It’s about Bang for Your Buck, Bro: Singaporean Men’s Online Conversations about Sex in Batam, Indonesia

04 January 2017

Studies of sexuality and the Internet have focused on how the web provides individuals with opportunities to perform new sexual acts and establish new sexual communities, thus challenging heteronormative models of sexuality. But Internet bulletin boards and chat rooms can also provide a medium for the recuperation and performance of forms of hetereosexual masculinity that have become marginalised and rendered unacceptable in the offline world. Faced with the challenges of the globalised economy and changing expectations about gender roles in the public and private spheres, some men seek to reclaim power over women through the performance of a hyper-sexualised subjectivity in a homosocial online space. The Sammyboy Times – a commercial sex information site aimed primarily at a Singaporean male audience – is such a space. In its members-only forum about sex tourism to the Indonesian island of Batam, Singaporean men escape from the demands of a heteronormative expression of masculinity predicated on the reproduction of the Singaporean state. But Sammyboy provides much more than a space for the expression of an alternative, transgressive masculinity; it also allows the men to produce a localised form of brotherhood in which the men share information and look out for each other’s welfare in their encounters with Batam’s sex workers. While descriptions of sex acts are ever present in the forum’s ‘international field reports’, we argue that they are a vehicle for fraternity rather than eroticism or competitiveness.