Thailand and most of South East Asia has a certain population of this fascinating specimen. It’s unavoidable to not meet them, especially now that I’m living in Isaan. I can’t say they’re the most attractive bunch, more along the lines of Weird Al’s song ‘White and Nerdy’ but add in an older set of gents that are a little on the beer belly side too. It might be the Florida-like weather that attracts them like ants to a picnic, but there are plenty spanning from nations all across the world that come for a little rest and relaxation, sometimes for the long-term.
(Give the video a second to load, it’ll give you good mental imagery for this post.)
During that rest and relaxation, many of our Fat Sugar Daddies (FSDs for short) are hoping to find someone to ‘take care’ of them. What better place than South East Asia where it’s so engrained in the culture that people feel distressed unless you let them fuss over you. Or you know, offer Volunteers/white men mistresses.
So our older gents make their way here, sometimes on business, sometimes just for travel/find a place to retire, but somewhere along the way, they find themselves a special lady friend. Especially if they go to Pattaya. Especially then.
Pattaya, a beach location not far from Bangkok is a known hot spot, by Thais and farangs alike, for bar girls and their old white ‘friends.’ Many women from Isaan and other poor communities make their way to Pattaya and areas like it in search for better paying jobs (as a waitress, bartender, dancer, prostitute, or just plain ‘bar girl’) and sometimes for a nice ole FSD.
It’s hard to accept this as a ‘norm’ of society in Thailand. The sexual exploitation of Thai women, the monetary exploitation of farang men, and the chunk sex tourism industry holds in the pie that is the Thai economy, one estimate published in 2003 placed the trade at US$ 4.3 billion per year or about three percent of the Thai economy. Buddha knows the Thais try their best to ignore/put on a good show about it, but I think they are uncomfortable with it being such a prominent identifier with Thailand. (One that I’ve actually grown relatively uncomfortable with as well. When I told people of the relatively conservative nature of Thai people before I arrived, they were surprised thinking of the bar ladies on the beach. Now that I’ve lived here for over a year and I know what constitutes as ‘sex-EE,’ the difference is magnified even more. Not that there aren’t scantily clad ladies here, but other Thais smile and laugh awkwardly at the time and then talk about them later like it’s the latest celebrity scandal.)
So, should we judge these FSDs (and their lady friends) by the cover? I mean, they can (sometimes… a lot of the time) barely communicate with their girlfriends and when they do, the gals are agreeing with all of their opinions and fulfilling their wishes. What else does a sixtyish year old white man and a twenty/thirty year old Thai girl have in common in a culture that segregates based on gender and age groups?
These relationships though, cannot be observed through a Western woman’s lense. The case would be thrown out before its arraignment. Traditionally, Asian relationships are not the romantic, best friend rom-com partners in crime we see our betrothed to be. In Elizabeth Gilbert’s follow-up to Eat Pray Love, Committed, she explores the differences in the meaning of ‘marriage’ and is trying to come to terms with it. While waiting out the time in South East Asia before her Brazilian can come back into the U.S., she makes a trip to visit with a village tribe that holds on to many traditional beliefs and in the case of our subject holy bow-chicka wow wow. (Yes, I’m going to add that in whenever possible.) In these parts, your husband is for making babies and to support those bundles of joy as well as your extended family. Companionship, conversation, and a majority of a woman’s time is spent with her gal pals and female relatives.
So when these ladies can’t communicate with their FSDs more than a PCT can after their first month of training, it doesn’t stop them from ‘loving’ that person. I should know, my host mother showered me with affection within the first week I was there. But that’s a story for another post. What’s important to realize though is the vast differences in expectations of a romantic relationship in South East Asia. Are we right or are they? Does it matter?
And that age thing. Why would a youngerish Thai woman go for a white and nerdy geezer? Let’s take a small gander of her prospects. She could try to sort through her fellow country nationals and find a good, non-cheating, beating, STI-passing, alcoholic Thai man who is also able to provide financially for their family as well, but trust me, it’s pretty slim pickings (Which is hard to explain in it of itself. Thai men are often encouraged by each other to take part in this kind of behavior and there is no prevailing societal frown on them for it, so the cycle continues). Then there’s a farang guy. Usually better established in the wallet sense being typically a bit older, not going to have the mojo to run around, and is (at least in my opinion from the majority of what I’ve seen in my comparison of Thai men and their farang counterparts) more grateful to the work around the house and serving of things (food, drinks, and else wise) than the Thai guys (at least stereotypically, there are some really fantastic Thai men out there that I’ve been lucky enough to meet and make me question my presumptions about the male gender in this country, here’s looking at you Pek). It’s different interests and qualities in a guy than mine, but I wouldn’t blame anyone for picking a farang guy.
Another thing to note is the ‘divorce’ stigma. Thai marriages usually stick through the thick and thin no matter how many geeks the husband has. Breaking up for romantic reasons is not considered ‘normal’ yet and many Thais are confused as to why so many farangs are divorced (I get asked that all the time, I don’t know how to say in Thai ‘because Western women aren’t pressured by their society and culture to put up with shit like Thai women are’). So when a divorced or eternal bachelor comes along a previously engaged lady see her chance or a guy again. This is the same for widowed women or those that maybe had a child out-of-wedlock (gasp!).
One problem that I think is definitely arising from FSD population is the stigma that is starting to get attached to women that are with farangs and what type of woman who is (typically dark-skinned Isaan girls). Because some/many are meeting their white men in places like Pattaya, a blanket stereotype is starting to be applied that they must be fast and easy when that isn’t the case for them or most Thai women. I was reading on another website, stickmanbangkok, and a Thai-American wrote in and had this to say
Firstly, farang men do have a reputation in Thailand, some good, some not so good. I’ll narrow it down to the two that seems to matter most. (1) Thais think that all Farangs are wealthy. Can be good and bad…more on that later. (2) Thais believe that farang men are whore-chasers and connoisseurs of low-class women. Farangs need to understand Thai’s belief in class distinction to really appreciate the importance of number 2. And before you go about beating up Thais for falsely believing number 2, understand that Thais know what’s going on in Pattaya, Phuket, and the seedier areas of Bangkok. They see farang guys trying to pass their hookers off as girlfriends and they know. Heck, everyone knows. So if you want to blame anyone, blame these true whore-chasers who are still out there every single day. It never ceases to amaze me how farangs get upset when Thai folks mistakenly assume their wives/GFs are hookers, yet see for themselves other farangs with hookers and don’t even bat an eye. Thais only believe that Thai women with farangs are BGs/ex-BGs because it’s true the majority of the time.
BG= Bar Girl. And then this:
There’s a well-kept secret in Thailand that every Thai person seems to know but no farang does (or maybe can’t grasp what it means). It boggles my mind actually because you can’t get three Thai people to agree on anything but nearly everyone agrees on this, both men and women. That farang men only date ugly Thai women. Now this is where there’s a huge perception difference between Thai and farang men. It’s the Isaan factor again, but let me try to explain it so that the average farang can relate. Thais look at dark-skinned women sort of the same way that Americans look at fat white women. Most American guys don’t dream of waking up every morning next to an obese woman, but admittedly, some guys are into that sort of thing. And if you are, you’ve got the pick of the litter. And that’s how it is with Isaan type women. Thai men of reasonable means are not going to be interested in these type of women and these women know it. Don’t believe me? Heck, just watch some Thai TV and see what they’re touting in the commercials. Constantly seeing products that are alleged to lighten women’s skin. Look at the Thai women soap stars. Certainly doesn’t fit the profile of a girl typically seen with a farang. Now I honestly don’t believe that farangs “prefer” these Isaan type of women, although most seem content with anyone who’s thin and young, regardless of what they look like. But that’s really all that’s available to most farangs.
I agree with stickmanbangkok when he responds to this reader’s submission with ‘Absolutely spot on, another submission that really is compulsory reading for farangs who spend time with Thai women.’ Seriously, you should read the entire thing. Granted, Peace Corps Volunteers aren’t the average farangs in Thailand, especially comparing the male Volunteers to the ‘whore-chasing’ fogies. It’s different for us is in living next to Thais every day in rural areas, we see women, their male counterparts, and their interactions for both better and worse (and the worse isn’t so great). We try to explain that being white isn’t the only way to be beautiful. Or American. We spend time with people, learn the language (albeit on varying levels), and try to figure out how to work in the culture to modest measures of success. And the Thais (usually) respond in kind.
Being a vast and varied topic that is so relevant to Thai-Farang relationships (and not just romantic ones), there is a lot written on this subject, here are some links that I’ve found interesting.
The Truth about Thai girls: 5 Things you’ve got all wrong– If you’re short on time, go here
The Shameful Truth about Sex Tourism– Take the time to read the comments, hilarious white male responses
‘Me love you long time’ (Thai women vs. white women)– Written by Lani Cox, a Thai-American woman, all I’m going to say is ‘White Diamonds’
Clearly this is not a black and white issue with most of it laying in the grey area. I try hard not to judge the older farang men (and their gal pals) I meet here without further investigation, but I find myself scoffing in my mind more often than not. I think the important thing to note is that there are farang douchebags, Thai Douchebags, male and female douchebags and they are just that, douchebags. All I try to do is encourage my students to learn English, not just to get a farang romantic partner (even if that is the best way for anyone’s language to improve), but for themselves and to broaden their worlds. Both inside Thailand and out.