Day 4 of House of Incest presented to us a discussion and presentation on Annabel Chong by Singapore Rebel: Searching for Annabel Chong’s author, Gerrie Lim. This post is written by our partner-in-crime, Ryandall Lim who had been attending the House of Incest series and this will be his first post for the event.
Do check out about Gerrie Lim’s book on Annabel Chong which we will feature once we finish reading it! But if you can’t wait, here you go!
I swear that throughout the entire screening of Sex: The Annabel Chong Story, I was experiencing palpitations. No, I was not hyperventilating as a result of the visually explicit scenes in the close to two-hour bio-documentary about the famed Singaporean; nor was it because the full house of almost 50 people in the tiny room left hardly any air in it. Rather, this much talked-about, yet still banned in Singapore “movie” about one Annabel Chong aka Grace Quek dealt with the very taboo subject of sex, and doing it. Not just once and in your face, but over and over and over again, 251 times. And in conservative Singapore, that is taboo multiplied 251 times. And to break a taboo or even discuss a subject such as sex in a group setting, heart beat rates are tantamount to increase. In fact, the sheer excitement of breeching an illegal subject in a not so legal gathering will do the trick.
However, seeing this “docu-bio-movie”, which ultimately made it to various film festivals worldwide, projected a different side to the girl whom we Singaporeans (or at least most of whom I knew) so easily condemned and cast aside as a loose, immoral whore. I remember the day when news of her world-record breaking “talent” surfaced more than 15 years ago. The media revealed pictures of her during her Hwa Chong days and portrayed her as a smart, studious, over-restrained girl who finally went loose (pun intended) during her university days in the States, joined the porn industry, and went on a sex rampage, which culminated in her record-breaking sex feat.
Annabel Chong was an academic: enrolled in a course on sexuality, she felt the need to push the boundaries where sex was concerned, and to blur the lines between freedom, limits and morality. No doubt, she said she enjoyed sex so much that it was probably worth dying for – and thus we can choose to see her in all her shallowness as just a slut wanting to get banged silly because of a personal goal to realise a sick fantasy. But through the show, I somehow felt that she was in a way, taking her studies into reality, conducting her own “thesis” to show how societies construct rights and wrongs, values and morals, while sidelining those who fail to conform to these enforcements set by them. I am by no means condoning her act, but I felt the film provided her voice and perspective to the whole episode. So what if societies were not bound by religions, societal norms or traditional values? Was she really wrong then to do what was considered taboo in normal “civilised” societies?
There exists a Brazilian tribe where a man’s wife has to have sex with all his brothers in order to gain acceptance by his family. Is this act then considered more “right” because they are ignorant to the moral inductions of civilised societies? Thus, aren’t our norms, morals and values subject to the boundaries set up by our own individual communities? Could this be the burning question she was trying to prove? Put this into perspective, is Annabel Chong as much of a whore as a wife of the Brazilian tribesman? Or is she more of one simply because she enjoyed every bit of the 251 fucks she received?
In the post-film discussion, Gerrie Lim, author of Annabel Chong: Singapore Rebel revealed that Annabel Chong had given up her “old” life in the porn industry and was now very much a “normal” career woman with a job in the IT industry. The idea of what is considered “normal” or not was brought up in a comment by one of the viewers who felt that such labels were constructs of society and that by doing so, we were already judging her and her acts even as we sought to study them.
In one part of the film, on a return visit to Singapore, Annabel decided to reveal her deeds to her doting mother, because of circulating rumours and threatening phone calls that the family was receiving. This tense moment was caught on film and Annabel was seen tearing and pleading with her mother that she would restore her family’s dignity and that “you must believe me”. What struck me then was the thought that had Annabel finally come to the realisation that she had indeed overstepped the limits of morality and that she had accepted that what she had done was wrong? A discussion on this came to the conclusion that the deed (as part of her personal study) should not be categorised as a “right” or “wrong” in a quantitative sense but rather, in societal circumstances, some things were considered unacceptable. As such, she wept because of pain she felt from the trauma inflicted upon her family as a result of her actions which went against societal norms.
Our traditions, cultures, practices, norms, values and morals are constructed by our family, society, religion, and our social circles. Each person is thus unique in this respect. As much as we have been shaped by these forces for our “good”, we have been brainwashed since birth to believe and behave in certain ways. If we so much as step out of these set boundaries, we may be deemed as deviant and marginalised. One can argue that Annabel Chong wanted to go the extreme and test the boundaries of sexual liberation. She was brave enough to do so but in the end, had to retreat within that boundary because the labels and societal forces proved too strong for her not to conform.