Commentary

Choice Architecture for Mail Order Brides

A good choice depends on what your options are. For the women who launch into a long distance marriage to escape their countries – and their humble economic prospects – the options were limited. That helps explain why they did it.

Would you let someone saw off your left arm? Of course not. How about sawing off your left arm or feeding it to piranhas – while it is still attached to you? I know. You want neither. But what if someone makes you make this choice?

Would you sell yourself into prostitution in Colombia? No? How about the thousands of Venezuelan women who now do exactly that – to avoid starvation due to the economic abuse by their government?

For a mail order bride, the choice is between a poor life next to a guy who is too “traditional” to love – or a middle class life next to a guy whom she may or may not end up loving. Only one of the options has hope. What she cannot choose is not to marry, not to be poor, while staying where she was born – all at the same time.

The first two installments of this post triggered a predictable hysteria about how I neglect feeling sorry for poor men who pay for a woman – and still don’t get love. Maybe even get ripped off. But the problem is, their options were not this bleak. They may not be able to get into a relationship with anyone, but no one made them to sell their bodies into sexual, domestic and reproductive duty to another person – just to escape their own plight. Sure, they blame things for not being able to get a woman for home to sleep with – but adjusting and exposing themselves to such an extreme degree to attract the desired partner is not an appetizing option. Neither is it for the women. And again, consumers of mail order brides could just choose to stay single, they can stay where they were born, and still attain economic comfort – more than a person born in the wrong country would ever enjoy. Hence the asymmetry of the two situations.

In these mail order bride stories awkwardness and dependency are the rule, not the rare exception. This entire human trade is built onto dependency, and dependency crowds out love. Love in these cases is expected to be born out of gratitude for their rescuer. And that’s the best case scenario. But even when it happens, gratitude cannot last forever. Plenty of stories of disappointed husbands float on the internet – and the only surprising thing is that they are surprised. They seem to ask “Doesn’t she love me, I have a house and a car” and they genuinely believe (female) human emotions are as primitive as that.

But those who objectify women also (logically) objectify themselves. Men who subscribe to the idea that marriage is an exchange of the use of her body for the use of his money willfully sell themselves as a walking wallet and provider. And then still get surprised when they are regarded as such, and not an object of love.

But it doesn’t look like “love” because it is just a transaction. They get a mildly grateful female body for reproductive, sexual and household use – but the gratitude either fades or it is skin-deep to start with. No one can stay grateful forever. At some point even these women will feel that it is their right to live and breath. Only our convoluted and muddled view of the institution of marriage allows us to even believe that whatever happens under its legal cloak must be family, love, marriage… By no means human trade, fraud or criminal abuse.

Because other men are less naive and plot to live out their sadistic dreams on an exposed human. They might just get what they dreamed of. This is why the real MOB horror stories are of women who are abused – not of intellectually challenged men who get ripped off or not loved in exchange for the great favor of paying an agency to link them to desperate women.

But why do women even try?

A good choice depends on what your options are

Being a mail order bride is an awkward and suppressed existence – but so is being a poor wife very often. These women may learn to accept their situation or rebel against it, they might even “learn to love” their husbands, but that can easily just be dependence bonding, a lasting bond of Stockholm syndrome.  We are all equipped with the survival tool of mistaking gratitude with love after all. But that is just a tool of survival – not of living and thriving.

Their initial choice to enter these transactions is – sadly – perfectly understandable and rational. Considering their options. Consider the alternatives, tells one mother in a little Ukrainian village that looks like a field after a battle.

Anna reveals to Jodie what life was like before she married Mark and moved to America - she used to have to shower outside in the snow and earned £62 a month 

A mail order bride shows her mother’s place where they used to have to shower outside in the snow and earned less than 100 euros a month

In an interview she explains how her daughter still has it better as a mail order bride – than she would marrying for “love” in her native Ukraine. Before she got married to an American, she made the equivalent of 1-200 euros a month – and no, this is not enough. These people are not living in the sequel of Eurotrip where the spare change in your pocket buys you a five start hotel and lobster dinner in poor Eastern European countries. In reality, life in poor countries is not as cheap as salaries are low. If it were, they wouldn’t be so poor – be definition.

“I was very happy when she left. There is nothing good for young people in Ukraine. There are no good guys, just drug addicts and alcoholics. I’m glad she met Mark. It’s better than if she stayed here.”

Her daughter can try to find love here, she explained, but with the males around, it would be difficult. She might end up with an unemployed drug user who beats her up and they both starve. If the alternative is an unemployed American who beats her up – but they don’t starve, have a car and she can send money home to her mother – it is a no-brainer.

The idea of choice architecture is the evil nudge where you totally get to choose – but from the options available you will choose what I want. In a case of a disadvantaged country that people cannot leave, the choices are a poor and miserable life at home or a miserable life abroad (with a hope). Living with dignity, emotional integrity, and the ability to take control of their own lives and economic situation are simply not an option.

There is a blurred line between circumstances that force you – and the decision you make based on them.

Ladies, there’s something for you in it…

If you are a mail order bride scanning these websites in search of a better life – I mean… a husband – you can still find some heart warming details. You only have to read between the lines to find your economic calculations.

Apart from the gross generalization, these strange men need to sound appetizing for vary mail order brides, so their selling points are subtly put between the lines. As we have learned about North Carolina men, for instance, they are happy to indulge themselves in travel. (Read: they will surely bring you with them, or at least their children, who will then need a babysitter for the trip. And no babysitter is cheaper than a mother. See? Happy life!)

But we have also learned that British men also “enjoy traveling abroad and experiencing different cultures, so life with them wouldn’t be boring!“, that “companionship of marriage is more important than personal freedom to many Australian men“, and also that you “will feel very comfortable dating an Australian man because most people here think of themselves as your equal, regardless of your occupation or your income“. Canadian men “try very hard to keep their families happy and content” and in case you worried about being imported trash, there is the reassurance that they “take pride in the fact that all people deserve the same rights and respect, regardless of their gender, race, religion, or cultural background“.

I feel safe already.

Thank your politicians, ladies

Thank your ruling class for your reduced status. Borders distort logic and deny you economic opportunities to better yourselves. Borders only serve local businesses to help to charge you more, local rulers’ power to keep exploiting you and to boss over a captive population. Borders do not serve you. And they do not protect you.

Turns out, EU-accession gets a country downgraded on the desirability scale for mail order brides. Women no longer put up with anything if they can move abroad and take control of their economic life. If you ever doubt whether the abolition of borders is your friend or enemy, think about how much you have to give up to move for a better life.

So before we launch into rants about gold diggers, we should have a look at the circumstances that created these options and bark at our political elites first – not each other.

And even more than that, we should look into ourselves: Maybe we are also pimped out by our own governments somehow?

Previously on mail order brides:

PART 1 – Mail Order Brides Without Borders

PART 2 – The Men Who Buy Mail Order Brides

PART 3 – On choice architecture in the MOB industry

8 ways countries can pimp out their own citizens

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One thought on “Choice Architecture for Mail Order Brides

  1. Pingback: The Men Who Buy Mail Order Brides | Meanwhile in Budapest

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