On the great Ukrainian bride hunt.
July 11, 2006 12:46 PM   Subscribe

On the great Ukrainian bride hunt. "These are not American women, our guide was telling us. They do not care about your age, looks, or money. And you are not going to have to talk to them for half an hour and then have your testicles handed back to you! Let me tell you: over here, you're the commodity; you're the piece of meat. Ive lived in St. Petersburg for two years, and I wouldnt date an American woman right now if you paid me!"
posted by soiled cowboy (119 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Oh dear.
posted by jokeefe at 12:48 PM on July 11, 2006

And you are not going to have to talk to them for half an hour and then have your testicles handed back to you!

No, a Ukrainian woman would have them back to you in two minutes!
posted by delmoi at 12:54 PM on July 11, 2006

A Nigerian one would only hold them as collateral while you whisk her uncle's ill-gotten fortune out of the country.
posted by Jenga at 12:58 PM on July 11, 2006

I'm the piece of meat? Finally!
posted by graventy at 1:00 PM on July 11, 2006

Jokeefe don't worry, Ukrainian women are very "liberated" and modern. From a "cultural" standpoint. You might not like the way gender roles play out there (Women are much less, well, 'puritan' then they are here). These are all educated, urban women. Probably better educated then the average American in terms of cultural literacy at least. They're definitely not going to be falling into one-sided, submissive relationships with these guys.

Based on my experience with Ukrainian women anyway, which never having been to the Ukraine is somewhat limited.
posted by delmoi at 1:08 PM on July 11, 2006

Well I've heard some tales about Polish brides. Yes, they're more old-fashioned which can have some advantages; clearly outlined roles, less negotiating, less 'do it my way'. But they're also very calculating; they will leave in a flash if that's to their advantage. Leaving the man who trusted this mirage of a relationship very sad and powerless.

But then feminists are also very calculating; "what do I as a woman get out of this relationship". (hi jokeefe)

So the perfect relationship is a truly romantic one with an old fashioned woman....
posted by jouke at 1:10 PM on July 11, 2006 [1 favorite]

What a creepy story; I really need to start reading my Harper's instead of stacking them on my shelf.
posted by chunking express at 1:14 PM on July 11, 2006

Many of the women they had met, while friendly enough and certainly accessible for conversation, turned out to have had little or no interest in leaving Ukraine. They had come out to practice their English, or for the free champagne, or simply because they were curious. Even among the ones who had agreed to “date,” many seemed to be in it for little more than a free meal at a nice restaurant they would never be able to afford otherwise. It was hard to imagine that the men would be shocked by such innocent opportunism, but [the men] were.

The nerve of those women.
posted by gsteff at 1:17 PM on July 11, 2006

The taser-loving lawyer I’d spoken to at the airport showed off his Polaroids: “The twenty-five-year-old, I’m seeing tomorrow,” he narrated. “She was beautiful. Beautiful! And very intelligent.” Even as he spoke, the young woman in question passed by on her way out. Very pretty, and impossibly small alongside his bulk, she smiled at him and said good night, clearly not speaking more than a word or two of English. “See you Sunday,” he replied, waggling his sausage of a finger and speaking in a weird, coquettish singsong. “You’d better be here or you’ll be in trouble. I’ll have the handcuffs; if you’re not here, the handcuffs will be out.”

posted by languagehat at 1:19 PM on July 11, 2006

I'm guessing the current crop of 20 somethings over there looking for American husbands are not too bright and are just looking for Mr. Sugardaddy. The more "liberated and modern" ones can do quite well on their own without having to go through these types of services.
posted by JJ86 at 1:21 PM on July 11, 2006

And you are not going to have to talk to them for half an hour and then have your testicles handed back to you!

No, the weasel to whom you paid $4000 has those.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:23 PM on July 11, 2006

I wonder wether Houellebecq wrote about the economics of these exchanges.
Or did he he just write about the economics of sex-only; ie sex tourism and prostitution?
posted by jouke at 1:24 PM on July 11, 2006

JJ86, did you RTFA? I know, tl;dr, but:

Even for the women who can make a good living, [the leader] claimed, it was all but impossible to find a good man. He gave me a practiced mini-seminar on the shortcomings of Ukrainian and Russian men—how they drink, philander, alternately beat and neglect their women; how even if the men were worth a damn, the population has grown so out of balance thanks to war and a short life expectancy for males that there simply aren’t enough of them to go around. . . .
posted by booksandlibretti at 1:24 PM on July 11, 2006

“I raise avocados.”

For some reason, I found this very funny.

I'm the piece of meat? Finally!

If any straight guy wants to know what it feels like to be treated like a piece of meat, just go to a gay bar. They're gay, but they're guys, so if they see something they like, lost of them will go for it. It's quite educational and you just might like it.
posted by jonmc at 1:28 PM on July 11, 2006

I wonder wether Houellebecq wrote about the economics of these exchanges.

Would that make them Houellebecq Girls?
posted by empath at 1:29 PM on July 11, 2006 [9 favorites]

posted by jonmc at 1:30 PM on July 11, 2006

I'm thinking jonmc has an interesting story he's not telling.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:30 PM on July 11, 2006

Can they cook? My wife and I need another wife. And do they have husbands that can use tools? We'll take one of those as well.
posted by tkchrist at 1:32 PM on July 11, 2006 [2 favorites]

Well, that's what "Dan the Man" is saying, booksandlibretti, looks like he's stitched together quite a lot of neat excuses for his business. If he was right, then *all* the women in the country would be lining up to be the "stock" to be selected by these... men.

Anyhow, even if all these girls are willingly entering into the contract for their own reasons, doesn't make the thing any less sad and creepy. Au contraire.
posted by funambulist at 1:34 PM on July 11, 2006

3. The farmer never did come to any of the socials; he picked up his girl at the train station as planned, they spent the week together, and within a few days they were engaged.

Awwwww. Good for him!
posted by linux at 1:36 PM on July 11, 2006

Houellebecq girls I'm searching hard for a double entendre. Maybe my grasp of street english fails me?
posted by jouke at 1:41 PM on July 11, 2006

“like an alpha-male wolf,” as one testimonial for the tour giddily assured us, “having the sheep brought in.”

Um...I'm not a wildlife expert, but don't the alpha-male wolves go out and get the sheep on their own? Isn't it mostly the babies that get the food brought to them?
posted by PlusDistance at 1:44 PM on July 11, 2006

Hollaback girls, jouke.
posted by sciurus at 1:45 PM on July 11, 2006

jouke, It's a play on a Gwen Stefani song.
posted by chunking express at 1:45 PM on July 11, 2006

A Foreign Affair.

Even the URL sounds desperate.
posted by Cyrano at 1:46 PM on July 11, 2006

Houellebecq girls

Hollaback Girl - Gwen Stefani
posted by junesix at 1:47 PM on July 11, 2006

Houellebecq girls

Best pun I've seen in ages.
posted by Falconetti at 1:48 PM on July 11, 2006

The story reminded me of this blog , which is kind of a psychological exploration a twice-divorced 50ish American guy (living in Hong Kong) who isn't really comfortable interacting with women as power equals, and prefers to be in brief relationships with younger, poorer women that judge him by his money, not his personality.
Though actually, I suspect that this is what almost all sexual relationships have been based on through most of human history...the idea of two financially and socially independent parties approaching each other on equal terms is a pretty recent phenomenon.
posted by banishedimmortal at 1:49 PM on July 11, 2006

Houellebecq Girls?
Well played, empath.
Well played.
posted by Floydd at 1:50 PM on July 11, 2006

Ah thank you sciurus, chunking express and junesix.

I pronounce his name the french way and then the similarity is not really there.

His name sounds like whoresface in dutch by the way.
posted by jouke at 1:55 PM on July 11, 2006

This article reminded me of Cowboy del Amor, which I had to turn off after twenty minutes. Everyone involved loses, and the only potential gain the women can (and does) pray for is a quick divorce after receiving citizenship. Watching these pathetic males exhaust their vocabulary in a completely ridiculous attempt to veil their sexual motives is beyond disturbing. What's even better is how they've convinced themselves it's American Women that are the problem, as if they are a pristine byproduct of an age and ethic long forgotten. Disturbing.
posted by prostyle at 1:57 PM on July 11, 2006

Would that make them Houellebecq Girls?
posted by empath at 3:29 PM CST on July 11 [+fave] [!]

Simply brilliant. And hilarious.
posted by Ynoxas at 2:02 PM on July 11, 2006

Holloubecq girls - brilliant! I've never laughed so hard at a pun ...
posted by rks404 at 2:10 PM on July 11, 2006

Too bad the writer did not interview the Russian women - it would be interesting to read their opinions of the beer-belly-in-jeans-and-Tshirt as well as some of the other prime specimens.
posted by Cranberry at 2:15 PM on July 11, 2006

I'm thinking jonmc has an interesting story he's not telling.

He's told it, you just need to know where to look. ;)
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:15 PM on July 11, 2006

Is anyone else's BS detector going off?

-- This is a long article with no on-the-record sources.

-- The journalist himself admits that he misrepresented himself on the trip, which is very questionable, ethically.

-- The few verifiable facts that dot the piece smell like they've been pulled off the internet by popping "Mail-order bride" into google. One or two skirt the edge of what's acceptable. For example:

Harpers: In turn-of-the-century Chicago alone, police broke up as many as 125 fraudulent marriage agencies, seizing and burning “wagon loads” of photographs of fictitious brides.

Source: He broke up 125 marriage agencies. He talked about seizing wagon loads of photographs and destroying them, papers, and seeing that the people who ran them were prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

-- The quotes seem, well, highly massaged to me. And if you have any doubts, it's impossible to verify if they're real or not, since the sources are anonymous.

Even if this guy isn't the next Steven Glass, this makes me think that Harper's is ripe for a journalism scandal.
posted by ptermit at 2:17 PM on July 11, 2006

Vronsky did the "Houellebecq Girl" thing first (and I agree that it's funny, but only if you pronounce it in the Anglo manner. French pr. is more like "well-bek").

That said, this quote in the opening paragraph struck me as entirely Houellebecqian: “They do not care about your age, looks, or money." In the two novels of his I've read, Platform and The Elementary Particles, this notion (Houellebecq thinks it's Western, I'd consider it very American) comes up constantly--the fallacy that any person deserves unconditional love regardless of their looks or income. I mean, why blame someone for wanting both security and attraction? Certainly people put too much of an emphasis on certain things, especially money IMO, but why does any person think they're entitled to everlasting love withoout, ya know, getting to the gym once in a while or providing some financial security?

So yeah, this is creepy and sad. Especially for the deslusion some of these guys live under--that simply being alive means someone out there has to love you unconditionally. Not a healthy way to look at things.
posted by bardic at 2:18 PM on July 11, 2006

QUICK! cortex, bradsucks, someone!

There's a jangly, wistful guitarpop song somewhere in the phrase "Houellebecq Girls"

The song is waiting to be written!
posted by blasdelf at 2:20 PM on July 11, 2006

I too wanted to know what the brides to be thought of their slovenly "alpha male" suitors. Also, if he never went on a date in order to prevent his wife from taking his testicles, then I find it hard to believe that he had any credibility left to speak of by the end of the trip. Surely these failures would have forced him on some outing of their sex jaunt.

Not saying it wasn't a great read though, I find voyeurism of this sort most enticing. Viva the human condition.
posted by sourbrew at 2:30 PM on July 11, 2006

Fascinating article, albeit a little depressing (for all parties involved). Thanks.
posted by nonmerci at 2:41 PM on July 11, 2006

I've spent the last hour or so being totally facinated by this article, the google searches, and the blog that was posted up thread. Thanks for the thread.
posted by nadawi at 2:47 PM on July 11, 2006

For some reason, I'm reminded of this golden oldie.
posted by MrMoonPie at 2:51 PM on July 11, 2006

If any straight guy wants to know what it feels like to be treated like a piece of meat, just go to a gay bar.

There's a huge difference when you want to be eaten. I have been ogled by many gay men and very few straight women. The women were much more fun.

This sounds quite depressing, unless you have no other alternatives (and if you have $4,000 to spare, you likely do ...)

an American male desire shaped in equal parts by the Promise Keepers and Internet porn

Says it all right there.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:58 PM on July 11, 2006

I'm the piece of meat.
posted by salvia at 3:03 PM on July 11, 2006

Do you mean the journalist, sourbrew? In the footnotes he gives the backstory he used.
posted by jacalata at 3:12 PM on July 11, 2006

But then feminists are also very calculating; "what do I as a woman get out of this relationship". (hi jokeefe)

Sheesh. Thanks a lot.

I'd reply further, but I'm not sure what's in it for me, you know?
posted by jokeefe at 3:28 PM on July 11, 2006

"Do you mean the journalist, sourbrew? In the footnotes he gives the backstory he used."

some how i missed that despite reading the others... I guess they would accept that, but it still seems incredulous.

My favorite part was description at the end where the meteorologist was trying to get people on camera talking about it.
posted by sourbrew at 3:39 PM on July 11, 2006

Vronsky did the "Houellebecq Girl" thing first

posted by dgaicun at 3:51 PM on July 11, 2006

"He warned us that he had seen it many times: men whose confidence had been so trampled upon by American women that they could no longer comprehend that they were worthy of stunning, intelligent, and much younger women."

I'm curious as to why there might be so many Western men who feel this way?
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 4:16 PM on July 11, 2006

Too bad the writer did not interview the Russian women - it would be interesting to read their opinions of the beer-belly-in-jeans-and-Tshirt as well as some of the other prime specimens.

Somewhere recently I read what one Russian woman said she appreciated most about American (and other) men over her Russian selection. "Sobriety".
posted by HTuttle at 4:20 PM on July 11, 2006

These guys are going to be in for a surprise. From what I've heard, mail-order-brides are prone to infidelity, and care about only one thing - bringing the rest of their family over to America.
posted by Afroblanco at 4:24 PM on July 11, 2006

So how many of them actually got married? Are they still married? Things going well?

And how are the bbq ribs in Kiev? There's a TGI Friday's there?!

I want to know the important details!
posted by drstein at 4:30 PM on July 11, 2006

I'm curious as to why there might be so many Western men who feel this way?

Two words: advertising.
posted by mrgrimm at 4:31 PM on July 11, 2006

at one point he leaned over to me and whispered, “We’re all hurting in one way or another, that’s why we’re here. We’re all trying to make our lives better, we’re all looking for love.” He told me he wanted a genuine partner, but with the caveat that on the big issues—house buying, for example—he must be in charge, for the good of them both. “A ship cannot have two captains,” he insisted.

When I first started reading the article, I felt sympathy for these guys, and kind of sorry for them. That feeling was pretty much gone by the time I got to the end.
posted by Loudmax at 4:32 PM on July 11, 2006

I don't know, the revelation that men who go to foreign countries to seek out brides because they feel American women are scary and emasculating and evil are kind of pathetic and quite possibly disturbed is not so much of a revelation to me. Then again, I am an American woman. Like many other people here, what I really want to know is why the women are doing it and what they hope to get out of it. As far as I can tell most of the information on gender relations in the former USSR is anecdotal or weirdly skewed (as here). I'd really love to read an actual study on the subject, but I don't have the impression that the field of women's studies (or gender issues, or whatever you would call it) is particularly thriving over there.
posted by posadnitsa at 4:35 PM on July 11, 2006

what I really want to know is why the women are doing it and what they hope to get out of it

Money. Material goods.
posted by mrgrimm at 4:57 PM on July 11, 2006

TGI Fridays

*aaahhh* (says the Bluegum. bluegum. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!)

Donkey Show/cute little puppy
*spontaneous nosebleed*

and suddenly...
"Houellebecq Girls"
*pressure abates as*

Empath Wins at Internet!!!
thanks for the laugh after the horror, co-human!
posted by djrock3k at 4:59 PM on July 11, 2006

What's with those lame sponsored links at the bottom of that page that have nothing to do with Harpers or the article?
posted by gen at 5:23 PM on July 11, 2006

I don't have the impression that the field of women's studies (or gender issues, or whatever you would call it) is particularly thriving over there.

I think that's the whole point.
posted by HTuttle at 5:33 PM on July 11, 2006

Mmm. Mmm. Ugly, fat, unfuckable American men find that waving their cash is more effective than waving their flaccid, frustrated little dicks when it comes to getting an exploitation fuck. Boy, those are some serious "alpha-male wolves" there.

Pathetic scum.
posted by Decani at 5:41 PM on July 11, 2006

What's with those lame sponsored links at the bottom of that page that have nothing to do with Harpers or the article?

I would assume Harpers sold them. As far as advertising goes, I can't complain about those minimal text links that I wouldn't have noticed unless you brought it up.
posted by mrgrimm at 5:50 PM on July 11, 2006

The market does a better job at marriage then your various cultural protocols. When Americans grow up and get over this whole romance nonsense, this sort of thing will take off quickly. You've already got the match makers, the meat markets, the painless divorces, and sufficient competition (in online dating), now you just need the rational consumers. When the West finally realizes that this sort of purchase-based system is efficient they'll look back and laugh on their silly parents who wasted so many years looking for "the one."
posted by nixerman at 6:04 PM on July 11, 2006

can somebody please explain the Houellebecq pun? i'm completely clueless. thanks
posted by growabrain at 6:12 PM on July 11, 2006

Somehow, I think this line in the article is very, very telling about the attitude that many of these men may have:
“I’m not going to spend every bit of my life in America,” one was saying. “Because I’m sick and tired of being blamed for everything—the white man, you’re all responsible for everything. And American women are just rude, obnoxious. I won’t marry another American woman. I won’t do it. I’ll stay single first.”
I think that many of these men just do not fit in with modern society -- if they are in their 50s or 60s, they came of age in a different time and were never able to adapt to change.
posted by banishedimmortal at 6:37 PM on July 11, 2006

Uuuugg. (*insert eye rolling here*) Ok, here we go...

Let me be frank as I speak like a liberated American woman.

like an alpha-male wolf

Hm, I'm guessing these guys are so pathetic that they've never actually ever had the chutzpah to ever be "like an alpha-male wolf" in their lives. "Dan the Man" (uuuugggg) apparently has to give these men a string of pep-talking so they actually believe they are 'good enough, smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like them.' Good lord, there's a fool born every minute. Pay your four grand, get a wife... ugggg. I'm glad many of them get taken for a ride by the agency. Serves them right.

These men shouldn't have problems with women? Considering the description of their lack of grooming, hostility and inability to make a concerted effort to actually meet any women on equal terms, let alone (*cough*) American women. They're pouring money into this service because of perceived value, an imagined bigger band for their buck. These men don't want women, they want property: a wet hole, a warm oven and arm candy - and nothing more. Look at some of the observations (per true Mefi spirit: if they're to be believed...) on how they socialize with women, doffing off the older or chunky ladies, surveying "the stock" as human beings walked into a door. No matter what they may say or fool themselves into believing. Now, I have no problem supplying these female comforts to my chosen partner, but that's just because he agrees to also provide a stiff cock, regular flowers and arm candy when I also need it. And I don't buy these women have a better romantic repertoire than I do. Don't want a slut who sleeps around? Well neither do I, and I certainly also don't want to be subject to the absolute whim of a bad man with no other choices to take care of myself.

The internet is teaming with legitimate 'meet someone' dating services fully of great and caring people looking for a partner, not a dictator. I have two pretty fantastic and pretty girl friends right now listed, so I don't buy the line that there just aren't "any good women out there" who aren't looking for a big strong successful guy - or even a nice regular one. You probably don't even have to shave for most of them either. A man recently carved an advert into his corn farm - his corn farm - and got hundreds of replies from interested women touched by the creativity / novelty of his overture. These men have thousands to blow away, don't tell me they can't make a little effort. Welcome to the world buddy, where everyone can be the wallflower girl at the dance.

Ug, I love the reference to "the money girl" who got taken out to TGI Fridays. TGI Fridays! Wow, that $31.50 put you back some there Ole Man on the Mountain? Eh Grizzly Adams, you big spender? She may have had bad manners by not waiting for his appetizers to arrive, but come on, it was unladylike to order ribs? I have to laugh my ass off at these guys. Is ribs even on the menu there in the Ukraine? If it was, I'm sure there's a lady to order it.

And when I hear how feminism has emasculated western man, I have to roll my eyes at that. If some men didn't fear their masculinity in the first place, it would never come up as an issue. American women have no problem with men being macho - consider the romance publishing business, it's thriving - but we as a whole are just beginning to feel our own worth and usefulness and want a partner, not a dictator. The feminist revolution is less than a fraction of human history. Too bad for you low-self-esteem man.

And no matter what some idiot men tell themselves, women do not "turn themselves into lesbians," because they're in a dating lull. Sheesh. As if homosexuality is the boobie prize (uggg, literally) for being single.

For those women whom were portrayed as using this as a dating service - well, I have to shrug at that. I guess I would subscribe to a dating service if I needed one, although I'm certainly no woman to be purchased - and I'm laughing that many of these women aren't either. Although it's funny how the author describes women entering - apparently all gaudy and dressed up, well welcome to any given night at the bar in New York - or New Hampshire for that matter... making it seem like women dressing up to look their best or suggestively is out of the ordinary. I have a partner and still put on makeup and expose my midriff when I feel good about it. I suspect many of the women regarded this as just another opportunity in their area and may or may not know of the nefarious manner of this agency.

As for the others, I feel for the women who may honestly believe this is their only way out of whatever situation they're currently living or down on their own self-worth as to believe this is all they can do. There is good and bad people everywhere, and in every culture. I have to have the faith that ultimately we'll all learn better, and they'll stick it out rather then put themselves wholly at the mercy of someone else. Finding a way to support yourself, a charged vibrator and a couple of friends isn't a bad option while waiting for an equal partner to shares one's life.

You get what you give into a relationship, not what you buy.
posted by eatdonuts at 6:41 PM on July 11, 2006 [4 favorites]

I don't think it has much to do with adapting to change, really. In an older era, they wouldn't have gotten away with this kind of shit -- in the beloved 1950s they would've been branded dirty old men and spent their time glaring at young girls from the diner.

Way back in the day I knew a guy online who was 100% on the money in this mindset. Thirty, mind-bogglingly sexist, and utterly undesirable. He talked a lot online and went by the name 'assman' because, as he said loudly and haughtily to anyone who'd listen, he felt that women who didn't like anal really weren't worth wasting time on.

He talked a lot about the 'losers' who were 'whipped' by women, and how much power women had in the world. He had lots of tremendously elaborate theories relating to economics, evolutionary psychology, and sociology that basically boiled down to 'Reasons why my utter inability to relate to others and my desperate need for cheap hookers, are completely normal.'

It was sad -- though he did eventually scam his way to Thailand for six months or so. It took a year for him to stop talking about how much 'better' things were over there, where the women 'knew their place.'

Some people are just not equipped for humanity, and they find strange ways to convince themselves that the problem is everyone else.
posted by verb at 6:59 PM on July 11, 2006

Eventually, he had turned to the Internet and begun corresponding with a Ukrainian woman whose profile he had purchased from an online broker. She knew no English whatsoever, but they nevertheless wrote to each other for several months, running their letters through a translation website before sending them. It was an imperfect system, to say the least, and after a few major misunderstandings he had decided that if matters were to move forward they would have to meet. She was set to arrive at the Kiev central train station at 5:45 the following morning—at her own expense, she was taking a thirteen-hour train ride to see him.

This part made me cry. It's sad that people have to work so hard to get some love in their lives, I really hope things worked out for the farmer and this woman.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:01 PM on July 11, 2006

growabrain -- it's a pun on "hollaback girl," an archetype popularized by the Malaysian novelist C.M. Cathay in his 1995 work "Catch as Catch Can." In the novel a "hollaback girl" is one who has undergone a painful spinal tap operation in order to "harvest" the spinal fluid for sale in her village's local markets, where it has a reputation as a cure for headaches and various forms of tendinitis.

Hope that helps! Also, there are a few explanatory links above that should fill in more detail.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:50 PM on July 11, 2006 [1 favorite]

I would go. Russian chicks are hawt. And they probably read books.

only... the bar is closer. and cheaper.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:05 PM on July 11, 2006

This thread is such an obvious invitation for all the rude, liberated Western women to jump in and mock the pathetic guys in the article. It's like kicking a cripple. Or shooting fish in a barrel. Pick your metaphor.

This story reminds me of something else... (car analogy alert)

A few years ago, I lived in the middle of nowhere, USA. One of the things that excited me about moving to the middle of nowhere was that I entertained these ideas of finally stumbling across a "barn find". In car terms, a "barn find" is just that: an aging, rough-around-the-edges but otherwise perfect classic car that someone just left in a barn to rust, but "Shucks, if you've got a grand I'll let you have it."

So I looked all around, but never came across a barn find. I went to a few classic car shows, and talked to some of the people who'd restored these wonderful cars into showroom-new condition. "Where'd you get the car?" I'd ask. "Barn-find?" Nope. They bought them as hulking heaps and spent two, three years restoring them. Plenty of blood, sweat and tears (and lots of money). No magic dust.

Now I'm thinking, I'm still in the middle of nowhere, so I ask "If you were to sell it, how much would you ask?" And the replies were almost all the same: shitloads, but they'd probably just put it on eBay. I laughed at myself for my stupidity: these folks might be from the middle of nowhere, but they didn't just fall off the tractor. They know what the internet is. They know how much the car is worth. There are no more barn finds in this world.

Not even in the Ukraine.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:06 PM on July 11, 2006

Actually, I retract that. I totally just had a flashback to Drako's wife from Rocky IV.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:08 PM on July 11, 2006

Pardon us Civil_Disobedient if we rude liberated western women get all uppity at the idea that some men find it perfectly acceptable to treat women as cattle. Sign your name on the line and payable by check, yep that's us. Far be it from us rude liberal women to scorch at the idea of being boiled down to property existing solely our male components company.
posted by eatdonuts at 8:19 PM on July 11, 2006

eatdonuts, please. These women aren't being treated like cattle any more than prostitutes are treated like cattle. It's a voluntary exchange for mutual benefit. Deal with it. So yes, you rude liberated western women can give it a rest. I suppose this is the great thing about this sort of offshoring. It introduces real global competitive pressure into what are highly local markets. It may turn out that the internet will do what the culture no longer has the strength to: force women to submit to male ideals (or risk being offshored). It's obvious why so many women would have trouble with this but it has a certain elegant symmetry to it, don't you think? The mating scene has always been a buyer's market with very limited selection. The net changes that.
posted by nixerman at 8:37 PM on July 11, 2006

This is just a terrifying fraud, right?
posted by grobstein at 8:38 PM on July 11, 2006

I find it interesting that people are ascribing motives to the women in question-- fear of poverty, fed up with Russian men, etc.-- from an article that doesn't interview a single one of them. We get a brief and (I think) interesting glimpse when the author notes that many of the women seemed to be doing it because, hey, free food at fancy restaurants and the chance to win a hundred bucks, why not, but other than that, absolutely nothing. I mean, I find speculating on this to be interesting, but it makes me a little bit uncomfortable, too, because the only information we have about where these women are coming from are generalizations (they're poor! and desperate! and local men suck!) and assumptions (ditto). Even something as basic as the translators: the men are told not to try to hook up with their translators because "they'll sabotage your chances with the hot girls," whereas my immediate thought was "duh, they're married or otherwise uninterested." But who knows? No one asked.

We have only half the story: what the guys thought was going on and what they were told was going on. We're left to fill in the rest on our own. There are clearly certain assumptions we're expected to make, but since the reporter doesn't seem to have verified them himself, I'm not sure I want to make them. Would it have killed him to have asked one of the girls to the movies and then asked her what was going on? She might not have been honest, but at least he'd have tried. It's not a story about mail-order brides, it's a story about the men who want them. If you're going to wax indignant about the commercialization of women, I feel like you should at least ask the women whose commercialization you're decrying something about what they think.
posted by posadnitsa at 8:45 PM on July 11, 2006

force women to submit to male ideals (or risk being offshored)

There's something both apt and creepy in your equation of the marriage market and the broader marketplace. And yet I think you've also got it backwards. By definition, aren't these men the ones who are finding it hard to deal with new globalized cultural norms, and thus they are having to go further and further abroad to seek their increasingly niche product, i.e. woman-as-object, rather than woman-as-partner?

it has a certain elegant symmetry to it, don't you think?

Sure, it keeps the more egregious schmucks not only out of my female friends' dating pools, but out of the country, too!
posted by Asparagirl at 8:59 PM on July 11, 2006

Hm. Let me think about this nixerman. If I wasn't to treat you like the troll your remark smacks of, I'd venture to suggest that you ask any pimp whether he feels the women under his control are human beings or property. I'd encourage you to seek out human traffickers and ask them whether the women under their thumbs are to be treated as equals - or a commodity to be used until they are no longer useful. Regardless of what the women are told or believe in this situation, the agency in this article reads very much to be selling the same line as 'these women are for buying, all you need to do is pay up.'

It's an appropriate thread to point out that many of us liberated women will not simply keep our mouths shut when we see wrong being done to us - and treating women like objects does wrong to all of us. I find it a bit funny that you imply we should simply shut up and take it.

Of course, your argument about the net and globalization offers the distinct possibility that those men - who feel women need to somehow be submissive - will finally have to bully up to the bar and treat women like human beings rather than property - for their own mutual benefit. This has more of an elegant symmetry to my thinking. Yeah, I like that idea better, it seems to hold with the fact that these men feel out of sorts now in western society as women become empowered... and women are gaining - tedious step by tedious step helping one another the world over.

We've evolved passed women being goods for trade or sale. I hope your statement was more of a provocation rather than your actual sentiments. Otherwise I weep for your daughters.
posted by eatdonuts at 9:19 PM on July 11, 2006

What posadnitsa said. Surrounded by hundreds of women at these events but never talked with any of them? I was expecting some attempt to understand their perspective all through the article, but it never happened.
posted by normy at 9:21 PM on July 11, 2006

Just as a piece of writing, that was a really lazy article with a preset bias so blatantly obvious it's laughable. How'd the hell he get Harper's to pony up $4,000 for him to attend - and why did they print it? I though their standards were a lot higher.
posted by gottabefunky at 9:58 PM on July 11, 2006

Oh yeah...Americans growing more isolated...the Internet the great econo-leveler...world travel now possible for many...consenting adults all around...

Survey says...!
posted by gottabefunky at 10:00 PM on July 11, 2006

These women aren't being treated like cattle any more than prostitutes are treated like cattle.

posted by transona5 at 10:29 PM on July 11, 2006

I went to night school for a couple of years with a Ukrainian woman who met her American husband via "love tourism." She was in her early thirties, and was married to a man in his fifties. She was fairly reticent about discussing her personal life, but she had been in the U.S. for about 7 years by then, and had a good command of English and a steady job with BellSouth. She was working on her B.S. degree in Information Technology.

One evening, near the end of our program, we were taking an ethics course, and got into a group discussion of cultural differences stemming from ethnicity and country of origin. After the class let out, a few of us went for coffee, to continue the discussion as it related to a writing assignment, and we got more of her story.

She lived in a small city (Lutsk) in the Ukraine, and did her best to get an education there, but had to leave in her second year of technical school, for financial reasons. She moved to Kiev after finding work there, and went to one of these "socials" with a girl friend, after being invited by her friend to go along. She met a few American men, and begin to think of emigrating, feeling she would like to travel internationally, and thinking she would have few chances to do so if she stayed in the Ukraine. She begin taking English lessons, and corresponding with American men on the Internet. She eventually contacted her husband-to-be in one of these correspondences, a man not unlike the farmer who showed up on the tour in the article, with a pen pal of his own. When he eventually traveled to the Ukraine, she met him in person, and they clicked. He made several trips to the Ukraine to meet her family, and they were married there. She seemed to be doing fine, but was very guarded about her husband and her marriage, and it seemed as if she'd been made to feel defensive in her previous attempts to explain it. She was obviously very aware of the whole "mail order bride" issue, and she had nothing good to say about U.S. Immigration. She had been back to the Ukraine only twice since moving to America, mainly due to the cost and time needed for travel, and the difficulty with visas. She called her family in the Ukraine about once a month, due to the difficulties introduced by the time difference, and said that when she first came to America, she did feel very isolated, until she learned the language, and her husband taught her how to drive.

She was very down on Ukrainian men, and even more critical of Russian men. She talked about the common heavy use of alcohol with little prompting, and it was obvious that despite any negatives she had experienced in her situation, she was very happy with her life, and glad to have made the moves she had.

One woman's life does not encompass the experience of all, but it does show that for some of these women, they get what they generally expect, and are glad to have made the choices they did.
posted by paulsc at 10:45 PM on July 11, 2006

As others have said, the fact that the author apparently didn't talk to anyone except the American men along on the trip is suspicious. How do we know the author didn't just sit around reading message boards where American men talk about this stuff? And if he really did go, and really didn't talk to or get any quotes from the Ukrainian women, then he's a shitty reporter. Either way, the article kinda sucks.
posted by Potsy at 11:04 PM on July 11, 2006

The article is terrible. Titilating, sensationalist, and terrible. It's like an Enquirer article but with a snooty WASP accent.

Heavily biased, no photographs, no talk of discussion with the women involved much less any quotes from the women, no real offer of any proof of having actually gone through the experience, nothing.

It's written to touch every raw nerve/cultural more in modern "liberated" westerners (both men and women). I mean look at eatdonuts empassioned response as an example of exactly the effect the writer was hoping for.

I read it. I felt the urge to laugh and cry at these pathetic men and sympathetic women, but then the rational bits in my brain kicked in (with a little help from some of the skeptical posters above).

I'd like to find a much more comprehensive and analytical report on this sort of thing as I did find the subject matter fascinating. For instance, I believe that I caught the tail-end of this program and I coulda swore that 60 minutes did a report on this a few years back.

I'm deffinately not saying that what the writer highlights isn't the most likely scenario, but the article could've been so much more.

I wonder if the editors at Harper's were disappointed by this piece of work?
posted by C.Batt at 11:33 PM on July 11, 2006

Can someone please explain the Houellebecq - Kristoffer A. Garin connection? I'm clearly missing something. (and it's not the pun. That, I got. I've read all of Houellebecq's books, so I am familiar with his work, I just don't understand how he got roped into this post. Anyone?)
posted by shoepal at 11:52 PM on July 11, 2006

Far be it from us rude liberal women to scorch at the idea of being boiled down to property existing solely our male components company.


Do rude, liberated women need "sarcasm quotes" to recognize it when they see it?

Do rude, liberated women get pissy at the first sentence of a multi-paragraph point, then skip the rest without reading it so they can fevereshly type in their vitriol before--or rather without-- ever understanding that I don't disagree with them?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:36 AM on July 12, 2006

someone told me about this type of site a while ago and i put together a brief guide, which in retrospect is kind of lame, but it does have links to some sites (which are -hopefully?- still up). the sites do tend to be interesting at least.
posted by snofoam at 4:57 AM on July 12, 2006

Can someone please explain the Houellebecq - Kristoffer A. Garin connection? I'm clearly missing something. (and it's not the pun. That, I got. I've read all of Houellebecq's books, so I am familiar with his work, I just don't understand how he got roped into this post. Anyone?)

Had you searched the thread for "Houellebecq" you would have found this as the first mention:

I wonder wether Houellebecq wrote about the economics of these exchanges.
Or did he he just write about the economics of sex-only; ie sex tourism and prostitution?
posted by jouke at 4:24 PM EST on July 11

I must say, I'm curious: how do those of you who don't pronounce it well-BECK (as I do) say it? HOWL-a-beck?
posted by languagehat at 5:44 AM on July 12, 2006

booksandlibretti: Yes and over here in America we have a similar profession to that of "Dan the Man" called a "Used Car Dealer". They spout the most glowing recommendations of "one owner beauties" with "deals of a lifetime". Of course as with Dan, their amazing descriptions are not to be taken literally. But hey, if the prose sounds legit to you, by all means run with the ball.
posted by JJ86 at 5:57 AM on July 12, 2006

JJ86, I'm not saying "Hey, this is awesome, why don't you all hit up the Ukraine?" I'm not endorsing this at all.

I'm just not sure I agree with your opinion that "the current crop of 20 somethings over there looking for American husbands are not too bright and are just looking for Mr. Sugardaddy."

There are other motives beyond the purely financial. Some of the stuff the leader said, like the supposed male drunkenness and abuse, can be hard to find accurate figures for -- but the numbers on male-female ratios and relative life expectancy shouldn't be too misleading. Although some women are probably in it for the dinners and $100 prizes and the chance of scoring a rich guy, I believe that there are women who can succeed perfectly well on a financial level, but want and can't find a guy.
posted by booksandlibretti at 6:46 AM on July 12, 2006

I'm a rude, liberated woman, C_D, and I think your barn-find car analogy is an excellent one.

I would love to read a similar article from the women's perspective.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 6:53 AM on July 12, 2006

I think your post C_D could have done well enough without the preemptive 'smack in the face' provocation of inviting liberated women to speak up in their defence... and no amount of dismissive sighs is going to help lessen that. I'm completely capable of reading and comprehension, but that doesn't mean the whole of your post sat well with me - text or not text, your preamble hit like a backhand before a handshake.

If I said to someone 'hey, you suck!' before starting up a converstation, I doubt they would take it well either.
posted by eatdonuts at 7:07 AM on July 12, 2006

Fear my vitrol online if you must, but I don't spout off feminist doctrine in threads dealing with astronomy, ancient academicians or other unrelated topics. Yeah, being a woman tends to make me very interested in women's rights on a personal level and when I see bad people or even opportunist turning back my budding liberated clock, hell yeah I get defensive... We all have our hot topics, and this is mine. Call me a rude person for giving a perfectly valid response to a perfectly related topic, if you must, but passion doesn't invalidate my argument any and I'll still be able to make a mean Long Island Iced Tea.
posted by eatdonuts at 7:34 AM on July 12, 2006

"...the men boarded the bus in high spirits, slinging duffels into the cargo hold and trading good-humored, hungover banter like some minor-league ball club on a winning streak."

For some reason this line made me guffaw.
posted by inoculatedcities at 7:40 AM on July 12, 2006

Upthread, it was written: There are no more barn finds in this world.

My dad has a 1950-something Studebaker in his shed that was owned by my great-grandfather. They do so still exist. :) You just have to know where to look.

posted by cass at 7:47 AM on July 12, 2006

The point of the "barn find" is not that the old car exists, but that its oblivious hick owner is willing to sell it for a song. Is this true of your great-grandfather?
posted by languagehat at 8:59 AM on July 12, 2006

Er, I mean of your father, of course.
posted by languagehat at 8:59 AM on July 12, 2006

With all the feminist vitriol expressed in this thread, I'm surprised that nobody here hit on the one thing that was most offensive to me about these services - their unwillingness to screen their clients.

I was horrified to read about the study where someone who posed as an abusive ex-husband was told that his past "wouldn't be a problem." Reading the services' responses was like hearing fingernails on chalkboard.

Dan the Man's response to the abuse cases was disengenuous at best - "That may be true in some cases, but why don’t you also do a story about the American men abusing the American women? It’s just not sensational enough, because it’s right there at home."

Sure, in every barrel, you're bound to have some bad apples. However, these services actually have unique the opportunity to screen out the bad apples. Their failure to do so - and in some cases, their encouragement of the bad apples - positively reeks of negligence.

The rest of it? Depressing, yes. Outrageous? Somewhat. Any chance of stopping this sort of thing? Highly unlikely.

I'm not a fan of arbitrage opportunities like this. I'm also against outsourcing and sweatshop labor. However, it seems like I'm mostly alone on these issues, and I don't expect things to change any time soon.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:38 AM on July 12, 2006

I hope your statement was more of a provocation rather than your actual sentiments. Otherwise I weep for your daughters.
posted by eatdonuts at 12:19 AM EST on July 12 [+fave] [!]

eatdonutes, you endorsed the system he's mulling in your own comment. Talking about globalization affecting rational choice in mate-picking has nothing to do with putting prices on people and exchanging them as property. Let's be very clear. Choosing partners *is* like choosing goods. You go with the best choice you have, don't you? Cuts both ways, for both men and women, for both "Guy/Girl in progressive country seeks guy/girl in 'traditional values' country" and vice versa.
posted by Firas at 10:00 AM on July 12, 2006

languagehat, Did you not notice that I linked in my original post to the very post/quote up thread that you so very helpfully quoted. Twit. And furthermore, the statement that I linked to and you quoted still makes no sense in the context of the post or harpers article, which is why I thought I might have missed some previously known connection between the author and the journalist.
posted by shoepal at 10:09 AM on July 12, 2006

The owner of my old gym got a call out of the blue from a gymnast on a certain Eastern European country's 1996 Olympic Team, just after the games. She'd visited our gym a decade before as a kid, and said that she remembered us because we'd "actually been kind to her." She outright asked if she could move here, because life was miserable even for a pampered athlete at home (I'll spare you the details).

I got called quickly thereafter, because the owner opened her home to the girl, got attached to her, and then realized that ultimately INS was just going to send this girl back home. So, being single and trustworthy and appropriately aged, could I possibly come "meet" her, and well... you know...

My reaction was like a lot here, simply appalled at the thought -- so I did make the visit, but told them both so. I even made a big speech about how she shouldn't have to resort to that, how there were other ways to stay here, and she should only get married for the right reasons. Instead I recommended she get into college, get a full-time job at the gym, have them fill out the paperwork on why they had to bring a foreign worker in to coach (no world-class athlete from America would ever live there). They were convinced, so that's what they did.

And then, couple years ago, INS gave her permission to go home and visit her parents -- only to then reneg on the "returning" part. The reasons why they did so changed daily, but basically amounted to 9/11. So we got the University to protest, got every notable name anyone knew or could hire to send in support letters, even got one of our Senators to directly appeal to the embassy... none of it mattered. She was outright told that the only way she could come back would be as someone's wife.

Anyway, she was as outraged by this as anyone else was, so she held out almost three months before her spirit was finally crushed, at which point she called everyone she knew back there to spread the word -- if it meant she could come back, she would marry anyone. A local undesireable 20+ years older than she had somehow heard of this and agreed to quite rapidly.

So, while I want to be appalled at this, if these women are anywhere near as miserable living in the Ukraine as this girl was in a place quite near there, then maybe marrying a scummy American is still a step up for them. You won't catch -me- telling anyone they shouldn't again, that's for certain.
posted by Pufferish at 10:56 AM on July 12, 2006

Survey of Russian Mail Order Brides Shows the Majority are Married and Happy

Anastasia International, one of the leading Russian-American introduction agencies, asked over 500 couples to respond to a survey. The vast majority, 76 percent, said their spouse met their expectations.

Of course, it's not exactly an objective study...
posted by gottabefunky at 11:00 AM on July 12, 2006

Pardon Firas? What part of the idea that women are for sale did I endorse, because I just don't see it. Perhaps it is that I was unclear in my last reply.

If you're talking a dating service, I have no problems with dating services that give men and women equal footing. This particular 'dating service' did not portray women in that way to their patrons, it portrayed them as being for sale. I would not endorse such service.

As for globalization, I intended my text to be read thusly:
- Offshoring is an interesting idea, but not necessarily a factor of repression as nixonman implied. Men are not the only people with passports. Indeed it does work both ways, it's more likely to backfire on 'conservative men' as women themselves will also seek the best partners, not men wanting objects.
- The internet is not unique to men.
- The proliferation of choices through globalization does not necessarily serve to 'contain' women simply because men might seek partners to be docile lambs. Rather it serves to show women worldwide options larger than what might experience in their own sphere of cultural existence.
- By education and proliferation of communication technology, it's quite possible that women willing to be subjugated will be an ever shrinking pool. Men who seek these women will find they are (hopefully) a dying breed and thus in order to find mates, these men will have to conform and treat women as equal ... or die (heh). At the very least they'll need to get off their asses and make an effort for a date.
- Basic human decency in any corner of the world is not denied because one has a vagina. Believing someone is property is indecent.

Let's be clear here: different strokes for different folks, that's fine with me, and the feminist movement is about choice. So yeah, someone could take the easy road out in this argument and say, 'Well see eatdonuts, there you go! These women choose to be this way." And I would say then, that may be true for a small handful but we do not have the full story of those women. What we do know is that these men are not looking for someone as a life partner, they are looking to buy someone as part slave, part couch, part comforter, part future nurse and part trivet... and that is abominable. I am offended by their Neanderthal sentiments towards women as a group. Indeed I am overtly insulted by these men in the article as they refer to American women, and beileve they should be subject to ridicule.

By me.

Often painfully.

Every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday afternoons.
posted by eatdonuts at 11:00 AM on July 12, 2006


In a sense he's saying,
- "because of offshoring/outsourcing, the domestic labour will have to settle for less"
and you're saying
-"eventually the labour in the country being offshored to will want to live the lifestyle of their counterparts in the country that the jobs were offshored from, so the company doing the offshoring will end up facing the same demands everywhere."

Same system.

The analogy is far from perfect though, because unlike companies—that universally want to pay lower wages, taxes, and other costs of business—men don't universally seek 'docile' women.

Regarding the affairs discussed in the article, I don't particularly care to pick out 'the evil entity'. All parties involved are going after something for their self-interest, and the attitude of men saying "I want a pretty wife" doesn't seem to me to be all that much more of an objectification than women saying "I want a rich husband."

As for ridiculing the men doing the 'tourism'. I think that's a basic response. They've obviously failed to procure what they wanted with their own traits of quality, so now they're trying to procure it with money. Add to that the 'loser!' aspect of not being able to 'get a girl'.

(Also: being docile isn't necessarily a 'bad' thing. It's a personality trait. I don't think seeking a 'docile' wife or a 'pliant' husband necessarily marks a person as bad. Being able to get your life partner to do what you want them to is a hell of a benefit if you can get it, no? In fact, there's a whole cottage industry out there of advice on 'how to get your husband to change' and 'how to get a woman to do whatever you want'.)
posted by Firas at 11:21 AM on July 12, 2006

You know, this is a dumb argument because obviously there isn't a mass exodus of men from America (that American women want as partners) running over to pick non-American women as partners. The reason I commented on the point is that "he says X will lead to Y, therefore he shares the traits of everyone who wants X to be Y" is not a foregone conclusion.
posted by Firas at 11:28 AM on July 12, 2006

languagehat, Did you not notice that I linked in my original post to the very post/quote up thread that you so very helpfully quoted.

Assuming that was meant to be a question: no, no I didn't. I assumed that if you'd seen it, you wouldn't have asked the question. I was just trying to be helpful.


But, needless to say, I won't bother trying to be helpful to you any more. Sorry to have offended.
posted by languagehat at 3:33 PM on July 12, 2006

I'm completely capable of reading and comprehension, but that doesn't mean the whole of your post sat well with me - text or not text, your preamble hit like a backhand before a handshake.

Because being called "rude and liberated" is such a striking blow... such a cold, sharp slap to the face.

The part you may have misunderstood is that it was a complement. The men in the article go to great lengths to decry the "American Woman," because she has all these terrible attributes. You know... she has her own mind and will, isn't afraid to confront you, &c. I think it's hilarious that any of you would take offense at being described with these terms, particularly when it was obviously a not-very-veiled allusion to the article.

And the other point, which every "That's so disguisting! Those guys make me sick!" comment misses, is a simple No Duh. These guys clearly have problems with their relationships with women, and we can spend hundreds of fruitless hours debating whether the cause is maternally-related, or due to the insecurity of their penis size or what have you, but really, what's the point? It's just too easy, mean, and pointless. See also: kicking cripples.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:10 PM on July 12, 2006

Towrds the end of the article, DJ Dan says: "...That may be true in some cases, but why don’t you also do a story about the American men abusing the American women?"

Note [1] which reads:

1. In order to move among these men without incurring suspicion, I had concocted an elaborate cover story that involved my having booked the trip in the aftermath of a bad breakup; between when I had paid for the nonrefundable trip and when the group was to rendezvous at JFK, my ex and I had decided to get back together. Since I was stuck with the trip, but didn’t want to ruin my chances of making things work, I would treat it like any other group tour and stay away from the women. The guys thought I was pretty absurd, but they accepted the story. If anything, I became a sort of mascot/fool for the group.

So, how did DJ Dan know the author was writing a story?
posted by davehat at 11:17 PM on July 12, 2006

I was wondering the same thing, davehat, and thought the term "Why don't you write" might have been facetiousness on DJ Dan's part--a turn of phrase that coincidentally was extremely apt.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:36 AM on July 13, 2006

One thing that occurs to me is that DJ Dan is not one of the marks, he is the organiser. This being so, there is not really the same need for him to be kept out of the loop. Maybe DJ Dan just said yes to an extra payment from Harpers.
posted by jaduncan at 5:38 AM on July 13, 2006

No one who hasn't been horribly divorced, or trapped by nearly-inescapable poverty, should comfortably stand in judgment of these characters. They're traumatized victims of circumstance more than anything else.

I do wonder about why the guys think that Eastern Europe is such a great place to go, though. It's not like there aren't lots of American women who would happily become traditional wives to men with the ability to financially support that lifestyle, and it's not like Ukranian women who come to the U.S. to get married don't have the same access to the divorce courts once they get here as native-born Americans.
posted by MattD at 6:49 AM on July 13, 2006

I'm not quite sure I get people reacting in this thread so violently to behavior that is completely voluntary on the part of everyone involved.

If these women want to marry a fat bald guy to live the June Cleaver life in America... who are any of you to condemn those women?

The economics and global market aspect of this type of activity is fascinating.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:46 AM on July 13, 2006

Huh? I thought if anyone was being condemned in this thread it was Dan the Man & male clients? Isn't that what all the 'have a little sympathy' is about?

Funny that, cos what the "poor traumatised victims of circumstances" and rather forced cripple analogies are missing, aside from the convenient pathetic rationalisations from these men - which may be self-evidently pathetic to others but not to them! - is that there is a big economic inequality here and an inequality in options too, and, yeah, as has already been pointed out, the women are not even given the same opportunity to pre-screen their potential matches and just have to rely on first impressions.

So yeah, it's legal and they're all consenting adults and it's a transaction where both parties have their own interests to pursue, no duh. The women too know what they're getting into, they're not being recruited by someone posing as a model agency only to blackmail them in prostitution or something.

Still, I don't see how suprising or upsetting it should be that people find the whole thing, as described in the article, sensationalist as it may be, a little creepy and sad?

I mean, I'm all in favour of even prostitution being fully legalised and have no moralistic high ground to preach from there, but you know, doesn't mean I sholdn't find it a little sad when women from poor countries get into it - even fully knowingly and voluntarily, not minors or being blackmailed - or that I should have a highly sympathetic opinion of their clients, especially the kind who, instead of being honest about it, have to find excuses like 'I am forced, forced I tell you, to go with prostitutes regularly because women today are such demanding bitches'.

It should also be kept in mind that while migration from Ukraine is pretty strong, particularly to countries in the EU, and there's many women who seek opportunities abroad - often women with highly qualified education that unfortunately doesn't guarantee them a lot of prospects at home -, by far not all or even most of them end up in these marriage schemes (or prostitution, which was also mentioned in the article). There's a thing as regular jobs too.
posted by funambulist at 8:47 AM on July 13, 2006

Oh, and besides, the whole thing about Eastern European women being more submissive or whatnot is really more of a myth than reality, but advertising is not about reality anyway and this kind of business advertises itself very cleverly.
posted by funambulist at 8:50 AM on July 13, 2006

funambulist: I was in a rush and didn't finish my thought. I meant to also add:

If a man wants to go find a woman he believes to be more compatible with his criteria for a good wife, whether that be "legitimate" criteria in your eyes or not... who are any of you to condemn him?

In other words, all of these people are consenting adults. They can do whatever they want. Some of the more shrill voices seem to be comparing this to human trafficking.

I am with you about legalizing prostitution (and regulating it, and taxing it).

To make sure I understand, your complaint is with asymmetrical information... the guys know more about the girls than the girls know about the guys? Is that necessarily the case?

Wouldn't the women assume these guys are kind of desperate and pathetic? And, I am very sympathetic to the point of view where a fat bald yank may be a better "catch" than a young alcoholic local. From what I understand, after speaking to a male from Moscow and a female from Belarus, alcoholism is beyond an epidemic in many areas of the former USSR. And not only among males.

I'm also not sure I understand what makes these guys creepy. They feel they can't find good American wives, so they go abroad. I don't see that as being, necessarily, creepy. Is it the age difference? Would it be just as creepy if they married an American 25 years younger?

If the men are rude or degrading, the women won't go with them. Its not like being hit over the head by a caveman with a giant leg bone and being dragged by the hair back to his cave. The woman appears to have choice in the matter.
posted by Ynoxas at 2:45 PM on July 13, 2006

Related story (which sounds like an urban legend, but I am only 1 person removed from the source, and have met the source before):

Two brothers went to the same university, and were fraternity members with a friend of mine. They decided to go on a wife-hunt in Eastern Europe back in the early 90's.

They prepared carefully. They took out ads in local papers and were flooded with responses.

They spent weeks narrowing down candidates. They then each got to pick their top 10. The idea was go for two weeks, meet a different girl each night for 10 nights, then spend 4 days with the #1 from their list to see if there was enough chemistry to marry.

It just so happened that they both ended up with one particular girl at the top of their lists. The older brother claimed family birthright and took the #1 choice, so baby brother takes his #2. Whirlwind romance follows. They meet the families. Family of #1 girl assures the American she is young and pure as the driven snow, and the father assures him she has never even had a boyfriend, much less copulated. He gives him a hearty slap on the back and enthusiastically gives his blessing.

They each marry the girls and bring them back to America.

Six months later the older brother is filing from divorce from the #1 girl, and is also the recipient of a fine case of Herpes.

5 years later the younger brother and girl #2 were still married and had 2 children I believe. I lost track of the story after that.

I love stories like that. And as I said, I have met the older brother in the story. I did not examine his passport, but the story certainly was told as if it were a true accounting of what happened.
posted by Ynoxas at 3:10 PM on July 13, 2006

Yeah Ynoxas, they all seem to be consenting adults and can do whatever they want with their lives and all, duh, that's already been established. So what? People can still have opinions... Even if those who are strongly 'condemning' or 'shrill' - they're not court sentences, they're opinions.

Everyone makes choices even with the worst of circumstances, but at the same time everyone has circumstances affecting their choices (I recall a wonderful banner seen among the protesting students in France - egalité de chances, mon cul - and those are relatively well-off students in France, not Ukrainian migrants), so it's not such an awfully moralistic judgement to observe that it's kind of sad that the economic and job situation for these women - as well as their own knowing choice to go down this route, or maybe even just pure 'post-communist greed' (not specifically my judgement, but one that gets thrown around in these cases) - makes them hook up with the first moron that comes from America (or elsewhere) waving the big dollars, without even knowing who the guy is. Good for them if they find what they seek and it all goes well, but it's a shitty starting place to be in, no?

And to turn it around - who is anyone here to demand unconditional sympathy for these men and portray them as 'traumatized victims of circumstances'? now what, "Dan the Man" is a benefactor?

Come on. They're not doing anything illegal or criminal, but let's not turn them into Dickensian tragic heroes either. Kicking cripples, mon cul...

That's what I was 'complaining' about - I just find it a little laughable that some commenters here are so upset on behalf of these men, who sure aren't mincing their words or thinking of themselves as traumatised victims.

To make sure I understand, your complaint is with asymmetrical information... the guys know more about the girls than the girls know about the guys? Is that necessarily the case?

It's not 'my complaint', it's the article saying so...

I'm also not sure I understand what makes these guys creepy.

Well I don't know, people must have read different articles here.

The coolest thing has to got to be that guy saying the wife-to-be to be has to be "compatible with the kitchen area, the living-room area, the entertainment area". Well at least he's pragmatic and considerate. I can't wait til IKEA launches into this business. We proudly present the Aspelønt collection - sofa, library, fouton and wife!

Look, as far as I'm concerned, again I just find the whole thing both sad and yes creepy, and the fact the women knowingly get into it with their own cynical interests at heart doesn't make it any less so. It's not that I feel any compulsion to 'protect' or 'defend' these women or whatever or that I think they're clueless, it's just a sad thing. Even ignoring all the easily brushed aside issues of abuses and killings, briefly mentioned in the article.

I mean, I doubt this is the situation that anyone here would want their sisters or daughters to be into, no? Or would you even want to have parents who married this way, through Dan The Man? Sure it's not a forced arranged marriage, and by the law of probability I'm sure some of these unions will be happy and equal and fair to both partners. But it's not your ordinary dating agency either.

They decided to go on a wife-hunt in Eastern Europe back in the early 90's

Once more, for emphasis: every adult does whatever they want with their lives. At least your friend was clever enough to do all the Eastern European wife-hunting on his own, without paying a broker!
posted by funambulist at 1:52 AM on July 14, 2006

funambulist: I think I get your POV now.

I may not be so far removed from your perspective, but I think I just approach it differently. I actually feel great sorrow that these women (in the grand sense of mail-order-brides and brides-for-hire) feel they have such dismal prospects that their only hope is for a foreigner to take them away. That is, of course, dreadful. I feel similar dread for those 11-year-old forced brides in Afghanistan, etc.

But, given those dreadful circumstances as the starting point, I don't think this is any worse than any number of other possible outcomes for their plight.

In other words, I do feel sorry for these women due to their general circumstance, but I don't take any kind of specific issue with this method of trying to alleviate their suffering.

If a man is in it just to get a woman either of age and beauty he normally could not achieve, or who is willing to handle all the domestic duties, I don't see that as, in and of itself, creepy. Maybe it should be mail-order-maids instead of mail-order-brides?

And if a woman is just in it to get a plane ticket to America and a chance at residency, I see it as perfectly legitimate gaming of the system.

And I suspect the guy in my story would have been willing to pay a broker if they could have weeded out Miss Herpes - Iron Curtain 1993 (title for humor, not historical accuracy).

Everything is relative. The louse in your building that an American woman would never even consider going out with could be a bona fide catch in another culture.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:17 AM on July 14, 2006

Mail order brides are a form of sexual trafficking, treating women as commodities for purchase. It's damaging to the woman, to the man who buys the bride (even if he is unaware of the damage or is too damaged to register why this is damaging), and to the cultures at large (e.g., the US) that allow trafficking, in any and all of its forms, to continue. The debate of the woman's choice is tenuous at best, and I'm not going to get into it. Suffice it to say that those who don't see the trafficking angle here and the damage that trade like this encourages are missing something pretty obvious, and you have to wonder what's in it for them to miss it.
posted by Il Furioso at 6:50 AM on July 26, 2006

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