Conversations with Men: The Cambodian
In my last ‘conversations with men’ post about the rape holiday, I mentioned that I would pull another experience from my Cambodian visit. In the former, I was an observer. In this story, I was an object.
Women are constantly divided and divided again. It is a male strategy to prevent women from joining against them in solidarity to fight back in a serious way. But scores of women get on board for a variety of reasons in order to show their sisters that the dissimilarities and points of disagreement are much more important than their common experiences and needs.
Despite being the violent and sadistic sex, there is a great deal of evidence that men of different races, socioeconomic classes, religions, and political leanings are always quite able to come together – and even bond – over a single common cause: abusing, torturing, terrorizing and destroying women and girls. It is a pity that women cannot come together over the single common cause of liberating themselves from men, their violence, and their parasitic tendencies.
And it is with this thinking that I present a conversation from several years ago. Reviewing my two experiences well after the fact made me realize that despite the many differences between me and the young, female, Cambodian prostitute, we both shared the reality that we were objects. We were both seen by men, first and foremost, as bodies to be used.
Rewind to 2003: I was in the middle of a two-week trip by myself to Cambodia. It is very common for travellers, especially if you’re alone, to hire motorcycle guides in the larger areas. These drivers are often connected to guest houses, and you can hire them for single trips or pay a flat fee for a period time. While in Phnom Penh, I hired a driver who was able to speak some English (I don’t speak Khmer, and those few Cambodians who speak French are quite old now). I did a number of things, including seeing some of the historic sites, checking out one of the riverside, local clubs for some live music (no other foreigners there), and on one of the days, spending an afternoon by the water in the shade eating durian.
Through conversation, I was able to get an inside look into the life of a typical, low-earning, young man. And I also was reminded of my place as a woman.
At that point in my life, I sported very short hair, so I had to provide an answer as to why. Surprisingly, I wasn’t asked why I never wore skirts or dresses. After many more years living in China, I’ve come to expect and hate this whole line of questioning about hair, clothes, husbandlessness, childlessness. But at the time, I was still in my first year in Asia.
But then we moved on to other things.
Dude took on an air of sadness. He said he was too poor to get married. he had to share a room with several other guys. And he had to go to prostitutes.
Yeah, he lost me there. One thing I do hate about traditional cultures is the mandatory marriage thing and the idea that you need to have X amount of money in order to live up to expectations and procure a slave. But I don’t feel sorry for the MEN. I feel sorry for the women. Being sold into slavery – which is exactly what marriage was and still is – is not something I agree with or think is part of a healthy society. And in traditional cultures, if a woman can’t get married, there aren’t a lot of other options for her to support herself. Further, she becomes vulnerable to all men when she isn’t owned by one man. It’s a racket that men designed. Women are screwed no matter what happens. But married men benefit, so who gives a shit, eh?
But the marriage thing wasn’t where dude lost me. It was the ‘had to go to prostitutes’ comment. Men believe they must have sex. And they believe that if they can’t get it from their personal whore (wife/girlfriend/family member), then they must get if from a public whore. And then there is outright, payment-free rape of strangers, which I won’t get into in this post. The thing is, nobody has ever died from not having sex. And I say this as someone who, for much of my life, has had a demanding sex drive that no man (or woman, for that matter) I’ve known could match. Ever. And yet, despite almost never getting what I wanted – quality or quantity – and then eventually just ditching men altogether when I came to my senses about ‘how shit works’ in both the greater world and in my own world, I never felt I was entitled to sex. And I haven’t died from the lack. Presto magic. So take it from me, men don’t need sex.
And then the conversation got worse.
Dude got it in his head that he should have sex with me. The suggestion was put out there. He didn’t actually offer to pay me for sex. No. The idea was that I could continue to pay for his driving services as well as the food we were consuming, and he could have sex with me. It was almost as if he were offering himself up as a prostitute (although he didn’t ask for extra money), except for one very, very significant difference.
This difference lies in the sexes of the people in my last story versus this current story.
Women generally don’t offer themselves as prostitutes because they like sex or want random sex with strangers. Prostitutes are generally desperate, vulnerable women with a history of sexual, physical and psychological abuse. Both men and sex are dangerous to women, and men generally don’t cater (let alone acknowledge) women’s sexual needs. Don’t believe me? Well there is a shit ton of evidence on all. I don’t need to provide statistics. Spend five seconds on Google.
Men seldom offer themselves as prostitutes to WOMEN. To men, yes. That is more common and I don’t really care about that dynamic. When a man, like in my scenario, suggests sex to a woman, he is looking to get off. And in this case, especially, a) he didn’t suggest a monetary exchange, and b) in most cultures, especially traditional ones like Cambodia, men don’t service women – they use them. And if they give something, it is never without the expectation of something in return. So this dude wasn’t offering me anything. He was expecting something.
Of course, I said, “No.”
Everything about this exchange was repulsive. There was fear that he would attack me because I said no (luckily, that didn’t happen – HIV rates were at an all-time high in Cambodia at that time – and nobody wants to be raped anyways). I realized that none of my (white and comparative economic) privilege could erase the fact that I was still a woman and thus was under the thumb and at the whim of this guy and every single man on the planet regardless of their status among other men. I realized that because he, a man, brought up sex, no matter how this guy had framed it, he was insulting me: to offer me money would be to tell me I was a piece of meat, but to not offer me money told me that I wasn’t worth paying for and I should give it away like (they think) all ‘free’ Western white women do.
I went away from that conversation with another piece chipped off my tiny block of female self-confidence and then added to the growing pile of evidence of male yuck.
Posted on December 13, 2015, in Conversations with Men, Human Rights, Male Privilege, White Women and tagged Asia, Cambodia, men, misogyny, patriarchy, safety, travel. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Conversations with Men: The Cambodian.