Sexy Media Dissidents: State Regulation, Dissidence, Pornography and Gay Men in Malaysia
This paper considers the effects of media censorship and dissidence in Malaysia within the context of gay men and pornography, and how these oft-considered taboo subjects intersect within the society. Malaysia’s media landscape has revealed many flaws in the country’s political and social environment. The place of gay men and pornography within this media landscape is examined through interviews with gay Malaysian men. It frames the intersection of politics and private lives through the lenses of sociologist and philosopher Jürgen Habermas, feminist Carol Hanisch, psychologist Todd G. Morrison and sociologist Jeffrey Weeks. An analysis of selected interviews reveals that within the Malaysian media landscape, pornography surpasses the realm of pleasure, and is a form of dissent and discreet protest against the regulation of sexual lives. The stigmatisation of pornography and pervasive homophobic rhetoric has allowed these sexy media dissidents to perform new connections, foster self-awareness and move toward increasing political and sexual freedom and subjectivity.
KeywordsFreedom of expression Gay men Malaysia Media dissidence Pornography
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
Joseph N. Goh declares that he has no conflict of interest. Ghislaine L. Lewis and Pauline P. Y. Leong declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
- Associated Press. (2007). Pirates turn to porn for profits. https://www.pressreader.com/thailand/the-nation/20070417/281603826023746. Accessed March 13, 2018.
- Atluri, T. L. (2016). Āzādī: Sexual politics and postcolonial worlds. Bradford, ON: Demeter Press.Google Scholar
- BBC News. (2014). Malaysia jails Anwar Ibrahim for five years for sodomy. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-26479642. Accessed March 13, 2018.
- Bedi, R. S. (2017). MCMC comes up with guidelines for messaging app admins. https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2017/05/03/mcmc-comes-up-with-guidelines-for-messaging-app-admins/.
- Bernama. (2018). Legal team to review anti-fake news act—Gobind Singh. http://www.bernama.com/en/news.php?id=1465868. Accessed June 4, 2018.
- Bersih. (2017). http://www.bersih.org/about/background/. Accessed September 17, 2017.
- Charmaz, K. (2005). Grounded theory in the 21st century: Applications for advancing social justice studies. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), The sage handbook of qualitative research (pp. 507–535). London: Sage Publications Ltd.Google Scholar
- Chin-Dahler, P. (2010). Universal human rights, cultural relativism and the Asian values debate. http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2010/10/09/universal-human-rights-cultural-relativism-and-the-asian-values-debate/. Accessed March 18, 2018.
- Chu, M. M. (2018). LGBT activist Numan Afifi quits as Syed Saddiq’s press officer. The Star Online. https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2018/07/09/lgbt-activist-numan-afifi-quits-as-syed-saddiq-press-officer/. Accessed July 19, 2018.
- Dyer, R. (1994). Idol thoughts: Orgasm and self-reflexivity in gay pornography. Critical Quarterly, 36(1), 49–62. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8705.1994.tb01012.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Firdaous, F. (2016). Court acquits Azmi Sharom of sedition charge. http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2016/02/19/court-acquits-azmi-sharom-of-sedition-charge/. Accessed March 13, 2018.
- Free Malaysia Today. (2017). Seks dalam penjara, hukuman ditambah 9 tahun. http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/bahasa/2017/01/26/seks-dalam-penjara-hukuman-ditambah-9-tahun/. Accessed March 13, 2018.
- Free Malaysia Today Reporters. (2016). Syed Saddiq faces sedition probe for plea to Sultan. http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2016/11/06/syed-saddiq-faces-sedition-probe-for-plea-to-sultan/. Accessed March 13, 2018.
- Free Malaysia Today Reporters. (2017). MCMC slammed for forcing censorship on social media. http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2017/05/09/ngo-govt-getting-social-media-users-to-censor-on-its-behalf/. Accessed March 13, 2018.
- Freedom House. (2015). Freedom on the Net: Malaysia. https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-net/2015/malaysia. Accessed March 13, 2018.
- Gan, S. (2002). Virtual democracy in Malaysia. Nieman Reports, 56(2), 65.Google Scholar
- Goh, J. N. (2015). Peculiar politics in Malaysia: A queer perspective on non-heteronormative Malay-Muslim men. In J. E. Cox & J. Grzelinska (Eds.), Ways of queering, ways of seeing (pp. 3–33). Oxford, UK: Inter-Disciplinary Press.Google Scholar
- Grosz, E., & Probyn, E. (1995). Introduction. In E. Grosz & E. Probyn (Eds.), Sexy bodies: The strange carnalities of feminism (pp. ix–xiv). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Habermas, J. (1984). The theory of communicative action (Vol. 2). Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.Google Scholar
- Habermas, J. (1989). The structural transformation of the public sphere: An inquiry into a category of bourgeois society. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Hafidz, B. (2012). Najib: LGBTs, liberalism, pluralism are enemies of Islam. http://www.malaysia-today.net/najib-lgbts-liberalism-pluralism-are-enemies-of-islam/. Accessed March 13, 2018.
- Haldeman, S. (1996). Bringing good news to the body: Masturbation and male identity. In B. Krondorfer (Ed.), Men’s bodies, men’s gods: Male identities in a (post) Christian culture (pp. 111–124). New York: NYU Press.Google Scholar
- Hanisch, C. (1969). The personal is political. http://www.carolhanisch.org/CHwritings/PIP.html. Accessed March 13, 2018.
- Human Rights Watch. (2015). https://www.hrw.org/. Accessed March 13, 2018.
- Ida, N. I. (2018). PM: New committee to review Jakim’s role. https://www.malaymail.com/s/1636462/pm-new-committee-to-review-jakims-role. Accessed June 4, 2018.
- Jeffreys, S. (2003). Unpacking queer politics: A lesbian feminist perspective. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.Google Scholar
- Kanter, J., Koh, C., Karina, R., Tai, R., Izenberg, J., Latha, R., et al. (2011). Risk behaviour and HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men in a multiethnic society: A venue-based study in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. International Journal of STD and AIDS, 22(1), 30–37. https://doi.org/10.1258/ijsa.2010.010277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Kenyon, A. T., Marjoribanks, T., & Whiting, A. (Eds.). (2013). Democracy, media and law in Malaysia and Singapore: A space for speech. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Malay Mail Online. (2016a). Appeals court sets Feb 2, next year for hearing of Adam Adli’s appeal. http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/appeals-court-sets-feb-2-next-year-for-hearing-of-adam-adlis-appeal1. Accessed March 13, 2018.
- Malay Mail Online. (2016b). From porn to politics: Malaysian ISPs aid censorship by blocking 39 sites, says study. http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/from-porn-to-politics-malaysian-isps-aid-censorship-by-blocking-39-sites-sa. Accessed March 13, 2018.
- Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation. (2017). Bill of Guarantees (BoG). https://www.mdec.my/msc-malaysia/bill-of-guarantees. Accessed March 13, 2018.
- Malcolm, J. (2016). Malaysian internet censorship is going from bad to worse. https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2016/03/malaysian-internet-censorship-going-bad-worse. Accessed March 13, 2018.
- Mayuri, M. L. (2016). Youth activist Adam Adli gets RM5,000 fine in place of jail term in sedition sentence. http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/youth-activist-adam-adli-gets-rm5000-fine-in-place-of-jail-term-in-sedition. Accessed March 13, 2018.
- Mohamad, F. (2017). Fahmi Reza granted leave to challenge charge against him. http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2017/01/18/fahmi-reza-granted-leave-to-challenge-charge-against-him/. Accessed March 13, 2018.
- Mohd Azizuddin, M. S. (2011). Cultural arguments against offensive speech in Malaysia: Debates between liberalism and Asian values on pornography and hate speech. Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences, 2(2), 122–134.Google Scholar
- Najib, R. (2016). Netizens for the greater good. https://www.najibrazak.com/bm/blog/netizens-for-the-greater-good/. Accessed March 13, 2018.
- National Evangelical Christian Fellowship Malaysia (NECF). (2007). Gay church: A response. http://www.necf.org.my/newsmaster.cfm?&menuid=2&action=view&retrieveid=930. Accessed March 13, 2018.
- Reporters Without Borders. (2017). ‘Seditious’ independent media. https://rsf.org/en/malaysia. Accessed March 13, 2018.
- Reuters. (2016). Malaysian political cartoonist Zunar arrested under sedition law. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-27/malaysian-political-cartoonist-zunar-arrested-under-sedition-law/8060932. Accessed March 13, 2018.
- Reuters Staff. (2015). Malaysia toughens sedition law to include online media ban, mandatory jail. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-malaysia-lawmaking-sedition/malaysia-toughens-sedition-law-to-include-online-media-ban-mandatory-jail-idUSKBN0N10AD20150410. Accessed March 13, 2018.
- Rothman, E. F., Kaczmarsky, C., Burke, N., Jansen, E., & Baughman, A. (2015). “Without porn … I wouldn’t know half the things I know now”: A qualitative study of pornography use among a sample of urban, low-income, black and hispanic youth. The Journal of Sex Research, 52(7), 736–746. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2014.960908.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Roughneen, S. (2016). Malaysia turns screw on media as politics realign. https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics-Economy/Policy-Politics/Malaysia-turns-screw-on-media-as-politics-realign. Accessed March 13, 2018.
- Sipalan, J. (2016). Malaysian opposition leader Anwar loses final bid for freedom. http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-malaysia-politics-anwar-idUKKBN1422VH. Accessed March 13, 2018.
- The Commissioner of Law Revision, Malaysia. (1957). Federal Constitution. http://www.agc.gov.my/agcportal/uploads/files/Publications/FC/FEDERAL%20CONSTITUTION%20ULANG%20CETAK%202016.pdf. Accessed March 13, 2018.
- The Commissioner of Law Revision, Malaysia. (1997). Malaysian Penal Code. http://www.agc.gov.my/agcportal/index.php?r=portal2/lom2&id=1687. Accessed March 13, 2018.
- The Commissioner of Law Revision, Malaysia. (2006a). Communications and Multimedia Act 1998. https://www.mcmc.gov.my/legal/acts/communications-and-multimedia-act-1998-reprint-200. Accessed March 13, 2018.
- The Commissioner of Law Revision, Malaysia. (2006b). Sedition Act 1948. http://www.agc.gov.my/agcportal/uploads/files/Publications/LOM/EN/Act%2015.pdf. Accessed March 13, 2018.
- The Commissioner of Law Revision, Malaysia. (2006c). Syariah Criminal Offences (Federal Territories) Act 1997. http://www.agc.gov.my/agcportal/index.php?r=portal2/lom2&id=1431. Accessed March 13, 2018.
- The Star Online. (2018). Appeals Court acquits Adam Adli of sedition charge. https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2018/02/22/appeals-court-acquits-adam-adli-of-sedition-charge/. Accessed June 18, 2018.
- Thomas, J. A. (2010). Gay male pornography since Stonewall. In R. Weitzer (Ed.), Sex for sale: Prostitution, pornography and the sex industry (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- United Nations. (1948). The universal declaration of Human Rights. http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/. Accessed March 13, 2018.
- Waescher, T. (2016). Malaysians have been able to reclaim their rhetoric online—an interview with Ghislaine Lewis. http://www.global.asc.upenn.edu/malaysians-have-been-able-to-reclaim-their-rhetoric-online-an-interview-with-ghislaine-lewis/. Accessed March 13, 2018.
- Wilson, S., Leong, P., Nge, C., & Ngerng, M. H. (2011). Trust and credibility of urban youth on online news media. Jurnal Komunikasi, Malaysian Journal of Communication, 27(2), 97–120.Google Scholar
- Xynou, M., Filastò, A., Khairil, Y., & Tan, S. M. (2016). The state of internet censorship in Malaysia. https://ooni.torproject.org/post/malaysia-report/#key-findings. Accessed March 13, 2018.
- Yap, T. G. (2016). Hisham Rais escapes prison time, fined RM5,000 for sedition conviction. http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/hisham-rais-escapes-prison-time-fined-rm5000-for-sedition-conviction. Accessed March 13, 2018.
- Zaharom, N., & Wang, L. K. (2004). Ownership, control and the Malaysian media. In Pradip N. Thomas & Zaharom Nain (Eds.), Who owns the media? Global trends and local resistances (pp. 249–267). Penang: Southbound Sdn Bhd.Google Scholar
- Zainah, A. (2005). Law-making in the name of Islam: Implications for democratic governance. In K. S. Nathan & M. H. Kamali (Eds.), Islam in Southeast Asia: Political, social and strategic challenges for the 21st century (pp. 121–134). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.Google Scholar