What a Cheek!
By William J. Furney
The Bali Times
Gosh. People in Bali don’t seem to have heard about a harsh, new anti-pornography law recently passed by pious minds in Jakarta, one that carries hefty fines and jail terms for any suggestion of nudity that might lead to thoughts (or actions) of a carnal nature.
And that seems odd, given the uproar here at the time, and mass street demonstrations against the draconian bill.
At Legian Beach in Seminyak on Sunday, we settled into our sunbeds beside a powerfully attractive Indonesian woman who was soaking up the rays au naturel. Fretting that she might cause distress to some visitors to the family friendly area, a woman who sells fruit on the beach suggested that the man who rents the beds tell her to cover up. She did, this all-but-naked delight from Singaraja, barely, and turned her iPod speakers up.
If you’re in feverish Kuta, you’ll notice exposed attempts at swaying you into certain places of entertainment. Apparently sex sells. Lining the outer walls of one venue is a towering image of woman clad only in a g-string, her back turned and head cast back in a seductive gaze, and a promotion for women who glow in the dark, with the aid of plastic attachments. They’re called Fluoro Dancers, and one would imagine they are quite illuminating in the dark of a nightspot. I won’t contravene the new legislation by showing you an image I took (of the poster).
Elsewhere, clubs try to entice patrons in with scantily clad nubiles cavorting outside. That has the local government miffed; it calls them “sexy dancers.” I tried in vain to think of a more apt term, during an interview on Australian radio last week, but, slightly mentally challenged at the time, failed. Some appear freakishly insect-like as they wobble about on puffed-out stilts.
Government officials here don’t appear prudish, though – some even went as far as saying Bali would ignore the new anti-porn law, due to the island’s open-minded culture. They don’t mind the scantily clad young ones doing their thing as long as they’re not doing it in full public view, where it might offend. That’s fine. But Bali is also a holiday spot for families with young children, especially from Australia. Then again, Australia seems to be a place where young people of either sex dress up to go out in less-than-underwear.
The Balinese themselves, however, unlike in other parts of the country, with the exception of Papua, appear intensely more relaxed about skin-baring. Balinese women have for centuries not worn garments on their upper body, as it’s cooler, and a lot still don’t cover up. It’s a dying tradition, of course, like so many, and today it is chiefly aged Balinese women who wander about topless, as they have their entire lives.
How sentiments have changed, though. In a feature story on topless Balinese in this newspaper a few years ago, youngish family members – male and female – said they were “ashamed” at their grannies’ bareness and young women said they wouldn’t even consider this “old-fashioned” way of (un)dressing. We shall chalk that down to the effects that modernisation – the associated close cousin of globalisation – has had on Bali’s distinctive culture and ways of life.
Balinese art, meanwhile, can be as erotic as you like, with painters and carvers honing in, highlighting and dissecting the human form. Streets are lined with scenes, images and renderings of concupiscent couples and body parts exaggerated and blown up. It’s a libidinous paradise, smack in the heart of a conservative Muslim country. Which leads many to deem Bali as a nation in its own right. Huh, capital Jakarta?
One of the country’s leading businessmen echoed that leaning when I met him here this week: “Bali always feels different,” he said.
Indeed it does.
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