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Bertha HarianBertha Harian

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What other sexual subcultures should we know about then?

I’ve always like The New Paper. It’s a feisty thing. With gutsy reporters who dig deep. For dirt, sure, but also facts. It tells people what they want to know, whether they know it or not…That’s why I don’t criticize much when it resorts to voyeurism and sensationalism. Newspapers, after all, have to sell. Compared to other tabloids elsewhere, TNP is actually pretty tame. Sometimes tamer than the afternoon Chinese-language dailies

I was surprised that it put a dominatrix on yesterday’s Page 1, someone who charges $200 an hour to whip clients. Of course, people will read it. It is part of a lifestyle that most people do not indulge in but may find fascinating. In fact, I wouldn’t be writing this if I did not read the editorial justification for the story, which the reporter acknowledged will raise questions.

“Of course, people will say this story is being run for its shock value, but I beg to differ. We, as journalists, peel away the layers and look beneath the public image of sterile Singapore,’’ she wrote.

Then she asked a “quick question’’: Whether readers know that there was no sex involved when you hire a “professional’’ dominatrix. She said that she was no prude and that if being conservative means burying her head – and those of her children – in the sand about sexual sub-cultures, then she’d rather be liberal and discuss the matter openly with her children.

“Our culture may be conservative, but that should not stop us from being aware of what is permissive and what can happen between consenting adults behind closed doors.’’

I was uncomfortable reading this. If I want to picky and tear the feature apart journalistically, I can. It is just an interview with ONE dominatrix accompanied by an article on why bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism might be some people’s cup of tea. There is really no editorial imperative for such a story, except “pro-dommes’’ saying that there is a “gradual increase in the number of new bookings’’ – which is no different from someone trying to flog a product. It is not a trend story. The practice is not illegal. Nobody got hurt (except in the way they want..) And I keep wondering why the article keeps making the point that no sex is involved for pro-dommes. It’s probably what professional social escorts would say too. Enlightening the public on this “fact’’ is surely not the point of the publication.

If TNP is not a newspaper (and a daily as well), I wouldn’t have a problem with the article. It could appear anywhere in a lifestyle magazine, and even in its inside pages. But as the page 1 story of a newspaper, with the justification that it is peeling away the layers of the public image of a sterile Singapore, then I wonder where the line is going to be drawn. In fact, I am not even sure I agree with the image of Singapore as “sterile’’ anymore.

Does TNP then intend to venture into other “sexual subcultures’’? If so, I have many ideas and can even come with possible reasons for publication:

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  1. What goes on in gay clubs – TNP did do a spread on what goes on inside such clubs in the past, with the editorial justification or what is in journalistic parlance known as the news peg being the accidental death of a man in such a place.
  2. The life of foreign gigolos here – So much about female foreign sex workers, how come not much about the men?
  3. Sex orgies in HDB flats – Who says heartlanders are dull?
  4. Public places where lesbians hang out – an informative piece for both straight and gay women
  5. The top-selling sex toy in Singapore – a consumer story for adults.

I can also accompany each with an expert-laden article on the whys and wherefores of such people’s lives and their activities. There are plenty of experts online to quote, like how TNP reported a Mail Online report last year on some overseas experts who believe that BDSM can make you more psychologically healthy because people who enjoy kinky sex are more extrovert and less neurotic. There’s even a Dr Andreas Wismeijer, a psychologist from Tilburg University in Holland, who said BDSM practitioners are no different from the rest of the population, and if they are, “they differed in a favourable direction’’.

Now, I am not making a judgment on what adults do privately. It is their business. If it is not illegal and doesn’t harm others, consenting adults should be left to their own devices. What I object to is a newspaper struggling for an editorial justification for a story which has no journalistic merit.

Its conclusion that our conservative culture “should not stop us from being aware of what is permissive (is this supposed to be a derogatory word or what?) and what can happen between consenting adults behind closed doors’’ is too sweeping for comfort.

I want my newspaper to remain a NEWS paper.

Written By

An ex-journalist who can't get enough of the news after being in the business for 26 years

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