Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Sep 22, 2012
The film Due West: My Sex Journey opened this week and if the massive turnout for last year's 3D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy - by the same producer and with some of the same actors - is anything to go by, this soft-porn flick will be bagging movie-goers by the dozen. On the face of it, the film offers exactly the kind of light-hearted, unabashed conversation about sex that the city sorely needs. After all, our fertility rate stands at a paltry 1.2 children per woman, and a survey last year showed men and women were satisfied with having sex just 1.9 and 1.6 times a week, respectively.
It's a pity, however, that the movie does so at the expense of Hong Kong women. The movie follows the exploits of Frankie, an average twentysomething in marketing who, after being repeatedly thwarted in various sexual encounters in Hong Kong, heads to Dongguan, to seek out a prostitute.
The movie does well in replicating the earnest, no-holds-barred contemplation that is the winning quality of the original online posts, on which the film is based. But it falls down in its portrayal of Hong Kong women. All are self-absorbed, demanding and materialistic - archetypal "princessy" kong nui. And there is nothing coy about the way the writer-director presents Hong Kong women as the root of the problem; they might as well be blamed for the city's low fertility rate and sex drive as well. As such, the movie stands as the perfect apologist for the 29 per cent of Hong Kong men who admitted infidelity in a recent survey.
Writer Yeeshan Yang says in her book, Whispers and Moans: Interviews With the Men and Women of Hong Kong's Sex Industry, that Hong Kong men "find little sexual release in dealing with these cold, passionless angels" that are Hong Kong women. In this movie, the women are cold and passionless, but are not angels. By contrast, the Dongguan prostitutes are soft-spoken, buxom and ready to please.
If the premise that women are responsible for the city's lack of sex life only existed in the movie, it would not matter so much. What's disturbing is that this perception is widespread.
The Due West story became popular because it rang true. Luk Kit-ling, vice-chairperson of the Association for the Advancement of Feminism, says the idea that a woman should shoulder the burden for disharmony in bed is a thread that runs through many local movies, novels and TV shows. Online forums abound with assertions like "going to a prostitute is better than going for a kong nui".
Men visit prostitutes. According to a 2006 study by Chinese University, 12 per cent of respondents in Hong Kong had done so over the previous six months. If they do, they should not blame the women, just as women who pay for sex - and signs are that more and more of them do - should not blame the men.
Blaming the women is an easy way to displace responsibility and ignore an unsettling possibility: that the men might not be masters of seduction, either. The movie concedes as much. Frankie is a buttoned-up, overgrown man-boy who begs his parents to let him buy his own underwear. Blaming women also takes us back to the dated assumption that women have no sexual needs. It takes two to tango, and society should expect the men to step up.
Joyce Man is a freelance journalist based in Hong Kong (SCMP)