CULTURE CLASH IN SRI LANKA, 1981
The following letter was published by Pan magazine, in its issue 9, July 1981, pp. 27-29.
The context in which it was written was the repercussions of various reports on the favourable climate in Sri Lanka for Greek love. Sri Lanka in 1979 is an example. These repercussions were explained at length in a previous Pan report, by the letter-writer himself, and in comment on his letter. They are only summarised here, as the interest of this website is in bringing to life a lost culture rather than chronicling the campaign to destroy it.
One unsurprising result of articles like Sri Lanka in 1979 had been to draw foreign pederasts to the island, and inevitably these included some whose behaviour disgusted both the decently-behaved ones and, much more importantly, the local people.
At the same time, these reports had also drawn the attention of a Swiss Christian welfare organisation called Terre des Hommes, which funded Tim Bond, the British social worker mentioned at the beginning of the letter, to go to investigate in Sri Lanka and publicise his findings with a view to upsetting and embarrassing the Sri Lankan government and goading it into action. The bad behaviour mentioned above was exactly what he needed and found.
As a result, “recent radical changes in official outlook have made Sri Lanka very dangerous for boy-lovers. … There has been a flurry of activity here recently. … A law is being passed prohibiting persons under 18 from entering hotels or other places intended for residential occupation by foreigners unless accompanied by a legal guardian. Hotels that are lax about enforcing this law will have their licenses revoked.”
LETTER FROM SRI LANKA
A Tale of Two Cultures
I can't see the Tim Bonds of this world making much headway here in Sri Lanka. The ready physicality of the people, their friendliness and profound spiritual love of the rupee will triumph over Christianity any day. When I arrived this time I caught the train into Colombo with a group of tourists, mostly couples, who were obviously on their first visit. This could be seen from their refusal to believe that the tired collection of ironmongery and timber leaning dejectedly against the platform was in fact the train. A group of youths also boarded the same carriage, their ages from eleven or so to about seventeen. They ranged themselves opposite the tourists and proceeded to make enticing oral gestures and mouth "Do you want me?" at the male members of the group, and pose themselves provocatively on the seats, exposing acres of long slim brown legs and neat hips cased in tight brief shorts. To make it worse they were a particularly attractive group, well-proportioned and handsome as they come.
At first the tourists seemed puzzled as to what this could mean. Then the penny droppped and they immediately started clutching their wives and a period of desparate hand-holding and kissing followed. Their eyes registered stark terror. Not a word was spoken. I felt sorry for them in a way. Fed for decades on a diet of scurrilous journalism, they were suddenly exposed to a whole area of human experience they had never allowed themselves to admit existed. Their acute discomfort and susceptibility was manifest in every attempt to block out the unbelievable scene in front of them. But they couldn't tear their eyes off those boys, who gained in appeal as the Western women wilted, the vast acreage of their white flesh dissolving in the tropical heat. The sheer sensuality of those kids was amazing, with their flagrant tongue and hand gestures and big white smiles.
After fifteen minutes I took pity on them, and told the boys gently that these tourists didn't want them (yet!), but would like something to drink, thambili, perhaps. I have just about enough Sinhalese to accomplish this. I sent one of the boys off to get some, and offered them to the wretched tourists, who accepted with trembling hands.
"You mustn't be upset," I said blandly, "customs are different in the East." Apart from that inscrutable comment the entire journey to Colombo was made in total silence.
It's a pity that the authorities have allowed the Western term "prostitution" to be applied to what happens here. There really is very little similarity. In the English language there are no other words that are suitable. In a way it's a good thing, because it shows up the objections to an overlay of alien culture, and helps render them irrelevant.
I suppose those boys hang around the airport waiting for tourists to take them straight to hotels in Negombo, so that particular sight may not come my way again. Still, once was enough. I shall not easily forget it. They were really gorgeous.
 Pan VIII p. 5.
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