THOSE of a certain age may recall the late Hollywood actor Victor Mature, who specialised in biblical epics in which he fought and won bare-chested gladiatorial duels.
Unlike today’s muscleburgers, the fleshy Mature had a self-deprecatory sense of humour and roared with laughter when once described as having bigger tits than his leading lady.
He is lucky not to have starred in any recent Thai movies, otherwise he would risk being arrested, fined and forced to do penance in an orphanage.
It is a bizarre scene in Thailand these days, where border battles, a looming general election and fears of a military coup have recently played second fiddle to a different crisis.
It is one that the doubly-blessed Mature would find hilarious.
For it is breasts, or more precisely the bare breasts of a trio of teenage girls who danced topless in downtown Bangkok during last month’s Buddhist New Year celebrations.
The nation was stunned. It was like an earthquake. Bare boobs on show.
How could it happen in Thailand? Wow. Stop the presses! The world must be about to end.
In many ways, it did end for the poor girls. A video of their display went viral. Then the Thai constabulary lumbered into action.
The girls were detained and the district police chief Surakiat Limcharoen railed against them for their shameful behaviour in public.
His outrage was somewhat excessive, given that Thai politicians and army generals were behaving even more shamefully in their wanton dissembling about the genesis of the conflict on the border with Cambodia.
Just as they had earlier, of course, been disingenuous in an equally shameful way about the civil strife in the deep south, and about the ruthless treatment of Burmese transient workers, among other issues.
But, no, it was not these portentous matters that were of greatest concern. Instead it was the visible nipples of three teenagers.
Fining the girls was not enough. the emotionally volatile Culture Minister Nipit Intarasombat wanted to force them to read wholesome texts to kindergarten children to set a good example.
Nipit is a veteran of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s Democrat Party, and also its legal expert, as well as the country’s culture czar.
With that in mind, it is hard not to briefly sympathise with the Nazi leader Herman Goering’s comment: “When I hear the word culture, I reach for my revolver.”
Yet it seems many people, mostly male and over 40 and usually holding government posts, feel they must metaphorically reach for their guns at the mere hint of a perceived cultural slight.
Of course, they are often the same men who patronise the girlie bars of Soi Patpong in Bangkok, Street 104 in Phnom Penh, Orchard Towers in Singapore and Stadium in Jakarta.
That is why the noted commentator Suranand Vejjajiva said: “The police and government authorities, by clamping down on the girls and those who posted the video, demonstrate the Thai hypocrisy and denial.”
What to do? The only answer is for the girls, or rather women as a whole, right across the region, to fight back against this mysogynistic nonsense, this hypocrisy and double-standard.
And they should use the power of their sex to do so, just as the women portrayed in the play Lysistrata did, after the defeat of the Athenians on Sicily.
Lysistrata, appalled by the death toll, urged the women of Greece to refuse to have sex with their husbands until peace was declared.
Naturally, it worked. If there is one thing males cannot control it is the stirrings in their groin.
Now, if only the wives and girlfriends of leading figures in Thailand and Cambodia would refuse to have sex until the border dispute was resolved.
Then those politicians and generals who castigated the teenage girls so viciously, yet who harbour no qualms about sending young men into lethal battle, would have to act.
The conflict would be solved tomorrow.