Yawning Bread. June 2006

Yet another exploitative story from the New Paper


    

 

 

The crime that Adrian Yeo was convicted for was possession of 0.16 grams of methamphetamine ("Ice") -- for his own consumption and sharing with possibly two others.

The New Paper covered Yeo's story [1] in exactly three sentences comprising 61 words:

He was sentenced to eight months in jail earlier this week for possession of methamphetamin, or Ice.

He was arrested after a man he chatted with online invited him for a sex session with a third man at a Bencoolen Street hotel.

But the two strangers turned out to be undercover anti-narcotics officers who found drugs on him when he arrived.


The New Paper, 9 June 2006,
front page
  

The rest of the article -- all 806 words of it -- talked about Ice, Ecstasy, cocaine, Viagra, alcohol, sleeping pills, rectums and sex. Gay sex. How gays use drugs, how they have sex, the "gay scene" and every prurient detail necessary to sell more copies of the newspaper.

The word "methamphetamine" was used once (and wrongly spelt). The word "Ice" was used 5 times. "Viagra" also 5 times, Ecstasy 4 times, even though these 2 substances didn't figure in the court case. 

The word "gay" was used 12 times.

The cursory reader of the newspaper story might never realise that firstly, the sexual orientation of Adrian Yeo had nothing to do with the case, and secondly sex didn't even take place.

 

See also the article Courts must pay attention to the quality of justice about how Adrian Yeo was entrapped. Was that justifiable police practice?

 

The choice of phrasing was often unfortunate too. The New Paper spoke about how "Medical houseman Adrian Yeo, 27, saw his entire future flushed down the drain because of his weakness for Ice and gay sex," casting homosexual orientation as something one has a "weakness" for, i.e. an addictive habit.

Then when the details of Yeo's case weren't sufficient to carry the story further, the New Paper disinterred an earlier case about a drug syndicate that catered to gay clients. That story had been front page news on 10 March 2006 [3]

Just 2 months later, in May 2006, this same newspaper ran another exploitative story about gay sex, this time in health clubs, associating gay men with HIV [4].

Barely a month after that, we now have the current, Adrian Yeo story. It's not as if there aren't other drug busts. From the Central Narcotics Bureau's (CNB) website, I see these arrests:

  • 12 April 2006 - 3 suspected traffickers and 114 others arrested. Seized: 12g Ketamine, 2g cannabis, 1g heroin, 78.3g opium, 5 Ecstasy tablets, 43 Erimin-5 tablets;
     
  • 10 May 2006 - 2 persons arrested. Seized: 10 capsules of "Foxy", 4 Ecstasy tablets, 2.3g Ketamine;
     
  • 16 May 2006 - 3 males arrested. Seized: 1.267 kg cannabis;
     
  • 31 May 2006 - 4 suspected traffickers and 124 others arrested. Seized: 140 Erimin-5 tablets, 2g Ketamine;
     
  • 6 June 2006 - 7 persons arrested, including 2 karaoke hostesses. Seized: 67.15g Ketamine.

All these busts were much bigger than Adrian Yeo's -- in fact, Yeo's arrest was considered so minor, it wasn't even listed on the CNB's website as a "success" -- yet I don't recall seeing any of these on the front page of the New Paper. 

That Yeo's case is there to lead yet another gay sex feature tells us they're out to scalp the gay community for commercial gain.

 
The Straits Times wasn't much better

Even the Straits Times was not much better. In its story dated 8 June 2006 [2], it said, "Downward spiral began when he experimented with gay sex and drugs" and then repeated it by saying that Adrian Yeo "spiralled downwards after he started engaging in homosexual sex with strangers he met over the Internet, and taking drugs."

 


Pages 4 and 5 of the New Paper, 9 June 2006

* * * * *


The deliberate slant of the Adrian Yeo story intended to maximise its shock value was thrown into relief by another article in the same issue of the New Paper. On pages 2 and 3 was a story about party girls who had unsafe sex. A doctor from KK Women's Hospital went around the pubs speaking to women about contraception.

In the box at right are excerpts from that contraception article, for you to gauge its tone.

What you see is a rather dry, matter-of-fact style even though what the story was addressing was about women who party, had sex, didn't know or care about precautions and then murdered their babies, which morally speaking may be worse than drugs.

But there's hardly a sentence putting their lifestyle in negative light. The New Paper was very respectful to those women casting them as eager to learn more rather than reckless. Nor would you even find the word "heterosexual".

Why does one story use the word "gay" 12 times and the other not mention the sexual orientation of the party girls? It can only be because "heterosexual" has no shock value, but "gay" has. Which is to say, the gay story was out to exploit it.

* * * * *

 
Is there any real harm, you might ask? Most certainly. The harm is insidious. It comes from the repeated co-mingling of "gay", "drugs" and "sex" in readers' minds. No amount of fine print saying "some gays" can overcome the multiple associations of these key words.

It's like when every time we talk about school kids who aren't doing well in school we regularly roll out a table showing that 91% of Chinese schoolchildren pass their Primary Six examinations, but only 85% of Indians and 73% of Malays do [These are hypothetical figures, by the way, just to make a point]

After a while people keep seeing school performance in race terms, and at the back of our minds, the idea germinates that the reason why Mohammed Farid failed his exams was because he was Malay. We see the issue in terms of race instead of the complex social factors which are the real reasons. At the same time, we start to see the Malay community as a whole as underachieving. Of course, school performance has nothing to do with the colour of one's skin, but the constant harping on school results and race makes us lazy in the head and all too ready to cast aspersions on an entire race as a simple explanation.

The same with the repeated association between gays, drugs and sex.

Yawning Bread 


 

Hard issues, hot spots

The Go girl, take charge! campaign kicked off at the Siam Supper Club on Mohamed Sultan Road on 6 May. Dr Tan Thiam Chye, from KK Women's and Children's Hospital, was on hand to help explain sexual responsibility to the night-clubbers. The informal session was lively, with many questions from the 40 young men and women in the audience.

Said Dr Tan, who is in his 30s 'I spoke to them about preventing unwanted pregnancies. Women can take charge of their own bodies by choosing contraceptives suitable for their lifestyles.'

Many of the women present wanted to know if going on the pill would make them gain weight.

'It's good to know what they are concerned about because then we can give them the right answers,' said Dr Tan. Modern day contraceptive pills, such as Schering's Yasmin, have very little risk of weight gain for users, said Dr Tan.

Ms Jane Chia, 28, a marketing professional who attended the session, said it was an eye-opener. 'Most people think condoms and withdrawal when they think of contraception,' she said.

'Through this session I became more aware of other options such as the pill and intra-uterine devices. Although I don't need it now, it will help me in future when I have a relationship.'

[truncated]

There was a sidebar about abortion. It said,

For the 28-year-old, sex was part of the package of being a successful career woman. Annabelle (not her real name) felt she was in control of every aspect of her life, from her blossoming career in the financial industry, to the men she enjoyed casual relationships with. Until she accidentally became pregnant two years ago.

Then she had two options - have the baby and face the wrath of her parents and the disapproval of her social circle, or go for an abortion. She chose to abort.

She is one of a disturbing number of club-going single women who share a similar lifestyle and have a chance of ending up in a similar situation. The number of legal abortions carried out here in 2004 was 12,070, according to Health Ministry statistics.

'If you take the total live births in 2004, which was 37,174, then it's about one in four pregnancies which get terminated,' said Dr Tan Thiam Chye, an obstetrician and gynaecologist at KK Women's and Children's Hospital.

[truncated]

Footnotes

  1. The New Paper's story is archived in Ice vice.
    Return to where you left off

  2. The Straits Times story is here in Trainee doctor entrapped for drug possession.
    Return to where you left off

  3. This story is archived in Agony and ecstasy.
    Return to where you left off

  4. This story was described in the essay Gay equality: from First world to Third.
    Return to where you left off

  5. See also a commentary by Mr Wang Says So in his blog.

 

Addenda

  1. A reader drew my attention to a letter to the Straits Times, 10 June 2006, by Lionel de Souza, a retired police officer, now private detective. He wrote, "... it causes me great concern to know that a doctor did not only abuse drugs but also indulged in gay sex with partners he met over the Internet."
     
    The reader commented in his email: So what if a doctor engaged in gay sex with partners that he met over the Internet. As you noted the sexual orientation has nothing to do with the case. Does this letter writer think that a heterosexual doctor never had sex with someone they met over the Internet? It seems that the Straits Times was content to let a letter writer stake out the extreme views.