Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Toy Boy Club

New Paper
13 April 2009

Some S'porean women spend hundreds of dollars or more to flirt with the toy boys in these KTV clubs

Tai-tai: I visit club because I can't resist temptation

By Maureen Koh and Tan Kee Yun

IN her own words, she's happily married to a businessman who lavishes her with expensive gifts and dotes on their sons.

Her two teenage boys are 'good kids, obedient and respectful'.

But all that is not stopping the 42-year-old tai-tai from seeking - and paying for - the company of toyboys at karaoke clubs.

Yes, she said she knows that her nights out could easily tear the family apart, as her husband thinks she's out playing mahjong with her tai-tai friends.

Yet, said Madam Wang, who agreed to be interviewed on condition we did not use her full name: 'The temptation is just too irresistible.

'I'd feel something was missing if I had to skip one of my regular visits to the club.'

Her regular haunt is one of several KTV-like clubs catering to women that have sprouted across Singapore.

There are at least 11 such clubs, all of which opened in the past year.

Young, good-looking men sing, dance and cuddle up with women like MadamWang at these places.

The New Paper on Sunday team spent four nights over three weeks at seven clubs in areas such as Tanjong Pagar, Katong, Jalan Besar and Shenton Way.

Women easily made up 95 per cent of the clubs' clientele - and they were treated like queens.

Whether it was raucous sleaze or discreet fun, everyone got a chance with the male hosts.

When we first spotted Madam Wang at a club in Jalan Besar around 7pm on a weekday, she was on a high chair, leaning across the glass-top table, smiling at a Thai host.

He held a slice of watermelon, teasing her. Each time she was about to nibble at the watermelon, he'd move his hand away and her lips would nearly meet his.

The routine, repeated several times in the four hours that Madam Wang was at the club, left her giggling.

She said later: 'It may sound silly to you, but he made me feel young all over again. That's one feeling I don't get from my husband any more.'

That 'youthful feeling' comes at a price. The bill for about three hours of chatting, entertainment, a plate of fruits and three jugs of beer for our team at the club came to nearly $500.

Madam Wang said she spends about $1,500 each night. If she takes a male host out to supper, it can set her back by another $150 an hour.

'Selling dreams'

Such clubs are successful because they 'sell dreams' - as it says in the club's tag line. At such places, said psychologist Richard Lim, women can 'indulge in the thrill of an alpha-female relationship' and 'fulfil their needs to be desired'. (See report on page 14.)

The club's black, wooden doors appear intimidating. But the door bitch (or bouncer) was far less intimidating than those you're likely to encounter at some other clubs.

She is likely to usher you into the dimly-lit club without much fuss - even if you have not made a reservation.

With a friendly smile, she settled her guests into the sofas, couch seats or bar stools - all arranged in a mix-and-match fashion.

There is no dress code. Women customers were dressed mostly in office attire or simple black dresses.

At two-hour intervals, about 30 male entertainers from Thailand, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea - and even Singapore - took turns to strut on the stage.

They were geared up to dazzle in smart, fashionable attire.

Some wore body-hugging shirts or tight tees that showed off their toned muscular arms. Others were suited up in sleek leather jackets and black pants.

And almost all of them sported immaculately waxed and tousled hair, like trendy pop celebrities.

After the emcee called out their numbers - no names - they stepped up and mumbled into the mike. Most times, we couldn't really hear what they said, except the names of their countries.

What followed was like what goes on in Thai discos where customers can buy flowers for their favourite entertainers, with the two floor managers approaching customers to stake their claim on their choice for the night.

Garlands of plastic flowers were priced at $30, $50 and $80, while sashes started from $100 and went up to $1,000.

There was no live band. The men sang karaoke-style and performed with much gusto and improvised dance moves.

Results varied drastically, ranging from some who could do a nifty imitation of professional singers to those who seemed to be tone-deaf.

But singing appeared to be secondary. Most of the men were young and hunky, with some sporting model looks.

Making their rounds

The men went from table to table between their sets to chat or play dice games over drinks.

They flirted and teased, sometimes with a hand on the lap, or an arm across the shoulder, a whisper or just holding hands.

Think simple 'boyfriend touches' - an effect that is probably lacking in the women's lives.

There were no vulgar moves in the club, except for the occasional over-indulgent woman. One was locked in a tight embrace with a Chinese entertainer - despite the presence of her eight women friends.

The Chinese host seemed to be the most popular, getting about $1,800 worth of garlands and sashes whenever he sang.

While the owner of the club declined to be interviewed, he insisted that the club was 'like any other normal karaoke club'.

What takes place after closing hours is beyond his control, he added.

That is when the story becomes murky, with some women and the men singing different tunes, as we discovered during our stake-out...


New Paper
13 April 2009

They're not just looking for sex

Experts say women visit such clubs so they can feel loved and desired

By Maureen Koh and Tan Kee Yun

DO the rising number of clubs catering to women - at least 11 which have opened in under a year - necessarily mean that women are becoming bolder or wilder?

No. It could be a sign of emotional angst.

Loneliness, said psychologist Richard Lim, is often a silent killer of marriages.

'Often, it hits women more than men,' said Dr Lim, who has been practising relationship counselling for more than 10years.

'And illicit affairs can sometimes fulfil a woman's need to be desired.'

Women who only visit such clubs may not even feel that they have broken their marriage vows.

Dr Lim explained: 'For them, they think it's harmless flirting, nothing more. And they feel that as long as sex is not involved, there's no real sense of being unfaithful.'

But it appears that sex is sometimes involved. And that, of course, may lead to complications and difficulties.

Seeking comfort

Ms Chang H M, 49, principal therapist at Care Corner Counselling Centre, told The New Paper on Sunday: 'Most of these women head to such clubs to seek comfort in their lives.

'For many years, they could not feel the love from their husbands, so from their point of view, it could very well be a scenario like this: 'Since my husband is out all the time working and making money, with no time for me at all, I'll go out, enjoy myself and spend his money'.'

She added: 'Every woman needs love. And for those few hours they are in the club, the young, handsome men working there are able to shower them with love that their husbands aren't able to.'

Sexual pleasure for women is usually closely linked to emotion, said Ms Chang.

'We cannot deny that some ladies do want to indulge in the enjoyment of sex with those young boys, but it's likely that most just want to feel loved, and are not looking for merely the physical act itself,' she added.

But Ms Chang said one should not judge and criticise the women's actions. Instead, there is a need to find out what lies at the core of their need for attention.

Ms Lim Puay Leng, 32, a senior social worker with Fei Yue Community Services, agreed.

She said: 'In many cases, the main reason for a woman seeking 'alternatives' to her marriage is that her husband is unable to meet her emotional needs.

'Some become very depressed because they are unable to get their husband's attention, and they can't share their misery with anyone else.'

Ms Lim felt that in any breakdown of a relationship in which one party has strayed, it was important to hear both parties' voices.

She explained: 'It's never one side who is totally wrong.'

Ms Lim said that in recent years, though the number of men involved in extra-marital affairs still ranks significantly higher than the number of women who do so, she has witnessed 'an increase in men who call counsellors suspecting their wives (are) straying'.


New Paper
13 April 2009

One host promises our reporter...

'I'll make you feel like a woman again'

WHILE most of the club performers do not end up in bed with their woman customers, some welcome the extra income.

When The New Paper on Sunday team first visited one club, one of the men offered 'more personal attention away from the public eyes' - for $150 an hour.

Number 70 - as he was introduced - also promised the reporter: 'You won't be disappointed with my service, guaranteed to make you feel like a woman again.'

All the 22 women customers who spoke to us insisted they did not have sex with the male hosts.

But the men told a different story. Most claimed that some women would drop hints about taking the entertainment to another level. And there were others who asked about rates openly.

Budget hotels were the most common rendezvous spots.

To prove he would be worth the money, No70, who is from Shanghai, provided a referral - Madam Wang.

He pointed to her and said: 'I saw you talking to her, you can ask her what she thought of my service.'

When we asked Madam Wang, she initially insisted that she only chatted with him.

But pressed further, she added: 'He was good, I was happy, but it's not all the way like you think it is.'

She did not want to give more details and subsequently avoided our calls.

But for the men at the club, extra activity can only happen after work.

The 26-year-old man did not want to confirm if the club owner knew or approved of his moonlighting.

He said: 'Let's just say we keep each other mutually happy with whatever arrangement we have.'

There was also the personal attention this reporter got from another host, Number 89 from Thailand.

He has been here for about a month and has picked up Cantonese from a fellow Thai.

Going out for supper was fine, but No 89 hesitated when asked if he'd consider other activities.

He claimed: 'I usually like to keep it clean and simple for first-time customers, until I'm really familiar with you.'

But that did not keep him from giving us his undivided attention.

And when we left abruptly on the first night while he was on the stage, he looked genuinely dejected.

Back for more

On our second night, he came by our table and said: 'Oh what happened that night? You didn't even tell me you were going off.'

And when he realised we had spoken to two other boys, he smiled sadly before walking away.

Later, when we revealed that we are journalists, No 89 claimed he 'knew there was something different about the group'.

Added the 28-year-old host: 'I felt you were special but I didn't realise how 'special'.'

While he professed his eagerness to make a new friend, No 89 declined to be photographed.

He was only willing to share 'stuff that were not trade secrets'.

The hosts don't have a basic salary and most of them are here on social visit passes.

He claimed: 'Those who don't have a permit are told to claim they're customers if there are any checks.'

The real money they make, he added, comes from the garlands and sashes, and the drinks that customers order for the night.

Said No 89: 'The percentage varies from boy to boy, depending on our popularity. The hotter ones get a bigger cut.'

On an average, they can easily earn $3,000 to $4,000 a month.

He added: 'But the really popular ones can make up to even $2,000 a night.'

Not all the men are comfortable with physical flirting or teasing. Jeed, 28, a Thai, spoke of his short and unpleasant stint at the club.

He had worked previously as a singer at the Thai pubs in Chinatown and Golden Mile.

Jeed confided that he 'didn't know what I was getting into' when he signed on for a stint at this club.

But when he realised it was so different from his previous gigs, where he got to sing with a live band and even had dancers backing him up, he said he 'felt bored'.

He later returned to his hometown, Chiangmai.

- Additional reporting from Gan Ling Kai

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