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Thread: Sex workers marrying western husbands

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    Super Moderator LivinLOS's Avatar
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    Sex workers marrying western husbands

    Sex workers marrying western husbands

    Some sex workers in Vietnam end up marrying western husbands — but when they move abroad, life turns out to be far from the fantasies they expect. Kimberly Kay Hoang finds out firsthand by working as a bartender/hostess at bars frequented by rich locals and foreigners. Photo by Fred Wissink.
    I first met Tram in 2006 in a tiny bar on Pham Ngu Lao Street. Tram and other sex workers in the backpacker bar, disguised as bartenders, catered to western budget travellers seeking brief encounters or longer relationships-for-hire. They were the bar’s key attraction, but the women received no wages from the owner; they were independent entrepreneurs in a niche of the sex trade.

    Tram, 27 years old and adorned with bracelet, rings, and a diamond necklace, was a model of success and economic mobility. She lived in a brand-new luxury condo with two servants, a full-time housecleaner and a cook who prepared western food for her new American husband. Tram had come from a poor village, she told me, where the only jobs were in the rice fields. In Ho Chi Minh City, she worked first as a maid and then in a clothing factory. But after two years of earning no more than the equivalent of $70 a month, Tram had saved no money, could barely cover food and rent, and saw no hope for improvement. “Life in the city is so expensive,’’ she said. She saw sex work as her best route out of poverty.

    Tram met William, 70, as a client, and quickly began to develop a more intimate relationship with him, hoping her emotional labour might lead to ongoing economic support — in a remittance relationship, or marriage. Western men who come to Vietnam seeking wives, or who become attached to women they hire once there, often sympathise with their plight and want to take them out of the sex trade and care for them. Six months after they met, William asked Tram to marry him and move to North America. They were married in 2007.

    In 2009, I reconnected with Tram, along with William and their three children at an airport outside of Montreal, Canada. As we drove the three hours to their home, passing lumber farms, acres of undeveloped land, and pastures sprinkled with sheep, I commented on its beauty and tranquility. But Tram expressed no such sentiments. She had never intended to escape small-town Vietnam, she said, only to end up in another small town in rural Canada. She had hoped to move to the United States, and had dreamed of living in Los Angeles or New York, “a big city, like the movies”.

    Instead, she found herself isolated in a cold climate and working long hours. Williams’ savings had dwindled, thanks to the expense of immigration, and they had arrived in North America smack in the middle of a global recession. For a year and a half, she worked nights and weekends for her brother-in-law’s lumber company. She did see progress: By June of the year I came to visit, she had saved more than $20,000 and, with her sister-in-law, opened a small shop selling local produce. But she was now the primary breadwinner, while William, retired but without much of his savings, stayed home with the children. “This is not what I thought my life would be like,” she said.

    The story of Tram and William, like that of other couples in my study, suggests a reversal of the usual trajectory of marital journeys. In Vietnam, the opening to the west in recent decades has inspired some women, usually between the ages of 17 and 32, to seek strategic marriages with western men through sex work. While women who travelled from Vietnam to western countries to be with their husbands did not intend to seek out employment, two-thirds of the women in my study ended up becoming their family’s primary breadwinner — reversing typical expectations.

    William, like most men in my study, had come to Vietnam deliberately seeking a wife, while others discovered these opportunities once they arrived on visits. Either way, they were eager to find women who would enter a marriage with traditional gender roles that were fast disappearing at home. Their expectations were simple; the men would provide the economic support and the women would provide care, housekeeping and emotional labour.

    What happened instead was a classic case of “gender vertigo”. Sociologist Barbara Risman used this term to describe the dizzying effect on people who adopt, or find themselves having to embrace, a radical and unfamiliar social role that upends their ideas of how family structures and society work.

    In my study, most of the women had expected to end their working days once they reached their destination. Instead, most of them quickly ended up finding jobs, looking for income to supplement that of their husbands’, and hoping to send money home to family in Vietnam. Many women quickly became the main breadwinner, often working double shifts, with husbands working less lucrative jobs or at home doing childcare.

    This experience of transnational gender vertigo reframes our understandings of sex work, migration, and gendered relationships across transnational spaces.

    These couples stayed married, for better or for worse, as the transformation of marriage, migration, and love gave rise to new and different dreams for the future. As one source told me, “Do tinh den bac,” a phrase that means when you have luck with love or romance, your economic luck may decline. While Tram and the other women I studied embarked on migration journeys believing they were sacrificing love for economic fortune, many ended up struggling economically — and some found love along the way.

    Kimberly Kay Hoang is an assistant professor of sociology at Boston College. This is an excerpt from her full-length article, which originally appeared in Contexts magazine (Contexts.org/articles/spring-2013/transnational-gender-vertigo). More about her at Kimberlykayhoang.com.

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    Senior Member slampay's Avatar
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    The old dude pumped out three kids in three years. I'm impressed.

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    I hardly think it is typical that the bride becomes the breadwinner. That said, balanced article overall.

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    Senior Member Mr. Smiley's Avatar
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    Emotional labour... I'll have to ask the local bartendee if that's one of the services she will provide this weekend, 555
    Evilbaz likes this.

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    Senior Member marc26's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kuhio View Post
    I hardly think it is typical that the bride becomes the breadwinner. That said, balanced article overall.
    I wouldnt say they are the breadwinners but in Vancouver i know more Thai girls that areworking full time and contributing to the household than not
    Also i do know a few that i would say they provide a good 50% of the income

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    Caveat Emptor.........................

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    Well It looks like the tables were turned for Tram. First of all, this genius married a canadian without researching where he would be taking her. And second. She is working and letting hubby stay home and play house husband. Sounds like a good deal for him eh?

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    Senior Member WarProfiteer's Avatar
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    Regarding the percentage of gals going to work once in the west... the big question left up to assumption is "why?"... the article makes it seem like they all have to, but my guess is that they just as often get bored and want something to do. Not to mention, a guy at 70+ just wants to take things easy as he's probably put in 40-50 good years of hard work... if the gal is in her prime, she may be wanting to get out there and do something productive.

    The other distinct possibility is the ever annoying desire to send greater and greater support home... to help this family member go to school, or help buy mom and dad a better house or something. Once in the west, my guess is the family back home can exert pressure by saying "you can work there and make 'big money' now, dont stay home and be lazy, go work and help your family". In that case, I'd find it hard to blame the 'lazy, broke husband', which this article seems to generalize as being the main reason these gals have to work and endure the horror of "role reversal".

    God forbid she remember where she came from... how terrible it is she has to work a normal job now and can barely afford to send $20,000 home... it's a tough, unfair life.

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    What I find bizarre with this story is that they had 3 kids. That's nuts. He's 70. Did she have one 3 years in a row? How is that old man taking care of the kids? I think she's playing the long game. Unless the guy lives to be 100 she should be into some property any day now. And with 3 Canadian citizen kids. She will be sitting pretty when they start earning.

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    Super Moderator LivinLOS's Avatar
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    I don't know.. I think it often is a shock to them.. Maybe the article highlights that side more but so many girls see us on holiday, blowing cash, then think that's how life is all the time.. Then they land their millionaire, go to the west, and find the wife of a postman living in a small terrace house in some little town.. Not quite the glamorous life they thought..

    Maybe that getting drunk, swinging chrome poles, partying with new guys non stop wasn't so bad.. Especially with rose tinted glasses in the rear view mirror, getting a bit older, etc..

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    Senior Member Dodger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LivinLOS View Post
    I don't know.. I think it often is a shock to them.. Maybe the article highlights that side more but so many girls see us on holiday, blowing cash, then think that's how life is all the time.. Then they land their millionaire, go to the west, and find the wife of a postman living in a small terrace house in some little town.. Not quite the glamorous life they thought..

    Maybe that getting drunk, swinging chrome poles, partying with new guys non stop wasn't so bad.. Especially with rise tinted glasses in the rear view mirror, getting a bit older, etc..
    Thats weird getting a case of dejavu, I feel I've read this exact post some where else???55555
    Custard should be a colour...cos I could then paint over the mess I've just made!!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by LivinLOS View Post
    I don't know.. I think it often is a shock to them.. Maybe the article highlights that side more but so many girls see us on holiday, blowing cash, then think that's how life is all the time.. Then they land their millionaire, go to the west, and find the wife of a postman living in a small terrace house in some little town.. Not quite the glamorous life they thought..

    Maybe that getting drunk, swinging chrome poles, partying with new guys non stop wasn't so bad.. Especially with rose tinted glasses in the rear view mirror, getting a bit older, etc..
    But why are they so clueless? It's not like this hasn't been going on since the Viet Nam war.

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    Super Moderator LivinLOS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dupree View Post
    But why are they so clueless? It's not like this hasn't been going on since the Viet Nam war.
    Yeah because they have such a globalized world view and clear access to information.. Living in a shack on the edge of a rice paddy..

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    Quote Originally Posted by LivinLOS View Post
    Yeah because they have such a globalized world view and clear access to information.. Living in a shack on the edge of a rice paddy..
    Don't the villagers in the past 40 years have conversations? There are generations of these farang/prossie marriages. Where does all that past experience go? Are they all telling the girls that everyone is living like royalty in another country?

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    Senior Member slampay's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dupree View Post
    Don't the villagers in the past 40 years have conversations? There are generations of these farang/prossie marriages. Where does all that past experience go? Are they all telling the girls that everyone is living like royalty in another country?
    Yes...but their farang is different.

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    Senior Member geir's Avatar
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    I know quite a few guys around the world married to Thais. A lot of them let the lady do what she want with the money she makes. The husband are paying for all expenses incl food, and the Mrs is sending her salary back to the village........Some young guys out there have a house and a car in Issan while they are living in a rented flat and work their ass off for 11 months a year in their home country.
    Where is the balance, I just don't get it. (little bit off topic maybe)
    A blowjob is better than no job!!

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    Super Moderator LivinLOS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dupree View Post
    Don't the villagers in the past 40 years have conversations? There are generations of these farang/prossie marriages. Where does all that past experience go? Are they all telling the girls that everyone is living like royalty in another country?
    Because the ones left behind in the rice paddy don't see the mundane life.. Don't see the getting up in the dark of winter and going to work.. They see the 20k usd saved up, and her return in quality western clothes and makeup with a photo of her car etc..

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    Super Moderator LivinLOS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dupree View Post
    Don't the villagers in the past 40 years have conversations? There are generations of these farang/prossie marriages. Where does all that past experience go? Are they all telling the girls that everyone is living like royalty in another country?
    Because the ones left behind in the rice paddy don't see the mundane life.. Don't see the getting up in the dark of winter and going to work.. They see the 20k usd saved up, and her return in quality western clothes and makeup with a photo of her car etc..

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    Senior Member geir's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LivinLOS View Post
    Because the ones left behind in the rice paddy don't see the mundane life.. Don't see the getting up in the dark of winter and going to work.. They see the 20k usd saved up, and her return in quality western clothes and makeup with a photo of her car etc..
    You are doing great on the post counts these days Sef......Keep on posting everything twice and you will reach the 3K mark very soon 5555555555
    A blowjob is better than no job!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by LivinLOS View Post
    Because the ones left behind in the rice paddy don't see the mundane life.. Don't see the getting up in the dark of winter and going to work.. They see the 20k usd saved up, and her return in quality western clothes and makeup with a photo of her car etc..
    So it's 40 years of lies? Face building? Not telling the reality because they want generation after generation to suffer the same fate? This is what you're implying? Awesome...

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