Porn Comic Book Saga in Singapore

Cover of said graphic novel If you saw News 5 at 9.30pm this evening (Wednesday, June 6, 2007) or the news on Channel 8, you’d have heard about the exposé: a graphic novel with overt sexual content was sold, unlabelled and not shrink-wrapped, at the recent book fair.

The informant, Rachel Chan, is my friend!

She had told me about her little discovery earlier and said she was going to email STOMP and Channel NewsAsia about it, but we both never expected this news lead to make it to the headlines. It was first in line to be telecast, meaning that it was even more important than news of the campaign to raise awareness about pneumococcal disease, suspension of eggs from Selangor and Abdullah Badawi’s remarriage leh!

If I might add my two cents’ worth, I have a feeling that this is just the beginning of a media hullabaloo, like the time they talked about whether cyclists should cycle on the road or pavement (thought that one would never blow over) and whether Singaporeans are truly happy.

My mum was watching the 6.30pm news telecast on Channel 8 and she said this exposé thingy was scheduled right at the end man. The newscaster didn’t say that it was a banned publication then. I think. But I was shocked when it moved right up to headline status for the late evening news! I’m guessing it’s because the Media Development Authority verified that it was a banned publication much later in the day.

Now how? I’m proud of my friend’s courage la, but what if MDA starts making more stringent checks on comic book imports just to appease the public? Damn leh. You know Singapore gahmen one lorh. Sian. You all remember what happened to Mr Brown right.

So, I called Rachel and asked her whether she knew that she could potentially be the Public Enemy No.1 of the local comics community. Apparently, the poor girl had no idea.

What happened on Sunday, according to her, was this. She was walking through the Times Publishing Group booth, passing by racks of children’s educational books and stationery when an explicit book cover caught her eye. Placed together with stacks of The Simpsons comics was this graphic novel titled “How To Make Money Like A Porn Star” by Neil Strauss and Bernard Chang. The pictures you see here in this blog entry were taken on the spot at the book fair.

See it nestled with The Simpsons?
little girl is quite absorbed

As you can see, none of the copies of “How To Make Money Like A Porn Star” were shrink-wrapped or labelled. Flipping through its pages, she saw plenty of frontal nudity (in layterms, tits, legs and ass) and a few explicit sexual scenes, one where a guy’s penis was replaced with a small torpedo. In this one, there’s a full two-page spread of a naked, comatose “Playhouse Princess in August”. Sorry dudes, I censored the raisins.

Porn star!

The most disturbing page she read went something like this: “I just turned 13 and boys started to get really interested in me when I developed breasts and pubic hair… That was when the girls gave me dirty looks and avoiding me. Who knew that people could hold prejudice against you when you can give blow jobs for a quarter?” (Disclaimer: She reproduced the above text from memory; there may be disrepancies.)

This 1-cm-thick book is in black-and-white and priced $35.70.

To her chagrin, two kids were already deeply engrossed reading the comic. They looked like siblings to her and the elder brother couldn’t have been older than 14 and the younger sister 11.

Rachel is not a conservative, tight-assed prude but she felt provoked to blow the whistle on this one because this book was sold in the freaking CHILDREN’S SECTION of a book fair that was visited by tens of thousands of people.

The boy is lost in wonder too

In countries where porn or explicit material is sold over the counter, like in Hong Kong and Japan, the publication is shrink-wrapped and labelled properly with something that reads like, “This material contains violent/sexually explicit images that may be offensive and are unsuitable for those under 18.”

So, when she emailed STOMP and CNA, it was simply to highlight the need for screening of book titles at book fairs. The issue she had wanted to bring up is DON’T SELL SEXUALLY EXPLICIT CONTENT TO CHILDREN, not simply DON’T SELL. Who was the idiot who decided, hey, let’s place that book next to The Simpsons at the book fair! Idiot.

Then when her news lead got picked up by CNA Chinese News Desk she was so happy that she even smsed me to tell me. By the time she emailed the media, the book fair was over, and the reporter who was assigned the story did a thorough investigation of the book’s distribution. She found it at Kinokuniya (shrink-wrapped and labelled) and Times the Bookshop (again, unwrapped and unlabelled). The reporter also Googled Neil Strauss and Bernard Chang and found out that Strauss had written a biography for a porn star before and that he’s a self-proclaimed seduction/pick-up artist. And she wrote to Times Publishing Group. And of course MDA. And one thing has led to another and Rachel has realised she was being a stupid smart aleck. (Sorry Rachel.)

Sigh. So now MDA says this comic had been banned for a whole month and whether shrink-wrapped or no, it has to be pulled off all the shelves. Ya guys, means you can’t find it anymore. (Just in case you’re wondering, my friend didn’t buy a copy – she didn’t have $35.70 and come on lorh, are you willing to pay that kind of money for black-and-white kiddy drawings?)

Now I keep my fingers crossed. I hope no over-anxious Singaporean parent fans this into a furore. Singapore has come a long way, inching little steps before we got Crazy Horse (now no more la, I know, but at least we had a few precious moments together) and bartop dancing – please let’s not slide back. It’ll be another ten years to our next cabaret…

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11 thoughts on “Porn Comic Book Saga in Singapore”

  1. I think that’s the reason why they price the book so damn expensively… so that kids see the crazy price and probably won’t buy them. Children should have some morals to follow, yeah. But still, the damage is done and they’ll be haunted with the images of uncensored raisins for the rest of their puberty. Voxy is speaking from experience. *cough* Yeah. *cough cough*

  2. Hi Felicia, yup I think you recognised me alright. But to be precise, ex-Youth.SG staff. :)

    Ah Fu: The boy didn’t even look up from the book… Hmm… and his bag is conveniently placed on front of his… ahem.

  3. “Now I keep my fingers crossed. I hope no over-anxious Singaporean parent fans this into a furore.”

    Ya, right…
    Rachel sends this kind of thing to the government (what else do you call CNA and Straits Times?) and you expect not to have “furore”.

    Come on! the simple issue of allowing bikes on pavement has turned into a furore for “What should the gahmen do to make sure pedestrians are safe on pavement”.
    I mean it should be a simple question of mutual respect, but no in Singapore it always has to turn to laws, rules to forbid things! Singaporeans are so scared of everything, it is amazing.

    You can be sure that this will dominate the media for the next month or so, that the gahmen will ask MDA to come up with some more censorship, maybe some new classifcation and bookshop police, maybe even a license to sell books (including second-hand).

    And Rachel, is no angel.
    Instead of talking to the bookshop owner, what did she do? she looked for fame by posting to CNA and Stomp.

    More of the same same in Singapore 21.

  4. Sigh… I am a big manga/comic fan too. Tighter regulations from MDA is definitely gonna be a sad thing…. I think the whole thing got blown out of proportion.

    Then again, I don’t feel comfortable seeing kids publicly gaining access to such material leh. To me, the issue here lies with whether the book was shrink-wrapped and with a warning label posted on it. Not that such material should be banned.

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