Sex. For many people it begins as a rebellion. Many revolt against what they perceive as the tyranny of their parents' ethics and take ownership of their bodies. Many simply give in to the advances of a lover or the persuasive power of peer pressure. Others lose their virginity by force. However it happens, everyone does it eventually and every generation seems to forget that their most shocking impulses have been carried out countless times before since the dawn of the species.
Lars von Trier's recently released pair of films Nymphomaniac Vol. I & II, offers the public yet another chance to ask if sex is still shocking. For many these films pose a more technical question: where do we draw the line between pornography and art? This ques- tion is particularly relevant at a time when countries like England and South Korea have attempted to put up firewalls around porno- graphic content on the Internet. In the case of England, the public sentiment appears to judge the policy a failure. In the case of South Korea, it highlights the curious battle of the sexes that often dominates public debate.
South Korea takes its global public perception seriously. Government agencies actively attempt to control the narrative and when it comes to sex, the message is largely one of modesty or silence. What goes on between the sheets is kept just beneath the surface. The raucous strip clubs of the West are replaced with host and hostess clubs, sexy bars, and massage parlors. If you wander around the wrong corner–or the right one–you might stumble onto one of the several Amsterdam-style red light districts or trample over the Vegas-style prostitute advertisements on business cards that litter the streets around every love motel.
Prostitution is officially illegal in South Korea, but it is more like an open secret. Occassionally the issue flares up. Police will crack down on certain districts and sex workers will protest. Human Rights Watch makes it clear that South Korea is both a source and
a destination for human trafficking. Women from places like Russia, China, the Philippines, and North Korea find themselves in South Korea, often through some sort of arranged marriage scheme, and are then forced into prostitution to repay debts. South Korean women and girls, sometimes even children, and almost always poor, are targeted as well to be tricked or pressured into various forms of sex slavery. They end up in brothels or massage parlors domestically or abroad, often in Japan or the United States. Only a few traffickers are ever convicted, and their sentences are often only a few years in prison. Sometimes they receive nothing more than a fine.
So we turn now to The Post American #6–The Hand of the Species Issue. It is fitting for us to tackle the topic of sex now, being our six-month anniversary, a milestone, our coming of age. Let us be your guide on a tour of the contemporary sexual landscape. We offer ourselves to you through essays, fiction, poetry, and photography that explore sex, both public and private. As always, we ask you to keep an open mind and let us know what you think.
This month’s cover features Korean actor Jae Won Gwak and was shot by photographer Joshua James Cowell at an undisclosed love hotel somewhere in Seoul.
These images are part of the very first film and music project from The Post American. The project is currently in production. Please check back for updates, additional production photos, and other announcements.
As we move on from Issue 6 we recommend a refreshing bottle of mineral water to wash away the hangover from our sexual issue(s).