Monday, April 20, 2015

The World's Oldest Profession -- in Modern Vietnam

When I went back to Vietnam in 2008, I went in naively believing that prostitution was illegal and that it would no longer be the kind Wild-West-Everything-Goes attitude I had experienced as a young soldier 40 year earlier.

In fact, things were pretty quiet on the sex-for-sale front in Hanoi. I had only one approach and offer, a really cute little slip of a girl who sidled up to me on the street about ten o'clock at night and asked in a quiet sotto-voce, "Would you like ...mahsshage...? I figured that prostitution still existed but was being run on the q.t., a sort of sub rosa approach to the world's oldest profession.

I asked her a few "journalist" questions, engaging her long enough to look around and see her "guy" idling on a motorcycle a half a block away, looking like he'd leap for a chance to rip my lungs out. I did find out that a blow job would be $40, only eight times what it would have been 40 years earlier. But those 1968 prices were for Saigon, and we were a long way from there. Finally I had to turn her down and she left kind of crestfallen, as though I had personally snatched the $40 out of the mouths of her children. And maybe I had.

But when we got to Saigon Ho Chi Minh City it was Katie Bar the Door! Every tourist hotel in our price range had a small bar attached to it, and those bars were literally crawling with nice, good-looking Suzy-Wong-type hookers. There I learned that most of the girls were sort of freelancers, who worked for the bar itself, and the bar owner took care of the bookkeeping and the protection. Blow jobs had gone up to 60 Dollars, so it doubled the inflation rate to twelve times the going rate back In The Day.

I was -- am still -- happily married at the time and I figured that She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed would not accept my actions as legitimate historical research -- "Please, dear. I had to do it. For my art! For Science!" So I did not take the opportunity to sample the local wares. But I did lean that prostitution is much more prevalent, much more open in Ho Chi Minh City than anywhere else in Vietnam., The cops? They get paid off for looking the other way when not actually providing security for the girls. It all seems to work out well, even though prostitution is still technically illegal there.

Which is why I found a current article in Cracked so interesting: "No Fat Tourists: 5 Rules of Life as a Prostitute in Vietnam". Read it for an eye-opening look at the World's Oldest Profession being conducted in a "Communist" Country. I put quotes around that since it's kind of hard to see a culture that operates almost fully on consumption, has huge advertising billboards along every highway, and has its own stock market as a "communist" country...