Thursday, October 25, 2007

Sex, and More Sex

From last week's Bangkok Nation:

American tourist dies apparently of generic Viagra overdose

Pattaya - An American tourist died while having sex with a Thai bar girl in this seaside resort town late Sunday night, police said.

The bar girl told police that Ronald Kipu, 58, took three pills of Kamagra before having sex with her.

She filed complaints with police at 12:30 am that the man collapsed and stopped breathing while having sex with her in his room on the sixth floor of New Star Apartment in Chon Buri's Bang Lamung district.

Kipu just arrived at Pattaya Sunday afternoon and took her to his apartment from a bar in the evening, she said.

Police said there was no trace of fighting or assaulting on the man.

Police found a four-pill pack of Kamagra with just one pill left.

The mans' body was sent for an autopsy.

A new reader writes this to me: "Picked up on the religion and politics parts but still perusing for the sex..."

My father taught me that "it's a sin to kiss and tell." So there are omissions in my narrative of which I dare not speak...yet. Also, I am conscious of the sensibilities of some of my readers. A nun I know is praying that I find a good Catholic girl here in Bangkok. Possible, but not highly likely. This means that sex has been slighted somewhat in this blog lately.

I am not sure who would want to read about the sex lives of seniors beyond other seniors. When I began this blog, I wanted to chronicle the life of a single sextegenarian who had not yet given up on living a full life, despite a diagnosis of prostate cancer. My divorce was still painful. While I had retired from a short teaching career, I remained full of interests and curiosities that kept boredom at bay. A third marriage did not seem in the cards, but I pursued romance in distant places with women of my generation. No relationship lasted beyond a few months and hundreds of emails.

Then I came to Thailand, to the romantic island of Koh Samui, and had a "girlfriend experience" (look it up on Google and Wikipedia). Like Gaugin and a host of artists and writers before me, I was smitten by small South Seas women with dark skin and long black hair. Here, it seemed, I did not need to retreat into a rocking chair, to be cared for, reluctantly, by my kids as I slid into senility. Here I could taste the elixir of youth, even if the bottle was almost empty. Of course it's an old man's dream, but there are thousands of us here in Thailand looking for the same thing. Slandered as "sex tourists" and "fat old farang," my tribe, in ways couth and often uncouth, looks for the fire missing from their incomplete and unhappy lives.

The man in the news story above went a bit overboard and paid for it with his life. Perhaps it was a suicide and he meant to die in flagrante delicto, like Nelson Rockefeller. I do not judge the man because I have taken the very same drug, but in moderation. Viagra, or Vitamin V, is an old man's salvation. Pfizer discovered the drug by accident, Jerry Hopkins writes in his book Asian Aphrodisiacs. They were looking for something to treat angina, chest and arm pain caused by poor blood flow to the heart. Clinical trials did not produce good results. But when the test subjects were asked to turn in their samples, they refused. "Some research subjects camped out on pharmacy doorsteps to see if they could get more of the stuff. It turned out that, as a side effect, Viagra gave erections to men who had long been suffering from impotence."

Many things cause impotence in men, the ravages of age most prominently. Erections are nonexistent or unreliable in many after middle age. Prostate troubles exacerbate the problem. Lack of interest in sex is NOT the culprit in men I've discussed this with. In fact, sexual interest, in men at least, seems to increase with age, perhaps because the entire population of women (being hetereosexual, my view is limited) seems younger and appealing. It was particularly galling to find my limpness an insult to a partner who felt I was indifferent to her charms (after years of "I have a headache" when I was fit and able).

Sexual mores in America underwent a sea change while I was married and raising children. The pill and improved contraception, along with legal abortion, made fears about accidentally getting pregnant (the bane of my high school courtship years) disappear. But AIDs and other STDs made protection, and the more careful choice of partners, essential. Then along came the internet, with pornography and dating sights proliferating in tandem, to remake our sexual world. "Friends, Friends with Benefits and the Benefits of the Local Mall," an article in the Sunday New York Times Magazine in 2004 by Benoit Denizet-Lewis, describes the effects of these changes on teenagers, and concludes that sexual friendship is taking the place of courtship and romance. These changes no doubt are permeating the entire culture, for adults as well as teens. Besides the GFE that prostitutes find to be a new selling point, men and women are "hooking up" and seeking "friends with benefits" because such temporary relationships are easier and do not involve messing arguments over commitment. Is this a flight from responsibility or an attempt to remake love under the gun of modern life?

I was married twice. The first time was to a woman I had to have, perhaps because, initially, she didn't want me. I was immature and she had serious psychological problems (which made her mysterious and attractive in the beginning). The marriage was a disaster but it produced two wonderful sons. My second wife was a complete change. Despite profound differences in interests and temperament, we lasted two dozen years, raising a son and a daughter together. In retrospect, I think she married me for the children. After they were born she transformed from a lover into a mother. I sublimated and compensated, giving birth years later to a Ph.D. When she told me she wanted to end the marriage I was devastated. I had bought the argument that long-term relationships, where you grow old together, are infinitely superior to affairs and short-term hook-ups. But she, it seems, wanted a younger man.

So now, twice burned by marriage, I am living in Thailand where my lovers have been less than half my age. Once again, I weigh the benefits of long term marriage versus the fleeting pleasures of sex with friends. I have met some wonderful ladies. We travel together; eat, joke and make love. My partners, however, are looking for the GF-BF experience leading to marriage, which, in Thailand, is a complicated affair involving the wife's whole family. Through them I have gotten to see Thai cultural more intimately (an American woman friend laments that this is blocked to her "because I haven't got a dick!"). I have been asked several times: "But who will take care of you?" They know my exit date is coming before theirs, and they genuinely worry about my dying alone.

When I was diagnosed with prostate cancer nearly seven years ago, I was given two options by the urologist -- cut it out or kill it with radioactive seeds. Each intervention involved the risk of impotency and incontinency. I chose a third option not mentioned by the urologist, "watchful waiting," and participated in a clinical study by Dean Ornish that involved a non-fat diet, yoga and meditation, aerobics exercise and a weekly support group meeting. I don't know if it helped slow the growth of the cancer, but the prostate variety is notoriously unpredictable. My close friend Peter, as well as Frank Zappa and Timothy Leary, died of it. According to studies, 60 percent of men who die of other causes are found to also have prostate cancer. My marriage broke up shortly after the diagnosis. She said it was "bad timing," but I wonder. The fear of impotency, if nothing else, kept me away from conventional treatment. Here I was, single again, and able, with the help of Vitamin V to relive my high school dreams. If I only had a few years, that was enough.

So don't condemn me when you see me with all of the other fat old farangs walking down Sukhumvit holding hands with a beautiful young woman. Despite what the Buddhists say, I think you only live once, and I'm determined to live live live until I die. And that includes sex.


Patiwat said...

for a wise man, you sure do like chasing the fleeting.

Anonymous said...

"So don't condemn me when you see me with all of the other fat old farangs walking down Sukhumvit holding hands with a beautiful young woman. Despite what the Buddhists say, I think you only live once, and I'm determined to live live live until I die. And that includes sex."

A wonderful post Will, thank you.

The 'fat farang sex tourist' is such an easy target, isn't he? Many people are always ready to condemn without ever trying to see the background story or know anything about the people involved.

As someone who has spent a good deal of time in Thailand and is still getting over a seven year marriage to a Thai woman, I know that what may appear to some to be a sordid economic realtionship involving the oppression of the weaker partner is often nothing like that at all. And I know that you, Will, will surely be treating the people you encounter with respect and kindness.

Because, if one doesn't make a real effort on that front, there is a danger that one does indeed become what you are not - a sex tourist who simply pays to use another person's body for the satisfaction of their own short-term physical/pschological desires. It is a slippery slope and there are very few men in Thailand - I know - that haven't spent at least a little time sliding down it.

However, I'm sure you can avoid this negative cycle of cynicism and justifications and I hope and pray, Will, that you find real satisfaction soon.

Wishing you happiness, but, most importantly, also peace,