In Ubud, Western Women of a Certain Age Indulge in Sensual Pleasure

Let me tell you if you don’t already know it: Ubud is a hotbed (lit.) of middle-aged Western women enjoying the finer pleasures of life – with their sexed-up, 20-something Balinese toyboys.

If elsewhere over-the-hill men trot (if they’re able) around with a local young filly, here’s where it’s all happening for Western women of a certain age.

It’s a case of The Graduate, Ubud-style, with Western female wiles meeting local-lad greenness in matters of the boudoir. These are the salad days for young men on the lookout – for a sugar mamma or more.

I’ve seen my fair share of Western seductress in their 50s – and even 60s – careening about with salivating youths in tow. Nonchalant Ubud society takes it all in its indolent stride, hardly shifting an eyebrow as the lovers cavort around town – some timeworn sirens tearing about on the back of Casanova-driven motorbikes purchased for services rendered though not implicitly implied.

Of this unbalanced-aged breed there are some deep, loving relationships, of course, with the amorous couples cohabitating; others opt for clandestine trysts, unwilling to be branded wanton.

Vers le Sud (Heading South), the controversial French movie, adequately captures the essence of over-50 Western woman seeking comfort – and sex – from avid young men of developing countries. Daringly, the film puts the sizzling subject smack in the foreground: set in Haiti in the 1970s, it portrays three sophisticated, Western middle-aged women falling for a young, handsome local chap. Sex tourism, you ask? Western men have been at it for years, heading in their droves to steamy pretty-girl places like Bangkok and others.

For many such women, like those indulgents here in Ubud, being so far away from home offers up a curtain to shield their behavior from family and friends – and the heady exoticness of Bali adds to the carnal mix.

But behind all this hanky-panky, I can’t help but wonder if the women are being had. Is it an equal relationship between a rich older woman and poor, much younger man? Are the sultry ladies being duped in a lovers’ game that’s traditionally been orchestrated by an older man?

Perhaps for older women who partake in pleasures of the juvenile flesh, it’s the thrill and power of something forbidden that money can buy – not just splashing out on inanimate furniture, frocks or jewelry, but a real, live man at your service.

Perhaps they’ve never had such a whopping sex life – or thought that aspect of their lives long since over – and grab it by the rejuvenating balls. It’s another chance at life, an occasion to feel loved, to be touched and cared for, even if only fleetingly. For here in the libido tropics, every woman can live out their most passionate fantasies. After a long life spent raising a family and looking after others, for older women it’s payback time.

“Bali, and other tropical islands, are warm, sensuous places where middle-aged and even elderly single women from the West come, seemingly believing that the laws of human behaviour and nature do not exist,” Julie (all names in this article have been changed to protect identities), a long-time Ubud resident who has seen friends go through similar relations, some smarting at the end, told me.

“I’m sure it’s a wonderful feeling to be 60 years old and believe that a 20-year-old is desperately in love with your beautiful, flabby body and that he cannot wait to dedicate his life to your wellbeing and pleasure.”

She’s nothing if not critical of indulgent older women, saying they’re exploiting young lads who have nothing better to do, no jobs or money.

“I call this the new colonialism, the exploitation of a group of people who are poor in comparison to you. Women are trading sex and affection for motorbikes, digital cameras and Kijangs,” she said, referring to the popular family-size vehicle.

But, Julie said, when it comes to older men and women seeking sex oversees, it’s the women who – unlike their male counterparts – don’t flaunt it and are generally more inconspicuous in their fervent encounters with local youth.

When they’re booking holidays to places like Cuba, Jamaica, Senegal or Bali, many single women natural have a fling on their mind, fancying a native roll in the hay as soon as they land. A travel agent in Venice told me that “Single women are far more discreet than men, but they know where to go if they’re looking for fun.”

Continued Julie: “The restrictions on women have historically been enormous, but are gone now. We have our freedom and can do now what men have been doing for centuries: exploiting women because we were powerless. This is what’s going on in Bali. Women get off the plane and want to buy themselves a Bali boy.

“These women should treat the young Balinese men respectfully and not treat them like they’re prostitutes, as there’s a loss of dignity on both sides: the middle-aged woman who makes herself believe the young man is genuinely in love with her and the guy who’s trading sex and lies for a living.”

Lucy, who’s been in Bali for a decade, has a different view.

“Some of my girlfriends are in these kind of relationships, and I have to say I hardly see them anymore. It hurts me so much to see how their Balinese boyfriends manipulate them – they’re (the women) are utterly blind.

“The Balinese are good at using their sixth sense to find a way to get inside your psyche,” she said.

“I can’t blame them (the women) – honestly,” insisted Inge, a 30-something from Europe and doing volunteer work in Bali.

“In my heart, I understand them. As a woman, I sympathize with what they’re doing and I can’t see anything wrong with indulging yourself. Given that the relationship is between two adults, I don’t see any exploitation.”

I got to the heart of the matter when I spoke to Ollie, also from Europe and once widowed, twice divorced. She’s just turned 60 and is two years into a relationship with Made, who’s 28. A peroxide, vivacious blonde, she confided that at her advanced age, she’s a non-entity back home.

“In my country I’m invisible. Nobody cares about a woman of my age – young people don’t even consider you; they don’t want to deal with middle-aged people unless you’re a relative. It can be really depressing at times.

“Even the government ignored me: as an artist I barely got any support. Most of the grants go to young artists, and in the entire country there’s only one accomplished female artist, and I think that isn’t fair.

“My male friends are quite critical of my relationship with Made, but honestly, if I look at their relationships, I don’t see that they are working so wonderfully. I know from personal experience that Western men, especially artists, can be very egocentric and selfish.

“Made is a bit childish but he can be very sweet and attentive. Nobody is going to take care of me back home. Balinese people, on the contrary, know how to look after you very well. Sometimes I think I want to marry him, but then I’m afraid of losing my freedom.”

Marylyn, 52, an American divorcee with two grown sons, was engaged to a local guy, also called Made, who’s in his 30s and is married with children. Together they ran a diving business that Marylyn had just opened – that is, before she took off to care for an ailing relative back home and hasn’t returned.

“This relationship has given me so much,” she enthused before departing. “I can’t tell you how fulfilling it’s been and how much I’ve learned from Made.

“We’ve just reached an agreement in which the three of us – Made, his wife and I – met and decided that Made is going to spend three days of the week at my place and four days at his village with his wife.

“To me this is fine. I don’t want to take him away from his family, and at the same time I want to respect the feelings that have grown between the two of us, which is beautiful.”

We’re generally unwilling to see women as exploiters, or sex tourists. Women, though, are taking advantage of new freedoms accorded to them by economic and social changes, often without taking into consideration the larger picture – the social impact of their affairs of the heart. Being affluent in a poor country is great – we all know that – but it takes a respectful person not to take advantage.

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