Thai Love Talk.
A personal guide to Thai sexuality. The topic has brought much delight and also pain to countless farangs.
There inability to bridge the gap between Thai and foreign culture can explain why the Thai woman is not always easily understood.
Understanding the Thai concept of love, romance and sexuality is key to the understanding of the Thai woman.
Your background? Born and raised in northern Thailand. Went to school and university in Chiang Mai and spent ten years studying and working in the United States. Happily married and currently living in Bangkok with the (farang) husband. Writing as a hobby and keeping a day job as an independent consultant in international development.
And why this book? In short, personal pleasure, dearth of Thai-female perspectives in discussion about sex and relationship (in particular between Thais and farangs) and desire to help create a better understanding about sexuality in Thai culture and about Thai women.
Short intro what the book is all about. The book’s like a native guide that takes you on a rare expedition into the deep jungle of Thai eroticism. And this native guide happens to be a woman who wants to reveal the local thinking and behaviors about love, romance and sex, past and present.
The book, first in the series, is an introduction to love, romance and sexuality in Thai culture. It covers various aspects from common personalities in the Thai love market, attraction and flirtation, to courtship, dating, love, marriage, informal coupling and decoupling, as well as the Thai concepts of beauty and sex appeal.
What’s unique about Thai love? Would you ask “What’s unique about American love?” French? Swedish? Zimbabwean “love”? Is love in each different culture supposed to be unique?
If there is such a thing called “Thai love,” I’m sorry I really don’t know what it is. I think most women of any creed and nationality are probably more pragmatic than men when it comes to choosing a mate. Safety and security is universally important for women because women tend to be more concerned about nesting and future children. In this way Thai women are no different from women elsewhere.
The question is not whether “Thai love” is more or less pragmatic than “Western love” but what the woman concerned values most in the relationship because even among Thai women the answer can vary greatly. For some safety and security is abstract (love, commitment, loyalty, personal freedom), for others it may come from a big house, a new car, money, status, etc.
No doubt Thai society is highly materialistic but so are most societies. Many Thai women resort to using sex to get that what they want - in outright prostitution, quasi-prostitution, or what we call relationship and marriage. But is this really unique to Thai women?
You write about the “female perspective on Thai love.” What about the male perspective? For a start, Thai men are probably more likely to view polygamy and philandering a lot less critically than Thai women. As for the rest, I’m afraid you’d have to read the book to find out. Or you could grab the nearest Thai man and ask him.
Foreigners, will they ever be able to adapt to that Thai way of love? That so much more pragmatic way I mean? All humans, including Thais, share the same basic feelings of love (and hate, admiration, contempt, jealousy, and what have you). Let’s not confuse basic human emotions with cultural norms and conventions. How well a foreigner can adapt to the so-called Thai love, romance and sexuality depends on how much he or she understands these notions in the Thai context and to what extent he or she is prepared to accept the norms and conventions that may (or may not) influence his or her Thai lover.
What’s so different between Thai and Western love? In Chapter 8: Lovers and Bedmates, I talk about different kinds of romantic love in Thai culture. First love, last love, young love, true love, unrequited love, love triangle, winter-spring love, etc. are all known in Thai as they are in English, often literally in the exact same names (in different tongues). That obviously says something about the commonality of basic human emotions as opposed to the distinction regardless of culture and language. Of course, there are a few different concepts that may seem more “uniquely Thai” because you don’t have the words in English but the differences are more likely attributable to different cultural conventions. Thais hunger for love, feel love in no different way from Westerners do. The differences may lie more in the ways we go about getting love, show love, expect from love, deal with sex in love, etc.
Kaewmala, places such as Nana, Cowboy or Patpong, they can only happen in Thailand? What has the entertainment industry to do with the Thai concept of love? For the sake of argument let’s suppose that the Philippines doesn’t exist and Nana, Cowboy and Patpong can only happen in Thailand, in which case these establishments may conceivably be love-conducive (if only for some romantic, unsuspecting foreigners). And the lovely young women working there might possibly see a go-go dancing and being bar-fined as their daily auditioning for a role of a lifetime with the potential princes charming in the guise of sex tourists and sex-pats. Can it really be that Thailand is such a “unique” place that some of its women go about looking for “love” that way? Or is it just a time-honored trade in which the women are exceptionally skilled at fooling their patrons to think it’s not.
What’s all this got to do with love, you ask. Well, Thais and most foreigners familiar with Thailand know that what’s going on in Nana, Cowboy, Patpong and other foreign tourists-oriented pockets in the country, however it may seem intoxicatingly romantic to the uninitiated, is not what ordinary people would call romantic. And it does not figure prominently in the mainstream Thai life as much as some might think. After all, the Thai women working in places like Nana, Cowboy, Patpong and the rest are but a small percentage of the whole Thai (female) population.
But if we talk about the larger sex industry (that caters to local men), yes, it might figure to some extent in the Thai concept of love and intimacy. A huge percentage of Thai men do frequent brothels, massage parlors, karaoke bars and establishments where sexual entertainment is available (though not likely Nana, Cowboy or Patpong because the attractions there aren’t exactly to the Thai men’s taste). As much as many Thai men and expats with Thai wives might like to believe otherwise, no women, including Thai women, can ever be desensitized enough to feel nothing about their men sleeping with other women, even if they are prostitutes. Mia nois and kiks would be a woman’s nightmare comes true. But mind you, many of these mistresses and casual squeezes aren’t from the so-called entertainment industry.
So, what do men’s sexual relations with hookers, mia nois and kiks do to the love between the concerned couples? If the men use up most of his sexual energy and fantasies with other women, where does that leave their wives and girlfriends? High and dry, I’d say, and maybe to other men (or women). And how does that figure into the concept of love for the hookers and the other women? Usually, if love is the main motive for a woman to become the other woman, she tends to do so because other options are more intolerable. As for hookers, well, we’re back to where we started, aren’t we?
So you might not find a serious woman at Nana? Why? I think lots of ladies are seriously at work over there.
Is Thai society maturing, sexually, or are the behavioural patterns of denial and ignorance too deeply engrained? Is Thai society finally accepting what’s - sexually - going on around here? What does a sexually mature society look like? In the book, one of the main themes is that sexual attitudes in Thai culture weren’t always so conflicted or hypocritical as they are today. Before the import of the Victorian values in 19th and 20th century (and the trickling Chinese influence), Thai/Siamese people seemed quite well-adjusted sexually and common women seemed to have more sexual liberty. So, in my view we were more mature but have become less so. Having said that I’m not blaming foreigners for giving us a new sexual hung-up. It was the Thai rulers at that time who thought it clever to become sexually puritanical and to put women back in the kitchen and away from romantic freedom. The ulterior motive was to make Siam appear “civilized” in the eyes of England and France so that they wouldn’t colonize Siam. How much of this really helped Siam to escape from being colonized I can’t really say.
In a mixed marriage, what are the most common problems? Besides the usual couple problems like falling out of love or finding a new and better model, I think lack of language facility and cultural understanding on either or both sides are the main difficulties in cross-cultural relationships. Even without the language barriers, cultural gaps which lead to false assumptions, unrealistic expectations and misunderstanding cannot be underestimated.
The problems that I see come from both the individual personalities involved and the (Thai) families (since I live in Thailand). Foreign women marrying into a Thai family often feel suffocated by the traditional expectations from the Thai husband’s family, especially his mother, who might unjustly expect the foreign daughter-in-law to be like a Thai wife: more like a mother, sister and servant to her son and less like his lover. As for farang husbands and Thai wives, I think many problems that manifest stem from the man jumping headfirst into a relationship too quickly and underestimating the cultural and social gaps, and/or the Thai wife’s lack of interest or capacity to learn about the husband’s culture and values.
That is not to say that it will all be smooth sailing between farang husbands and Thai wives with similar education and social class. Educated Thai women from well-to-do families may also come with their own set of social and family conditions that may confound and constrict the foreign spouse in different ways. So, it pays for a foreigner to try first to understand Thai family values, the potential Thai spouse’s social and family backgrounds, and what she or he expects from the marriage before taking the big leap.
Many a reader might like to know how to get laid quickly in Thailand - you suggest a standard approach?
Although the book I write is entitled Sex Talk: In Search of Love and Romance, it is not a how-to guide to get laid quickly or slowly. What it does is explaining the cultural dimensions of love, romance and sexuality in the Thai context. If you insist on an answer, let me ask, where do you go if you want fast food? Same thing with fast sex. But if what you mean is fast free sex, then I sure hope at least you can pass off as Brad Pitt in the dark or look a bit like a Korean heartthrob. Otherwise it may be a bit difficult. The little advice I can give, if it helps, is that whatever you do, refrain from dressing poorly and looking desperate, or smelling bad (all equally important). Of course, if you are prepared to pay for play, none of this really matters.
Some foreigners may suggest it’s difficult to find a Thai woman with real class? So, you want both to get laid quickly and real class. I’m afraid you’d have to decide on just one of the two. Intentionally or not, I think you might have dropped a hint in the last two questions as to why it proves difficult for some foreigners to get a woman of “real class”.
Yes, it used to be that mostly only Thai women of certain class (and economic needs) went out with foreigners, but I think things have changed. As the old stigma is wearing off, more educated, “higher” class Thai women are more open to having a relationship with foreign men now. I have a section in Chapter 7: Modern Courtship and Dating that explains the history and the transformation of Thai-farang relationships.
If “real class” is what a farang man is looking for, it would help to up his game a little, learn to be more patient in courtship and avoid the temptation of picking the proverbial low-hanging fruits. It is possible to find a classy woman. The real question is whether the man is willing or able to be classy himself. Classy women tend to gravitate towards classy men - as that’s what classy women do.
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