After taking a nap, I stumbled upon this odd story on Tuoitrenews and am compelled to write out.
The article is about proposed fines on prostitutes and clients but one thing weird is the phrase “sex of an obscene nature”.
To cut to the chase, “sex of an obscene nature” with a prostitute will incur a fine of $476, ten times more than the fine for normal paid sex.
Well, I can agree to the logic that the dirtier the sex is, the more money you have to pay (sounds acceptable).
Also, the proposal has threesome or foursome pay heavier fines, which is fine since at least we have specific parameters.
But when it comes to “sex of an obscene nature”, I am at a loss.
Worse, the security ministry, which drafted the legal proposal, fails to offer any definition or explanation.
According to an online dictionary, “obscene” means “offensive or disgusting by accepted standards of morality and decency” or “offensive to moral principles; repugnant”.
So what is socially or culturally accepted norms when it comes to sex?
And who sets out the norms?
While it is relatively easy to say what is obscene and what is not in the US as the country has obscenity laws, many other parts of the world including Việt Nam do not have them.
If there is no legal definition, it is open to interpretation and a fertile land for corruption.
Need I talk about corruption in Việt Nam?
As far as I understand, the Ministry of Public Security could have meant S&M, bestiality or other socially unaccepted sexual acts
(I bet bestiality is out of the question since this only involves paid sex and no one pays to have sex with an animal).
So what do they mean by “sex of an obscene nature”?
Guesswork leads me to the American legal phrase “deviate sexual intercourse”.
According to the US law, “deviate sexual intercourse” means any contact between the genitals of one person and the mouth or anus of another person.
But even If my speculation is correct, the Việt Nam’s draft decree is still confusing as it does not explain anything.
This is a legal guide and supposed to be unambiguous.
However, even when the definition is given, who is to say for sure if their sex at a closed hotel room is “deviate” or not.
It’s not like they have a camera recording their sexual activities to be submitted to a panel of judges who would analyze and decide whether the client is “obscene” towards their girl or not.
More often than not, the prostitute and her customer are caught in the act by surprise and inspectors really have no idea what activities couple has engaged in, except when they catch them red-handed with S&M tools or toys.
But do S&M and sex toys constitute “obscenity”?
The Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security is mute on that.
If the ministry really wants to use the phrase, it must give a definition and list out some banned acts.
I bet they won’t due to Việt Nam’s culturally conservative nature especially when it comes to the birds and the bees.
According to Tuoitrenews, the original Vietnamese words for “obscene” is “đồi trụy”.
As I asked my Vietnamese friends what “đồi trụy” meant, I heard definitions like “sexy” “nude” “pornographic”, “lustful”…
If that is true, ALL (100%) sexual acts are of a “đồi trụy” nature.
When I pry deeper, my local friends googled and gave me the following Wiktionary definition:
“Đồi trụy” means:
“Đi ra ngoài khuôn khổ những gì được cho là đúng, ngoan, tốt, không được xã hội chấp nhập.
Khác thường, không được truyền thống.”
or going beyond what is considered right, wise; not accepted by society; abnormal, not traditional.
But exactly what it entails and what are examples of a “đồi trụy” act, none can tell (including the security ministry, I guess).
Personally for me, all sex is of an obscene or deviate nature, to some degree, be it with prostitutes or with one’s spouse.
(You can check this next time before criticizing me).
And what happens between consensual adults in a closed room should stay in the closed room. I always disagree with sodomy laws criminalizing “unnatural or immoral” sex (to use Wikipedia words) like oral, anal sex. But at least, they have some definitions there.
Next time you go to bed, remember to be nice culturally and be refined, moral and non-deviate in doing it with your mate.
By JOE T. PHẠM