A few weeks ago, while surfing on the Bukit, Bali’s southernmost peninsula, where the population is small and the waves big, I paddled my board out among a group of three young Japanese surfers who were obviously on vacation. They chatted among themselves, not really giving me much notice, when suddenly one of the men punched his fist up in the air, victory style, and yelled, “Banzai!”
To which one of the other guys responded, “Doko?”
“Banzai!” the guy said again. “Oppai! Oppai desu!” (“Breasts! Breasts!”).
His friend looked toward the topless female tourists sunbathing on the beach and said, “Honma! Oppai desu!” (“Really! Breasts!”)
Ahhh, boys will be boys. And girls will take their tops off.
The Balinese, like many local communities around the world who make their living from tourism, wouldn’t be caught dead lying naked on the beach. Frankly, they don’t understand what the big thrill is. Crazy “gaijin”! But most communities are tolerant of tourists in the buff, as their dollars are far more important. Yet it has long been known that Indonesians from Jakarta like to vacation in Bali just to gawk at the brazen, scantily clad tourists. Banzai!
But is topless bathing pornography? Indonesia’s new Antipornography Bill, supported by the Prosperous Justice Party and the United Development Party, is threatening to make topless bathing illegal. Article 79 of the bill would forbid women to “show off sensual parts of the female body,” including, um, exposing your navel. Yes, the Belly Button Battle has begun!
How much is an exposed belly button worth? Apparently from $21,000 to over $100,000 in fines, and 10 years in prison.
But I wonder how they can put such values on a navel. Certainly some navels are sexier than others. Should we have our navels appraised? And, I’d like to know, will navel oranges have to cover up as well? What about naval bases? So what if the spelling is different — that shouldn’t exclude them from the crime. Makes you wonder how much the penalty is for narrating the story of “the birds and the bees.” They even want to ban suggestive paintings and literature.
What next? Will cows have to cover their udders in public? Banzai!
This may not surprise you, coming from the most populous Muslim nation in the world. But the naked truth is that up to now, the most populous Muslim nation in the world has in some ways enjoyed more freedoms than we have in the U.S. Even now in Indonesia, you can walk around freely on the streets drinking a beer, even on a Sunday (gasp!). It’s a country where entire families, including children (of course!), turn out to watch Inul Daratista, an Islamic dangdut singer, gyrate on stage in her pole-dance style; where women breast-feed in public; where old women walk around with no shirts or bras, because, logically, “it’s too hot”; and where I once had a Javanese masseuse who, in mixed company, took off her blouse and continued the massage in her brassiere because the air conditioner was broken. It’s no wonder the Indonesians are upset with the bill.
Indonesian artists, designers and singers are up in arms. One Indonesian singer, who stripped down to his underwear in front of the government hall in Denpasar to protest, brought up the salient point that “We were born naked.” Hey, will babies be fined as soon as they’re born? What about all those photos people send of naked newborns? And what about men — will they be fined for showing their navels? And how about men peeing in the bushes? Will there be fines for exposing their organs? I want answers!
Well, guys, get your thrills in now, because you may have to give a kiss goodbye to the oppai in Bali. As for me, I never lie on the beach topless anyway.
What I’ll really miss is surfing naked.
On March 15, while Indonesia is having a public hearing on the antiporn bill, Japanese in Komaki will be parading a wooden phallus 2 meters long down the street in a Shinto festival celebrating fertility and the rebirth of life. Banzai!