Amid the almost daily allegations of sexual abuse by Hollywood celebrities, there is an understandable response of condemnation and moral indignation.
In Indonesia, a few actors and singers have faced similar accusations in recent years, but the local media tends to jump strongest on men suspected of abusing boys. There is even greater moral outrage when foreigners are accused of sexually exploiting Indonesian women. In such cases, expatriates are often just as eager to denounce their fellow foreigners.
That’s what happened when an American calling himself David Bond arrived in Indonesia in October, preceded by his reputation for seducing and filming Asian women. Online news portal Coconuts Jakarta branded him a racist misogynistic creep and warned that officials were on the lookout for him.
A British YouTuber posted a video about Bond, titled “Indonesia’s Biggest Sex Tourist Exposed.” It soon gained 100,000 views and the comments section attracted a mob mentality of “let’s take this guy down!” Viewers also posted death threats and accusations of sex crimes.
Indonesian headlines warned of “Sex Maniac Bule Seeking Indonesian Women for Adult Movies.” Reports accused Bond of targeting women in poor countries, filming himself having sex with them (without their permission to film), and selling the videos online.
It turns out that Bond is just a media manipulator. You may consider him sleazy and amoral, but he isn’t selling explicit sex tapes. Instead, he profits from his notoriety by selling relatively tame videos online. And he doesn’t fit the stereotypical image of the balding, elderly, overweight, beer-swilling sex tourist. He’s 30 and in good shape.
Bond’s story started in 2013 when he left America for the first time and took a holiday to Japan. Some American friends later sought his advice on how to flirt with Japanese women. This led to an e-guide called “A Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Laid in Japan.” He also started a YouTube channel, showing his encounters with women. He sometimes uses sexy clickbait thumbnails to attract more interest.
In 2014, Bond posted a video shot in Hong Kong, showing one of his friends picking up a woman who had earlier been in the company of a Chinese man. It went viral, generated hostile reactions and made the news. Interviewed by the local media, Bond tried to defend himself but he was repeatedly portrayed as a dangerous Western sexual predator and pornographer. He decided to capitalize on the negative publicity by paying virtual assistants to spread stories that his website contained sex videos. The media took the bait and gave him more attention, resulting in huge sales of his “premium” travel videos – which show him riding a motorbike, visiting temples or just flirting and hanging out with women. Bond replicated his strategy across several countries, courting controversy to cash-in on video sales. He also uses fake Facebook accounts, posing as young Asian women, to leak photos and lewd tales of himself, resulting in more coverage and more sales. He says most of the buyers are Asian men.
Bond says there’s no such thing as bad publicity as all of the online hate, lies and rumours are good for business. In Jakarta, he was warned he would be beaten up by the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), arrested by police and banned by Immigration. None of that happened. He is careful not to reveal his real name, so going through immigration checks at airports is yet to be a problem.
He points out that an Asian-American pick-up artist, who goes by the handle Mike SquattinCassanova, produces similar videos; but doesn’t attract negative publicity in Asia because he is Asian. Then there’s a European guy calling himself John Tron, who films himself having sex with young prostitutes across Asia and sells the videos online. Where’s the moral outrage and hatred against him?
Pick-up Artists & Paying Customers
The community and methods of pick-up artists were made famous in a 2005 book called The Game by Neil Strauss, who is now married with a child and has killed off his pick-up persona. The book proved popular in Jakarta and there was even an unauthorized Indonesian edition of its sequel, The Rules of the Game.
Some male expats claim expertise is not a prerequisite for a sexual relationship in Indonesia. “You don’t need to buy lessons to get laid here,” says one British expatriate. “You just need a personality or money, and Tinder.”
Men who think paying for sex requires skill might enjoy one of Indonesia’s bestselling non-fiction books, Jakarta Undercover (2002), which describes the author’s experiences in various brothels and sex clubs. Written by men’s interest magazine journalist Moammar Emka, the book aims to titillate and inform readers. It spawned two sequels and two dreadful movies. In the third book, Moammar visits a brothel specializing in girls aged 14–19. He drools over their fresh faces and small bodies and ends up singing the praises of a 17-year-old girl. Moral outrage? None. He went on to write another sex guidebook called Jakarta X-plorer.
Filming sex is riskier than writing about it. Sex tape scandals have become common in Indonesia. One of the earliest was in 2001 when two college students, Amed and Nanda, filmed themselves having fun in a Jakarta hotel room. Amed took the film to a local video compact disc (VCD) shop to make some private copies. A worker at the shop, Yayan, saved a copy, which was later uploaded to the internet and spread like wildfire. Police arrested Yayan and his colleagues. The two students were also arrested but charges against them were later dropped on the grounds they had never intended to share their film.
Less lucky was pop star Nazril “Ariel” Irham, lead singer of the band Peterpan (now called Noah), who was fond of filming himself having sex with various girlfriends. He was arrested in June 2010 after videos were posted online, showing him copulating with actresses Luna Maya and Cut Tari. The videos were copied from his laptop by a Peterpan employee, Reza Rizaldy, whose cousin posted them online. Ariel was in 2011 sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jail and fined Rp.250 million for distributing pornography, while Reza received a two-year sentence. There were rumours Ariel was punished because one of his girlfriends was linked to a prominent businessman.
In 2003, police arrested a fashion photographer, Budi Han, who in October 1997 secretly filmed six models getting changed at his studio in Tebet, South Jakarta. Shooting through a two-way mirror, Budi’s two assistants recorded the women in various states of nudity. Some of the footage was later transferred to VCD and posted online. Three of the models reported Budi to police. He initially denied any wrongdoing but soon offered “peace money” of Rp.50 million (then US$5,150) to some of the victims. South Jakarta District Court gave him just one year in jail. Two of his assistants received ten-month jail terms, while the agent who brought the women to the studio received nine months. Today, Budi still works as a fashion photographer from the same premises. No massive, public, moral outrage.
Soap Casting Scam
In 2000, a Jakarta-based video production company called Indochroma Proadvi recruited women and girls for casting sessions for a spurious soap advertisement. They were asked to undress and simulate bathing with soap. Nine of them, aged 16–22, were recorded and the footage was released in 2002 on a VCD called Soap Ad Casting. A key suspect in the case was the casting director, George Irvan, who worked as a voiceover man for Metro TV. Prosecutors recommended a jail sentence of six months, but Central Jakarta District Court ruled him not guilty because he had not produced the pornographic VCDs and he thought the nude footage would be deleted. The Supreme Court quietly upheld his acquittal in 2005. Zero moral outrage.
Indecency, Bribery & Indifference
In recent years, moral outrage has been magnified by the proliferation of social media and smartphones, coupled with Indonesia’s political exploitation of conservative Islam and homophobia. In February 2016, actor and dangdut singer Saipul Jamil, the ex-husband of scandalous actress Dewi Persik, was widely criticized after being arrested on suspicion of sexually abusing a 17-year-old boy. When Saipul went on trial at North Jakarta District Court, state prosecutors recommended a seven-year sentence. At the behest of his lawyer and a clerk of the court, he provided a bribe of Rp.250 million and was in June 2017 sentenced to three years in jail. The following month, he received an additional three years for bribery, on top of having his initial sentence extended to five years.
Sexploitation in Indonesia comes in many forms. Likewise, sex tourism comes in many guises, from Singaporeans visiting brothels on neighbouring Batam Island to Japanese women paying for sex with young men in Bali, and Australian paedophiles seeking boys on the same resort island. Obviously, any sexual activity without consent is wrong, as is child abuse. While it’s easy to denounce alleged abusers with a public profile, consider that most cases of child sexual abuse in Indonesia occur within families or a school environment. Often, there’s no outrage or justice for these victims.