Sunday, April 27, 2008

Foreign Specimens in China Part Three- "The Man Sluts"

Note: This is part 3 of a series. Click here for part one and click here for part two.

It's just a regular Thursday at the office...or is it? What is this? A new guy from England? He seems nice enough; I'll go over and introduce myself. seems as if I can't. He's surrounded by all the female employees. They all seem to be hanging on his every word. For some reason he just seems wittier, perhaps more charming than the other guys in the office. On top of that, everything he says has an educated, high class ring to it. The women are just eating this up. Damn him to hell...

Maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration, but I think we all have seen this happen. The new guy or girl from Australia/South Africa/France/etc. enters the fold and everyone of the opposite sex goes bonkers. The new person's accent is just so sexy, so exotic, so different!

Take this effect, multiply it by 100, and you get the situation that foreigners in China are in. In China, foreign men not only sound different, but also look different and act differently than the locals. If a Londoner is considered exotic in middle America, just imagine how a white man in China is seen. Not only can foreigners in China play the "exotic card", they are also on average much richer than the average local citizen. For example, English teachers that work in the city where I live make 4 to 5 times more than what is considered a white collar salary. If an English teacher is this well off when compared to the locals, you can probably imagine the position a business expat is in.

The result? Every foreigner's "attractiveness quotient" increases by approximately 2.5 just by stepping into China. If one was a "5" back home, he or she is a "7.5" in China. If a guy was a "7" in England, he becomes a studly "9.5" in China. Predictably, many guys take full advantage of this situation. It is quite common in China to see a foreign guy, that in theory has no business having a girlfriend, walking around with a girl on his arm, or a foreign man that is only mildly attractive surrounded by 3 or 4 girls all vying for his attention. The men that become full blown man sluts are usually the ones that were around a "7" back home. In their home country, they were able to pick up ladies at a decent clip, so in China they become full blown male model studs. Many foreign men in China have 3 or 4 Chinese girls in the rotation at any given time.

Obviously the "Man Sluts" are enjoying themselves, but what about the women they leave in their wake? Normally, I think that anything that goes on between consenting adults is fine. As long as both people know what they are getting into, then I think that there is nothing wrong with having a little fun. In the United States, I think that a 21 year old girl you meet in a bar is fair game. She is old enough to make her own decisions and probably knows that marriage isn't implied if the relationship goes to the next level. If a 21 year old girl in the US is fair game, a 21 year old girl in China is as well, right? Not necessarily. In China, people are considered to be children for a much longer time than in America. Therefore, the maturity level of an average 21 year old Chinese girl is vastly different than that of an average American 21 year old girl. Whereas the average American 21 year old girl has already lived on her own, had a job, and been with a few different guys, the average Chinese 21 year old girl has probably not done any of these things. On average, Chinese college students are much more innocent than American college students (although this is changing). Let's look at my students for example. I am teaching a public speaking course to a class of sophomores. Even though I have told them many times not to, quite a few of them begin their speeches with, "Good morning boys and girls." In another class I am teaching oral English. The students all giggle like little schoolgirls any time something even remotely sexual is mentioned. Sometimes during the break between classes, I see the girls playing "patty cake" hand slapping games that pre-teen girls in America play. They still consider themselves to be children, even if they are 20 years old. Consequently, perhaps it isn't quite right for a man to handle a 21 year old Chinese girl in the same manner in which he would handle a 21 year old American girl. Although the girl looks 21 on the outside, she is probably at the emotional maturity level of a 16 year old American girl. I have a feeling that many Chinese girls get burned by foreigners. Yes, the foreigners warn the girls that the relationship isn't anything permanent. Yes, the girls acknowledge this. However, like inexperienced girls in America, deep down they feel like they can change the "bad-boy" foreigner and somehow entice him into a more permanent relationship. Remember, in China, something as simple as walking closely together or holding hands has rather deep significance when it comes to relationships. If two people sleep together, they might as well be married. The "Man Slut" usually doesn't take this into account.

So, what do Chinese men think of the "Man Sluts", or foreign men dating Chinese women in general? Obviously, I cannot act as spokesperson for the Chinese, but I can relay my own personal experiences. My wife and I get different responses in different situations. My students are fine with our relationship. They think we have a "cute" love story. Men on the street are a different story. We have been spit at. My wife has been called a "foreigner loving bitch" or some other variation of the same theme quite a few times. I have had a drinking glass thrown at me in a restaurant. My wife and I feel nervous whenever we walk past a group of middle aged men because they always give disapproving stares and begin talking about us as soon as we pass. I wouldn't say that the majority of men in China disapprove of us, but if you pass 100 people in a given day and one of them throws a glass at you or calls your wife a "bitch" while the other 99 do nothing, who will you remember?

Why does this happen? I think part of it can be chalked up to a lack of education. We can see the same sort of behavior in the trailer parks of the US whenever a black man dates a white woman. Rednecks go crazy whenever they see someone "tekkin thayr wimmen!" Another part can be contributed to the level of nationalism in China. For those of you that don't know, China is a very patriotic country. Some people from foreign countries say that Americans are too patriotic, but I think the Chinese have us beat. The training begins from an early age, starting in kindergarten. If you walk past any Chinese kindergarten in the morning, you will probably hear one of the 10,000 songs that glorify Mao Zedong. My wife knows approximately 1000 patriotic songs whereas I only know 3 (1st verse of our national anthem, "My Country Tis Of Thee", and "Born in the USA"). The programming continues as the child grows up, as cities are plastered with patriotic slogans (For China! For the People!) and children are taught a "politics" course in every grade. You can imagine what is taught in "politics" class. In the USA, it is in college that people usually begin to learn about what is wrong with our country and our government. This isn't so in China, where the indoctrination continues even into college. At the University where I teach, all freshmen must undergo a month of military training, which means that they must run around spouting Communist Party lines in cadence. Even in the classrooms one cannot escape the all-encompassing patriotism, as classroom walls are adorned with patriotic slogans like "我是中国人民的儿子。我深情地爱着祖国和人民!" (I am a son of the people of China. I deeply love both the motherland and the people!) written in calligraphy. I am not saying that all Chinese people are flag waving, overzealous lunatics, but I think an average Chinese person is usually more patriotic than the average American person.

One of the main drivers behind all the patriotism is the fact that in the past 200 years, the outside world has pretty much walked all over China. For those of you that don't know how the outside world has treated China in the past, here are a few examples in the form of a "Quicky-Wiki" history lesson: The Nanking Massacre, The Opium Wars, and the Unequal Treaties. The Communist Party takes a "never forget" stance on these incidents, constantly reminding the Chinese people that they happened. It is hard to make it through a whole day without being reminded of the evil of the outside world. On (State controlled) Chinese television, besides the biased news, there are countless "docu-dramas" depicting the heroic Chinese and the despicable foreigners during the World War. There is a segment called "Red Memory", which is a quick 5 minute program that is placed between shows throughout the day. From the name "Red Memory", you can probably deduce that the segments are about Chinese triumphs and foreign atrocities during the war. If you turn off your TV and open up a newspaper, you will see more of the same. Memoirs of people that suffered at the hands of evil foreigners during the war are commonplace in Chinese newspapers. Even if you put down the newspaper and surf the web, you still cannot escape. Chinese online discussion forums are full of people spouting anti-foreigner dogma. Even mainstream websites like Yahoo regularly feature pictures of Japanese war crimes as well as pictures of foreigners kissing or hugging Chinese girls in public, often with captions along the lines of, "Disgusting foreigner and traitor bitch." Let's say that you want to get away from all the media and go on a trip to take in some culture. Small shrines and mini-museums are constructed to remind the people of the evils of foreign colonialism (click here for an example).

The "official" reasoning from the Communist Party is that this sort of patriotism and these kinds of reminders are necessary to keep the nation strong and avoid a repeat of the past. There might be some truth to this, but I think that the Party also benefits from all this nationalism. If the Chinese people are busy coming together against the "enemy", they will be too busy to criticize the government or notice that they lack in human rights(just like George Bush, the "terrorists", and the Patriot Act).

Anyway, all the aforementioned drivel about politics and whatnot is irrelevant. Being the selfish bastard that I am, the most pressing question is, "How does all this affect ME?" Given that the Chinese people are bombarded with reminders of foreign colonialism, I can imagine how seeing a "Man Slut" might set them off. Nothing smacks of colonialism more than foreigners coming in and pillaging the women, right? When the person that threw a glass saw my wife and me, he probably lumped me in with the guys that come to China to get their rocks off and then go home. Little did he know that my wife and I have been married for almost 2 years and had been friends for many, many years before getting married. Thanks to the "Man Sluts", with a little help from the Chinese government, my wife and I have to endure racist slurs, judgment, and the occasional physical attack simply because we have the gall to hold hands in public places.

"Man Sluts", we salute you.


Grace said...

We salute the man sluts! I also think how different societies have quite similar issues...stereotype, racism, the government, etc. And of course, you can find many (too many if you ask me) women in every country trying to "convert" the bad boys. I guess at the end of the day, we are all human. By the way, anything on the female foreign specimens in China?

Unconventional Applicant said...

I agree. There might be a few differences between China and the US,but even after accounting for differences in culture, people are still people no matter where you go. There are more similarities than differences.

To tell the truth, I cannot really write anything about female foreigners in China because I have only met 4 or 5. It seems that male foreigners outnumber female foreigners in China by around 25 to 1. Maybe that number is a bit off, but I don't see nearly as many foreign women as I do foreign men