Sunday, April 20, 2008

Under Lock and Key

Over the last few weeks, the great chastity pants debate has been raging in the local media. Authorities in Batu, East Java have forced local masseuses to wear padlocked trousers so that they aren't tempted to engage in a few rounds of post massage sexual intercourse with their clients. It has also been suggested that such a system could be introduced in Jakarta along with CCTV cameras in the city's spas and massage parlors.

These developments are depressingly (and hilariously) mediaeval of course. To treat women like animals in this manner is truly the chauvinistic hallmark of an aggressively patriarchal society. Inevitably, as per usual, its prostitutes rather than prostitution that are the target of such regulations. No one is suggesting after all that the male clients also incarcerate their genitalia in this way.

Apart from anything else, if the local authorities in Batu really want to stamp out all sexual activity in massage parlors, then they will also have to supply their female employees with some kind of wild bear face muzzle and also handcuff their hands behind their backs (think about it). Whoever came up with this whole sordid scheme should be awarded a padlock of his own along with a straitjacket to fasten it onto.

Anyway reader, I decided to research this problem in greater detail. After rubbing my hands together with glee so hard that the skin on my palms was starting to chafe, I headed down to the Cleopatra Spa and Massage near my office to see just what filth goes on at these so called, "Family," health centers.

The Cleopatra is popular with local Koreans and Japanese ex-patriots; nations well versed in spa culture. I selected a deal which included a 40 minute massage and use of the facilities. I changed into the supplied blue trunks and kimono and headed up to the spa room.

The Cleopatra really is quite a fancy establishment and its spa room features green tea and mugwort hot pools. The plants in question are contained within porous, hessian bags which float in the water. Presumably green tea is supposed to accrue health benefits to one's exterior as well as interior.

After switching between the hot and cold plunge pools several times I came across another curious spa treatment than I had never seen before. In the corner I found a pool full of fish that Cleopatra patrons are encouraged to immerse their feet in. The fish then nibble away at you removing any dead skin or outbreaks of athlete's foot and generally cleaning the honorable spa guest's feet of grime.

I had a try and, after an initial five seconds of piranha attack paranoia, thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Strange, who would've thought that fish would enjoy human and chips? The sensation of the fish nibbling away at my feet was ticklish and almost erotic in nature (although don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those age of Aquarius, yoghurt weaving beardy weirdies who dream of having sex with dolphins).

After toweling my feet down it was time for the moment of truth. I headed upstairs to the massage cubicles for 40 minutes of serious journalistic research. I lay down on my belly, in my trunks and a young lady called Santi started giving me the full shiatsu treatment. As she hung from the ceiling frame and stomped up and down my spine I was initially unable to ascertain if her pants were securely fastened with solid stainless steel.

I broached the subject with her directly and was informed that the entire establishment was, thankfully, padlock free.

Then the hands-on treatment began and I was massaged with mystical balms and oils from tip to toe. This involved the removal of my regulation blue trunks and the gentle caressing of my lily white lower cheeks. Hmmm. We seemed to be moving further towards the realm of padlockable offence. I would surely soon be flipped over onto my back and offered a banana massage or more.

Sure enough, as the 40 minute time limit hoved into interview, I turned over and was indeed invited to partake in a spot of genital husbandry. A friend of mine once told me that when he was new in town and still had limited Indonesian language skills, he was once asked by a masseuse, "Apakah Om mau di kocok?" which he translated literally as, "Would uncle like to be shuffled?"

Modesty forbids that I continue with my spa memoirs here. Suffice to say though that I told young Santi I was perfectly capable of shuffling myself. She was, however, a very insistent young lady and no amount of padlocking, short of chaining her to the wall, was really going to curb her enthusiasm for her work. I think we had better leave things there for now. Keep shuffling folks.