Donald Trump and Melania have Jeff and I playing a game. It doesn’t have a name, but we use a 1-3 rating system. When traveling the world, one spends a lot of time watching other people. Of course, we are drawn to the sweet “eye candy” treats provided by the contours and lines of the world’s BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE, but often a mismatched couple leaves us flabbergasted. So the game involves a decision about couples: are they evenly distributed in terms of looks or skewed. I should note to our gay friends that we only play this game with opposite sex couples – no offense. So, if the woman and the man are well matched, they receive a 2. If the woman’s beauty far outweighs that of the man (as in the case of Donald and Melania), the couple scores a 3 (sideways breasts). On the opposite end of the spectrum, if the man is far more handsome than the women, the couple receives a 1 (penis). The BIG question when traveling the world is “Why is she or he with him or her?” I know, very judgy. But, interesting to think about, eh?
Since we arrived in Thailand, Jeff and I have been blown away by the number of Thai women with European men. Many of these couples look to be about the same age, but quite a few of the couples consist of an older man with a much younger woman. Part of being blown away, I suppose is due to the fact that the European/Caucasian physical presence is so noticeable as we kinda “stick out” here. Some of the Thai women with the men are beauties, but most are average looking. In Bangkok we saw a few couples that would garner a 2 with a beautiful woman and handsome man, but many of the couples have been skewed meaning we’ve been left to wonder what they see in each other. So, we beg the question: Why are so many Thai women with foreigners? I got curious, started reading about the topic, then…
I got mad.
I found a couple of blogs written by European expat men regarding their ideas about Thai women that left my head spinning with emotions ranging from anger, pity, spite, disgust and sadness. One of the bloggers, Thailand Redcat, does a great job covering the topic of Thai girls – how to find them, where to find them, how to arrange for a “Happy Ending” massage, etc. His blog is really comprehensive and well-geared for the guy – both straight or gay – who knows what he wants out of Thailand. In addition to the information about finding the girls (or ladyboys, if you like), and arranging for services, he also posts travel information about hotels, clubs and other tourist-needed info!
Do you notice my use of the word “girls” when talking about this guy’s work? Thailand Redcat chooses to refer to Thai women as “girls,” so I am using his semantics to discuss the topic. I find that really irritating and demeaning. But, then again, at what point do girls start referring to themselves as women? Maybe somebody who is 25, not yet married can be called a “girl?” Perhaps I’m just quibbling over semantics?
Or am I? When we were in Bangkok, Jeff commented several times on how so many people looked young. At Terminal 21 – a mall – he felt that he was “in a sea of 13-year-olds.” To us, perhaps after traveling with retired Austrian and German campervan crusaders, the presence of youth is just striking. Or, perhaps the size of Thai people really causes us larger folks to erroneously assess their age as much younger. Regardless, the use of the word “girl” in the context of sexual favors seems a bit odd.
When I stumbled across Thailand Redcat’s piece called, “Why Thai Girls Make Better Girlfriends Than Western Women” (Notice the title – Thais are ‘girls’ and foreign females are ‘women’) I really got mad. His main tenets are that Thai girls don’t complain and don’t want to be the boss – they are forever optimistic and sunny. He argues they are “ten times” prettier than western women, have better bodies and nicer skin. Another assessment is that Thai girls make better housewives. I bet you can imagine the number of comments to that blog post! His article got the ire of both Thai women and “western” women for sure, but an overwhelming number of the responses were from men who either agreed with Thailand Redcat or who wanted to spew hateful words about the Thai women who dumped them. In the comment stream, these men call Thai women “lying whores,” “deceptive,” “angry and violent,” “lazy,” “deceitful,” and “manipulative.” There’s more – it gets worse. Not only has he caused offense to his European sisters, but his followers, through the comments thread, have now offended the Thai sweeties he writes about.
I get it, for men to seek beautiful women is a primal sexual drive – not something the intellectual, thinking brain can entirely control. The same can be said about women – we seek a strong partner who can protect. I suppose the natural push/pull for reproduction can partially explain the behavior we witness in Thailand. Some Thai women are sexually appealing to western men, and larger western men may experience a primal draw from petite Thai women who perceive size and stature to mean protection.
But, sometimes these partnerships are not made of Beauty and her Strong Prince, but rather a beautiful young woman who hooked up with an old geezer. Obviously, the male chooses beauty, but Beauty chooses financial stability as protection. I get the idea that direct payment for services might be the motivating factor, but are there other reasons Thai women seek out foreign men? Well, that led me to another article explaining that Thai men, although not upheld by the law, can take second wives. Many Thai women like the western attitude towards relationships as being monogamous. Of course, the western man who can afford to pay her family a dowry and maybe even a “wife salary” to help support the extended family is a highly prized economic asset. Very often, it seems, these relationships have commerce as their backbone, but romance and love apparently also play a part.
So why don’t we see it the other way around? Why aren’t Thai men with western women? Well, just like our friend over at Thailand Redcat, Jang from Spirit of Thailand tells us that Thai men find foreign women to be quite unattractive and too independent. According to Jang, culturally, Thai men are shy and accustomed to their women being quiet and agreeable. Thailand is a patriarchy where women are taught deference towards men. According to ThaiLoveLines, Thai women “make good wives or partners” because of this cultural attitude, but western women don’t pay their respects to the male ego in the same way.
I know, I know. I am viewing this situation through my cultural lens. Perhaps I am supposed to know that these relationships benefit many and are not created from a place of domination. I am supposed to understand that Thai women gain status from their relationships with foreigners and are happy to be the wife, the minor wife or the 3rd kept only as a concubine, even referred to as a “sex slave” in some articles. I am supposed to know that views about sex in Thailand do not come packaged in “Prude” covered stigmas of piety, shyness or contempt. But for some reason, my western shades keep slipping down over my eyes.
I have a cousin who has lived in Thailand for awhile now and speaks Thai. I thought I would ask her for some insight. Here are her thoughts:
At first I was partially appalled at how many foreign men are here drooling over Thai (many aren’t actually Thai ethnically but rather hill tribe women) women. Through studies, relationships, and more time here I have a broader picture now and am quite a bit more understanding of the larger forces at play. Here are some bullet-point factors that help me understand the phenomenon of specifically foreign men married to Thai women:
- In Thai culture, people are trained from a young age to be considerate and good caregivers. Thai people, men and women alike, are so extra thoughtful of others and always willing to go the extra mile to help. This is attractive for westerners because they can be cared for well.
- The set-up generally works well: Men don’t want to be alone. Women want security.
- Usually the foreign men have lived their lives and perhaps their wife has already died. The climate is good for old bones and muscles. Access to healthcare is easy and better than most people’s home countries.
- For a Thai person, marrying a foreigner is a huge way to get out of socio-economic holes. Marrying a foreign man means financial stability.
- A Thai adult doesn’t just take care of themselves but also their parents and, when needed, extended family. To marry a foreigner can mean security for a family, not just the individual.
- It also works well that the women foreigners find attractive are the ones Thai men don’t .
- Thai people LOVE half Thai-half white kids. The whiter the skin the better. When parents can give this to their kids it is a good thing.
- Thai men are known to be cheaters. Ask any Thai woman and they’ll label Thai men as cheaters.
- Thai people are very open about sexual needs. As far as foreign men with Thai women simply for sex, this is kind of just a normal thing.
- But, sometimes foreign/Thai relationships cause resentment.
My fourth month in Thailand I visited my roommate’s hometown and stayed with her mom and step-dad, an old, fat, British man. They had been together since my friend was young (we were both in college then), yet I spoke more Thai than he did. I had looked forward to my vacation in her hometown because I was going to be immersed in culture and language, but most of my time was spent with this old man, listening to him complain about “them” and all “their culture” things. He was bitter. He felt used for his money. But he stayed in the arrangement. And I think that is what it is for many couples, an arrangement. This happens in western relationships as well, but the arrangement isn’t always as apparent to the public as it is here. Many of my friends from work are married to foreigners and their relationships look a lot different than this first foreign-Thai couple I met. For one, my friends married men their age. There has also been a mutual learning of language and culture.Of course, there is another category of foreign man – Thai woman relations which is mainly for sex during a short time visit. I don’t know much from the foreign men’s perspective, but, from a Thai/hill tribe perspective, sometimes sex work is the work that will pay. There are various places for sex here in Thailand based on price ranges and clientele which range from small drive-in garages for local customers to nicer brothels or bar workers for richer men. Escort services are popular here, as anywhere, though I’ve read that escort services are more popular for rich foreign and local men in Cambodia and Vietnam.During your time here it might be helpful to know that there are three words in Thai that simply summarize cultural values: fun, comfort, and convenience. While Thai people are extremely respectful – this is a very high-context culture meaning that motions, expressions, actions, colors, words, etc. carry lots of meaning. The context is very important for interactions, and.these values still ring through.
Now, after being in Thailand for a couple of weeks, I have met two Thai women who are married to foreign men and their relationships are wonderful. They have businesses together, children together and obvious respect for each other. Learning about this issue has given me a far better appreciation for the arrangements we make in life so that we may be happy and comfortable. And, I’ve learned my lesson to stay away from blog posts titled, “Why Thai Girls Make Better Girlfriends than Western Women.”