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Changing Sexuality in Thai Society


By Dr. Krittaya Artchawanitkul

Significant changes in sexuality in Thai society in the last five decades are characterized by four emerging trends:

(1) Changes in sexual relationships, notably the first sexual intercourse for Thai men: It has become evident that the first sexual experience Thai men have are less and less with their spouses or sex workers. A majority of them now have sex the first time with friends or partners for casual sex. Premarital sex and live-in relationships have emerged as the norm for people of working age and university and college students. The trend reflects the decline of the tradition that has preached the virtue of virginity – a belief instilled into Thai women—and, with it, the weakening of the hold of the teaching that urges them to preserve their purity until marriage.

(2) Changing views on transgender and sexual diversity: Attitudes in Thai society toward transgender in general have changed favorably, shifting toward greater acceptance of sexual diversity.

(3) Changes in sex trade: Places of sex trade have transformed from brothels of the past that offered solely sexual services to ones which provide an array of additional services and incentives behind the fronts of entertainment establishments of various types from bars, karaoke restaurants, pubs, cocktail lounges to food gardens or of services including massage parlors, Thai traditional massage, dormitories and barbershops. Also, sexual services have been increasingly delivered onsite and provided by groups of sex workers that are not tied to any particular establishments. While most sex workers are still female, the number of male ones has been clearly on the rise.

(4) Changes in sex education: Sex education has changed from contents that were didactic and restrictive resulted from an initial focus on physiological changes during puberty and emphasis on abstinence and contraception that conformed to ‘Thai culture’ and ‘morality’ to comprehensive sexuality education whose contents and teaching/learning process promote exchange of experiences, open-mindedness and nonjudgemental thinking that avoids sexual stereotyping and stigmatization.

However, social control of female sexuality is an aspect that has hardly changed at all as reflected in sexual culture in which Thai women have remained at risk as ever of being victims of sexual violence and most pregnant women not ready to be mothers have no access to safe abortion.

The changes in sexuality have been presumably brought about by three socio-political forces: (1) political changes after the October 14 student uprising in 1973 that have allowed greater political freedom and sexuality openness (2) the AIDS/HIV epidemic and the growing strength of civil society from 1987 and (3) the explosion of information technology and media since 1997.

These socio-political changes also ushered in human rights movements, which is an inescapable aspect of globalization. Each of them has effected changes in sexuality, sexual rights and freedom for individuals in Thai society.

Post Date : August 2, 2011

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