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What do Israeli sex tourists in Thailand really think?

Yotam Feldman Haaretz.com 27.02.2009 10:52
What do Israeli sex tourists in Thailand really think? - Thailand - expat - Pattaya

On a steaming hot summer morning around three years ago, Guy Brucker, a student from the Haifa University, traveled the 165 kilometers from Bangkok to Pattaya, the sex tourism capital of Thailand. The silence of the other passengers in his taxi - an Israeli in his 50s, two German men and a Japanese man - made it unclear what they were after. Or not. "People go to Pattaya for only one reason," Brucker, 35, said. "Everybody knows that, but nobody talked about it on the way. I felt like I was climbing mental and physical mountains. I felt so very alone."

Unlike his fellow passengers, Brucker was not searching for sex in Pattaya, at least not in the customary sense. Brucker had traveled there within the framework of an anthropological study of Israeli men seeking sex services in Thailand. Over the course of three months, Brucker did not leave the city, which is viewed as heaven by some and as hell by others. Today he says he will not be traveling in Thailand in the future.

Brucker stayed at the "Mai Travel" hotel in the city, which accommodates, almost exclusively, Israeli sex tourists. He visited sex clubs, dined with Israeli sex tourists and played pool with them. In between activities, he interviewed some 60 men.

Amir (not his real name), a 39-year-old bachelor, said "I heard about Pattaya the same way everyone hears about it. But only when you arrive, and you breathe in the atmosphere and live the place, only then do you understand how much everything you were told is nothing, a pathetic tiny nothing of nothings, compared to the amazing and wondrous reality that awaits you here."

"The openness," Amir continued, "the humanity, the smiles of the beautiful sexy and open-minded women. It's not like the Israeli women, with their nose so far up in the air that it slaps Jumbo planes flying by in the sky."

Brucker, formerly a member of the Sha'ar Ha'amakim kibbutz, currently lives in Ramat Gan. He traveled to Pattaya alone after spending a week in Thailand with his girlfriend, Hila, a clinical psychologist. "I was afraid that Guy would get bored, and wouldn't be able to last three months," Hila said. "It wasn't that I was afraid he would do something, but three months seemed like too long to me. When we sat with Israelis and I heard them speak about the Thai women I was disgusted. I thought it was the most vulgar thing. Later, it became apparent that this kind of talk was the acceptable norm."

Do whatever you want

Brucker, an introverted type, overcame his natural shyness and bought a ticket to the infamous city through the Israeli Connection travel agency. "When the Thai driver called out 'Pattaya' I got a flashback of seven-year-old Guy breaking a soup bowl in the middle of the kibbutz dining hall during Shabbat dinner and the eyes of half the kibbutz turn to him, asking 'what's going on with Shmuel's son?'" Brucker writes in his report.

The hotel was not very striking, he writes. "You can see pictures of men hugging Thai women on the walls alongside thank you notes from former clients thanking the hotel owners for their hospitality. There are wooden tables in the lobby and a small room with three computers," he describes the scene. The room was the closest thing he could imagine to a whore house, he adds. "Inside there is a television, a DVD and a refrigerator with a box of condoms resting on top. Just in case, there is another condom on the bed, alongside burned DVDs of Israeli television shows and movies. The first thing I did was buy new sheets at the local supermarket. Just the thought of what previous guests had done on them?"

The first night, he writes, was a jarring experience. "A large number of women standing in the streets, touching you, inviting you, calling out to you. There is a sense of a lack of boundaries. I have never seen anything like it."

"It is difficult to reconcile all the papers I've read with the feeling this place gives me. With sex out in the open and seductive women, the defenses and the theories don't silence the libido. The city invites you. It tells you 'go do whatever you want' - there are girls here at your service and around you everyone is affirming the very behavior you've always criticized. Think of Eilat, an entire city, only all the streets are part of an enormous brothel. There is no where to run other than into your room and inside your head. Even when I went to buy food at the mall."

What happened there?

"I thought I could get a break. Everything is very sterile there, except perhaps the many pairs of Thai women and tourists. So I sat down at a restaurant to eat, and two women were making eyes at me for the duration of the entire meal. You could say men are sexually harassed in Pattaya. This way you can really understand how women feel."



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