Crackdown on Kuta Cowboys


(Edit: For a better copy of this clip, there’s a link in the comments.  For some reason I haven’t been able to edit it into this post)

Publicity prior to the release of this documentary “Cowboys in Paradise” has created a bit of a stir in Bali.  In fact, the stir has been so big that 28 “beach boys” were recently rounded up on male prostitution charges.  It’s a pity they didn’t round up their customers too.

My guess is that the 28 were blow-ins from Java and Madura.  It’s typical for the local people to blame immigrants.  Judging from what you can see in a short stroll down the street in Kuta, there are many more male sex workers than those 28.  In fact, this problem has been dogging Bali for at least two decades that I know of.  And it is a problem.  The documentary seems to show prostitution in a light-hearted way, but I have met solo female tourists who have had to flee Kuta because of the unwanted attentions of these ‘cowboys’.  I guess it’s ok for those women who go there for the sex, and I’ve not heard of women accompanied by a male being harassed, but there are many more of these male prostitutes than there are customers and these guys are desperate to make money.

The other issues I’m hearing from internet forums are that the documentary is all lies and the relationships between the female tourists and their Balinese ‘boyfriends’ are healthy and in keeping with the local culture.  Well, the film hasn’t been released yet, so I won’t comment on its veracity.  However, although I’m no anthropologist, from the little I know of Balinese society, those relationships are not normal, they only exist because the women have money and offer a potential opportunity for an overseas lifestyle.  Certainly, some are in it for the pleasure, but considering nearly all of them already have wives I’m not sure if that makes the situation so much better.

I suspect there is an even darker undercurrent to this matter.  It would be interesting to know if the lives of these gigolos have been mapped out by social workers.  I believe many of them have drifted in to Kuta as street kids and then forced into prostitution after suffering abuse at the hands of older boys or pedophile tourists.

If the Balinese police were to arrest a few customers, I’m sure this industry would be finished very quickly.

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5 Responses to “Crackdown on Kuta Cowboys”

  1. jakartanna Says:

    Bali is something you’ll have to accept, either you are a Balinese or a non-Balinese. The beauty, culture, weather, attitude, irony, reality, their life… your opinion 😀 you just have to accept it, and enjoy.

    Bali vs non-Balinese is a classic issue which for me it’s a bit boring. But looking at the clip, honestly, I think the Indian director did a very poor editing work, and without any art sense in the process.

    It is an irony indeed, when they captured those boys and told the media they’re not local boys from Kuta, but are from Java. For me, the main issue is : why let an Indian director (ah, well… any movie director) taking footages for a film in the first place? who gave the permit? Didn’t they got the scenario or movie synopsis first before issuing any shooting permit?

    Oh Bali…

    • aboutindo Says:

      Oh, I don’t hold any opinions against Balinese culture, what I’m saying is that this activity isn’t grounded in Balinese culture. It exists only because there is a market for it. Please correct me if I’m wrong.
      You’re right, for some reason they want to blame outsiders for everything that goes wrong. Typical small town xenophobia. On the one hand, Balinese are quite free to make business and settle in Yogya or Jakarta. On the other, they resent Javanese coming to Bali to compete for work. Every other big city ‘suffers’ immigrants from outside yet Bali’s most important industry relies on presenting visitors with a purely Balinese experience. They have a point, but I can’t accept that Bali would be crime free if only there were no Javanese there.
      Maybe the director didn’t get permission to film? The picture quality may be poor because they used basic equipment that didn’t raise suspicions at customs. Cameras are so cheap these days, every other tourist has one anyway.
      I’m curious about the old guy who’s so upset about the cowboys taking all the ladies. If he’s so keen on older Western women, he should try any big Western city instead of Bali. In fact, he looks Indian to me, maybe he’s a friend of the director?

  2. jakartanna Says:

    I understand what you mean. What I mean in my phrase of ‘your opinion’ is for ‘non-balinese’s opinion’. They have their own code of life, and it is their uniqueness, that makes them special 🙂
    here’s a better version of the clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRgy4wiJVF0

    I found an article says the indian director did the shooting alone with a personal camera and without permit. http://hendralesmana.co.cc/29/04/2010/police-investigate-cowboys-in-paradise-film-making/
    But still, I think Bali local government is overreacting.

    Yes, me too wondering about that old (seemed to be Indian) guy… why would he be so important to get into this documentary film, and he’s the only one in the clip saying that the gigs are for real 😀

    • aboutindo Says:

      Everyone has their own opinion. I think the main opinion of non-Indonesians is astonishment that gigolos even exist, that it’s not an imaginary activity. Now I’m wondering about the etymology of ‘gigolo’.
      Thanks for that improved version of the clip, I tried to replace the clip I used for the post with it, but it doesn’t seem to work when I put it in. Another mystery of WordPress hehe.
      Yes, it’s an overreaction, and they’ve actually drawn more publicity for the documentary than there would have been if the police had just ignored it. Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing at all 🙂 Although I’d like to see something done about this and all other forms of prostitution, police raids don’t work. It seems the main complaint is from people who claim to be wrongly accused of being gigolos – apparently the filmmaker didn’t do very thorough research and just filmed any mixed race couple he saw.
      I guess we’ll learn more when the film gets released. I can’t say I’m holding my breath.
      Oh, yes you can believe it’s true, there really are gigolos in Bali 😉

  3. jul Says:

    that’s a classic issue

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