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May 24, 2017

30 Amazing Black and White Photographs of Vietnamese Bar Girls during the War

During the late 1960s, about thirty-two establishments in Saigon were houses of prostitution, ranging from modest apartments to elegant three-story establishments. A good deal of the sex business was in the hands of the Vietnamese underworld, like the "Yellow Pang Society." In the French as well as in the American period, the "Flower Boats" or sampans plied their trade. They were frequently family operations, with the daughter(s) working as prostitute(s) while the brothers pimped on dry land. Some of the larger junks, however, were professionally run, often by the Saigon underworld. Prior to 1975, statistics from the Ministry of Society of the Saigon government reported about 200,000 professional prostitutes. In Saigon alone in 1968, there were about 10,000 professional prostitutes. By 1974, the figure had reached 100,000.

During the Vietnam War, one million soldiers from the United States were stationed throughout Southeast Asia. Most of these host countries signed agreements to provide their services as "Rest and Recreation" centers for United States military and aid personnel. Their presence contributed to the proliferation of commercial sexual intercourse. Although the U.S. Army was not officially involved in providing sex workers to cover itself against congressional reaction at home, it is known that some of the brothels kept by the Vietnamese Government and the ARVIN (Army of Vietnam) were exclusively reserved for GIs.

It was to be the model for other "recreation centers," including several within the Saigon area: The Pleiku brothel has twenty rooms, whitewashed and pleasantly furnished. The girls are all carefully selected on the basis of good looks, personality and knowledge of English. (U.S. Army Intelligence also runs a security check on each girl to make sure she is not a Viet Cong agent out to pick up useful information from her trusting bedmates.) The girls are closely supervised by a matron under contract to the Pleiku Administrative Council. An American GI pays 300 piastres ($2.50) for a ticket, allowing him up to three hours with any given girl. Between 100 and 300 GIs visit the house each day, passing through a sandbagged guard post where they are required to show their ticket and have it stamped by a Vietnamese soldier. Fifteen percent of the girl’s earnings are deducted to pay for expenses at the center, but a hard-working and a popular prostitute can earn between 8000 to 15,000 piastres ($66 to $125) a month, a good salary in today’s Vietnam. The main reason for the U.S. Army to provide those establishments was the alarmingly high venereal disease rate among U.S. enlisted men. However, most of the soldiers preferred to look for prostitutes themselves in bars catering to GIs.

"A prostitute earned as much as $180 per month. The average government civil servant earned roughly $30 a month, and even cabinet ministers and Assembly members had fixed salaries of $120. A special form of prostitution was the "mistress," i.e., a paid steady girlfriend. GIs considered this a "safer" alternative to the brothels and bar girls. There existed rumors about an incurable strain of syphilis, called "Black Clap," and Viet Cong girls who were able to put razor blades into their vaginas to castrate or even kill clients (Gulzow & Mitchell 1980). The latter rumor is without doubt a reflection of the ability of some trained girls to use their vaginas to smoke cigarettes, shoot arrows, or to put razor blades or other sharp materials in them without getting hurt.

While under French rule, marriages of French soldiers and Vietnamese women were prohibited. American soldiers, on the other hand, could marry. A U.S. Army study of sixty-four GIs who had filed applications to marry Vietnamese girls between June 1964 and November 1966 concluded that a high proportion of GIs who married Vietnamese women were divorced, sexually inhibited, fearful of American women, or disenchanted with some aspects of American life.

































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