Homosociality and desire: charting Chinese Singaporean sex tourists’ online conversations
Questions pertaining to heterosexual men's consumption of sex tourism have only recently come into focus in a literature that engages primarily with the narratives and experiences of Western male sex tourists (see Kruhse-Mountburton 1995; O'Connell Davidson 1995; Frank 2003). A glaring problem in much of this literature is the use of an almost universal categorization of 'man', a categorization that leaves little room for cultural and locational specificity. This has led Louie (2003: I) to argue that the move towards a global analysis is premature, especially in terms of the lack of understanding of Asian masculinities.
In this chapter, we examine the interrelationship between hegemonic masculinities (see Connell 1995), which are always at once both culturally and historically contingent, and Chinese Singaporean men's localized practices in a sex tourist space spanning the online and offline worlds. Our focus in on men who visit the island of Bat am, located in the Riau Archipelago of Indonesia, just kilometres south of Singapore.! Middle-class tourism has been targeted as a key growth industry for the island. The journey by high-speed ferry takes less than one hour, and Singaporean passport holders can stay for up to thirty days without a visa. But although some parts of Batam attract middle-class Singaporeans in search of sun, sand and pampering, most Singaporean tourists who come to the islands are working-class men in search of sex. 2 Demand for the sex industry is fuelled by the comparative cost of the sexual encounter, but men visiting Batam also enjoy the added benefits of cheap food, gambling, shopping and other forms of entertainment during their visits (Ford and Lyons 2008).