckley-like approach to sex laws in America.

By way of illustration of this theme, here is my (unedited) Bangkok-based friend’s cost-benefit analysis of paid-for sex in America, compared to paid-for sex in Thailand. He writes thusly:

A. The American Way of Sex
"Imagine what [resigned-in-disgrace New York Governor] Eliot Spitzer's total cost will be...

  1. $5,000 for the two hours of hot unprotected sex, including train fare, tax, hotel, etc.
  2. $500,000 for legal fees for criminal case plus divorce lawyer for himself -- and another lawyer for his wife
  3. $10,000,000 worth of real estate on Fifth Avenue and Martha's Vineyard to wife in divorce settlement
  4. $10,000,000 of financial investments to wife in divorce settlement
  5. $500,000 of child support for three kids until they are 18
  6. $1,000,000 per year of alimony from now until [wife] Silda's demise -- say 35 years equals $35,000,000

Total estimated cost:  $56,005,000 USD

B. Alternative Bangkok method

  1. $10,000 for round-trip non-stop 1st class Thai Air flight to Bangkok
  2. $2,000 for Five-Star hotel in Bangkok for one week
  3. $500 for meals in Bangkok for one week
  4. $100 for taxis in Bangkok for one week
  5. $2,100 for super high-end stunning women from Private Executive Clubs in Bangkok -- seven nights at $300 per night

Total Estimated Cost:  $14,600 USD

Dear Reader: Please note that my friend’s cost-benefit analysis does not include cost factors that mostly cannot be quantified. There is, we know, some kind of huge and terrible price to pay for the prevalence of the sex-industry in Bangkok. This is well documented. What’s more, the whole issue of commercialized sex raises very large and important questions about the role of women as commodities, about the incurred disrespect and about the demeaning of the relationship between man and woman.

In addition, we must not lose sight of the fact that Eliot Spitzer must be a complete idiot. How the prominent governor of the great state of New York could imagine that he could carry on like some sexaholic/shopaholic without eventual detection and exposure makes you wonder how the ordinarily wise voters of New York could ever have elected to high office in the first place a guy with such a major screw loose.

Even so, there is an argument for decriminalizing -- or normalizing -- commercial sex. Such consumer habits may not be your cup of tea or mine. But there is obviously a vast market for sex, in the United States as elsewhere. Is America going to continue to try to arrest -- or bomb -- almost everything and anything with which it disagrees? Let’s just think about it.

The views expressed above are those of the author and are not necessarily those of AsiaMedia or the UCLA Asia Institute.