Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Will the real moral police please stand up?

I hate to write another post on this, but the hullabaloo of "sexphotogate" in HK over the past weeks has led me to realise one thing:

Chinese morality is a soap opera, and has little or no relations to prinicipled deliberations.

Why would I think that? Witness a typical comment:

"若果今次受害人勇於站出來,承認一切,譴責放相人,我相信,所有人會同情、支持佢地,年少輕狂、誰人未試過?當天遇人不淑,引致今天惡果,錯不在他們,承認當年年少無知,希望香港人支持他撐落去,試問那一個香港人還可以不動容?網民會支持誠實勇敢的藝人,正如當年同樣被人公開裸照,她勇於出來面對公眾的藝人一樣,網民最反感的是,那些不肯承認真相,還要保住甚麼形像的偽人!" (cited from the comment page from thosewerethedays)

The victims are being asked to come out and admit the truth, to beg for support, forgiveness and sympathy from the general public. You know, just like one of those misguided-girl-made-good plotlines from the melodramatic TVB serials.

I'm sorry, but the above attitude makes me puke.

When has Hong Kong turned into a place where VICTIMS have to beg for forgiveness?????????

I thought only in places like certain countries in the Middle-East with Taliban regimes, would one find that victims of sexual violence are being blamed for their victimisation, whose only recourse is to beg for sympathy, often from the actual perpetrators themselves.

And I can't believe I actually need to spell out who are the victims and the perpetrators in this case, but given the extent to which debates have been muddied by massive schadenfreude and self-serving bias, they have to be pointed out again.

The victims include all the stars involved, for their privacy (both in terms of their private sex lives as well as their physical anatomy) have been grossly infringed upon if the photos are in fact real (which many people think they are, in fact, almost all netizens concerned are highly derisive of those who maintained that the photos are fake). The victim status of the female stars concerned is obvious to almost all people, but even so, a great many saw fit to blame the victims for their apparent stupidity in their private sex lives, and even more outrageously, for their so-called "dishonesty" in misleading the public due to their previously squeaky-clean image. Unsavoury name-calling abound, with variations of the "whore" epithet being substituted for the names of the female stars.

Excuse me, I must be missing something, but when has sex between two consenting adults who are both single at the time and who wish to keep their private life private became a grave moral offense in Hong Kong society???????? FFS we're not even talking about a threesome or an extra-marital affair here, so where the heck is the scandal???????? Are girls "whores" because they dared to have sex before marriage??????? Are we living in the 1950s?????????

Oh apparently, their fault is that they are celebrities. See, according to the ill-conceived logic of a sizeable segment of the HK population, once people become performers and have a public profile they are obliged to tell the public EVERYTHING. Apparently they have eaten the salted fish so everything is up for grabs, including their private parts.

The people with such sincerely-held beliefs about their right to know all the minutiae of celeb lives didn't realise that they are the ones who are morally-suspect even while they rejoice in playing the role of moral police in judging the alleged sexual misdemeanours of the stars. Having poked their noses into private affairs that are clearly none of their business, they don't have the gumption to feel ashamed, but rather feel indignant at the victims themselves for "not really saying anything". How dare they keep quiet and not snake our thirst for gossip!

The victims don't even have the right to remain silent, it seems.

But this is not even the end of it. According to many respectable bloggers, the male star concerned is not a victim at all, but a perpetrator, because he (1) engaged in deviant sex acts (cunninlingus and bjs, apparently) with multiple partners; (2) had the perversity to photograph / film his sexual escapades with his various partners AND store these materials; (3) was negligent in protecting his personal data, allowing such compromising materials to be leaked out to the public domain.

Those who are making the points (1) and (2) above, please look into the mirror, and recognise that you have just become a proud member of Hong Kong's newest moral police, arbitrating on what is to be deemed morally-appropriate sexual behaviours between consenting adults.

To be sure, almost all girls would prefer their ideal partners to be devoted only to them and not be a player, and probably very few would prefer to be photographed / filmed during sex and certainly no girl would wish their ex to keep such materials once the relationship is over. However, that is not to say that those who do engage in the above are necessarily a pervert.

Edison Chen may well have voyeuristic tendencies, as one of the media reports quoted a psychologist as saying. However, the real voyeurs in this sorry state of affairs, make no mistake, are members of THE CHINESE PUBLIC, who get a rise out of viewing free celeb porn. To quote a member of the peeping-tom brigade, they are happily "popping peanuts and watching the good show".

The key difference this time round, is that this is NOT your usual legitimate internet porn. These are explicit materials that have been released WITHOUT THE SUBJECTS' CONSENT. None whatsoever. All the stars concerned have released statements as soon as the story broke that they condemn the dissemination of such materials. You didn't pay for them. They were not sold to you, UNLIKE Paris Hilton's video.

In fact, the oft-used Paris Hilton analogy is wayyyyyyyyy off. Hilton has been freely expressing her sexuality and flashing her private bits to camera way before the video came out, and the more intimate exposure of her sex life did not caused a fundamental shift in her reputation. In contrast, at least one of the female stars concerned in this case have been seen as clean-cut girls-next-doors, whilst one has recently become a mother determined to "set a good example for her son", and another has already retired from the HK pop scene. If we're really to draw parrallels with current Western stars, it'd be more like Anne Hathaway or Angelina Jolie having their sex photos with say, Robbie Williams, leaked to the public. And while such news would still be sensational in celebrity gossip mags in the West, somehow I don't think these would make headline news in all major newspapers for days on end, nor would Western audiences be berating the stars for being "dishonest" about their private sex lives.

So who are the real perpetrators?

From where I stand, the key crime is and always has been infringement of privacy, while the dissemination of indecent materials online is a far more secondary concern. (After all, as many bloggers also pointed out, explicit adult materials are available in the public domain without any legal implications as long as proper warning labels are attached). It is extremely unfortunate that the police relied on the second far lesser charge in its arrest warrant, and even more unfortunate in their arbitrary detainment of a suspect without bail for eight days for such a minor charge, which called into question its adherence to the rule of law while being agents for law enforcement themselves.

But for those who have helped proliferate such private materials in the public domain, say hello to the real perpertrators. (What, you thought only the first guy who uploaded them online was to blame? How naive of you. But while naivete may be a mitigating factor, it doesn't excuse the crime for being party to gross infringement of individual privacy).

Of course, when a mob of gossip-hungry self-righteous joe publics have already passed judgement about the rights and wrongs of a case like this, it is nigh on impossible for any plea for reasoned debate to be heard in the court of public opinion. It is very, very difficult to be told that one is the perpetrator him/herself. The group is never wrong, according to the rules of the mob, and if one of its members were to be made an example of, then woe betide the law enforcers for daring to challenge the received wisdom of the group for their god-given right to infringe on the privacy of the individual. Of course, the law enforcers in this case have their own agendas, and relish the opportunity to flex their muscles and command compliance from a populace that has long lost its taste for draconian authority. Everyone is looking for political advantage from the scandal, and in the process, the fall-out has created another set of victims:

Us.

Taliban-like morality regarding sexual mores, together with a seemingly cavalier attitude towards due process by agents of law enforcement, have taken hold in HK society. Not to mention the fact that an open season has now been declared on individual privacy, whereby it is considered de rigueur for any person to have his/her private life unvoluntarily and unceremoniously exposed in public, so long as the person could be deemed a celebrity in some shape or form (those well-established bloggers who vehemently promote the idea that it is okay to pry into celebs' sex lives, should keep their fingers crossed that their own online celebrity won't bring similar karma to themselves and their loved ones in the future just because of a moment of heroic self-righteousness). In the end, the victims are the people, and who could we blame but ourselves?

[updated: Finally, I discovered a post by a Chinese blogger who could best express my viewpoint on the whole incident - see Hung One Bean's citation of Achoii's comment. A more thorough and humane reading of the whole sorry affair is also provided by the ever level-headed Man in Central.

On the other hand, I'm really disappointed to read the latest post by Thosewerethedays who once again failed to distinguish the public from the private, and who failed to understand the point made by Julian Baggini (the British ethics expert he cited to lend gravitas to his blog post but whose main contention completely escapes him), about the fundamental difference between holders of public office versus those who simply have a public profile due to their position as a performing artist. The most hilarious thing is how this blogger tried to smear those who argue for the importance of individual privacy as "moral police", which shows up his complete lack of understanding of the meaning of the phrase (hint: it's used to identify those zealots who insist on imposing public moral codes on private affairs). Hah, this guy really should look himself in the mirror.]

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2 Comments:

At Wed Feb 06, 10:25:00 p.m. GMT, Blogger laichungleung said...

I read this a couple of times.

I do think this is a well written and well argued post. Well, you don't need me to tell you. Anyway.

Have a great Chinese New Year.

 
At Sat Feb 09, 06:02:00 p.m. GMT, Blogger Snowdrops said...

Thanks very much LCC for your kind comment even though this was such a reactionary post.

Happy Year of the Rat to you too! (Left a greeting on your blog just in time for the New Year a couple of days ago).

Gung Hei Fat Choi to everyone :)

 

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