Sunday, December 7, 2014

Sex Toys or Bottle Openers in Bali

Sex Toys or Bottle Openers in Bali 

If you ever travel to Bali, particularly in places like Kuta, Legian or Ubud, you are guaranteed to run into an odd intersection (for westerners anyway) of art, utility, fertility, commerce and socio-religious significance. I am talking of course about the ubiquitous penis shaped bottle openers, key-chains, Christmas Tree ornaments, lamps and other "objets d'arte." They are literally everywhere and of course typically painted or decorated with all manner of colors, designs and patterns. Some of the larger ones often have these complex "disco ball" reflective glass designs all over them. Mostly though, they have a bottle opener at one end (the stern rather than the bow I guess).


They hang in huge bunches like grapes or bananas from half the shops and vendor's stalls in any area where there is even a hint of commerce - which is to say everywhere. Some are positively colossal and some are just teeny tiny. I guess this would be an apt reflection of the real world now that I think about it. Regardless of whatever paint or surface patina they each have, virtually all are carved out of wood. The bottle opener and key-chain bits are standard metal however.

Typically, when western tourists first see these phallic souvenirs, they giggle and point and act all embarrassed. I noticed some parents with kids trying very hard to just sort of... ignore them and hope nobody notices these unusual items. No such luck of course, they stick out like a sore thumb, or actually like a bunch of penises at the market. The funny thing is, almost everyone I know who has been there, has also bought at least one and usually a bunch to bring back and distribute as souvenirs to the folks back home. I've also heard stories from some people about interesting conversations with customs and security personnel at the airport during public bag search moments.

This of course is a result of western society's long-held inhibitions and cultural taboos around public discussions or displays of sex and fertility. I am a long way from being any kind of socio-cultural or religious anthropologist, but I have experienced many societies around the world where conversation and expression around fertility and fertility rites are just a normal part of everyday life. Even a cursory examination of ancient Greek or Roman civilizations or art reveals all kinds of similar stuff. For example, the first time I went to Europe not long after graduating high-school, I remember sending back postcards of an ancient Greek statue (of a Satyr I think) where the dude's fully erect "unit" appeared to be about two feet long!

When I first arrived in Bali, my initial impressions with this seemed so at odds with the more modest and religiously oriented society I found there. Unlike the rest of Indonesia, Bali is its own unique blend of Hinduism. It is very different from that found in India or anywhere else for that matter. Religion is interwoven into the fabric of everyday life there. For the record, Indonesia itself is approximately 88% Muslim with Balinese Hinduism making up a tiny two percent of the total.

Gift basket souvenir assortment for the folks back home..
Having said all that however, the prankster in me thinks it would be great fun to decorate a whole Christmas Tree with a kaleidoscopic assortment of brightly colored phallic ornaments, just to see the look on Grandma's face. Then of course, the centerpiece of the dinner table would be a two foot tall disco-ball dildo lamp. Everyone would get their own personalized phallic bottle opener and a cold Bintang beer to crack open with it. In keeping with the theme, how about a penis-shaped turkey meatloaf as the main entree? Yeah, yeah I know - now it's getting silly, but what the heck, you gotta have a little fun in life right? Here are a few more pics to illustrate the point...

Okay, so in the pic below right I Photo-chopped a phallic bottle opener from another photo I took onto a table beside some Bintang beers we were drinking, but the other images in this article are unaltered. They are also just a very, very small sampling of all the similar wares and shop displays bristling out from most every tourist focused shopping area. What you see is what I got...just walking around.

Oh good - a bottle opener...

Would you like us to "Super-Size" that order...?



Expensive art for sale, but hey how about a few impulse items near the front window and cash register..?
While we're on the subject (sort of), I thought it would be fun to share a couple of other pics I took in Bali that seemed like good clean fun. Some things that Uncle Walt of course, never put into The Jungle Book. The first is a large sculpture of two Elephants in "flagrante delicto" as it were. That means "two pachyderms humping" to the rest of us. This photo was taken in a large family-oriented elephant park on the way in or out of their gargantuan buffet restaurant.. A domestic comparison for our USA audience might be a little like Disneyland. For completely other reasons, this was one of the very few places in Bali that I didn't like.


I found this fun little statue shown below at stage right in the Monkey Forest more or less in downtown Ubud. It cracked me up, so had to share on this post. By the amount of moss and condition of the stone, I'd say it's been around a while, but have no idea what its actual age is. Best part is the monkey covering his eyes I think. The impromptu caption going through my mind at the time went something like "Hey whatcha got there little buddy?" See some of my previous blog posts on monkeys for a little more on that subject.

"Oh no, I think I'm going blind!!!"
So anyway, there you have it; a quick look at something fun and interesting in Bali that I seldom, if ever see in the travel brochures and photo galleries of this beautiful place. Too bad though, because it's pretty unique as far as the usual stuff you see in tourist shops most places. Someone also has gone to considerable lengths to paint and decorate them. Some of the designs are really ornate and beautiful. You have to appreciate good art and design, even if the canvas is a little...unusual.