The Hawai’i Yellow Page Blues
First they make us put on clothes, then they take theirs off!”
I’m talking story with one local guy and I’ve never heard a better summation of the first and most enduring insult inflicted on the Hawaiian people. From the dour Congregationalist missionaries of New England to the sun-kissed tourists whose “parts” are too well known, the foreigner's knack of inflicting shame is a gift that keeps on giving.
In modern Hawai’i, public references to sex are avoided, while commercial appeals to sensuality abound, particularly the sensuality of well-manicured resort lawns, spa treatments, tropical print beachwear and hotel lu’aus. You can tuck a flower behind your ear, slow dance to the Hawaiian Wedding Song, and feel you’ve finally lived. You’re sold, right? You feel goooood! So now, maybe you’re in the mood for some island-style nookie...
Pretend the internet doesn’t exist. (Da coconut wireless? It’s out of whack too!)
Let’s say you’re an adult visitor and you’re looking for goodies not served at a lu’au. How easily can you rent an X-rated DVD, buy a vibrator, or find the local gay bar?
Let’s say you’re local. How easily can you find accurate sexual health information, birth control and condoms, HIV screening and information, or a place to hang out with other queer folk? (Plus, the movies and toys...)
Clearly, not through the Hawai’i island phone book. Not easily, or not at all. The phone book’s lack of readily accessible information pertaining to sex—pleasure, prevention or problems—is a legacy of that “missionary residue” that still hangs over the islands, a pall more corrosive than "vog" (volcanic smog).
The chilly Waimea rain has temporarily vanquished the vog. I hear roosters crowing outside in the mist and across the road, the cows in the pasture are soaked. I’m hanging out in a big house paneled with koa, supported by pillars of rough ‘ohia lehua. It’s a nice place, but somewhat mildewed. It’s on the market and I fantasize briefly about what it would be like to buy it (as if I could afford it!) and turn it into a sex counseling and education center. This big room is large enough to seat forty people, at least! Daydreams aside, I appreciate being indoors and dry, still digesting that breakfast I barely managed to finish at Hawaiian Style Cafe (65-1290 Kawaihae Road, Kamuela. 808-885-4295), a popular local place that serves up massive amounts of very hearty food, suitable for hard-working paniolo and other very large men in this Hawaiian cowboy town. Breakfasts are so large, they are guaranteed to push an anticipated evening of hanky-panky to the back burner.
In this sluggish mode, I’m ignoring the television in the background and flipping through the Paradise Yellowbook 2009-2010 for Hawai’i island. I’ve always been fascinated by local phone books and the snapshots they provide of the priorities and values of a community. I like to see what’s included, what’s left out. You can’t get this kind of data in such a compact and convenient form in any other way. As you might guess, I’m looking for sexually oriented venues (pleasure) as well as sexually supportive community resources (prevention and problems). As you might also guess, there’s no internet access at this address, hence today’s fascination with the phone book.
What follows is a somewhat difficult exercise, as there are social and philosophical barriers between commercial pleasure providers and institutional sex problem solvers. Just getting these businesses and organizations into the same article is a challenge; it’s hard to know what “tone” to take. If I threw a big party for all these people, they’d probably hate being in the same room together. The gathering would be a disaster even though these folks all have one thing in common: SEX, whether it’s the hot front end pursuit of it or the back end coping with the consequences. This is quite a bit different from the San Francisco Bay Area, where sexologists, educators, counselors, therapists, researchers, activists, social service providers, sex workers and adult industry entrepeneurs seem to meet and mingle much more easily.