After visiting the Thai nightlife scene for many years and having spent the majority of a year around Bangkok’s red light districts, I’ve seen what heavy users of Thai prostitutes experience. I’ve asked the same questions about the women that are involved in this industry. Whether a relationship can exist? Whether it is real? Is it all just a fantasy? The ensuing debate between realists and optimists has occurred between many whoremongers I have known and exists on this website, through the many readers’ submissions, some grounded in experience, some based on limited experience by newcomers, and some based on a clear confusion between reality and the fantasy created by the whole scene.
In the end, I think most who look at Thailand’s foreigner-oriented prostitution scene in a rational manner should understand it’s essentially one big illusion. The prostitutes provide an experience similar to what a girlfriend might be. They call them “boyfriends”, they accommodate the men who have a desire to “date” them; they work to create a “relationship” with them. The men help in this illusion by coming up with indirect terms to avoid acknowledgement of the obvious facts.
The prostitutes are dubbed “bar girls”, which helps to avoid confronting the reality that we are dealing with whores. The customers are dubbed “sanukers”, to avoid the self-acknowledgement that they are whoremongers. We hear and read too much about customers who claim, “she didn’t ask for money” or “she didn’t make any request help with [sick buffalo, family, medical bills, etc.]”. All of this plays into the desire and need to support this illusion that we are dealing with a “real relationship” and that, perhaps, it is between two people who would normally or actually find interest in each other mutually. In reality, this is not typically the case. The girl is primarily interested due to her desire for financial compensation. Most don’t ask for money, either because that is not the norm, not the Thai way, or more precisely her clear understanding that most men will pay without being asked outright. The illusion is also better preserved if the girl doesn’t do the “hardcore whore” action of asking for the money. Most won’t even negotiate the fee, unless the guy initiates the conversation before taking the girl for sex or the pre-coital “date”. The girls request “taxi money” as a means to increase their fee. If the guy doesn’t give enough for her whore services, they often pout or whine like a girlfriend to extract more from him. They have learned that playing the illusion of a girlfriend gets more results than being an outright whore. Does this change the reality that the guy paid for the sex? How many guys who claim “she didn’t ask for money” can say he didn’t pay her with the understanding, though often unspoken, that she is a hooker and that she did go with him for the money? How many guys can say they honestly believe this teenage (hopefully 18 or over) or early 20’s girl simply decided they are interested in having sex with every farang that buys them a lady drink or speaks broken Thai to them? How many farangs don’t understand that women work in strip joints for money? And that the guys who walk into go-go bars are customers? Some realities are global. Prostitution is one of them. Women do it for the money, not for your good heart, a handsome face, or because they are horny.
Think about it. Are you really so interested in her, because she has a great heart or a terrific personality? Isn’t it her great ass? How did you decide she was such a terrific person, in a span of less than 2 weeks, with a girl you can barely speak with about anything beyond boom-boom, food, or her barfine? Wasn’t it really just because of the sex with a young and beautiful girl? Especially one you wouldn’t likely get to screw back home? Even if you really are handsome (and not just so in your ego and mind), do you have access to so many attractive, sexually willing, ego-massaging women at home? These are the real reasons for why men fall for a Thai whore.
It is a combination of easy sex, women more attractive than what they could normally get, a good ego-rubbing job by the whore, and an ability to play out the man’s implicit desire (whether clearly requested or not) to find a real girlfriend. This whole fantasy plays out in an exotic land with a beautiful prostitute that lets him act out his lusts on her.
Perhaps it goes back to the male desire for a whore in the bedroom and an angel in public. She is obviously a whore and for most men, she doesn’t even need to be good at anything, except letting the man do as he pleases sexually with her.
Thai women are quite good at playing the angel, given their cultural upbringing as demure feminine women and their Asian way of indirectly seeking out their goals. They don’t demand money up front, having learned it is easier (and potentially more productive) to use their feminine wiles to get the man to provide it apparently of his own will. It is difficult to say no, given the man’s belief that “it is the culture” and his Western understanding that he should fairly compensate her for her time. This compensation says two things. First, it is validation that both parties are still clearly undertaking an act of prostitution. Second, the compensation can range from “rent money”, “support”, “allowance”, assistance with education / medical bills / sick buffalos, all the way to sin sot (a marriage dowry). They bring everything into it, from traditional Thai marriage traditions and culture (which don’t apply to prostitutes and customers), to the farang sense of money (it is cheap in USD or GBP, so it is ok for the farang to pay), to deep desires by the customer to play out the role of social activist or white knight.
However, in the end, here are the facts. He paid her for sex. He may very well be continuing to pay her for sex or to retain exclusive sexual access to her (or the illusion that he actually has this exclusive access). The differences between them, if a picture were taken, a social and class comparison made, or an educational assessment undertaken, would show very little REAL reason for why he would be interested in her beyond the sex. It would likely show very little REAL reason for why she would be interested in him physically. Depending on his character or personality, it may show virtually no reason for her to find him attractive as a person.
Sure, there are educated Thai hookers. There are handsome customers. There are younger bargirls with younger customers. Occasionally, there are older whores with older whoremongers. There are those “couples” that seem to be both of the same level of attractiveness. Still, if you stand around the farang go-go bar areas, these combinations are rare. It is usually old man with young girl, ugly or plain man with beautiful girl, fat man with beautiful girl, or socially inept (or asshole) man with young girl. If anyone wants to fight over numbers, spend some time sitting in one of the beer bars facing the entrance to Nana Plaza and do your own comparisons. However, you may want to bring along a disinterested friend, should you be one who has clear motivations or a desire to hold up the illusion.
An article (“Disruptive Influences”) in the Bangkok Post’s 10/17/2003 Edition, quotes a Thai ad executive. He says:
"Ask yourself if people don't want to hear lies sometimes? Illusion adds colour to life, otherwise we'll only eat and work and sleep and sh*t. TO SURRENDER WHOLLY TO ILLUSION, OF COURSE, IS NOT WISE…
[Advertising] only gives choices so that people can satisfy their needs. But those needs exist in the first place. We cannot create a need that isn't already there. [We're] not that important. No. [We're] not that clever."
He was talking about ads and their impact on the Thai consumers. However, if you apply this to the needs of farang men for love / relationships, it doesn’t take too much to see how he could very well be talking about the Thai go-go prostitutes marketing of themselves as girlfriends. The whole “girlfriend experience” is really just a marketing ploy, initiated by farang desires and Thai whores seeking money. They don’t have to be smart (though they may be). They only have to understand to play on the ignorance of farangs with big egos or an unmet need to fulfil emotionally. It is not the sexual needs that give the Thai whores the ability to take the most money from a farang. It is her ability to falsely meet his emotional needs with an illusion. With enough money, I suppose it could go on forever. I am sure there is some desperate farang who will find solace in that last statement.
How did I come about with this view of things? Well, it is obviously not a unique view. Many men hold a cynical view of the whole “bargirl scene” in Thailand. Some were hurt in failed relationships with these prostitutes, when they entered into a confusing and apparently grey world between her being a prostitute and an ex-prostitute. Others simply attribute the “common sense” approach that prostitution is bad, prostitutes are usually bad and screwed up, and that it is best to avoid a high-risk relationship with a whore. I came to my conclusions as a man that fell into the second group. However, as I spent more time in The Land of Smiles (LOS), I got to know bargirls and their bargirl friends. I also got to know many of the sanukers. I was able to observe in a number of cases the interaction of both the man and woman, and to see the clear contradictions between what he thought and what she was really about. Then, in other relationships, I was able to see what she hoped for and what he was really all about. My personal observations (first hand) demonstrated that these relationships rarely work, as the men are often very naïve concerning their expectations of an active hooker or one that “left the scene” just for him. They don’t often comprehend all the compromises they will need to make, including acceptance of Thai and farang societies’ judgement of their relationship, the difficulties due to highly disparate cultures / age / education / class / income, or the obvious fact that in all likelihood both of them will need to give up their whoring ways (one being the whore and the other the whoremonger) with third parties.
Furthermore, the economic motives for her entering into a relationship with a customer will always be there, both in reality (fact: she is and was there for the money) and in the doubts their meeting will justifiably create in his mind. It would foolish for him to overlook the obvious financial motivations she has for marrying him given her background. The polygamous and whoremongering ways she observed in him when they first met will always be a reality and a point of concern for her. Given how they met, her concerns would be just as potentially foolish to overlook. Both of these problems would only be exacerbated if they stay in LOS. The alternative would cause major cultural shock to her, given she will likely be from a poorly educated, culturally insulated upbringing, whatever her abilities to adapt or her limited exposure to REAL Western culture (as opposed to whoremongering farang culture). The real Western world is a tough, complicated, and often scary, even heartless, place.
My cautious view was simultaneously being formed by the stories I heard about relationships I was unable to have first-hand observations in. Inevitably, if the customer spoke, he talked about deception, lies, ignorance, greed, and lack of flexibility. There was also hypocritical jealousy and uncontrollable rage, drug abuse, alcoholism, broken families and sudden mood shifts from depression to euphoria found among these sweet little bargirl angels (sarcasm). When the story was heard from a Thai hooker, it is usually of lying customers (who promised more than they would deliver or who delivered less than the girl imagine he would), lying boyfriends, cheating men, illegitimate children, fatherless homes, abuse, alcoholism, and poverty. While I tend to believe the women expect too much from whoremongers, it really doesn’t matter. Both sides are ill prepared for the attempt at a relationship. If I look at others and myself objectively, one has to ask what does it say about us, given the transaction we participate in (or have participated in) with these women? Is it reflective of a good future husband? What does her occupation say about her potential as a future wife? Selling oneself for money has definite and very significant impacts on a woman’s view of herself, men, sex, and money. It has just as significant an impact on the customers of prostitutes.
Even when these major obstacles can be mitigated, there is the final reality. It is best demonstrated by the power of a picture or a personal introduction. It may be a myth that all sex tourists are old, fat, and / or ugly. However, it is not a myth that many are. It is also not a myth that most Thai bargirls catering to Westerners are generally vulgar, poor, uneducated, and of low social class by Thai standards. Westerners tend to overlook these faults, until they get a better sense of Thais, only because of cultural differences in perception and an initial ignorance of where bargirls stand in their own societies. The net effect here is that neither party is often really “attractive”. In a minority of instances, you do see a younger, more attractive man involved with a beautiful bargirl, or a couple in the same decade of their ages. In some of these instances, the girl is actually a high school or university graduate, or the man is only a high school graduate, so their educational levels are closer. There are also instances where both parties are of plain or less attractive stature. Sometimes one speaks good Thai or the other speaks fairly fluent English. However, these individual circumstances are not in the majority, and when you try to put them all together so age, education, language, and appearance all come into play, you rarely find a couple that has a fair chance based on compatibility and genuine interest beyond lust and money. For those that will debate this, think about couples that appear to have a fair chance at a marriage in your country. Don’t they usually fall into similar age, class, educational, and income groups? What do the social scientists say? Most research tends to favor commonalties in the aforementioned areas, with an explanation of why opposites attract, but not necessarily any indication that this improves the chance of a union. The studies indicate opposites can be complimentary if the differences make the couple stronger, but that is a possibility based on practical advantages those differences can provide. Dysfunctional family background, drug addiction, psychological problems due to abuse, and poverty are rarely advantageous traits. Yet, these are common traits among bargirls.
When it is all put together, a real relationship with a bargirl is full of obstacles and is generally a very bad idea, because of both parties involved.
Lastly, this is all a moot point, unless she is actually attracted to you and not just your money.
If you don’t mind that your wife or girlfriend isn’t really interested in you and have no problems with paying to keep them around for emotional or sexual purposes, that’s called being a sugar daddy with a gold-digger or live-in whore. That’s a totally different story and I suppose, if both parties are clear in what they want, it could work out until your money runs out. If someone wants to play this game, make sure you have enough money and that you never start to care about genuine affection from your partner in life (as it will never be there). However, it is my goal to actively avoid such a situation to the best of my ability.
You just upset a lot of readers! A lot of people really didn't want to read that. I loved the way you talk about the terminology used by the guys of "girlfriend", "date" and my pet hate, the way many guys use the term "sanuk" to mean paid sex.
But this piece is just so right…so damned spot on.