This week, I actually found myself in town for once and wasn’t crucifying myself on some masochistic quest to scale a near-vertical, mud-caked mountain peak. Mind you, Jakarta's toxic boulevards sport their own natural and not-so-natural hazards, and so it was with some caution that I found myself heading out to enjoy a Saturday night of Anker fuelled debauchery and hopefully the kind of behaviour that, were it to be filmed and downloaded onto a legislator’s iPad, should only be viewed in the privacy of the Parliamentary restrooms.
Well, that was my intention at any rate. Indonesia is a nation of contradictions of course, not least of which is the often yawning chasm that exists between professed morality and actual behaviour where matters of making the beast with two backs and enjoying a bit of slap and tickle are concerned. Research was called for, and a friend of dubious morals and I soon found ourselves at a new club on Jalan Gajah Mada in the Kota sleaze zone (I won't say which one, but it shares a name with Yogyakarta's best known tourist street).
We had heard about the club via word of mouth, and when we eventually got inside, it became immediately clear that this was hot cha-cha central. The joint was filled with ethnic Chinese gentleman and Indonesian damsels in various states of distress, who were walking around wearing nothing but their underwear. It seemed rather unsportsmanlike that the chaps weren’t also in their underwear, and I considered stripping down to my boxer shorts as an act of good faith and cross gender solidarity with the brave sisters present. But then I had second thoughts and conjectured that perhaps such a selfless act of empathy might be misconstrued by the club’s Cro-Magnon security detail, who all looked capable of pulling one of my legs off and beating me with the wet end without breaking a sweat.
I guess we're all told that it's wrong to turn a person into a sex object. Feminists over the last half-century have complained bitterly about pornography and the male gaze, but there is a sense in which sexuality fundamentally reduces the other to a sex object. Sex involves, as the great Sartre notes, joy being found in the least human and most fleshy parts of the body, such as breasts, buttocks, thighs and so on. Moreover, it has been said that sexual desire itself is the desire to be objectified and used by the other. Strip such fantasy away and sexuality itself disappears.
In any case, we retired to an upper floor to observe proceedings in greater detail. We soon found ourselves sitting on the couch next to some Middle Eastern gentleman and their frilly knickered companions. "I have just arrived in Jakarta, but my friend said I must go to this disco, amazing yes?"
"Where do you come from?"
"Yes?! I am from Abu Dhabi and I was a student in Leeds for four years!"
It's a cosmopolitan world alright; here I was in a club full of salivating ethnic Chinese chaps, half naked Javanese nymphs and Middle Eastern thrill seekers who’d spent some of their formative years in Leeds (the Monte Carlo of the Midlands, as it's called by nobody at all). It was all too much for our fragile sensibilities and we soon found ourselves leaving the club without so much as a D-cup as a souvenir.
Perhaps I should really be settling down at my age (17 and a half) especially as I can now get Indonesian citizenship once I become hitched to the Papuan tribeswoman of my dreams and she squeezes out a couple of mongrel puppies. I resolved to begin searching immediately, and soon found myself perusing an Asian Internet dating site in my desperate quest for Jakarta-based babes.
One has to be a little careful on these sites I should add, and before one goes steaming off on excruciatingly painful (semi) blind dates, a thorough Facebook photo album check is required. If you rely solely on the dating site profile picture, you can certainly come a cropper as a sweet, closed-mouth smile morphs into dentition like a burnt-out village at a first dinner date meeting.
As I scrolled down the seemingly endless list of young ladies, it quickly became clear that there was an awful lot of available skirt out there. Alas however, many of the Internet lonely hearts club brigade had ticked the, "Very attractive" box in their profiles, despite clear photographic evidence to the contrary. Presumably the good looking femme fatales have little need of Internet dating.
It's all about, "Inner beauty" in these profile descriptions though, and the greetings card platitudes seemed to help as I continued to sift my way through the various character summaries, keenly feeling the alienating dislocation of our increasingly Internet mediated social reality.
Hopefully the romance will come later, although the dating site has left me feeling a little cold. I mean, modern discotheques of a certain shade are often described as meat markets, but online, the free market in flesh becomes disembodied into a human entree menu. Click, “No”, click, “Arrrgh!”, click, “Hmmm”, click, “There isn’t enough beer in the world”. I guess I’m assured of endless depressing dates with girls able to eat their pizzas through a tennis racket in the near future. Wish me luck, I'm going in.