Stickman Readers' Submissions January 18th, 2003

Rolling The Dice Against Long Odds

I just finished reading the reader's submission article "Another Perspective" by JJ. Well, the title certainly is accurate: it is contrary to what most Western expats and frequent tourists would say about relationships with prostitutes in Thailand. I am sure the author's heart is in the right place, but I think he is way off them mark in several areas, so much so that I decided to offer this rebuttal.

JJ complains that most people who write about their experience in relationships complain about falling victim to "Evil Bar Girls". That is an exaggeration. There have obviously been a few horror stories about a marriage to a bargirl; the author will say all kinds of nasty things about his ex. You have to take this with a big grain of salt – there are often strong negative emotions involved in failed relationships with anyone. Both the man and the woman feel they have been fxxxed over by each other, and will tell this to anyone who cares to listen.

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But more often, the stories we read on the Internet about failed relationships are relatively balanced documentaries about how the author met the prostitute, what happened during the relationship and how it ended. Most importantly, there is an analysis as to why it ended. This serves as a cautionary tale to anyone thinking about marrying a Thai woman who is or was a prostitute.

I am very sceptical about JJ's claim that 90% of marriages to Thai prostitutes have "worked out". In the Western world, the divorce rate is in the neighborhood of 50%; what the article is suggesting is that a Western man has a much better chance of a successful marriage to a foreign prostitute than a typical woman they would meet and fall in love with in their own country. This just doesn't make sense, what with the cultural barriers, language barriers, differing expectations, likely emotional damage from working as a prostitute, etc.

The author himself has made some statements in his submission that illustrate these barriers:

– "The Thai Bar Girl will accept this as she has been trained to take care of the family. It has been said 'You don't just marry the Thai Girl, you marry her family too'."
– "It is hard for them to get close to you because they cannot show their feelings or emotions"
– "Unfortunately she is carrying around the mental and emotional baggage from her last 5-7 years of work"

So, aside from dealing with the burden of having to take care of the girl's family, the farang man has to try build a lasting relationship with someone who is an emotional wreck. Sounds like an uphill battle me.

Aside from the relationship issue, I also take some exception to JJ's sympathetic viewpoint of prostitutes. He says:

"The only way for a family to make it is for the young girl to go sell herself into the sex trade."

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Yes, Thailand is a developing country. Her per capita GNP is quite a bit lower than Western countries. But lets put this into perspective: Thailand is not North Korea or one of the many African countries constantly torn by civil strife and/or natural disasters. One does not hear stories about mass starvation in Thailand, or Thai refugees fleeing a war zone. There are other ways for a poor Thai family to "make it" aside from prostituting their daughters. The fact is, the girl and her family want to more than just "make it", they want to enjoy a life of leisure or a greater material comfort. No objection to this per se, but don't go whining to me about having "no choice"; everyone has choices in life, and most people choose to earn a living in a more respectable and dignified manner than selling their bodies. It probably won't be easy, it could be damned difficult, but all the material comforts in life have to be paid for with real human effort – either you are paying for it yourself, or someone is paying if for you. People who seek the latter just don't want to pull their own weight.

The author makes a number of sweeping statements about the lousy hand that Thai prostitutes have been dealt in their lives. He suggests that this is an excuse for their bad behaviour: the "Bar Girl mentality – Take what you can from the stupid farang". This is a total crock! Not all prostitutes are products of a dysfunctional family, not all of them are abused and dumped on. I think this is only true in a minority of cases, and even in these cases, it does not justify using deception or fraud to "take all you can" from farang punters. These punters are not the cause of your misfortune – it is immoral and irrational to try extract compensation from them.

I will give you my take on the situation: whatever a prostitute's background, what they have is a fundamental weakness of character. We are all faced with temptations in life; the strong resist, the weak succumb. Every girl who enters into prostitution surely must understand that what they are doing is considered immoral, that they will be throwing away whatever reputation and respect they have in society. The girls also understand that it is a dead-end job: if they can survive the risks of sexually-transmitted diseases, abusive customers and colleagues, drug addiction, etc., they are still looking at a 5 to 10 year career at best. By age 30, it's pretty much all over and they likely have nothing to show for it, no other means to earn a living. A strong person, a rational person will not enter this life in the first place, or will get out of it once she understands the grim truth about her profession. It is the weak person, the one lacking self-discipline who stays in.

I feel some sympathy for some prostitutes, but they DO have a choice and I don't respect them for the decision they have made about their careers. There are just too many young ladies, in Thailand and around the world, from similarly disadvantages backgrounds who have chosen not to engage in prostitution. They choose the harder road in life, but one with dignity and honour. I will save my respect for them.

JJ says we should "Treat a hooker like a lady and a lady like a hooker and she will respect you more". Not me; I will treat a hooker with basic civility that I would extend to any human being, but she is not a lady. Consider the 'hello girls' in front of bars who block your way and grab your arm to drag you into their bar. Consider the girls in the bars who grab your crotch and give it a squeeze in public. Consider the girls who join you in a bar uninvited and immediately hit you up for a lady drink. Are these the actions of a real lady? I'll add one more thing: In Thailand, a real lady would NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES purposely touch a man's head. I am not a Buddhist, but I have had my head touched by a bargirl a few times – I understand the utter contempt that is behind a gesture like this. Most prostitutes view me a resource to be ruthlessly and systematically exploited for maximum revenue. Why should I respect them or seek to earn their respect?

OK, maybe you think I have come down hard on prostitutes, so let me clear up some things: I am not on a crusade against prostitution. It's called the "world's oldest profession" and will be around as long as men continue to be horny. What consenting adults want to do or pay for behind closed doors is entirely up to them – I don't believe prostitution should be outlawed. I just think being a prostitute is, in the long run, a really lousy career choice for both moral and practical reasons (mostly practical). I would not, for any reason, want a woman I cared about to get in this line of work.

Many men who visit Thailand get emotionally involved with prostitutes. Some become friends, some develop deeper feelings. This may lead them to feel differently about prostitutes than me, to respect them more than I do. Well, who and what we respect is a very personal decision, everyone is a bit different. But on a practical level, I am convinced that marrying a prostitute is almost always a bad choice, and one that could lead to some seriously negative consequences in their life. If you are such a man, I can only advise you to take your time, really get to know the girl well, do what you need to do to be sure she is in love with you. Test her, hire a private detective if need be, whatever it takes. It could work out, anything can happen in life, but always know you are rolling the dice against VERY long odds in a situation like this.

Stickman says:

Amen – GREAT stuff

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