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Go East, Old Man!
Richard Bernstein’s The East, the West, & Sex

[1]1,700 words

Richard Bernstein
The East, the West, and Sex: A History of Erotic Encounters [2]
New York: Knopf, 2009

It’s no secret that Asian women and white men seem to have a good deal of mutual attraction. Richard Bernstein, a Jew married to an Asian woman, tries to put this into a historical context. Reading his book gives an idea of how unique Western ideas of sex and marriage truly have been.

Sexual Chinese Nationalism

The East opens with the story of a young, possibly British man teaching English in China. He ran a blog where he called himself ChinaBounder and on which he bragged about his exploits with Chinese women, usually fellow students. From one entry: “I was with Star on Saturday. I was with Yingying on Sunday. In between, I contacted Cherry via MSN. I telephoned Rina, and I used SMS to flirt with Tulip. I sent Susan an e-mail to flirt with her, and I professed my love to Wendy on her blog.”

A psychology professor named Zhang Jiehai came across the website. He posted a long article, “Internet Hunt for an Immoral Foreigner,” urging Chinese men to find the English teacher and kick him out of the country. After presenting quotes making fun of Chinese males’ lack of sexual prowess, Zhang concluded by calling on the males of China to rise up.

Please think about how this foreign piece of trash has dallied with your sisters and made fun of your impotence. Do you want to say that this is no big deal? Do you still want to treat the foreigners as important? Do you still quiver when you see foreigners? Please straighten your backbones.

The psychology professor went on to provide clues that could help identify the scoundrel. His name may have been Brian and he had revealed what hotels he’d stayed at. ”Let our compatriots act together on this Internet hunt to find this foreign trash until we kick him out of China,” Zhang wrote.

In Europe or America, a college professor taking it upon himself to defend that nation’s women against the advances of foreigners would be unheard of. Chinese men expressed their disgust for this “white ape” and the “bitches” who slept with him on different Internet forums. ChinaBounder called Zhang a “lunatic” in response. This became a big enough deal for China’s censors to block ChinaBounder’s blog. He soon began writing from Thailand.

The blog’s existence in the first place illustrates the luck many white men have had with Asian women. Older men can use their money to attract women a third their age. The appeal of younger men is probably based more on their relative masculinity. The Chinese are particularly touchy on this last point. Before the ChinaBounder saga, there was a novel by Chinese author Zhou Weihui called Shanghai Baby about a Chinese woman whose boyfriend was impotent but whose Western lover was anything but. Like the ChinaBounder blog, it was banned.

Bernstein attributes these feelings of Chinese inferiority to the country’s long history of weakness in relations with the outside world. While much of that is true, it’s doubtful that some of the fears of relative Caucasian virility aren’t based on reality.

Prostitution was a regular part of life for the American men serving in Vietnam. Sex would be available for less than $5. The Vietcong pointed this out in propaganda. Some whites who served in Indochina never left. The US Clarke Army base in Angeles City (the Philippines) closed in 1991 but many of the businesses that catered to US soldiers are still operating. Bernstein tells the story of an American bar owner in Thailand who employs prostitutes to service his friends. The VFW in that country had 961 members as of 2007. Not a few Western men have decided that they’d rather spend their last days with young Asians than their saggy, no longer attractive wives. The author found a community of such men in Bangkok.

Most of the men around the table at the Federal Hotel were married to Thai women, and some of them were on their second or third wives, the first of them Americans whom they’d married decades ago. And what they said is that for men like them, what is easy in Thailand-finding willing, much-younger women-would be impossible back home. I met one former GI of substantial girth in Pattaya…

“I hit the L.A. airport,” the man said of a trip to the United States he made some years ago. “I was going to see my kids. I ended up in a bar at the airport. There were these guys talking about lawn mowers, a new garage. Lawn mowers! ‘Okay’ I said, ‘get me the fuck out of here.’”

Bernstein writes that “It’s not hard to find Western men in Thailand who describe European women as emasculating, egotistic, mannish, and afflicted with what they regard as the ideological rot of feminism.” Unfortunately for the men, things don’t always end well. Since foreigners aren’t allowed to own property in Thailand, many have had to put houses in their brides’ names. There are stories of these women kicking the white geezers out and replacing them with their younger boyfriends.

The Culture of the Harem

“East” in this book mostly means East Asia but occasionally India or the Islamic world. Although obviously quite different from one another, all Eastern cultures have historically had a series of characteristics dealing with sex that they shared with one another but not Europe. One is what the author calls “the culture of the harem.” Easterners recognized that men had sexual needs outside of monogamous relationships and accepted as a fact of life that there would be a class of women who existed to satisfy those desires. The prostitutes and concubines served to protect the honor of “good” girls from “good” families who were expected to remain pure.

This world where sex is divorced from love has enchanted European soldiers, businessmen, and travelers. In the days of colonialism, some British administrators in India began their own mini-harems. This outraged Victorian England. A writer in an 1887 newspaper decried British men falling to the level of the “heathen.” The conservative philosopher Edmund Burke fretted over the sexual implications of the whole colonial project.

No place, save some Islamic lands, did Westerners colonize a people politically without also doing so sexually. It usually wasn’t by design (although some British troops were encouraged to have children with native women in India to form a class of reliable soldiers) but simply a product of human nature. The fact that this continues today is based partly on the income discrepancies between East and West. There are undoubtedly sociobiological factors too; we don’t see wealthy Japanese men finding poor Ukrainian brides. The vast majority of people still marry and mate within their own culture but we may see sexual globalization leading to more people seeking love elsewhere. Those who care about preserving historic nations and cultures will need to fight it.

Not much attention is given to black Africa. Harems in Tanzania are mentioned, but the simple fact seems to be (the author doesn’t admit this) that white men have not been attracted to black women. If the reader doesn’t believe me, he can google “African brides” and compare the number of sites that come up to the hits for “Russian brides.” British explorer, diplomat and linguist Richard Burton did report, however, that black women lasted longer in bed. Among dozens of other works, he was the first to translate the Kama Sutra and The Arabian Nights into English. In the latter book, when the king finds his queen embracing a “blackamoor” a footnote reads that “Debauched women prefer negroes on the account of the size of their parts.”

Feminism’s Legacy

It has to be more than a coincidence that Western culture was both unique in mating practices and in technological development. What we are moving towards today is not Eastern practices, but something entirely new. While Asians, both South Asians and Mongoloids, have always accepted the existence of prostitutes and political/economic power leading to sexual success, the majority of the population cared enough about traditional morality to at least espouse it. The family was seen as a social good and debauchery to be, although inevitable, an evil if it ruined “good” girls or destroyed necessary institutions.

Western men today seem to have the worst of all possible worlds. Hard work and worldly success don’t translate into landing even one attractive woman (see the wives of Barack Obama, Chuck Schumer, or George W. Bush). The rich and poor alike have no guarantee of fidelity. Men’s natural desires are condemned while even the arbitrary prerogatives of women are treated as sublime and somehow more legitimate. In traditional societies, girls often married in their teens. But today, finding a young bride who is still somewhat in tune with her nature and not yet programmed to hate men is blocked by an array of social pressures, including laws that can land a man in jail for decades. There are none of the benefits of the Eastern system (the “boys will be boys” attitude, the compliant wives, ability to sexually succeed through socially beneficial channels) or the Western one (guaranteed monogamy, lack of polygamy meaning women are available to virtually all). It’s no wonder men go to Asia. I’d bless this for the young ones if I didn’t worry about the world’s dwindling number of whites.

The politically correct thing to do would be to condemn 70 year-old men who find 20 year-old women that they only have thanks to their money. Thankfully, Bernstein doesn’t do that. He does take the seemingly common sense view, however, that these girls don’t have genuine affection for their partners. That’s to take a very Western-centric and male-centric view (thanks to feminism, even Western females have moved towards male-centric desires) of what attracts people to one another. I don’t doubt that the subconscious of women from conservative cultures may place more weight on status and wealth. Some are certainly cynical manipulators, but not all are. Despite the small oversight there, The East is generally non-judgmental, and the author’s sympathy for the human condition rubs off on the reader.

Source: HBD Books, August 21, 2009