Saturday, October 27, 2012

Bangkok - A note on sex, cultural myths, and stereotypes

At the education fair I attended today, I had an unexpected, but refreshing, encounter with two young prospective grad students.  Somehow we ended up on the subject on some strange guys they met while they lived in other countries.  The one girl remarked how popular she was to German guys while living in Germany for a year, and her friend remarked how popular she was with Saudi international students she met while living in India for a year!  We were laughing about these incidents, and I shared a couple of my own crazy stories, and the girls both stated they  thought it was weird how in India, people there were more racist against skin colour differences (though they later admitted the same thing happens in Thailand).  I told them Indians want white babies, and they just laughed, and I commented that in Asia generally, white skin was more valued, which is why they had all that skin whitening cream here.  Then it suddenly dawned on them how true that was, but they didn't know why, and I told them I'd heard it had to do with class because a woman with fair skin meant she was wealthy enough to have servants to do everything, and she could keep her skin pristine, while a servant might have to work hard labour out in a field all day and become dark.  And we often do just want what we don't have.  We have our tanning lotions back home.  I've heard that in Sweden, they find darker skinned brunettes more attractive because that's exotic for them (remember that's just hearsay!), while in countries where skin is darker, it's the fairer people that are considered exotic. 

In any case, both girls stated they had experienced guys just wanting to have sex with them just because they're Thai, and these men had these stereotypes that just because these girls were Thai, they'd be loose because of Thailand's raging sex industry.  I told them girls from the West experience the same thing, that often guys from other parts of the world think we're easy because of what they see on TV because they see our movies or soaps, and that makes them think we're all having affairs and having sex with everyone we meet. 

We laughed about these things; I mean, here were two articulate, educated young women, who were anything but easy.  They were not prostitutes or girls who worked in a massage parlour.  I reflected on our conversation later and realised how it was a sad state of affairs when girls from such different regions as we come from experience the same types of assumptions no matter where they go.  When I was in Mexico, I was told that Canadian girls had a certain reputation there because the guys get exposed to the crazy drunks they meet in Cancun during spring break, and there are many of us that think the same of Mexican girls or Latin American women in general because we think they're so seductive.

This is a grim outlook, my friends.  All women everywhere seem to have some stereotype about them that makes people think they are loose.  When are people going to learn not to generalise?  It makes me sad that women have to experience this every day.  And I can't blame men alone for this.  There are many women who think this about women from other countries or cultures, too.  That's what's more curious, because we hate it when people stereotype us (about our sexuality and otherwise), and yet we would do it other women.

I may be a while pondering this...

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