18 February 2009

Naked straitjackets

Malaysian politician quits because she sleeps in the nude. Singapore triathletes banned because they shared a room. Society is poorer for such nonsense. Not safe for work. Full essay.

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

again alex, thanks for the NSFW warning...

More prudish than I wish to be said...

Ahem... about the family jewels
near the bottom of the article,
maybe you want to give a little
alert. Some people read your
stuff for the good English.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I too thought the whole triathlete issue was highly unnecessary. Never knew such silly presumptuousness even existed in the rulebook for local sportspeople. "Asian Values" has always been used as a weapon of control for politicians in SE-Asia though not really surprised here...

yuen said...

about Ms Wong: she showed poor judgement in allowing an untrustworthy man into her bedroom

in any case, her resignation has not yet been accepted, and if public sympathy continues to be strong, she might well retain her position (but not her boyfriend...)

>use a pre-existing bias in society and then play it up for political gain

ah.. how does that compare to political parties that resort to paying off the partner of a political opponent to photograph her in the nude hoping to discredit her?

in any case, I dont think the nude couple in Holland Village will get the kind of public sympathy that Ms Wong got

HanSolo said...

Trust YB to spin all these into an excuse to post photos of naked men. Again.

Anyway, I understood the 3 incidents differently from you.

Ms Wong quit not because she slept in the nude. I read reports saying that her clothes were lifted up before the photos were taken while she was asleep.

The backlash is motivated by political reasons. So you had to drag in the "khalwat" case to give the impression of backward sexual attitudes.

Regarding the triathletes, the media reported that:

1) they were not caught in a compromising position. They were wide awake and chatting.

2) she was unable to sleep due to anxiety, and wanted to speak with her boyfriend.

In this case, the sports authorities were overly rigid in their enforcement of the rules. Again, it's not a reflection of sexual attitudes.

As for the nudist couple, they wilfully broke the law. So why should we be surprised if they are punished?

Try walking nude in any major/developed/"Westernised" city you care to name. I bet there will be voices calling for you to be thrown into jail as well.

I object to your use of tolerance for public nudity in public places as a gauge for social progress.

Anonymous said...

Dear Alex,

You sleep in the nude. That's fine by me, and I think the Government of Singapore wouldn't bat an eyelid too, because that's your bedroom.

The kicker is that the couple took a walk in public without their clothes on. I don't know about you, but I don't have my meals naked, and I wouldn't appreciate seeing someone's else genitals while feasting on pub grub.

In short, thanks but no thanks for your particular take on liberalism or tolerance or open-mindedness.

Anders said...

This might not be completely relevant but one question comes to my mind. Although on a completely different level, let's remind ourselves of the Singaporean Tammy scandal from a few years ago.

Would we see the same outrage if the "perpetrator" had been a man? In the Tammy scandal, nobody ever seemed to care at all that the published video had a male participant as well. All blame was put on the girl. Is there a stricter moral code for women than for men?

Anonymous said...

To Yuen:

"about Ms Wong: she showed poor judgement in allowing an untrustworthy man into her bedroom"

Ever considered changing your
name to Mr Perfect Hindsight?

Anonymous said...

HanSolo, people wilfully break laws all the time in Singapore and are never punished. There are silly laws all over the place. Which ones can break and cannot break? In Singapore also got laws like 377A that will not be enforced, supposedly. So can I break or not? How about chewing gum? Do you want to arrest some tourists for carrying it in by plane?

Well, I understand your concern about public nudity. But people just need to relax a bit here. Call the police, for what? To deter some Singaporeans from being nude in public someday? I doubt that not sending those foreigners to jail is going to cause a wave of nudity in holland village...

In most Western countries, they may be arrested but then just released. People wouldn't care. Here people care. Care about what...care about nude Japanese lady, don't care about foreign workers mistreated, for example

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

To anonymous, 18 Feb 22:37 - You wrote: "I wouldn't appreciate seeing someone's else genitals while feasting on pub grub."

I would caution against unreflexive attitudes like this. It's a very fine line between saying the above and someone saying "I wouldn't appreciate seeing two guys kissing while I'm enjoying a beer."

And as we know, a guy and a girl kissing is all right. A girl and a girl kissing - why, that may even be considered by some men as something worth watching.

This kind of off-hand social dogmatism breeds all sorts of illiberal injustices. It's typified by a reference only to the unexamined self, when one should stop to ask the question: What great injury is caused by the other person(s)' behaviour, such that I must deny them their freedom in order to satiate my own (acquired) sense of comfort?

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

HanSolo - you wrote: "In this case, the sports authorities were overly rigid in their enforcement of the rules. Again, it's not a reflection of sexual attitudes."

At one level, yes, they were just being rigid. But there is another level - what *made* them rigid? And I would suggest that they had been conditioned to see the slightest risk of intimacy as some horrible deed that has to be stamped out by making examples of these two young athletes. That is what I meant by moralistic hysteria.

yuen said...

〉Ever considered changing your
name to Mr Perfect Hindsight?

no my name is fine

but would you like to reveal yours?

Anonymous said...

To Yuen:

"no my name is fine"

The point made was against the
vacuousness of

"about Ms Wong: she showed poor judgement in allowing an untrustworthy man into her bedroom"

You putting your name to this
does not make it any less vacuous.

And I am happy NOT to justify my
anonymity because you have not
shown how it makes your statement
any less vacuous ;)

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

May I request that all comments should relate to issues. Please avoid going into personal attacks.

Anonymous said...

This is not a personal attack. In the name of decency and humanity, I would like to urge Yuen who insinuate that it's Ms Wong's fault for showing poor judgement in allowing an untrustworthy man into her bedroom. This is a malicious attack on Ms Wong.

How can anyone possibly know what devious schemes are hidden in someone else's mind what more your lover? Unless you are of the same flock - I guess it 'great' minds think alike then.

It's human decency to say that we should never live in a state of fear, especially with our lovers. Yet what Yuen suggests in his comment insists that we do the opposite.

You can see she still has her spectacles on. Which means she happened to fall asleep and is unaware of what is being done to her. She's human too you know, give her a break.

An even more malicious attack is in saying that she's not better than her political opponents. I'd like to see this happen to you and see what retribution you get. My guess is you won't get any sympathy because of your malicious reputation.

There is a difference between being analytical of a situation (thus in discussion and constructive debate) than simply having a vicious tongue in gloating over someone else's misfortune.

I don't think I'm alone in my views on this. YB's regular readers can attest to your repeatedly vicious tongue. For goodness sakes, let's use this forum space in the name of discussion and debate, don't waste it repeatedly to demean people.

yuen said...

In addition to my "vacuous" comment, I also said:

>in any case, her resignation has not yet been accepted, and if public sympathy continues to be strong, she might well retain her position (but not her boyfriend...)

>>use a pre-existing bias in society and then play it up for political gain

>ah.. how does that compare to political parties that resort to paying off the partner of a political opponent to photograph her in the nude hoping to discredit her?

>in any case, I dont think the nude couple in Holland Village will get the kind of public sympathy that Ms Wong got

maybe our anti vacuous anon cares to agree or disagree (I assume he agrees that Ms Wong showed poor judgement in choosing boyfriend, but prefers more insightful comments)

HanSolo said...

"In most Western countries, they may be arrested but then just released. People wouldn't care."

To anon: Again, let's not fall into the trap of thinking that Westerners don't care, or that it's somehow OK in those countries. It's not OK, that's why it's illegal and the police will arrest them.

You mentioned other laws, such as chewing gum. I would argue that tourists bringing in small quantities of chewing gum for their personal consumption are ignorant of the law.

It would be in the spirit of the law to simply confiscate the product and let them off with a simple warning.

In this case, the couple should know that it's illegal, yet they chose to flaunt their nudity in a popular dining area at peak hours.

So unless you can make a case for legalising public nudity in Singapore, they should be punished. We should really stick to the issue at hand, and not drag in other laws here.


"And I would suggest that they had been conditioned to see the slightest risk of intimacy as some horrible deed that has to be stamped out by making examples of these two young athletes."

To YB: I would disagree with you on this. It's common to hear of a ban on sex for athletes before major competitions, even for developed countries like UK.

So in this case, it's not the ban that is in question, but the overly rigid interpretation and enforcement. I think the official would have behaved the same when enforcing other rules, a case of erring on the side of caution.

It's an administrative mindset and not a sexual one.

Anonymous said...

On the topic of personal
attacks, I don't think
anything in this thread
falls into this category.
Something was said. It
was attacked. And I don't think
anything here even comes close
to the outgageousness of what
I found in another YBS thread:

"IN AN IDEAL WORLD, civil servants would use their own initiative to solve problems not covered by the rulebook, engineers are inventive, people in business are enterprising, GAYS ARE NOT PROMISCUOUS, straits are not homophobic, ... most important of all, there is consensus among all the ranks and everyone work together..."

Anonymous said...

To Yuen:

"(I assume he agrees that Ms Wong showed poor judgement in choosing boyfriend, but prefers more insightful comments)"

I really don't know what to say
to you...

Anonymous said...

To Yuen:

"maybe our anti vacuous anon cares to agree or disagree (I assume he agrees that Ms Wong showed poor judgement in choosing boyfriend, but prefers more insightful comments)"

Ah... wisdom after the fact - the
most impressive sort...

Anonymous said...

To Yuen:

"maybe our anti vacuous anon cares to agree or disagree (I assume he agrees that Ms Wong showed poor judgement in choosing boyfriend, but prefers more insightful comments)"

How is it even possible to have more insightful comments when everyone of us here knows next to nothing about the relationship?

Much less say "showed poor judgement"!!!!!

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

Anonymous 19 Feb 16:55h said "How is it even possible to have more insightful comments when everyone of us here knows next to nothing about the relationship?"

This comes pretty close to my thoughts as I read these comments. I must admit I am a little disturbed how so many comments seem to be about Elizabeth Wong's judgement.

What little we know suggests that the pictures were taken and circulated without her consent. Her privacy was violated. I hope we're not discussing in what way she is responsible for her own misfortune. It comes uncomfortably close to speculating what error of judgement a woman committed that she became a victim of rape.

This is precisely what I was speaking of in my article - a pre-existing tone in society that prefers to look at such issues through the lens of sexual or quasi-sexual (i.e. relational) wrongdoing/error. The result is to miss the chief point of the issue (in this case violation of privacy with the probable intent to destroy someone's political career) in favour of indulging in moral disapproval.

Glass Castle said...

Did Wong show “poor judgment” in choosing her boyfriend? Who can tell? Sometimes people show unexpected sides or turn out to be abusive despite all initial appearances to the contrary. The whole idea of “trust” and “betrayal” is that you can’t always tell if someone else will behave honourably. Human relationships are unpredictable. If someone has behaved badly towards Wong, the problem is with that person’s behaviour, not with her.

And anyway, what business of it is ours? Let's assume there's some content to this idea of "poor judgment". Even if so, the only person who has been hurt by this so-called “poor judgment” is Wong herself; she’s been the victim of a grave intrusion on her privacy. What plausible reason can there be for her to be accountable to the public or anyone else for choices which affect her and only her?

This talk of “poor judgment” is code for the idea that the real injury was done not to Wong as a person, but to some quality of “modesty” or “chastity” or “purity” for which she is a guardian. It’s code for the idea that her body, being a female body, is public property, of which she is a caretaker, and that she didn’t fulfil that role adequately. It’s sexist tripe and Alex is quite right to criticise it.

- Jolene (www.glass-castle.org)

yuen said...

so people disagree with my statement "ms wong showed poor judgement in letting an untrustworthy man into her bedroom"; that's OK; why is it "perfect hindsight" "vacuous"?

and why so much attention to a vacuous statement containing just perfect hindsight? any views on the remainder of my posting?

>the outgageousness of what
I found in another YBS thread:

"IN AN IDEAL WORLD, civil servants would use their own initiative to solve problems not covered by the rulebook, engineers are inventive, people in business are enterprising, GAYS ARE NOT PROMISCUOUS, straits are not homophobic, ... most important of all, there is consensus among all the ranks and everyone work together..."

care to explain what is so outrageous about this? we live in a world in which things are different from the ideal, and promiscuous gays as well as homophobic straights exist

Anonymous said...

"In this case, the sports authorities were overly rigid in their enforcement of the rules. Again, it's not a reflection of sexual attitudes."

Well, I wouldn't be so sure. We wouldn't know how they'd enforce other rules, whether they'd enforce them in equally 'overly rigid' ways. It certainly seems a little overboard. The rule itself does reek of the moral hysteria Yawning Bread was talking about though.

"The association's code of conduct forbids male and female athletes from sharing a room and requires the door to be kept open when there is a visitor of the opposite gender."

Anonymous said...

To Yuen:

"care to explain what is so outrageous about this?"

Look at the form

GAYS ARE NOT PROMISCUOUS

Generalize

X ARE NOT Y

Instantiate for illustration

X - any ethnic or racial group

Y - any negative stereotypical
behavior of X

To really know how it feels,
replace X with a group you
belong to. Add water.

Why in heaven's name do I
even have to spell
this out !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Acrhie Bunker said...

To Yuen:

"care to explain what is so outrageous about this? we live in a world in which things are different from the ideal, and promiscuous gays as well as homophobic straights exist"

Why not use a stereotype
for a racial/ethnic group you yourself belong to?

Anonymous said...

To Yuen:

"care to explain what is so outrageous about this? we live in a world in which things are different from the ideal, and promiscuous gays as well as homophobic straights exist"

This is either a case of either
"Stephen Colbert" or "Ann Coulter".
Which is it?

yuen said...

>This is either a case of either
"Stephen Colbert" or "Ann Coulter".
Which is it?

I have no idea what you are talking about; in what way is

"we live in a world in which things are different from the ideal, and promiscuous gays as well as homophobic straights exist"

similar to either?

>Why not use a stereotype for a racial/ethnic group you yourself belong to?

I have no need to; have you used such stereotypes yourself?
--------------
it is interesting so many YB readers prefer to focus on me, while neglecting more weighty issues like election and reserves; care to explain why?

Anonymous said...

To Yuen:

I guess it is Ann Coulter then.

yuen said...

>I guess it is Ann Coulter then.

and your reasons?

Anonymous said...

"I guess it is Ann Coulter then."

So what if it is? What's your point? That only views palatable to yours have a right to be aired?

Anonymous said...

"So what if it is? What's your point?"

I wasn't sure if he was being satirical or those were really
the kinds of things he would really say.

"That only views palatable to yours have a right to be aired?"

He can't be criticized?

Or to put it in your language,
only criticisms palatable to
you have a right to be aired?

Anonymous said...

To Yuen:

"and your reasons?"

I wasn't making a point. Just
drawing a conclusion that I think
you will agree with.

You were not being satirical
when you said

"...IN AN IDEAL
WORLD ... GAYS ARE NOT
PROMISCUOUS"

You really think there is nothing
wrong in saying that.

This whole episode reminds
me of a comment Christopher
Hitchens made in the course
of a debate.

There are some points that you
don't rebut or argue against.
You only need to remark that
they were made at all.