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Gigolos in Bali

A Balinese Perspective on Sex Tourism and Kuta Beach Cowboys.

Bali News: Bali, gigolos, Wayan Windia, Rwa Bineda, Palemahan, Pawongan, Parhyangan, Tri Hita Karana
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The Saturday, May 8, 2010 edition of BisnisBali carried an op-ed piece on gigolos in Bali written by Dr, I Wayan Windia of Bali's Udayana University's Agriculture Faculty. As part of's continuing effort to share the Balinese viewpoint on tourism issues we present our free translation of Dr. Windia's article.

Gigolos in Bali Ė by Wayan Windia

The mass media has exposed news about a short film about the lives of gigolos on Kuta Beach in Bali. The title of that film: "Cowboys in Paradise". The governor was said to be very angry. Julia Roberts had just finished making a film in Bali with the title "Eat, Pray, Love". It should also be noted that the people of Kuta are angry. The elite are insulted. But why are we cutting off our nose to spite our face? Isn't this situation merely a reflection of our society?

We in Bali are always reactive; giving non-proportional reactions to "bad" news about Bali. But, maybe the gigolo film is also a promotional film for Bali.

We need to remember that when Australian television showed a "60 Minute" segment showing Bali to be dirty and unsanitary, we Balinese and our officials became very angry. Later, we tried to cover up news about AIDS, narcotics, and even diarrhea in Bali. In this most recent example, Bali's governor, the island's elite and the general public have been angered by a short film about gigolos on Kuta Beach.

It is fitting to remember that when Bali open its doors wide to world tourism, it had to be prepared to receive the reality that our local society would be altered. A process of acculturation took place. The Balinese gradually become aware that they must confront the existence of multiculturalism and, in turn, derive meaning and purpose from that new reality.

It is therefore fitting that now the Island of Bali is not an "island paradise." Paradise, or heaven, cannot stand alone. Where there is a heaven there is also always a hell. The existence of prostitution, gigolos, pollution, salt water intrusion into the water table, slums, rabies, AIDS, narcotics dengue fever, robberies, rape, free-sex and other negative social phenomena are all part of this "hell." If you can't abide by the character of "hell," then don't try to create a heaven. This is a basic part of the dialectic rules embraced by the Bali Hindu concept of Rwa Bineda.

We really need don't need to be bothered. Whenever news surfaces depicting Bali as a "hell" we pass from concern, to anger, to infuriation followed by raids, arrests and punishments. Its has become public knowledge that the existence of prostitution and gigolos are a facts of life. The mass media has often and extensively exposed this facet of our social life. What's important now is that we undertake introspection regarding tourism development in Bali. We have been battered and bruised by the process of Bali's tourism sector over the past 40 years. Experts note that 50% of the profits derived from Bali's tourism sector are repatriated to other places outside Bali and abroad. The people of Bali are left to swallow the high social costs imposed by tourism as many Balinese are not prepared to participate and compete in the highly competitive tourism sector.

In this context, many experts recommend that Bali impose a moratorium on the development of tourism in Bali. Such a moratorium would be followed by a period of introspection and internalization. At the end of the process new rules and regulations could be implemented addressing tourism development in Bali. New guidelines would be formulated addressing Bali's relationship with its natural environment (Palemahan). A strengthening and actualization of social agencies would be undertaken to buttress and safeguard human and social relationships (Pawongan). Rules and guidelines would also be socialized to protect and preserve agriculture in Bali. All these things form part of a sacred offering encompassing our relationship with the Alnighty (Parhyangan).

The revitalization of the concepts of Palemahan, Pawongan and Parhyangan are part and parcel of the implementation of the concept of Tri Hita Karana.

The concept of Tri Hita Karana stresses harmonization. Thus, if we accept the concept of harmony as part of life in conjunction with the black/white good/bad juxtaposition mandated by Rwi Bhineda, we can abandon the cause of our concern and consternation. Say good-bye to complaints about damaging Bali's natural environment, the social transformation that is rendering Bali into some sort of "hell," or the gigolos of Bali Ė all recent topics in Indonesia's press. Accept all these things as a natural consequence of human actions.

Gigolos appear because of the way Bali tourism is being promoted. Bali has been a magnet for job seekers since the early 1970s. Although these job-seekers have no discernible skills, many spend their time relaxing on Kuta Beach practicing their limited English. In time they become adept at water sports. Then they teach Japanese and other foreign women how to perform water sports activities. It is in this atmosphere that the gigolos emerge. The European women and Japanese women delight in the loud and audacious gigolos, able to enjoy their company without emotional commitment. If the women grow bored, they can leave the current gigolo in search of another.

These are the origins of gigolos in Bali. So why should we be bothered?

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