Everyone who’s walked through the Patpong Night Market in Bangkok has likely been accosted by men shouting, “Ping pong show?” in their faces. Although apprehensive, my curiosity was always piqued by their calls as I visualized what exploitative horrors these shows might hold. Although I’d always been tempted to see for myself, I wouldn’t have gone alone — straight venues are a whole different thing.
I hadn’t made any real friends in Bangkok, nor have I had any real sex either, which was strange given how over-sexualized some parts of this city can be. Despite falling in love with Thai culture — and even more with the food — I was having trouble connecting with locals and tourists alike.
I was extremely happy when my lover, Ernan, finally joined me for a weeklong visit. I’d mapped out all my favourite street food stalls for him to try and neighbourhoods for him to see.
On the second night of his visit, I decided to give him a snapshot of Bangkok’s gay scene. We started on Soi Twilight, where he was mesmerized by the neon signs and the bustle of the hustlers, trying to get our attention. I then took him to Soi 4 where we sat and chatted over beers, deciding how we would spend the next week together.
Afterward, we took a stroll down Silom Road. When we passed the Patpong Night Market, a guy got in our faces: “Ping pong show?”
Ernan turned towards me, looking mischievous. “Let’s go,” he said.
I was scared, but at least I now had company. “Fine, let’s do it,” I said.
The guy led us back through the bazaar to a building halfway down the street and up some stairs. We entered a seedy bar, which was dimly lit and rundown. There was a stage in the centre with three women on it — two in bikinis and the other wearing a skirt hiked up and bunched around her waist. She was barefoot and not wearing any underwear.
We were seated in the first row next to a straight couple. There were two more couples, and a large group of guys sitting to the side of the stage who were shouting and cheering.
They closed the front door and the hostess handed balloons to the group of guys. She asked them to hold the balloons up above their head. The girl on stage with her skirt up got on her knees, bent over and inserted a dart into her vagina. She then fired it back out towards the first balloon, popping it. She fired another and another popping each balloon, one-by-one.
The place was thrown into a fit of cheers as this woman and her sexuality were reduced to a third-world carnival show for the amusement of the Western tourists.
Ernan was unsettled, but he was the only person that seemed bothered by the show.
The hostess began handing out ping pong paddles. She gave one to Ernan and tried to hand one to me too but I declined. People looked over at me like I was ruining the fun, but I wasn’t going to participate.
There was a new girl on stage now, wearing a bikini top with no bottoms, carrying a bowl of ping pong balls. She sat on her back with her legs up and reached for one. They kept slipping between her fingers in the bowl like they were lubed up, maybe. When she was finally able to clutch one she popped it into her vagina.
She made a strange facial expression and grunted as the ping pong ball fired out towards the couple to our side. The guy swung the paddle, hitting the ball and it bounced off the bottom of the stage. The couple laughed.
The woman on stage kept inserting balls into her vagina and spitting them back out. One was fired at Ernan, and he swung for it, anxious, but missed. It hit his thigh instead, leaving a wet spot on his jeans.
I can’t imagine that this show was meant to be sexy. Are some Westerners so out of touch with the struggles of those in developing countries that they could possibly find this amusing?
The whole thing was worse than I thought it’d be. Perhaps all the exploitation I’ve witnessed in the city had turned my sexuality off temporarily?
“I need to go,” I told Ernan. “This is too much for me.”