Love is in the air…
Valentine’s Day is near — only a week away. What an auspicious time to begin this blog!
Love. Sex. For many, the two are separate, but for most romantics in the world these are the two sides of the same coin. Or perhaps more like well-mixed ingredients in the same dish–food & spice.
Women are believed to be more romantic than men, in the way that we see love and sex connected as part of one another. It is true in my case, but I won’t assume that that’s true for most other women. And I like to believe that there are men who see the beauty of love and sex being intertwined as well.
I remember in many girl talks I had with my Thai girlfriends years ago in university: we asked each other about whether each of us would decide to go to bed with the man we loved before marriage. It was a big question that girls in my generation pondered a lot. Some said yes, others said no. And all were virginal. Most never even been kissed.
That was an experience of a Thai female Generation X-er.
How things have changed. These days Thai teenagers in the generations of the later alphabets seem to spend a lot less time pondering and much more time doing.
In my teen years, Valentine’s celebration was nothing like it is today. It was known in the city but not so widely celebrated (and commercialized) the way it is now. Yes, there were a few red roses and red-heart stickers being passed around, but mostly among friends because not many had boyfriends and girlfriends.
There was not a tradition of vow-taking among teen couples to celebrate by shedding their virginity on the Day of Love. This is a great source of anxiety for Thai elders and authorities. National and official hyperventilation about teen sex is hard to miss amidst the romantic and erotic buzz in the season of love.
As in the past recent years, polls have been conducted on what percentage of teen lovers plan to have sex on Valentine’s Day. And this will set yet another annual chain of (knee-jerk, short-lived, attention-deficit and brains-deficit) reactions in many quarters of Thai society that becomes predictably obsessed about teen sex at this time of year.
The national spotlight will be placed squarely and brightly on teens suspected of acting upon their love (by having sex). Many sharp eyes will follow them. Police will patrol malls, love motels, parks and other places suspected of becoming the teen love beds. The idea is to shame the young lovers by exposing their ‘sin’ to the public. It’s unclear what the authorities actually want to accomplish besides branding a virtual “Scarlet” on the teens’ foreheads.
A modern Thai teen (sexual) rite of passage makes its yearly headlines, but will quickly fizzle out as it always did every year once the Valentine’s (anti-teen sex) obsession has subsided. Then everything will be back to normal with teens having more and more sex (more adventurously and often unsafely), adults are in denial and refuse safe sex education, and more sex-related problems pile up.
Sorry if I zapped all the good feelings out of this lovey-dovey season. (You will have to get used to it. I will be doing it a lot.) But believe me, I’m not alone in this. Since some years ago, I don’t remember when, every early February straight-thinking people can’t help feeling annoyed by what has become a kind of idiotic Valentine’s tradition (and I’m not blaming the kids). Have a look at this article by a female columnist, Veena Thupkrajae, of The Nation. The article entitled “It isn’t good to have sex talk twice a year.” is published today and Khun Veena pretty much takes words out of my mouth.
Given that another Thai woman just said today that having sex talk twice a year is not enough, I am pleased to establish my own sextalk tradition of explaining at least one Thai word a day (in English) that has anything to do with sex, love and romance.
Staying on the topic, the first sextalk word is “young love.”
You hear this phrase often when teachers and parents and society’s elders want to tell youngsters not to try love while still in school. The phrase rák nai wai riian is literally “love at school age” or simply “young love.” Young love can be beautiful, fun and a good learning experience—though, yes, it can turn out badly. Still, if the sun continues to rise and fall and the moon remains the companion of the night skies, young people will keep on trying to love—and make mistakes along the way. But that’s how we learn, isn’t it? (Sex Talk: In Search of Love and Romance, p. 200-201)
In this coming week until Valentine’s Day, I’ll talk about other kinds of Love in Thai language. I have set the “Sextalk vocabulary” category for posts that contain explanation of words like this. Words that are explained in my first sextalk book, sextalk: In Search of Love and Romance, will be filed under “Sextalk vocabulary” category, under sub-category “from book 1.” Words and expressions not from this book will be filed under sub-category “new additions.”If you want to have an explanation of any word or expression, please leave your request in your comment or email me.