Friday, October 26, 2007

Sex Scandals: Why Vietnam Got it Right

In the United States, its hip to be a whore! If you think that statement too strong, perhaps you simply aren't paying attention.

Over the past few years, sex has been so trivialized and perverted in the west that it hardly bears resemblance any longer to the intimate gift between husband and wife God intended it to be. Reality shows, movies, magazines and even the "female pornography" disguised as a romance novel have made an indelible mark on sexuality in the US. The most tangible example of this fact is seen anytime an American celebrity is caught in a compromising position. The one-night-stands and sex tapes shown on entertainment TV barely elicit a yawn. Maybe this is why what has happened recently in Vietnam has our western culture surprised . . .even shocked, that someone is actually facing consequences for their behavior.

BBC News reports that Vietnamese television star Hoang Thuy Linh's highly popular Vang Anh's Diaries has been cancelled by Vietnam Television due to a sex tape featuring the 19-year old that made its way to the internet. "This is the most scandalous and controversial thing that has ever happened in Vietnam's virtual world," says journalist Hung Nguyen.

Her TV show featured the adult Linh portraying Vang Anh, a Vietnamese student whose character has become highly popular among young teens. The average viewer is 14, and according to the BCC article, the show's cancellation has ignited a firestorm on the web. Does she deserve to be punished for her behavior? Is sympathy currently her greatest need? Is there a necesity to apologize for what she has done?

For the most part, the responses from around the world have been, well, rather western:

Seoul resident Jenny Howard laments that such a "big deal" has been made of this incident by Vietname television, and suggests that there are much greater threats to a civilized society than two young people having sex. "We see suicide bombers killing hundreds of people on TV, insugents killing and mainming hostages and yet a bit of two people enjoying themselves and we are in fear of society."

Further and harsher criticism came from Brazilian resident James Smith, who claimed that the problem is cultural oppression: "This is typical of repressive societies. The first thing they try to control is your sex life. If you permit them to tell you when, how and with whom to have sex, controlling everything else is easy. This is why religions and other despotic regimes are anti-sex. The world will be better off when we are rid of both."

Talk about killing a mouse with a Sherman tank!

For one thing, these is a huge difference between bring punished by legal authorities for breaking the law, and having your television show cancelled because you don't have the good sense to keep your most private moments private. There are currently no reports of Linh being prosecuted or "oppressed" in the sense that any of her freedoms are being taken away.

In the western world where drunk-driving hollywood stars are merely slapped on the proverbial wrist, it is apparently very hard to draw a distinction between the penal code and tacit societal approval. Nevertheless, lets set the record straight here: Linh lost her tv show, and subsequently, her huge cultural influence, because of risque behavior. No one is jailing her for life or strapping her to a gurney, which makes talk of "oppression" seem just a bit like overkill.

I'm guessing the reason the west has reacted so to this issue is because on the other side of the pond, Pamela Anderson, Paris Hilton and a host of others have only grown in influence over American society. Bare it all in Vietnam, lose your show. Bare it all in America, gain a reality show!

To be sure, I sincerely feel for this young lady, whose life has now been irreversibly affected by what she no doubt admits was a stupid move. Additionally, I find it strange that no one has made any pejorative statements about Linh's boyfriend, who reportedly filmed the "event." Although we can't be sure how the video made its way to the web, I'm betting the boyfriend, in a search for fame via his bedding of a famous actress, had something to do with it.

At the same time, those who are flooding the web with their input into this whole fiasco have one thing right: there are societal consequences both ways. In the US, the consequences of such behavior are greater fame (more people recognize Anna Nicole Smith than Abraham Lincoln) and subsequently, greater influence over a culture that has, surprisingly, become ever-more sexualized. Sexual activity has increased exponentially as a result, with some children as young as 9 and 10 enjoying their "friends with benefits." Middle-school aged girls are now required in some areas to receive an HPV vaccine, assuming that their sexual activity before marriage is a foregone conlcusion. Abercrombie and Fitch, Hollister and Company and others sensationalize sexuality in a desparate effort to market their clothing to teens and pre-teens.

Meanwhile in Vietnam, a nation decided not to promote such behavior. The result was that a promising, but naive young lady lost her television show.

Which would you choose?

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