Saturday, July 03, 2010

Living In Malaysia: Morals Are For The Rich

Many pubs in Malaysia have GROs or Guest Relation Officers; girls who are hired to keep customers entertained.  These girls are paid a commission on every drink they sell - and they sell themselves every now and again too.  Most are from neighbouring countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand and China.
When you go into a normal pub, there will be a girl to every single man.  The GROs pour drinks, giggle, chat, and if the guy is the sort of pulpo (octopus, as they say in Madrid) then they giggle and pretend to enjoy it. Many will go home with you for the night - at a price that ranges from RM100 (US25) upwards.

It always surprises me that some Malaysians look down on these girls.  Malaysia has some hardcore poverty, but there's jobs if you want them - even if you can't read and write - and basic medical care at token prices.  School is affordable and almost everyone goes to primary school as well as years of secondary school.

It's different in Indonesia and Cambodia and a half dozen other places near here.

When I lived in Indonesia in the late 80s and early 90s I met loads of girls who worked as part time hookers.  The reason was simple: desperation.  These girls have very little or no schooling, their husbands have left them after the first or second baby was born, and even though they hold a job, it doesn't pay enough to keep their family - which usually includes an elderly mum or gran, and a couple of little brothers and sisters.

Many of these girls work as hotel staff, waitresses, sales girls and other respectable jobs.   They typically work 8 to 10 hour days for a pittance, and live 4 or 5 to a room.  All of their money is sent back to the family.  But if the baby or mum gets sick, there is no money for medical care.  I know of girls who lost babies and old folks to diarrhea and simple infections, purely through lack of basic medical care.

So the girls cash in on the one asset they have while they are young: their looks.  They chase white men for preference because they tend to be more generous than locals or other Asian tourists.

As one girl I knew put it, "When I sleep with an buleh (a slightly rude word for white person in Indonesian), he gives me money to buy a dress, and that keeps my whole family for a week."

So when I look at the girls who pour drinks and smile at every customer as though he's the best thing since sliced bread, I see desperation.  And if I were in their position, I would do the same thing.

If you ask me, the hardcore poor can't afford morals.


Katnip Lounge said...

My Hubby was in the Phillipines (US Navy) in the early 80's...same thing there, too. It's the oldest profession, and it pays. A person does what they have to to survive.

Off topic, we live in Las Vegas on the edge of the desert...across the street from us is nothing but desert and mountains for miles. We get a lot of wildlife!

BeadedTail said...

People have to do what they have to do but it's too bad they feel there's no other choice.

TK and Pip said...

Hi, thanks for stopping by our blog. Interesting post both from cultural and sociological points. I certainly agree with you. When you have nothing you do what you have to do to take care of those you love. Very well written!
We will definitely be following you.
Have a good weekend.
TK's mommy

Eileen Lim said...

what an insightful view on them.
Thank you very much for sharing.

Lorenza said...

The same thing happens here.
And it is very sad.
Take care
Kisses and hugs

Annie Bear said...

It's very sad about these women and how they're left with no choice. My husband was also in the Navy and was in the Phillipines in the late 80's. It was very rampant there. We are so blessed and I know I take it for granted way more than I should.

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Now you see why I volunteered with the sex workers and transsexual community, Ellen. Many of those I worked with were victims of sexual abuse as well as denied other opportunities for employment due to grinding poverty and lack of education. Some people ask: "Why don't they do knitting/sewing?" But how many pieces can you make a day? How do you sell them? How many pieces can you sew a day? What does your family eat in the meantime? Who on earth buys sewing and knitting anymore, in a time where everything mass-manufactured is cheaper yet as good in quality?

Some people allege that sex work is "easy money". It isn't. It takes guts. Imagine having to entertain someone older than your granddad, or someone with B.O. so bad you gag as soon as you walk into the room, or someone with unsavoury habits, ailments and fetishes. I'd say you have to be pretty darned brave to go into this line of work.