THE FINE LINE BETWEEN PROSTITUTION AND DATING

fine line prostitution dating

 

The events proceeding my first intimate encounter with H, a Thai national left me in a state of complete mental blankness. As we lived in opposite ends of Bangkok and he wasn’t in a position to drive me home, he hailed me a taxi and opened the door for me to enter the vehicle alone.

 

“I’m sorry I can’t drive you to your room.”

 

A kiss goodnight. Directions to the driver. The snap of the door closing. I opened my purse. H had insisted on paying for my ride to Pomprab. After some debate I had accepted but H had placed the bills in my purse without unfolding them. Now resting between my fingers, I realized H had not only given me funds for my ride home, he had covered the majority of my rent for the month.

 

Had I just been paid?

 

Confused I called a well educated, never been in the sex trade female Thai friend and relayed what had happened.

 

“Awwww…”, she said in English (or something to the effect of). “That’s really nice. He’s a good guy.”

 

I was confused. She then explained a Thai custom I had previously heard about – the concept of a Thai man taking care.

 

As the months and years followed, I became further confused about my place in Thai society as a white, Foreign woman. Normally I neither define myself as white, nor a woman, nor anything I consider to be superficially categorical. However, I realized living in Thailand how I defined myself on any level had little social bearing. I seemed to always be defined by my sex and/or race and those definitions are ones I find to be limiting at times and overtly offensive at others.

 

Some of my confusion laid in the following:

 

My female friends and acquaintances (meaning just about anyone I had this conversation with, including random chats in salons, etc.) repeated the same social belief.  A good Thai man will take care.

 

Alternatively, my male friends and acquaintances (again, just about anyone I had this conversation with) repeated the same social belief as a complaint. All Thai women care about is money.

 

Now insert the widespread generalization that Foreign, mainly white women have the propensity towards free sex. This belief in conjunction with its definition in Thai society seemed to be a source of contempt and attraction depending on who I spoke to. Sometimes a source of both in the same person. The following questions arose inside of me:

 

How can I determine if a Thai man/potential lover respects me?

 

If he doesn’t take care, is this an expression of disrespect or is it in response to the belief that a white woman won’t expect to be taken care of? Or does he simply not have the means and should this matter?

 

Spending my time in muay thai gyms amongst men of questionable character and notable charm gave me ample warning to not become, as a Thai man boasted of his Thai gik / casual lover on the side, “something to use”.

 

I again sought the council of a Thai woman I trusted. I sprung this question on an unsuspecting friend in Buriram who had some exposure to Western culture. She could speak and read English and was married to a Foreigner.

 

I asked, “If I’m dating a Thai man and we’re going to have sex and I want him to respect me, should I ask for money?”

 

The request for money was something a number of Foreign men I had spoken to experienced with Thai women outside of the sex trade. Sometimes they asked directly, sometimes they expressed extreme discontent if they didn’t receive it afterwards. Some men had expressed they weren’t asked for money their first few encounters with the same woman, but later, as an expression of needing help (i.e. with their rent, with a family member’s medical bills). Requests of this nature often aren’t an indication of true need but rather are representative of the avoidance of many Thais to ask for something directly. This avoidance of creating a scenario and not approaching things directly is a practice I’ve witnessed and experienced frequently in general Thai society, including Thai on Thai relations.

 

After a little clarification of my headspace, my friend offered the following advice:

 

If you’re dating a Thai man and he is jing-jai (aka sincere), there will be no need to ask for anything, he will provide what he can. As Thai men are raised this way, a good Thai man will practice this with a Foreign woman as well.

 

If you meet a Thai man and on the first date (or shortly thereafter) he expresses interest in having sex with you, you can state a price. Should you decide to, you’re establishing that you’re not interested in being in a relationship with him but will engage in casual sex.

 

I told my friend that I found the second option interesting. The world I know in the West considered that prostitution. She was shocked. Prostitution, she explained was a trade practiced by bar girls who worked specifically in establishments catering to the practice. I explained that the exchange of sex for money in any way is considered prostitution in my culture.

 

karaoke-girls-Chiang-Mai

Bar Girls, Chiang Mai, Thailand, 2007

 

I find this to be an interesting example of cultural differences that can so easily go under the radar, for my friend and I alike. She had been married to her Foreign husband for years and I had lived in Thailand, at this point, for I believe, more than two. I’m glad I asked and am more thankful that she was sincere in her response (which was later confirmed by both Thai men and women I trusted as good practice).

 

I hope this has been beneficial for those of you who were remotely as confused as I was.

 

For Thailand solo travel and safety tips, in addition to Thailand information you won’t find in traditional tourist guides, please visit my post Tips For Women Traveling To Thailand.

 

 

THE FINE LINE BETWEEN PROSTITUTION AND DATING

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About Laura Dal Farra

 A minimalist with no fixed address. A pursuer of dreams. After a six month adventure training muay thai in Thailand in 2007, Laura Dal Farra returned to her native Canada, sold most of what she owned, and boarded a plane set for Bangkok alone. She spent the next 3.5 years training in traditional muay thai gyms, pushing her limits, and embracing the unknown. Realizing little was being written on the subject, she began to blog about it. Laura Dal Farra is the founder of Milk.Blitz.Street.Bomb.

Comments

  1. Interesting thoughts but… being western would you even think of asking for money?
    Never heard of this “practise”, even after 4 years in Thailand (ok, I never asked and never heard of something like it). I am a bit shocked that he’d give you money… but did he want a relationship after all or was it casual from his (or your?) side?

    • hey mina. reading through your comments – love them. thanks for adding to the discussion.

      i can’t imagine asking for money directly or indirectly, but i think at the time i was questioning if would/should…i was extremely confused, lonely and in a place of pain living in this society and was trying to figure out correct conduct, in different aspects of life as well, to avoid exploitation.

      in regards to the guy who gave me money. yes, he was definitely interested in a relationship – although, i think like many other men of his financial status, not a monogamous one, just the facade of a monogamous one. ie. different girls set up in different apartments who don’t know about one another or who won’t confront him about one another. i originally was interested in him but as time passed and i realized more things about him, including what i just wrote – no.

  2. Laura, I find your previous comment interesting, where you state, “like many other men of his financial status, not [interested in] a monogamous [relationship], just the facade of a monogamous one.”

    Does that mean that poorer men are more apt to want a monogamous relationship, or just that they can’t afford to keep happy as many women as a rich man?

    Now, how does this play into the very common occurrence of Thai trainers hitting on Foreign women met through training? I am very new to this world, just got here one month ago, and last weekend when I went out with some trainers from my gym, two of them expressed interest in going home with me. Prior to this no one had overtly hit on me at my gym, so this was something new to consider. I went home alone that night, by the way. But still I wonder about the proper conduct, or at least “ideal” conduct. Both of them told me separately something to the effect of “Khao San Road is Khao San Road, and gym is gym” and that no one would ever know and it would be a secret, blah blah blah. Of course, it’s never a secret. Someone will always find out. Any thoughts from your experiences?

    • Hi S,

      To answer your first question – from my experience, finances are often what keeps some men monogamous (i.e., they can only afford to take care of one woman). Of course, there are men who choose to be monogamous, because that is what they want, regardless of financial status. However, note, it wasn’t uncommon for me to be around groups of guys talking about how they only have one woman because they have no money (to have more).

      Frankly, I think you made a great call not going home with either trainer from your gym. Sleeping with trainers and/or fighters can cause a load of issues at a gym – but that all depends on so many factors, including where in Thailand you’re training (ie. if a lot of Foreigners come through), how long you plan to train there, etc. (ie. having a fling with a trainer works for some people who aren’t training at a gym long-term, but please note, there’s a huge chance they have a gf or a wife (or both, ha!). Oftentimes, trainers will go to larger cities to work while their gfs/wives will stay at home in the countryside (if that’s where they’re from). If they’re always on the phone with ‘their sister’, pay attention to that. Often, ‘their sister’ is a gf or wife or gik or….anyone…. but not their sister…it’s the stereotype of what’s often said to hide their significant other(s).

      Also, I wouldn’t believe that sleeping with anyone in your gym will be kept a secret – and the fact that two of them tried to….guys at gyms are often like family – I wouldn’t rule out that each of them knew the other was going to try. Also note, a guy that is interested in a monogamous relationship with you at a gym, won’t be trying to sneak off with you. From my experience, guys who are really interested in someone make more of an old school effort with girls – think more in line of 1950s era romance – maybe spend time eating with you, etc., the other guys at the gym will know he’s into you, etc. It’s often a slow process.

      It’s long overdue, but I’ve been planning on writing a piece specific to girls training muay thai in Thailand – i.e. ideal conduct in gyms. If you have any specific questions, please feel free to write them here or email me via the contact page. I’ll do my best to answer them in the piece.

      • Fantastic response. I wrote that 4 months ago. I’ve been at the same gym this whole time, and neither of those trainers I mentioned in the previous post hit on me anymore because they know I’m not interested.

        But your comment on the “talking to sister” thing got me thinking. There is one particular trainer here, and he trains me quite often, I really get along with him in a training aspect, and sometimes we talk casually and hang out before or after training. He has never overtly hit on me or made me feel weird like he’s looking at me lecherously. The only indication I’ve gotten from him over the past few months that he might be interested in me is that someone once told me he said I was pretty, and a couple months ago he invited me to go with him to another city when he had a fight to “watch fight” (I declined the invitation), and we just generally hang out here and there around training times and meal times. So basically I’d consider us “just friends” who train together. But, and your response got me thinking about it, sometimes I’ll ask him what he was doing on the weekend or where his car is, etc, and he’ll tell me he was “seeing family” or “seeing his sister.” I’m pretty sure his “sister” is his “girlfriend.” So my question for you: in your understanding, is calling your girlfriend your “sister” a common thing men do in Thailand when talking to their female friends (as in “just friends”), or does it indicate that sometime down the line he might want to have an additional girlfriend, namely me, and is thus avoiding talking about his girlfriend to me? If he were flirting with me heavily like other men at the gym have done, I wouldn’t be confused. But the fact that we do seem to be “just friends” and he never tries to take me out or anything makes me wonder about calling girlfriends “sisters,” etc.

        By the way, I can’t wait for your book. Holz was training here with me at this gym until recently, and every so often we would talk about you and I’d tell her how much I love your blog. It’s a small world. Keep up the great work!

        Also, in dating young Thai men (not associated with the gym), is it expected that the man will pay on dates every time if they are, as you say, “sincere”? And if I like a man and enjoy spending time with him and find him attractive, but do not like him enough to want to be in an exclusive faen-relationship with him, then really I should ask for money if he wants sex? I mean, sure, everyone loves money, but it’s such a foreign concept to me as a western woman! Because as you say, sounds like prostitution. And I don’t even know what the going rate is! Oh, what an exciting world this is turning out to be.

  3. I also think it’s where you meet these men. I don’t recall any Thai girl I know to ask for money after a date. Men will usually pay for dinner as they want the women to feel at ease and just shows that they are capable, thats it. Anyhow, this is a great article and will continue to follow reading.

    Staying on topic, I recently had a Thai guy writing about his real life experiences of ‘Compensated Dating’ in Bangkok, Thailand.

    Link: http://www.cupidslibrary.com/blog/professional-compensated-dater-in-bangkok

  4. Holy crap. That’s crazy about the guy handing you a bunch of cash for “taxi” money.

    Obviously, it would have been handled with a slap back in the west, but in Thailand the culture is quite different. Really great and interesting writing…I’m gonna go and read more of your stories. Thanks!

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