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2003.6.27 講座現場實錄

Discussant: Kauko Takemura (Ochanomizu University)

. Yes, I quite agree with you on:

1. the "re-normalization" of sexuality in the rubric of liberation  

2. on-going subjection (assujetissement) through censorship  

3. digital panopticon in a cyber society

. What in the lecture interest me are:

1. an unhappy coincidence between the state's interest and NGOs's project in terms of international linkage and recognition

2. the extension of the national law beyond its borders through the tourist business or, more precisely, through legal decrees ordering tourist guides to be watch-dogs over sexual behaviors of tourists

. Questions to think further:

1. The ambivalence toward the mainstreaming of NGOs

It seems we need to see the two-sided effect, that is, the consolidation of regulation and the advancement of welfare and support system, both brought out by the mainstreaming of NGOs.  The roots of each NGO might concern the extent and contents of its alliance with the goverment project.

[Q1] Is it that most NGOs which participated in Anti-Traffick marches had originally cherished conservative sexual norms based upon their religion? Or were they pandering to the government only temporarily and strategically in order to stop the terrible business.

[Q2] Do you have some cases in which supportive NGOs left the government initiative anti-traffick movement and is now standing against it when they have found its negative and repressive phase? If so, what proportion of them have converted?

2. The reality and metaphor of trafficking and the government intervention  

It seems any government watches for an opportunity to extend its power.  In this sense, trafficking of poor aborigine girls might be a bang-up chance to be used as a banner or a metaphor for purging sexual "evils."  And so did the Taiwanese government.  

[Q3] Still, some people might think national/international governing powers should step in, to some extent, to prevent miserable cases of trafficking.  How do you think the "reality" of trafficking can be treated?  Once we know the crafty exercise of the state's power in the name of "rescue" or "liberation," how can we distinguish between "reality" and "metaphor" in terms of political action?

3. The construction of juvenile sexuality  

Now we suppose the youth are at the crossroad of sexual re-configuration: on the one hand, the internalization of sexual norms is going on, effected by the enlargement of the punishable, while, on the other hand, biased sexual information is wriggling out of the legal control and proliferated through various digital media.

[Q4] At this crossroad, I'm afraid, some youth will be built more and more conservative while others are resisting such a reactionary climate and pursuing more "adventurous" and endangered sexual practices owing to the partial information of sexuality as well as the underground-ed sexual industry.  What do you think of this polarization of the sexual behaviors of youth to be apprehended in the immediate future ?

4. Respond to these four lectures,

[Q5] How do you think "New People," who are "liberated" at the sexual front, can be connected to still-conservative sexual majority to subvert the prevailing monogamous heterosexual nuclear-family regime?

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Jo Ho’s response:

I am grateful for Takemura Sensei’s thoughtful response to my paper.  Perhaps I need to add a few more points here to clarify the case.

1.      The question of the relation between NGOs and the state:  I don’t think there is a universal rule that can prescribe what that relation should be; nor could there be an ideal situation to which all NGOs and all states should try to approximate.  The huge differences in social contexts and the varied trajectories of historical sediments make it impossible to establish the norm for such interactions.  The important point I hope to make here, though, is that, at least in the case of Taiwan, we have witnessed the great success that some NGOs have had in pushing the state into establishing legislation that claims to strengthen social welfare and child protection.  The interesting thing is, such welfare and protection measures were often purchased at the cost of the so-called sexual deviants and sexual minorities (including sex workers, sexually active youths, marginal sexualities, and mostly recently researchers in sexualities studies, etc.).  In other words, “welfare” and “protection” are always already loaded terms geared toward certain normative subjects and their interests and values, while overlooking the interests and values of other, marginal, subjects.  I am hoping that my paper has done the preliminary work in documenting such trade-offs in the past few years. 

2.      The religious women’s NGOs and their strategies:  Takemura Sensei is very kind in speculating that these moves may be simply temporary strategies to get the state to stop the terrible business of human trafficking.  But let me point out two things:  (1) Their strategy is always legislation-oriented, pressured into place through a high moral imperative which few politicians have the nerve to resist and many jumped on the bandwagon simply to whitewash their own corrupt image.  Sadly, once a legislation is put into place, amendments are very hard to institute (unless added on as a refinement measure by the original groups).  In that sense, such strategies are never “temporary”; their consequences are quite long-lasting and in many cases, devastating.  (2) The anti-trafficking cause in 1987 and 1988 did raise public outcry, which contributed to the decline of trafficking.  But when “human trafficking” is no longer an adequate description of the sex work situation in Taiwan, and when progressives in the original anti-trafficking cause moved onto other pressing social issues, the cause was retained by conservatives and developed into a moral crusade that, as my paper has demonstrated, aimed to greatly expand the regulation and social policing of sexual conducts as well as sexual language.  Some of the original members of the earlier marches have spoken against such measures on various occasions but to little effect.  Takemura Sensei may hope that the so-called “liberated sexual front” could still link up with the “conservative sexual majority” to “subvert the prevailing monogamous heterosexual nuclear-family regime.”  But the fact of the matter is, the “conservative sexual majority” is working exactly to affirm “the prevailing monogamous heterosexual nuclear-family regime” by prosecuting/persecuting the sexual front.  There is no room for dialog, much less collaboration.

3.      The problem of “real” trafficking:  This is a big question that demands a big answer, which can hardly be handled here.  In relation to the recent trend of anti-trafficking activities promoted by international organizations, I could only briefly caution against the sweeping use of the term “trafficking” to describe the widely varied emerging forms of self-motivated sexual migration in pursuit of better financial gains.  After all, what kind of NGOs would focus only on SEXUAL anti-trafficking while at the same time collaborating with a government that promotes the trafficking of massive cheap labors for state- and industry-oriented construction?  Is this not actually an anti-sex crusade masquerading as anti-trafficking?  Besides, if we are truly concerned about the economic difficulties that are said to have forced these people into sexual migration, then our efforts should be directed at helping those states to improve their economy as well as to enforce economic justice, instead of aggressively hunting down migrant sex workers, stopping them in their pursuit of limited betterment of their lives, however limited that may be.

4.     The problem of polarized youths:  I think “polarization” may not be an appropriate characterization of the situation in regard to youth sexuality.  My third lecture in this series has already described the greatly enhanced overall sexual horizon of today’s youths.  If youths had few choices in regard to their sexual expression and sexual gratification in the past, today’s youths are faced with an increasing number of choices.  It is a cliché to say that with choices come responsibilities.  But I am afraid these new legislations established by conservative NGOs have done nothing but taking those choices as well as the responsibilities away from today’s youths—all in the name of “protection.”

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Q & A

1.  You talked about how Article 29 punishes those who attempt to conduct sexual transactions on the internet.  What if this person is under 18?  Also, I’d like to ask about sex education in Taiwan.  In Japan, when we push for appropriate ways of conducting sex education, we are always attacked by conservatives.  How are things in Taiwan?

A: Article 29 does not specify the age of the culprit, but if you are under 18, usually you will receive a lighter sentence, which in many cases means you will be put into some half-way school where you will be rehabilitated to the “normal” way of life and respectable social values.  And you know what happens at these half-way schools.  You will not be able to meet your family very often, you will have to admit you had done the wrong things and would never do it again, you will have to demonstrate good behavior before you are allowed to return to the society.  It is a place to break down young people’s spirits.

As to the question of sex education, unfortunately the person who is most powerful in Taiwanese sex education happens to be a public hygienist who is also a conservative Christian.  And the key lesson for sex education can be summarized in a joke that has been passed around among teachers: “Boys should respect girls, girls should respect themselves.”  In other words, self-restraint and abstinence are the most important lessons.  Youths should refrain from getting in touch with sex-related information and images altogether.

2.   I am very impressed with what you have presented here tonight about these NGOs and their legislative efforts.  But is the Taiwanese society so conservative that it would support such measures?

A: To call a society “conservative” may be an over-simplified move.  First of all, different arenas in the social structure often demonstrate different degrees of openness.  In Taiwan, the political arena can now tolerate a lot of different political stances, but in the sexual arena, little room is left for sexual dissidence.  Is that a conservative society or not?  Secondly, in regard to sexual matters, there is the serious impediment of sexual stigma.  The shame and social disdain associated with stigma make it very difficult for people to speak up against policies that look respectable.  In such cases, I am not so sure it is a matter of conservativeness.  It is a matter of the effect of sexual stigma.  Thirdly, conservativeness is a relative concept.  If your values coincide with those of the mainstream, you would not feel this is a conservative society; in fact, you are happy as a fish in water.  On the other hand, if you are a sexual minority, you would be utterly oppressed within the same social context and consider the society highly conservative.  So I think when we refer to a society as conservative, we may want to keep these things in mind.

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