17 March 2007

The good ol' days of jail and caning for immorality

We forget easily. It wasn't that long ago when the police routinely went out to entrap gay men. Three news stories from 1990 - 1993. Full essay.


boon said...

"Many younger gay men have only known the gay scene as it exists today with its gay bars, bathhouses and online profiles, all avenues to meet others of similar interests."

"It's about the most human thing in the world, to go out searching for casual, anonymous sex."

You really believe that it's the most human thing in the world? Wouldn't sex in a stable relationship, be it homosexual or heterosexual, be more meaningful?

After reading your article, my impression of gays is a world filled with sleaze and casual sex. If your intention is to pin the blame on the Government, it has failed to gain my sympathy.

Most of your articles are insightful, but ironically, not when it comes to gay issues.

Chris said...

Why should the government not legislate against sexual harassment? Whether gay or straight, these people are a nuisance to society. In the articles you cited, a few of the culprits were guilty of rubbing the groin area of other men. This is akin to a straight man chatting up a woman and then proceeding to fondle her breasts. Surely this is blatant sexual harassment, and the men deserved to be charged.

As for sexual solicitation, that can be conceived as harassment and public nuisance as well. Imagine you are a woman, and some ugly old oaf came up to you in a horny manner asking for sex. The same applies to straight men being solicited for gay sex. Wouldn't you be disguseted?

Just because "all males" do it (and that is a gross generalisation), doesn't mean it is right. Both straight and gay sex solicitation are nuisances to the public and banning them is justifiable. Casual, anonymous sex is also what fuels AIDS infections, posing a threat to public health, and the government has a legitimate interest in discouraging such behaviour. All men should rein in their horniness and learn to develop steady, committed and monogamous relationships. This is especially so for gay men, who severely need to improve their image of being sex-crazed carriers of STDs.

Teck Soon said...

The state does owe them an apology. And some day, not only will we remember the names of those who suffered caning and jailtime for being gay, we'll also remember the names of the bigots in charge who caused this gross injustice. I wonder if it would be possible to find the names of the police constables and judges who participated in these abuses of human rights. What is the name of the judge who imposed caning? Their names should be remembered too. So should the names of the parliamentarians who allowed this law to be on the books. The victims will be remembered and honored, and the perpetrators will someday earn their place in history alongside the Nazi Germans who executed homosexuals. Perhaps someone academically-inclined should compile a list of all the recorded acts of Singapore state-sponsored anti-gay human rights abuses, and publish the names of all the officials involved on an informative webpage. Amsterdam has an official memorial site honoring gays who died during the Nazi occupation. Someday Singapore will also have a memorial honoring these men who also suffered the brutality of caning under an intolerant society.

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

Chris -

You do not seem to understand how gay cruising works, and thus liken it to groping unsuspecting women. It's not at all like that. A lot of eye and body language signals are exchanged before contact is made. Exchanged - that means the police decoys too participated in the non-verbal communication agreeing to touch. You can hardly call the decoys unsuspectingly innocent.

In years of gay cruising, there are very rarely reports of straight men being unsuspectingly groped. That's because straight men do not complete the prior signalling protocol, they do not know how to do so, thus the "contract" is not made.

More generally, your analogy is not quite correct in another way. Places have character, either explicit or implicit. A reasonable person on entering a certain place reads the character of the place. If he stays, it means he accepts the place for its character, and a degree of consent can be rightly assumed. For example, if someone makes the effort to go to a beach that is reputed to be a nude beach, how much right has he got to come screaming out, "nudity, nudity!" If someone enters an R-rated movie, he shouldn't be running out screaming, "sex, sex!"
If one walks into a dark, narrow alley and is robbed, you'd at least think he was quite foolish to have chosen that route in the first place.

Unlike too many people on this earth, I try to write without making moral judgements of others. I describe the world as it is. "All men should rein in their horniness," you wrote.... I try not to say what people SHOULD do.

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

Boon -

We're on different wavelengths. You're approaching matters from a prescriptive view, suggesting that stable relationships are good and sleaze is bad, and you're obviously disappointed I do not prescribe morals/pass judgement whenever I write about sex.

"my impression of gays is a world filled with sleaze and casual sex," you wrote. Why must it NOT be? Why must it be denied or refuted? Ditto the straight world.

I merely state the empirical: that there is indeed a lot of sleaze, casual sex and paid sex in this world. And there are reasons for that.

There seems to be a Singaporean habit of always making judgement whenever writing or talking about sex. This is the kind of posture that our younger generation has noticed - that's why they say whenever adults talk about sex, it's such a turn-off.

Chris said...


I try not to be morally judgemental too, but draw a line when there is clear harm caused by certain acts. Not only does promiscuous sex increase AIDS incidence and endanger the health of everyone; promiscuous behavioural patterns are also a key factor leading to much of the prejudice against homosexuals. As Boon commented, your articles only perpetuate a stereotype of the gay world being filled with sleaze and casual sex, and this hinders the tolerance and acceptance of gay people by the larger community.

This is not a matter of baseless moral beliefs - casual sex causes both tangible and intangible harm, and promiscuity is frowned upon by even the most liberal Western societies. By attempting to promote it as a normal, "human" behaviour that "all males" partake in, you are only sealing the public's impression of gays being unrepentant sex maniacs who should be aggressively repressed.

Teck Soon said...

Chris -

Based on your comments "casual sex causes both tangible and intangible harm, and promiscuity is frowned upon", it sounds like your gripe is not so much against gays as it is against sleaze and promiscuous sex. You seem to imply that Singapore is right to limit the freedom of gays in order to reduce harm such as AIDS. My question is, would you advocate caning and life imprisonment for straights caught engaging in casual, concensual sex in private? If not, then you are using a double standard to judge gays, because those are the laws on the books that gays face. It is true, as you say, that casual sex leads to increased AIDS infection rates, but I think you are wrong if you suspect that caning gay people is going to improve the situation. In fact, by making sex acts illegal, gays are less likely to seek help or practice safe sex, and this may make the problem worse. I am disturbed by your logic in linking gays alone with "harm" such as AIDS. And one day when AIDS is cured, then how? Continue to cane them just for fun?

If promiscuous sex and sleaze is your main gripe, then I hope you will advocate caning and life imprisonment for adulterers who cheat on their wives, legal straight prostitutes in Singapore, and Singaporean men who go to nearby countries for sex. Or perhaps for any men who have sex before marriage. And would you support adding life imprisonment for lesbians too? Because currently the laws are only for the men. We're not talking about something abstract like statistical harm, we're talking about real people who are thrown in jail and caned just for being lonely. It's not like gays can get married and live happily monogamously in a stable relationship - because gay marriage is illegal too. Given society's bigoted attitudes, gays can hardly do anything at all. No wonder they had to go to dark alleys just to meet each other.

Dee/Yuri said...

Speaking as a heterosexual female, it's amusing that some assume that everyone follows the "straight and narrow" path of "sex after marriage" or follows whatever views on sex you hold.

In fact, if I'm not wrong, at least 1/4 to 1/3 of young Singaporeans(kids in primary to secondary school) practise casual sex. Call me outrageous but I'd place the figures at somewhere between 1/3 to 1/2 instead(many tend to lie when taking a survey, ya know)! Many of these young children also tend to change partners at random and a number of them also take part in orgies and at least a significant number of them already have HIV-1 or AIDS or STDs.

Also, there're plenty of het. adults who practise casual sex(sometimes "anonymous" too). And the manners in which they partake in casual sex can't always said to be safe, either.

For instance, there're those who swap partners with either friend or stranger and even those who engage in bdsm(bondage, domination, sadism and machoism for the uninitiated) sessions. In some of these really hardcore s&m(excluding bondage) sessions, there's blood being shed and sometimes, needles and other "tools" are used on multiple individuals, often with blood on them. In some of these sessions, there's anonymity guaranteed which often means that you never know if that stranger next to you has STDs or HIV-1 or AIDS.

And there're quite a few of such sessions held in Singapore which're open to strangers(as long as you know the "password", you can simply walk in.) Yes, I'm well aware that much of the bdsm community practises safe sex but there're also the wilder sides, too. Plus, if you're ignorant about safe sex and AIDS, then you might not really care about who you screw and what protection methods you ought to use.

Before I start to get even more off-topic, let me just say that thus we shouldn't apply policies/statements to gay people and not apply them to straight people too. That is, if we want to encourage safe sex(That's a personal decision, really) among gay men/women, then heterosexuals have to do the same too. But a pity, really, that many adults shy away from explaining about sex to children and that there're many adults who still know very little about safe sex! (Alamak, jia lat, man.)

Yes, I don't really agree with anonymous, casual sex. However, we all ought to apply things with a standard. You want gay men to practise more safe sex? Then, fix things on the heterosexual side first, instead of having double standards.

Anonymous said...

Here's the deal. The state is never going to apologize to gays.
In the early days, gays were laying low under the radar. They had no choice, as there were no 'legal' meeting grounds for them to socialize. Understandably so, we had our own sign language, and signals.

The authorities now realize that gays have DEEP POCKETS, as u can see by the gay bars etc, in Singapore.
Again, if the authorites did catch 2 gays in a compromising position in public places, they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
It's all about Dollars n Cents.
It is a shame that gays do not get their full legal entitlement.
As to sexual harassment in Singapore?
I don't know if we will be around to see that happen?
If it does, it must be 'a political statement'. They are not even going to open that can.

Anonymous said...

boon and chris,

talk a look and hope you enjoy.


Looks like China is really way ahead than Singapore at least in their media attitude on this topic.

By the way, they are as human as you and me.

Boon and Chris, while searching for meaningful sex in stable relationship realistically you think the singles remain virgin? Those who can't find due to whatever reasons should remain virgin?

I think its more a moral perpective on sex than practical and realistic view on sex.

Sign..that's another topic.

Chris said...

To Teck Soon and Dee/Yuri,

I think I took special care to mention that I am against both gay and straight sexual solicitation. Like you, I disagree with the PAP's selective and biased application of laws.

However, I don't think the state has the right to intervene in private, consensual sexual affairs held behind closed doors (which is why I think S377A should be repealed). It does have a right to regulate public behaviour, though - actions carried out in public spaces. For example, we don't allow people to run around butt naked in public. Thus, by regulating public behaviour, the state can try to discourage incidences of sexual solicitation that lead to casual sex and the spread of STDs.

Roy Tan said...

Chris, you are trying to impose your prudish values on the rest of society. Public nudity is not illegal in Germany and is condoned in many parts of continental Europe. It is a common site to see people walking around naked in public parks in broad daylight in Germany, even when children are around. There are nudist camps and nude beaches in most of the developed world. The Japanese and Koreans are Asian examples of cultures which are also very tolerant of nudity. Why must you equate the nude body with dirt and shame? It is a reflection of the shallowness of your mind. You must be afraid of your own sexual arousal were you to behold a naked body in public. You are trying to keep Singapore medieval in outlook. I don't see why public nudity in Singapore should be a criminal offence. At most, it should be a civil one, much like littering is. It causes no harm to anyone. If you don't like what you see, just look away, like what some would do when confronted with a heavily littered cranny.

Gay cruising in back alleys usually occurs at night when there is no one else around, save those seeking carnal release. Most of the sexual activity is restricted to fondling, mutual masturbation or at the most, oral sex. The potential for spreading HIV is minimal. In any case, it is not promiscuity which spreads AIDS. It is unsafe sex. One can have sex with thousands of partners and still run a zero chance of contracting HIV if all one indulges in is mutual masturbation. Do not confuse the two issues.

If you advocate the prosecution of gay men who cruise in back alleys, deserted stretches of beach and toilets, why not also encourage the authorities to charge the thousands of straight men who throng Desker Road, Geylang and Keong Saik Street each night. Another example of your double standards.

Alex, it is not true that nocturnal, back lane-gay cruising in Singapore has passed into history. The scene has shifted from the Ann Siang area into the Telok Ayer area. The main reason for this has been the lighting installed in the back alleys of the Ann Siang vicinity to deter such activities. This preventive measure has not caught on in Telok Ayer yet. I'm sure it escalates the maintenance costs of the operators of the fringing establishments considerably. However, the total available stretch of unlit cruisable area has shrunk considerably, together with its quality. The action usually starts at 2 a.m., on Saturday nights especially, when the nearby gay bars and discoes start to wind down. It is impossible to completely put a stop to such activity because it is impractical and costly to light up every single back alley in Singapore. In my opinion, it is also unnecessary as gay cruising only occurs in the wee hours of the morning when most heterosexuals have gone home. It is a totally superflous expenditure necessitated by archaic, Victorian moral uptightness.

Hong Lim Park is also far from defunct as a cruising hotspot. However, it is mainly frequented by the geriatric segment of the gay community nowadays, as compared to its heydey decades ago. The footpaths around the park are more sedate these days but the brightly lit toilet is very active from 11 p.m. onwards on every single day of the week. The heterosexual itinerant men who use the toilet as a bathroom don't seem unduly perturbed be the gay activity going on around them. They have a live-and-let-live attitude to it all.

Dee/Yuri said...

To Chris: My reply wasn't aimed at you. Rather, I was commenting on the general attitude held by plenty in Singapore, that the government needs to regulate a gay/lesbian's lifestyle simply because such people are seen as "promiscuous".

Anonymous said...

The state owes many groups apologies

1. Remember those who were arrested between 1963-87 for so call suspected communist activities?
2. the Stop at two policy that had discrimated against many honest people
3. Remember the days where "those who speak dialect would be last in the quenue"?
4. Our foreign workers especially those who were caned for overstaying
The list goes on and on....

One would be deluded if he/she thinks that the oppression of one group does not concern him/her

Kai Khiun

recruit ong said...

Alex, you or someone should do some form of documenting of the gay history in Singapore. I mean this seriously and not to poke fun. I think it counts as preservation of heritage, part of social history of a much misunderstood community in SG even today.

Roy Tan said...

Dear Recruit Ong,

I've already done that in Wikipedia and SgWiki.

You can read the articles and even add to them yourself if you have any additional information to contribute or links to direct readers to.

They can be accessed at:


The above article has been highly censored and modified by homophobes and other deletionists.

The original article, which contains much more information, can be read at: