It’s weird, you know, being back in Thailand. There are enough White men with Asian women around for you to you raise your chopsticks and your eyebrows. Sometimes it’s the age difference that’s startling. Sometimes though you can’t really tell, as some men look older than their age, and the women look (and dress) younger than they really are. Often foreigners are trying to guess if the woman is a ‘lady of the night’ or a proper girlfriend.
Thais couldn’t care less. They are so over it.
So what’s the problem? I don’t know, but it seems like folks like to get out their measuring stick and wave it around like a flag. Consider this gem I found:
I have sexualized my racism???
The funny thing is if you turn the argument around it doesn’t work anymore. What about White women into Asian men? Or White women into Black or Latino dudes? Or Black men into Asian women? And so on. There are Asian woman and Black man couples. There are Asian American men and Asian-Asian women. I can find every kind of mixed race match up in my Facebook or friend circle because the world is a lovely place in that way.
There’s also the idea that all the White men who come to Asia are into Asian chicks. Not so. I know plenty of White guys who ended up hooking up with other Saltine Crackers. Seriously. And make it last. I think people end up with who they are with for a multitude of reasons. Sure, it’s fun to smirk and feel bigger and better, but at the end of the hot day, I’m happy that my friends are coupled up.
I asked a friend why he moved to Cambodia, and do you know what he said?
“I’m into Asian guys.”
Thank you, dear, for being so honest. But I had to check myself. If a straight White male had told me he moved here because he was into Asian girls I’d be disgusted, right? I mean, that’s the correct and justified response as an Asian woman. Yet, what moron would have told me that to my face? White men have to slink around these days with their bellies on the floor because they are told they’re the cause of every evil known to mankind, etc, etc. I’m surprised they are still allowed to speak at all.
It’s okay, guys, I know not all you knuckleheads are baddies. I understand that evil comes in all colors. It’s called World History! But while we wait for reason to enter our lives again (hahaha), just remember: treat all women with respect or I’ll take out your knee caps.
I remember looking through a Bobby Brown makeup book and her stating, “I believe Asian women are among the most beautiful in the world.” But if a White guy says that, as opposed to Bobby Brown, a White woman, then it’s considered creepy or off-putting. This dude I dated said he thought the most beautiful women were from Vietnam and Argentina. Okay. We like what we like and as long as no one is being harmed, why do we feel the strong need to interject our morality into it?
I suppose there will always be the “why don’t you stick to your own kind” mentality.
There is a distinction though that’s important here that I want to point out. I’m an Asian American with a White guy, but we met in Thailand. And for the purposes of this post, I’m not going to talk about gay relationships although that is huge here, and I’m specifically going to focus on the relationship scene in Thailand.
White guys into Asian women
This is a bit complicated for me to tackle because I’m not a White guy. However, over the years I get the sense that some of them seek a more traditional woman. What I mean by that is, someone who cooks and cleans and doesn’t complain about it. With women’s liberation, many Western women find old stereotypes restricting and insulting, and I’d argue that many Asian women don’t. This is changing though, as there is definitely a rise of independent, single Thai women.
If I look at myself honestly, there’s a bit of role play for me, too. I want a strong man, capable and able to fix stuff like guys are supposed to do. When I knew more about cars than my ex- I was put off by it. Without getting into the complicated conversation that is gender roles, let’s just leave it at that. There’s no denying that there is a wide spectrum of traditional versus modern roles that couples play out around the world.
There’s a bit of masculine versus feminine desires here, too. I would argue that most men want a woman who is rather feminine. Of course, there are exceptions. There are always great exceptions, but generally speaking, Asian women have a tendency to be feminine – that is to say, they like their makeup, and getting dressed up. Even the uniforms of Thailand are also this way, so you have bank employees in fitted skirts and heels, whereas in the States, you won’t likely have to wear a uniform and you’re probably going to go for comfort. We had our 50’s era already.
I understand that. Part of me liked it when girls looked pretty. Not the pajama era where women roll out of bed and into Wal-Mart. Girls used to wear red lipstick and put their hair in rollers. Men wore hats. There’s been a demise in classiness. The other part of me can’t part with the freedom of not having to conform to gender stereotypes. Wearing heels all day is cruel and unusual punishment and should be forbidden by the Geneva Convention.
This is related though, very much to the fact that some Asian women view dating White guys as not only a paycheck, but a job. It’s a deeply cynical view, but it’s there. For example, Thai women just want your money. White guys are going to use you and move on.
To be even more cynical, there’s even an element of “these guys would never get laid in their own country, so they come to Thailand” implying that they are incredibly ugly, or short, or whatever. And while, yes, sometimes I see a guy who has definitely leveled up in the partner department, I don’t think this is anything radically different than what you’d see in any country. We don’t want to be too cruel in our judgments, lest we be judged in turn. Ironically, even though this is a culture based on appearances, a lot of women won’t care if the guy is not conventionally attractive. Maybe ugly in one culture isn’t so ugly in another.
White women digging Asian men
There are surprisingly a good number of White women who have dated or married Asian men over here. What’s interesting is if you are a Thai woman who marries a foreigner, he has to pay a crazy large amount of money to get his marriage visa. On the other hand, if you are a Thai man and you marry a foreigner, she doesn’t have to pay anything. How’s that for a double standard?
When I started my first teaching job in Chiang Mai, my workplace was filled with White guys dating or married to Thais, and White women into Thai blokes. Truly. I even had the privilege of being present when two of my friends met for the first time. It was some sort of New Year’s holiday (Thais celebrate three), and we were going around the table, making wishes. I asked W what he wished for and he said a White woman. K was walking up to join us when I cheekily said, “Here’s comes one now. Will she do?” They eventually got married and have been living in Chicago for years now.
I asked my sister-in-law what attracted her to my brother, and I love her response, “He wasn’t the standard White guy from around here.” I mean, that’s just it, isn’t it? Folks are attracted to what’s different, what stands out, too. I could definitely see my sister-in-law looking at Larry and going, “Hmmmm,” cause he’s a good-looking cat.
My best friend from high school has a British mother and Japanese American father, and they met on a blind date. And like my sister-in-law also mentioned, “We just hit it off.” Chemistry is chemistry. But this is something we conveniently forget when we talk about dating different ‘races’. Often it is about personalities, having things in common, enjoying each other’s company.
When I asked my friend C about her man (they both live here) she said, “When I first met M, it was at a party and he was the only guy who wasn’t acting like a dick. He was super smart and decent, and I wanted to know this guy.”
And then I had to ask my mate Ingrid about her Thai guy, “He had a pink mohawk and face full of piercings. Contrast that with his sweet personality…He was different.”
It seems the appeal for women is that Asian men are not the usual run-of-the-mill-Joes and maybe even a bit more substantive. White women are allowed to fetishize Asian men (or Latinos, or Blacks). They can be turned on by a group of men who the West has traditionally stereotyped as Bruce Lees or Long Duck Dongs. And I say this because many haven’t seen my friends’ husbands or Asian men who range from cute to hot, too.
Blacks and Asians, yup, they get together, too.
My friend Matt is half-Filipino and his wife his Black. He has thick curly hair and when he’s with her, he’s mistaken for being half-Black. But like a lot of mixed raced folks, he’s considered whatever depending on wherever he is. In Greece, they thought he was Greek.
But even as far back as childhood, my mom had a Thai friend with a Black husband. She owned a little grocery store near a comic book shop that we frequented.
Another friend, Katy, is half-Thai, her husband is Black, and when they’re together, people think she’s half-Black, too. Interestingly, when her husband, let’s call him E, met up with the “Blackpackers” (I love that, hahahaha) in Thailand, they were upset that he wasn’t with another Black woman. And when Katy shows her Thai ID card, Thais look at her like, “Really?”
Asian on Asian action
Thailand gets a lot of flak for being a place where ‘sex tourism’ thrives. But guess what? Asians like prostitutes, too. And with the Chinese now leading the numbers of tourists who come to Thailand and Cambodia, you can bet your baht and dollar, some of the men are seeking out pink houses and paid company.
When we were in Cambo at a coffee house, my BF was watching an older Asian man discussing his age preference to a Cambodian woman. The number 13 stood out. My friend Isobel lives in an apartment building with such thin walls she memorized the questions her Korean neighbor asked his prostitutes every week. Thailand, though, is doing a lot to try to clean up this image as well as those places where men frequent for a good time.
Some Cambodians don’t like Chinese men because they have a reputation for being physically abusive. I think there have been too many tear-stained stories that have come back from Khmer women who married Chinese men. The BF lived in China and has horrible tales of witnessing domestic abuse. Now, to put the glass slipper on the other foot, it’s considered normal society for Khmer husbands to cheat and have second girlfriends. But the women do it, too. So, no boo-hoo-hoo.
This reminds me of what my mom told me when I moved to Thailand, “Never date a Thai man.” Believe it or not, many Asian cultures consider it okay for the man to play the field long after they’ve been married. In Thai society, I find it dreadful how soap operas portray gender roles. It’s very patriarchal. Some have even argued that’s why Thai women look for a foreign partner: Western men are far less likely to be physically abusive or cheat.
But I didn’t bring this up to dog on Asian men, I brought this up because this is a very real phenomena that often is overlooked in the discussion of race and the bullshit of what color-is dating-what color. But here’s the thing, Asian American men also come out to Asia and look/find an Asian-Asian partner. Or, Asian American women find a partner who is not from their home country. I have people in mind when I say this.
I’ve been told often enough that as an Asian American woman in Asia certain types of men won’t find me interesting. I suppose they are alluding to the guys who come out to Asia looking for the exotic, and I’m too – that lawn isn’t going to mow itself – Westernized. Funnily, I’ve dated White American men since I’ve been out here. True, my 6+ year relationship ended in Thailand, and there’s something about being out here that can break partners up, but that’s another story.
Often I get stared at. Ever since I left the comfort of Hawaii, I’ve been looked at as a curiosity. These days I’m assuming folks are trying to figure out what ethnicity I am. I guess I look mixed enough to make them openly gawk. My mom is Thai and my father Chinese. But because I’m so used to it, I don’t get offended. I don’t even look at them. I know they’re looking at me, and just continue on my way.
The BF, on the other hand, finds it really annoying when people stare at me, and at us. He gets defensive. I have to remind him I don’t care. And he reminds me that staring in any culture is considered rude. Sometimes I’ll speak loudly so everyone in the restaurant will know that I speak perfect English, not Mandarin. Other times, I do take in the judging eyes of a tourist couple and know that I’m not who they think I am. And I actually find great comfort in that.
When I see a White man and an Asian woman, I have to tell myself not to do the very same thing that others do to me. I do a quick look and try not to judge. Of course, some couples are simply too juicy to not let the imagination go wild, such as when you see a really old codger with a super young thing. Yet, I’ve gotten good at discerning Western Asians, figuring out if she’s Japanese or Chinese, and simply not giving a hoot over him and her.
However, a lot of this probably depends on where you’re at. I’m not into the nightlife here or anywhere. I stay in family-friendly places. I know many mixed race couples. Seemingly mismatched pairs get along just fine. Superficially unattractive men can be nice guys. Regardless of how many times Western culture reminds us not to “judge a book by its cover” we do it anyway because our first impressions are usually physical ones, but in Thailand, you really are better off withholding your good opinion of others.
What do you think?