Under discussion: The East, the West, and Sex: A History of Erotic Encounters, Richard Bernstein, Knopf (2009), 336 pages.
It’s no secret that Asian women and white men seem to have a good deal of mutual attraction to one another. Richard Bernstein, a Jewish man married to an Asian woman, tries to put this into a historical context. Reading his book gives one an idea of how unique Western ideas of sex and marriage truly have been.
The East, the West, and Sex opens with the story of a young, (likely) British man teaching English in China. He ran a blog where he called himself “ChinaBounder” and on which he bragged about his exploits with Chinese women, usually fellow students. From one entry:
I was with Star on Saturday. I was with Yingying on Sunday. In between, I contacted Cherry via MSN. I telephoned Rina, and I used SMS to flirt with Tulip. I sent Susan an e-mail to flirt with her, and I professed my love to Wendy on her blog.
A psychology professor named Zhang Jiehai came across the website, and posted a long article, “Internet Hunt for an Immoral Foreigner,” urging Chinese men to find the English teacher and kick him out of the country. After presenting quotes in which “ChinaBounder” makes fun of Chinese males” lack of sexual prowess, Zhang concluded by calling on the men of China to rise up.
Please think about how this foreign piece of trash has dallied with your sisters and made fun of your impotence. Do you want to say that this is no big deal? Do you still want to treat the foreigners as important? Do you still quiver when you see foreigners? Please straighten your backbones.
The psychology professor went on to provide clues that could help identify the scoundrel. His name may have been Brian and he had revealed what hotels he”d stayed at. “Let our compatriots act together on this Internet hunt to find this foreign trash until we kick him out of China,” Zhang wrote.
In Europe or America, a college professor taking it upon himself to defend that nation’s women against the advances of foreigners would be unheard of. Chinese men expressed their disgust for this “white ape” and the “bitches” who slept with him on different Internet forums. ChinaBounder called Zhang a “lunatic” in response. This became a big enough deal for China’s censors to block ChinaBounder’s blog. He soon began writing from Thailand.
The blog’s existence in the first place illustrates the luck many white men have had with Asian women. Older men can use their money to attract women a third their age. The appeal of younger men is probably based more on their relative masculinity. The Chinese are particularly touchy on this last point. Before the ChinaBounder saga, there was a novel by Chinese author Zhou Weihui called Shanghai Baby about a Chinese woman whose boyfriend was impotent but whose Western lover was anything but. Like the ChinaBounder blog, it was banned.
Bernstein attributes these feelings of Chinese inferiority to the country’s long history of weakness in relations with the outside world. While much of that is true, it’s doubtful that some of the fears of relative Caucasian virility aren”t based on reality.
Prostitution was a regular part of life for the American men serving in Vietnam. Sex would be available for less than $5. The Vietcong pointed this out in propaganda. Some whites who served in Indochina never left. The U.S. Clarke Army base in Angeles City (the Philippines) closed in 1991 but many of the businesses that catered to U.S. soldiers are still operating. Bernstein tells the story of an American bar owner in Thailand who employs prostitutes to service his friends. The VFW in that country had 961 members as of 2007. Not a few Western men have decided that they”d rather spend their last days with young Asians than their saggy, no-longer-attractive wives. The author found a community of such men in Bangkok.
Most of the men around the table at the Federal Hotel were married to Thai women, and some of them were on their second or third wives, the first of them being Americans whom they”d married decades ago. And what they said is that for men like them, what is easy in Thailand”that is, finding willing, much-younger women”would be impossible back home. I met one former GI of substantial girth in Pattaya:
“I hit the L.A. airport,” the man said of a trip to the United States he made some years ago. “I was going to see my kids. I ended up in a bar at the airport. There were these guys talking about lawn mowers, a new garage. Lawn mowers! “Okay” I said, “get me the fuck out of here.””
Bernstein writes, “It’s not hard to find Western men in Thailand who describe European women as emasculating, egotistic, mannish, and afflicted with what they regard as the ideological rot of feminism.” Unfortunately for the men, things don”t always end well. Since foreigners aren”t allowed to own property in Thailand, many have had to put houses in their brides” names. There are stories of these women kicking the white geezers out and replacing them with their younger boyfriends.
“East” in this book mostly means East Asia but occasionally India or the Islamic world. Although obviously quite different from one another, all Eastern cultures have historically had a series of characteristics dealing with sex that they shared with one another but not Europe. One is what the author calls “the culture of the harem.” Easterners recognized that men had sexual needs outside of monogamous relationships and accepted as a fact of life that there would be a class of women who existed to satisfy those desires. The prostitutes and concubines served to protect the honor of “good” girls from “good” families who were expected to remain pure.
This world where sex is divorced from love has enchanted European soldiers, businessmen and travelers. In the days of colonialism, some British administrators in India began their own mini-harems. This outraged Victorian England. A writer in an 1887 newspaper decried British men falling to the level of the “heathen.” The conservative philosopher Edmund Burke fretted over the sexual implications of the whole colonial project.
No place, save some Islamic lands, did Westerners colonize a people politically without doing so sexually. It usually wasn”t by design, (although some British troops were encouraged to have children with native women in India to form a class of reliable soldiers), but simply a product of human nature. The fact that this continues today is based partly on the income discrepancies between East and West. And there must be sociobiological factors at work, too, for we don”t see wealthy Japanese men finding poor Ukrainian brides. The vast majority of people still marry and mate within their own culture, but we may see sexual globalization leading to more people seeking love elsewhere. Those who care about preserving historic nations and cultures will need to fight it.
Not much attention is given to black Africa. Harems in Tanzania are mentioned, but the simple fact seems to be (the author doesn”t admit this) that white men have not been attracted to black women. If the reader doesn”t believe me, he can google “African brides” and compare the number of sites that come up to the hits for “Russian brides.” British explorer, diplomat and linguist Richard Burton did report, however, that black women lasted longer in bed. Among dozens of other works, he was the first to translate the Kama Sutra and The Arabian Nights into English. In the latter book, when the king finds his queen embracing a “blackamoor” a footnote reads that “Debauched women prefer negroes on the account of the size of their parts.”
It has to be more than a coincidence that Western culture was both unique in mating practices and in technological development. What we are moving towards today is not Eastern practices, but something entirely new. Asians, both South Asians and Mongoloids, have always accepted that prostitution is inevitable and that political/economic power leads to sexual success. But the majority of the population still cared enough about traditional morality to at least espouse it. The family was valued as a social good; debauchery was inevitable, but it was considered an evil if it ruined “good” girls or destroyed necessary social, cultural, and moral institutions.
Western men today seem to have the worst of all possible worlds. Hard work and worldly success don”t translate into landing even one attractive woman. The rich and poor alike have no guarantee of fidelity. Men’s natural desires are condemned, while arbitrary prerogatives of women are treated as legitimate and liberating, if not sublime. In traditional societies, girls often married in their teens. But today, finding a young bride who is still somewhat in tune with her nature and not yet programmed to hate men is blocked by an array of social pressures, including laws that can land a man in jail for decades. There are none of the benefits of the Eastern system (the “boys will be boys” attitude, the compliant wives, ability to sexually succeed through socially beneficial channels) or the Western one (guaranteed monogamy and the absence of polygamy, which mean women are available and not hoarded by a single Big Man).
It’s no wonder men go to Asia. A trend that’s made all the more tragic since it’s contributing to the demographic collapse of European peoples throughout the Western world.
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The politically correct thing to do would be to condemn 70 year-old men who find 20 year-old women that they only have thanks to their money. But Bernstein doesn”t do that. He does take the conventional wisdom view, however, that these girls don”t have genuine affection for their partners and are only in it for the money. But to argue that is quite Western-centric and male-centric (thanks to feminism, even Western females have moved towards male-centric desires). I don”t doubt that the subconscious of women from conservative cultures may place more weight on status and wealth. And some are certainly cynical manipulators, but not all are. Despite the small oversight there, The East is generally non judgmental and the author’s sympathy for the human condition rubs off on the reader.
This review was originally published at HBD Books
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