11 July 2024

Thai men have deservedly received a fair share of “male chauvinism” criticism. But that cannot be the only reason why domestic abuse cases featuring them as victims have never made it to the court. In contemporary Thailand, the “sexism” culture exists side by side a weird and ironic reality where the females turn from hunted and defenseless creatures into scary powers-that-be overnight.

People hailing the #MeToo movement and viewing Amber Heard either as a villainess or heroine must spare some thoughts for the helpless Thai men, who have never done and will never do a Johnny Depp. Of course, some of Thai males are too controlling or powerful to worry about their women attempting to do or doing an Amber Heard. However, many others have a reason more profound _ or some may say more pathetic _ than that.

When women don’t speak up, they are scared. That’s what the #MeToo movement is all about. They must be brave and strong enough to overcome taunts, scrutiny into every aspect of your private life, as well as a strong possibility that you will be doing it all for nothing. When Thai men do not speak up, it’s not about bravery or cowardice, or strength or lack of it. It’s about something else.

Watch Pentor. The series is a comedy but it reflects some hard truths about many Thai men. Yom lies to Jeh Mint all the time but he has never thought about hitting her, let alone raising a hand. The same goes for Wok, the sex maniac who tries to court every woman in sight. Ood is beaten up by his wife in every other episode but he will never fight back or take her to court.

What do the three men have in common? The answer is that they think they are guilty and deserve to be punished. They never think they are being “abused”. They never call or consider themselves victims of domestic violence. They blame themselves. The most they do is try to outrun their ferocious women.

Read Phol Nikorn Kim-nguen. (If you are old enough, that is.) Again, the fictional characters are for laugh, yet a large number of Thai men are like them in real life. They are chased around and stalked by their girls, and in many cases slapped, kicked, elbowed and bombarded by dangerous missiles. Would they sue them or file complaints? Not a chance. They consider themselves “guilty” and therefore deserving of the assaults.

Make no mistake about it, unremorseful and abusive Thai men are aplenty. But so are those repentant to the point of accepting any punishment coming at them. Comedies about naughty Thai men being mice scared stiff of their kittens-turned-tigresses (either it’s wives or girlfriends) are too rampant to be considered a product of escapism or anti-realism.

The parallel world exists. Stories about Thai males on a binge putting their mobile phones in a basket so that the owner of the one that rings first pays the bill are hilarious, but this kind of scenario is not overstretched, and it says a lot.

Call them cowards, but there is another reason, too. This reason is quite romantic. It’s called  “love.”

Why do these men, many of them are big, or wear high-ranking uniforms to work, or are “mafia” in their neighborhoods, never think about reining in their women who are virtually half their sizes? Fear cannot be the only answer. There must be something else holding them back, in many cases without them knowing it.

To be fair to Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, they are certainly not soulmates, considering what they have dragged each other through. Men kowtowing to girls exist everywhere, but you will be hard-pressed to find a country with more literature, TV dramas, and films about men in awe of their women.

We don’t know what really happened between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard in their private moments. There could be something the jury had not been told or the couple had decided to keep to themselves. The social media, meanwhile, are too prejudiced while being totally unaware of untold information to be worthy of being the judge in the “He said, she said” episode.

But while we may never know the truth behind alleged domestic violence when Depp and Amber were together, we can tell that love must have run dry between the former couple right now. When someone is trying to protect his or her dignity at the expense of the one he or she used to love, we know that much.

That there are Thai men who don’t seek to protect theirs although a popular norm says they should tell a thousand words.

By Tulsathit Taptim