Exploring Singapore's Invisible Trade

July 1, 2005

Welcome to the very real, largely hidden, and often surreal world of high-class sex for sale in Singapore, where the sexual desires of this tiny island run the gamut from simple missionary zeal to the cracking of the whip. Never before have outsiders been offered such a fascinating look into the weird and wonderful, delightful and sometimes depraved world of five-star, high-class prostitutes that operate in Singapores flourishing sex trade.

For those writing about the sex industry, there is always the danger that the story will become as exploitative as its subject matter. In this survey of high-end sex workers in Singapore, Lim (Inside the Outsider) manages to avoid this trap by giving the workers space to speak for themselves.

Emily, one of Lim's subjects, describes her first time with a client: "On my first job I was very frightened and didn't know what to do... I didn't know how to do a massage or how to talk to a strange guy." But now, she says, "If you think about the money you can do anything."

The book collects the accounts of a variety of sex workers, including poet and former male escort Cyril Wong and dominatrix Empress Victoria. But by and large, readers are left to draw their own conclusions regarding the relative pathos of these sex workers' situations; Lim's focus is on the complexities of the trade and the Singaporean society.

As he points out, there is a hierarchy to sex work in Singapore, with its own set of rules and contradictions. It is, after all, the "Nanny State of Asia" - while pornography and oral sex between consenting adults is illegal, prostitution is legal and regulated.

Though this book hit number one on bestseller lists in Singapore, it's appeal in the U.S. seems limited. With its narrow scope and just-the-facts approach, Lim's exploration offers some insights into the sex trade, but not enough to entice many readers on this side of the pond.

From the Publisher:

When an ambitious, adventurous gent named Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles "discovered" the tiny Southeast Asian island of Singapore in 1819, claiming it for the British Crown, he envisioned it as a geographical gateway between East and West. Now an independent city-state, Singapore is considered an Asian economic miracle, still a strategic crossroads, but its position on the map has also garnered bluechip status in the international sex industry. Thanks to the constant influx of business travelers, a floating world exists that few talk about, where beautiful escorts from various countries offer discreet companionship for a price, one not usually proffered in the bars and brothels of Asia.

Writer Gerrie Lim investigated this phenomenon and gained access to the secret world of high-priced sex workers. The result is a series of lucid portraits offering insights into this remarkable area of modern commerce. His subjects are women who are lavishly rewarded with money and gifts, some diverging from the oft-trod path to perform kinky services that include whipping and spanking, others being flown to exotic resorts in the company of men with money to burn. He also enters the shadowy domain of gay male escorts and karaoke hostesses, whose views challenge societal norms and question assumptions made about their career choices. The result is a fascinating work of cultural observation, from the vantage point of an eloquent literary voice.

About the Author

He graduated in 1987 from the University of Southern California with a Master of Arts degree in Print Journalism, and has written for Billboard, Details, Harper's Bazaar, Elle, Playboy, the San Diego Union-Tribune, the South China Morning Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The Asian Wall Street Journal.

He spends his time in both Singapore and Los Angeles.

Invisible Trade: High-class sex for sale in Singapore, By Gerrie Lim; Paperback: 208 pages; Publisher: Monsoon Books Pte. Ltd. (November 15, 2004); Language: English; ISBN: 9810510330








2005 Asian Sex Gazette.
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