THE PHILIPPINES IN BOYS FOR SALE
The following is from Boys for Sale. A Sociological Study of Boy Prostitution by Dennis Drew & Jonathan Drake, New York, 1969, pp. 117-24.
Boy prostitution in the Philippine Islands has ancient roots. Malay peoples have always been tolerant of sexual variety. Sunni Mohammedans by religion have adopted some of the Middle Eastern Muslim customs which allow prostitution and paederasty. The Spanish brought their easy-going attitudes to the Philippines. They overlooked such activities, especially in their dealings with the natives. The combination of Mediterranean and Far-Eastern cultures formed a situation where boy prostitution was natural.
As in the Middle East, certain streets in the cities were set aside for homosexual prostitution with lads known locally as bini boys, — some as young as 9. A California sociologist, recently returned from Manila, reported at a lecture in Los Angeles that the youngest bini boys that he observed were 12. It may be that the age is now inching up under Western influence — but it is also likely that in the Philippines, as elsewhere in the world, the younger boys are kept concealed because of the general feelings of public disapproval.
The bini boys dress as girls, following the example of Indian boy prostitutes. This may also be due to Muslim influence. The sociologist pointed out that popular acceptance of bini boys is revealed in popular comic strips, T.V. series, motion pictures and plays in which they appear as characters, usually in a vein of good-natured humor. As an example: in a Philippine series similar to Batman, the Philippine hero is continually obliged to pull his Robin away from attempted amorous passes at other males.
In one street where this scientist did his observing (over an 18 month period), he identified 102 bini boys — most of them employed during the day as dressmakers, models, beauty parlor attendants and other jobs of similar caliber. They all moonlighted as prostitutes in the evening. The younger, non-employed, ones, tended to stay at home during the day and keep house for their older buddies. This is no indication that they were living as “lovers” but simply that they were sharing their workload. A high percentage of the boys came to the city for the express purpose of being prostitutes, having been recruited from their villages by older brothers, cousins or friends.
Few of the bini boys engaged in any sexual relations among themselves although many considered themselves homosexual. In prostituting themselves, the majority preferred passive anal relations but all were equally willing to perform fellatio. The custom, as with other orientals, is to seek to prolong sexual relationships for what Westerners consider extensively long periods of time.
The sociologist gave no exact cost figures but mentioned that tariffs depend on the action required. Boy prices were higher that those for female prostitutes.
Because this behavior is a fairly well accepted part of Philippine culture, there is little interrelationship between male prostitution and crime. The sociologist reported that only one of the 102 had any sort of real criminal record. There were no suicides, never any exploitation by criminals — no noticeable crime. There are no laws against homosexuality or transvestism and, apparently, no restrictions against males showing affection for each other in public.
There have been some difficulties with Chinese who have been allowed to patronize boy prostitutes but, where the trouble was caused, it was usually an attempt by the Chinese to “manage” a bini boy. There is probably a good deal of “under-cover” boy prostitution among the Chinese population of the Philippines, but, if so, it is difficult to get any evidence of it since no non-Chinese are involved.
Because boy prostitutes in the Philippines are nearly always transvestites, the art of becoming a prostitute begins with the art of learning to act and dress as a woman. They are under no compulsion —there is none of the cruelty in punishment for failure so common elsewhere in Asia.
The village youngster who comes to the city to learn the bini boy’s trade, treats it as an honorable profession and works hard to learn how to dress like a woman, look like a woman and to please sexually in a feminine manner. When he is quite young, nearly all of his earnings, with the exception of money spent on food, must go into clothing and cosmetics. The bini boys frequently go to beauty parlors where they spend a large chunk of their money to get prettified.
The usual form of encounter between a man and a young bini boy is an arranged date — the man taking the boy out for entertainment just as if he were a girl. Most people do not know that the lad is not a girl (if he has mastered his art.) After a motion picture and perhaps dinner, they retire to a private place for lovemaking. This starts with an amusing sort of strip tease — the “surprise” of finding that the girl is really a boy supplies keen erotic titillation.
The bini boys pride themselves in being more affectionate and more solicitous to the pleasures and desires of a man than any woman. When he is quite young, and beginning the trade, the boy may find no pleasure in the sexual act at all so he concentrates on learning to forget himself and to provide pleasure for his customer. Soon, however, he does begin to get thrills from the sexual acts for these are the only sex he allows himself. His desires naturally adapt to the situation. Even then, the bini boy manages unusual self-control over his own desires and devotes himself to finding his pleasure in meeting the customer’s desires. This is accomplished in a way which is peculiar to Asia — rarely being successfully accomplished elsewhere in the world.
Male customers are always interested in trying a new bini boy and a new arrival from the country will find it easy to get a great deal of business. At the same time, it is common for a man to find a boy that he likes and then dates regularly, perhaps once weekly or twice a month. Such men are commonly married. If not, their regular dates may be more frequent.
Bini boys do not usually serve as entertainers but they are occasionally employed to be present at allmale parties, the equivalent of the Western “smoker.” At these parties, sexual activity will be part of the erotic entertainment. On such occasions, they are supposed to dress suggestively and to sing songs as well as tell dirty stories. They do not dance on public occasions as often as they do elsewhere in Asia. It is common, however, for a boy to dance privately for a regular customer.
While older male prostitures are an accepted part of Philippine society, there are efforts to eliminate the younger boys and, especially, to avoid contacts between tourists and bini boys. Nevertheless, Westerners who visit the Philippines regularly (like merchant seamen) have no difficulty making contact with very young boy prostitutes if they work at it. Wealthy tourists and foreigners with special contacts also find it relatively simple to arrange relationships with very young boys, not infrequently employing them as servants for a short or long period. One Englishman we know of had a very attractive young maid. Few visitors to the house realized that the “maid” was actually a 13-year-old boy — one of the highest paid maids in the city at that.
Earlier in this century, it was not uncommon for Filipinos travelling overseas to take along a valet. Modern customs make this difficult or impossible today, but it is still feasible to take a bini boy with one on vacation to the mountains or the beach. He enjoys a rest from his dressmaking or modelling just as much as anyone else likes a vacation.
One boy, questioned about how he decided to come to the city and enter the profession, replied that it “isn’t easy for a very young boy to decide to wear women’s clothes for the rest of his life”. He said that after his cousin proposed that he go to Manila, he spent many days watching women, somewhat dismayed, somewhat titillated, but working hard to observe the sort of life they led. He had already discovered that he liked to sew and his cousin was proposing that he go to Manila as apprentice to a dressmaker. All of the employees were bini boys and the position would not be open to him unless he also became one. This boy, while he was still 11, developed a “crush” on an older lad — a prominent athlete and social leader in his school. When the older boy discovered the youngster’s infatuation, he immediately took sexual advantage of the situation and seduced the youngster into passive anal relations. Because of his crush, the younger boy submitted out of gratitude for the older boy’s attentions. In time, he grew to like playing the female role. He was, therefore, quite interested in becoming a bini boy but hesitated before making the binding decision. His parents were willing, considering the dressmaking trade as an honorable trade, even though they probably knew that prostitution would accompany it in his case.
“I really didn’t hesitate,” he said, “at the thought of sleeping with many different men. I didn’t worry about the fact that some might use me or mistreat me. I didn’t think about any of these things until I was already in Manila, with no retreat possible. The one passionate concern I had was with the adoption of girl’s clothing. My cousin tried to get me to dress in my sister’s clothes, just to try it out, but I trembled merely at the thought. If I had not been considering becoming a bini boy, I could have tried on her clothes without a second thought but, as it was, I dreaded even to experiment. “Finally, my cousin forced me to remove my clothes. He was much older and stronger and he was able to make me dress like a girl. It wasn’t as bad as I had expected but I did feel very vulnerable and unprotected in a dress, especially when my cousin teased me by putting his hands up under it. As my cousin was making me up, my older friend arrived — the schoolboy on whom I’d had the crush. Even though he hadn’t paid much attention to me for some time, he was obviously aroused and delighted at seeing me in a new light. He immediately made a date with me to take me to a motion picture for which I would otherwise have had no money. I went with him and he was terribly passionate. Dressed as a girl, I now felt differently towards him — more loving and free. He sensed the difference.”
His lover thought it excellent that he was going to become a bini boy and promised to come to see him in Manila where he was also going to get a job. The cousin and lover both spent a number of days training him to walk, to dress and to talk as a girl. The lover was quite aroused sexually by the entire experience of the transformation. They had frequent and passionate love sessions during this time. By the time he took the bus for Manila, he had lost all hesitancy and doubts — he was quite content and excited at his future prospects. At the age of 14, he was one of the most popular and sought-after bird boys in Manila as well as one of its more talented dressmakers by day.
“I will never marry and have children,” he says, “but otherwise I am content with the life of a woman. I am pleased that I can go anywhere in the city and nearly everyone assumes that I am a woman. I am rarely detected. Perhaps there is one other difference. Men treat bini boys more roughly than they do women, knocking boys around and making demands by force because the rules of chivalry don’t count”.