In our previous post on the mail order bride (MOB) industry we saw how a country’s EU-membership gives more opportunities to citizens – so they don’t have to sell themselves in such undignified ways.
Now we turn our attention to the beneficiaries of borders: the rent-seeking men who seek to exchange their birth status for mates who would be out of their league in a dating scene of legal equals.
First world citizens seeking mail order brides (or spouses from a disadvantaged countries in general) is a textbook example of rent-seeking behavior. They hope to exchange their own higher citizenship value for higher mate value in brides. But is it an equal exchange? Does higher citizenship value really make you a worthy partner? Does lower citizenship value cause natural-born obedience in women?
Men who buy mail order brides pay in the tens of thousands – yet the bride sees nothing out of that money. She is just the commodity in a thriving industry – and being a sought-after commodity rarely benefits the commodity itself, only its owners – or those who have access to it. The beneficiaries of the woman as a commodity are the MOB industry, who are mining for this commodity, and the guys who buy access to her. But becoming that commodity is still preferable to other opportunities in her birth country, thanks to the political regime that shaped her economic opportunities.
The desired qualities in a mail order bride are, in short, serving and being happy about it. Not only does she have to provide sex, housework and emotional services – she must also supply the illusion that her “traditional values” make her sad if she can’t do all these things. To a stranger.
Just watch this reassuring video and cringe. It is promising to explain how Ukrainian women love sex – but really just tells Ukrainian women why they should have sex with their husbands (because it is good for them, too). “When my husband cooked an egg for me on my birthday that was the best thing he ever did to me.”
A good MOB is genetically unable to say no to sex, is docile and housework-minded, wants to incubate her man’s children and take care of them. She is desperate to be liked and to be found sexy. She wears lingerie all the time and leaves the house in full makeup and dressed like a sex doll. But she does that on a budget, presumably with home-made makeup made from walnut shells. (Pardon, correction …. she is a natural beauty without makeup…)
The moral self-justification of these men (when there is any) is that these women are “brought up” this way, that they don’t just perform the sex act, but enjoy it, that they don’t just do housework and iron his shirt, but couldn’t stand not to, and that they don’t just marry abroad because of money, but also because local men are assholes.
After all, even slaves were believed to need slavery. Scholars after scholars opined that they actually need to be told what to do, maybe even enjoy slavery – providing an excuse to those who almost had consciousness issues about slavery.
There is nothing natural about submissiveness and servitude. It is a consequence of economic circumstances – something their governments have to answer for.
The same website that sells it Russian women as “willing to relocate to the country where you live, learn a new language, and start a new life for a man whom she loves; she will appreciate and take care of him. She appreciates family values, knows how to make your house feel like a cozy home, and allows you to be the head decision maker” – describes Hungarian women in much less desperate-sounding words:
“Although not all Hungarian women are blond and tall, most of them are really good looking. The first thing about them that will make you fall in love is the tempting sparkle in their eyes that is different from the women of other countries. They are open minded women, generally obtaining high educational levels and pursuing careers. Even if they are able to take care of themselves, Hungarian women are raised to be excellent, devoted, and loyal wives.”
“Hungary is a member of the European Union and has a thriving economy. There are few Hungarian mail order brides. Hungary is not recommended as a top country to search for a mail order bride”
Alas, Hungarian women are not imprisoned in their unlivable country. That tells you all there is to know about so called “traditional values” – and whether they are values in the first place.
The men who seek “traditional women”
“Due to the fact that many American women choose to concentrate on their careers rather than on the home life, many of these men are searching for family-oriented yet intelligent foreign women, as they value family and want to create satisfactory and stable relationships. ”
–reads the description of American men (as such) on a mail order bride website
Men choose wives from these countries for varied reasons – but it always boils down to one thing: higher mate value and perceived obedience in the woman. Men seek women from disadvantaged countries either because they are awkward, or found themselves outpriced from the local dating scene. Very likely because they are stuck with the unfortunate combination of
1) an infantile desire to marry a woman who “looks like a porn star”,
2) a body of a walrus and
3) the manners of an angry primate.
It is either insecurity or a desire to grab more than he could in a free exchange of legal equals. Either way, you can get a much more desirable partner in terms of individual qualities if her social value is irrevocably damaged by the accident of birth.
Most studies of the MOB phenomenon takes people’s words for a gospel when it comes to rationalizing their behavior – but those words still say more than they intended to:
American women “were too interested in what I was worth [economically]. With women’s liberation in the USA, I had them calling me, coming to my house. Before, the man called the woman when he wanted to date her; the woman was not the initiator. Now is so different from what I grew up with, so I thought that the best thing to do was to meet someone that can’t just come to my house.”
— said a former husband (age 65) of a MOB (Minervini – McAndrew 2005, pdf to study)
Another one complains about competitiveness in women (hating competition is a staple authoritarian trait) as if it would be a bad thing to have a wife of any value outside of the home. They call men and women “equal but” different – and invariably mean that women are meant to serve their men’s physical and emotional needs – but that’s not servitude but either cultural “values” or “female nature”.
Naturally, this kind of rent-seeking is not limited to men – they are just the ones better situated to exploit it. Men order brides from Ukraine and women go to Jamaica to exchange their privileged birth status for a better-quality mate. A mate, whose individual merits are nixed by the workings of a corrupt and incompetent lord of the land.
“The women in America don’t dress up or do their hair, they just wear sweatpants. It’s disappointing they are not tying to attract any male attention at all.”
–opines Andrew who still lacks the ability to articulate that these things are necessary only to confirm his own importance.
Andrew may not sound like a very secure little bloke, but according to these websites, that’s just my uncharitable assumption. According to the website:
“North Carolina is full of young men, who are half way up the corporate ladder and wish to climb it all the way to the top. Having said that, they are quite stable, in terms of financially supporting and raising a family. Most of them are quite open minded and believe in equal opportunities for men and women. Thus, they are not only advocates of women working but highly desire it.
Their love for travel and exploring new places is uncontrollable. They are not stingy and believe in spending on themselves and their families Thus, money is not their criteria for happiness, togetherness is.”
Beware what you ask for – You might actually get it
Weirdly enough, there is an entire sub-genre online of men complaining that (surprise) their imported bride wasn’t true love. She wasn’t happy. She treated sex as a chore. She was homesick even though her true love was treating her… the way he thought a man treats a woman.
Some people are genuinely surprised.
“[She] spoke about sex the same way she spoke about housework”
“I could always tell she was uncomfortable. It seemed like she was just doing a job.”
“She would cook, clean, offer sex, whatever. Pretty much what you want from your wife. But the passion, emotion, warmth, everything that makes a marriage actually work was lacking. You could liken it to a gold digger but it was much worse. At least with a gold digger it isn’t painfully obvious, and you might actually convince yourself she likes some aspect of you.”
When you trade in human beings nothing good comes out of it – even if those humans sell themselves, even if voluntarily, or pressured by circumstances. Being the commodity always sucks. Being the owner of the commodity is the winning position – even if some lame studies now gush over the “power” the internet gave to the hopeful brides. Way to go internet, way to go…
As other studies (Minervini – McAndrew 2005) pointed out, the women who are willing to take such risks are often the ones with the strongest willpower and determination to escape their circumstances. In other words, hardly the obedient house servants these men envision to deliver marital bliss. Entering the international dating scene is a powerful self-selection, and many women explicitly try to get away from the machismo at home – only to run into the arms of “traditional” men of the first world. Thus, the mail order bride business as it now operates may be in the perverse position of attempting to match independent, nontraditional women with very traditional Western men, a situation which frequently leads to dissatisfaction for both parties – but the imported spouses are more exposed and dependent.
The real horror stories are not of “love sick” men who were dumb enough to think women fall in love with a better life and western citizenship. It is hard to feel sorry for them – they received exactly what they were looking for: someone who is in it for the better life and a citizenship.
The real horror stories are those of the women who were prepared to forego love for a better life and western citizenship – but found something even worse.
Minervini, B. P., & McAndrew, F. T. (2006). The mating strategies and mate preferences of mail order brides. Cross-Cultural Research, 40, 111-129.
Wilson, A. (1998). American catalogue of Asian brides. In J. B. Cole (Ed.), Anthropology for the nineties (pp. 114-125). New York: Free Press.