Moral Issues of Prostitution

These are, of course, my opinions.

It's an Economic, Not a Moral Problem ... Usually

First of all, the most common kind of prostitution in Thailand is an economic, not a moral, issue. Most prostitutes come from the poor farming northeast ("Isaan") and speak a Thai-Lao or Thai-Khmer dialect. They have a 6 year government education from a country school (after that, it's not free). Their employment options are $100 per month jobs in factories doing 6 day weeks at long hours, or similar employment ... or far more money hanging around foreigners, getting exposure and learning real life things, and hanging around with their friends.

Most of them send a big chunk of their money back home to their family. Most don't take drugs or even smoke, and many don't drink alcohol.

It is cultural arrogant of people from wealthy countries to come here and preach about morality. Try having their background and their options.

In comparison, in rich countries there are many "matrimonial prostitutes", i.e., women who prefer to marry a rich man who will support them rather than work for their own money, pursue a career of their own, and find someone with a similar purpose in life, similar interests and similar values. Many people in rich countries never have enough money, and are very materialistic. That is more morally questionable.

However, in Thailand there is an increasing trend of young students entering prostitution in order to buy fashion items. There are also prostitutes who are addicted to gambling, alcohol and drugs. Plus there are scammers. Like the matrimonial prostitute, this is a moral matter of values and interests, not an economic necessity.

Forget Reform or Purpose

The vast majority of ladies who have been in the prostitution scene, and stayed there for more than a few weeks, cannot be reformed.

I've heard countless arguments from guys who have taken on a prostitute as a ladyfriend or wife and who defend them. In the vast majority of these cases, the relationship doesn't last much longer. Few have lasted. The guy is then reminded "I told you so!".

I don't want to dwell on the exceptions. The issue here is the 80%+ rule of relationship failure.

However, this does not mean that 80% are bad people. Not at all. It's just that they aren't going to be what the guy wants them to be. They have their own life, and they are free to choose which guy to marry. It is a fact that while going week to week you see mostly the same girls working in the bars, on the other hand if you leave the bar area for just 6 months and return, most girls have gone. Where did they go? Often, away with a new exclusive boyfriend / husband.

Even if no boyfriend (and many bargirls do not want another husband or boyfriend or any such dependency), I have known via friends and associates a lot of prostitutes and ex-prostitutes who I found to be responsible, good people who are sending money back home, don't do anything unethical, and are in completely understandable decision situations.

Most ladies in prostitution have at least one child and no husband -- a boyfriend or husband who just walked away and takes no financial or other responsibility. They are single parents. (I might question their choice of boyfriend/husband, but I've made foolish choices of girlfriend in my life, too, when I was a teenager.)

I have a huge amount of respect for prostitutes who save money and not only leave the profession permanently with no desire to return, but who also try to improve their life, e.g., by working to help their husband as homemaker or starting their own business such as selling clothes on the street or opening their own salon or whatever. There are many of these ex-prostitutes.

However, most prostitutes are lazy and just live day to day.

I'm convinced that the select population of career prostitutes are those who have certain personality tendencies.

Look at how they get introduced into the trade, who stays, vs. who doesn't follow thru or who quits soon thereafter. Many, many ladies have a trusted childhood friend who has a lot of money from prostitution, has become more sophisticated, and helps their family (usually). This childhood friend often introduces more ladies from the village to the trade. Some friends turn away immediately when they see how she's making her money, and some others may try it once and quit. Others will slowly try it but stay for awhile, hopefully finding a rich foreign boyfriend. However, some try it and dive right in enthusiastically!

Those who stay tend to be extroverted, sensational rather than intuitive, lazy and don't think much. For example, they often like to gamble. Gambling and prostitution are often associated with each other because they are both thrill activities. Not far away is usually drugs. These people will not occupy themselves with self-improvement activities, but will just take the next reactive, easy thrill.

The typical prostitute will never run a business of her own, or even do the home laundry or dishes. Anything that requires self-discipline and real work is not something they're going to do. They will sit around and watch TV all day until it's time to go to the go-go bar or pickup joint to get screwed -- "make money on their backs". Even if factories paid more, they would not go work there.

These ladies have no purpose in life, and if they're not getting screwed then they will be vegetating in front of the TV or hanging around playing cards and gambling. So they may as well provide the occasional relief that some busy guys need.

From the Thai perspective, their main purpose in life is to serve working men by providing sexual entertainment, to bring skilled foreign men and tourist money into Thailand, and to bring their money into the countryside.

The differences in education and experiences between the man and the lady is often vast.

People's personalities don't change. Maybe the children of prostitutes will become more productive members of society (especially if they're raised in a different environment), but the prostitutes themselves will not, in the vast majority of cases.

The difference between a typical prostitute and a typical mainstream lady are like night and day. (However, you have exceptions in both categories.)

A lot of foreigners consider paying 1000 baht for sex to be cheap, and they don't care what the lady does with it. I look at it this way: The typical university graduate starts at a salary of around 10,000 baht per month, or 500 baht per DAY. Why should guys be paying ladies that kind of money to lay on their backs and spread their legs? Look at how a lot of those ladies blow money -- taking taxis instead of buses, partying with friends, and so on. If they were sending the money home, that's different. The choosy ones don't get a customer every day, so they get a higher "consultant's pay scale". When I do people watching, and talk with ladies, these are the kinds of things that go thru my mind, and perhaps my own moral judgements / opinions.

In any case, it's a free world out there, and as long as they aren't bothering anyone else, and all this is consensual private business, then live and let live. Wildlife. Animal Planet: Showcase Sukhumvit. It's their background, subculture/personality, and realistic profession options. At least they're contributing some service to the GNP as entertainers (and exporting for foreign cash influx) instead of sitting at home watching TV and mooching off of siblings.

Postscript

I get a lot of positive feedback from this section, from both veterans as well as men who are new to Thailand. Based on feedback by email and the web form, the positive and neutral must outweigh the negative by somewhere around 50:1.

However, I also get criticisms, some of the messages very negative, judgemental, and even hateful. I use criticisms to improve my own viewpoints as well as to improve my website, but sometimes I think the improvement needs to come from the other side, and I feel sorry for stubborn people stuck in a cycle of negative emotions and bad attitude, who just don't see the light.

Some men say I put down bargirls too much, relative to mainstream Thai ladies. Maybe I do, but I respect bargirls and freelancers who are not scammers, and understand their options in life.

Some Thai women say I put down Thai women, with some saying that I imply all Thai women are bad like bargirls. (They didn't read much, did they?)

Some foreign women say I denigrate women.

My American girlfriend (when I first arrived) commented about the sweet attitudes and small bodies of Thai ladies, and then exclaimed "I hate Thai ladies!"

Some foreign men and foreign women try to put me down for even discussing prostitutes or Thai ladies in the way I do. I guess it is THEY who have a need to put down others, and show off how good and high status they are, by trying to put ME down.

Besides attitude problems, it is obvious that many of the people who send criticisms have not really read what I have written, or else read it with such a bad attitude and filters/blinders that they did not really comprehend what is written.

For example, I don't put down Thai women. Quite the contrary. I point out that prostitutes make up about 2% of the Thai female population, but just concentrate themselves where the business is, which includes a few square kilometers in the tourist and expat concentration areas in lower Sukhumvit and in Pattaya, out of all of Thailand, and make clear that mainstream Thai ladies are generally the opposite -- very conservative, trustworthy, and not promiscuous. However, I don't think I put down Thai prostitutes in general, either. Sure, I put down scammers. However, I don't put down prostitutes in general. There may be a mismatch between foreign guys' expectations and what the lady can or will provide naturally. But who is to judge who is at fault in a relationship that does not work out? Many prostitutes are good people. Just different situations and values.

Sometimes, I feel that people are venting their anger on me, when the source of their anger comes from another experience in their past. Like the employee who goes home after a bad day at work and kicks the dog. "Displaced aggression."

Some people want others to agree with their own political opinions, and tend to be a bit opinionated.

Run a website of substance, and you are sure to attract some heat (and envy, sometimes even obsession, but that's another topic...).

Let me just discuss a few things here:

First, anytime you discuss male-female relationships and sex, you will breed controversy. Many people have emotional reactions to these topics, for various reasons. It's largely instinct.

Many of the negative judgements I receive tend to be self-righteous or based on cultural arrogance.

The majority of the negative feedback comes from females (but most female feedback is not negative, just understanding -- I don't want anyone to infer that most females give negative feedback, because that's not the case!). I suspect that many of those people have frustrations with their own relationships with members of the opposite gender, or other sociopolitical agendas.

Secondly, any website guide which aims to discuss Thailand in a balanced way, and which tries to help people coming to Thailand to work and live, must cover the relationships between Thai ladies and foreign men, especially the most common kinds of Thai ladies who you find with a large sample of foreign men working and living in Thailand -- former prostitutes (or current prostitutes). If I avoided this subject, or told people what they wanted to hear, then I wouldn't be discussing Reality.

I'm not promoting prostitution, or Thai ladies, and I get no benefits from them. I have a guide to Thailand, and people are reading my website because they are already interested in Thailand. The Thai girlfriends section is just one section out of many about Thailand.

Third, this is the human experience, and consenting adults are free to do whatever they wish, as long as it doesn't impose on anyone else. If you feel that you are being imposed on, well, it's a big world and it is easy enough for you to go elsewhere to avoid this.

You can't change the world to be what you want it to be. It is better to accept the things you cannot change, and be tolerant and understanding. This is one of the good things about Thai people which makes this country so nice -- Thai people are tolerant. It is impolite to criticize and talk badly about people who are doing no harm to others. In the Land of Smiles, Thai people are understanding, compassionate, and not prone to arguments, relatively speaking.

I am a relatively nonjudgemental person. I try to understand the human experience and the great variety of people in this world, which includes what goes on in the expat concentration areas of Thailand. I try to help people. I have a background as an analyst. Also, I have a lot of compassion for people, and I try to understand a wide variety of people very different from myself. Often, what's right for me is not best for them, and vice versa, though I do try to understand others, and often in my work and social life I learn a lot vicariously. I like to learn and understand. I'm not going to tell other people how they should run their lives. That goes for both foreigners and Thais.

Yes, there are a lot of prostitutes. Most of them come from very poor backgrounds, mainly from "Isaan", the poor northeast. Try living there. Try making it in this world with a farm background and the standard 6 year government education, at a country school. Try having the option of working on the farm or else for $100/month in a factory doing monotonous things for long hours 6 days a week. If you don't want the free market of prostitution to exist, then what are you doing to create an alternative solution? I have volunteered for charities, and I worked for the US Agency for International Development (which is what originally pointed me to Bangkok, Thailand, the Asia regional office) at lower pay rates than I was offered to work for the purely private sector. I have "paid my dues". Have you walked the walk, or only talked the talk?

I've also had my experiences with western high society "matrimonial prostitutes" and ladies "dating rich guys", i.e., women who are attracted only to rich and successful men, both directly (though I never married one) and vicariously via many friends and associates. What's the difference between that and having an ex-bargirl Thai girlfriend?

I'm not saying either one is bad. Different people have different options, and it's all consensual between adults.

If some guys want to come to Thailand and have Thai lady, or many of them, that's their choice, and the ladies' choices. Most of the guys and most of the ladies are not so stupid and naive as to not know the basic risks, consequences, and benefits of these encounters, though they may not fully understand what's involved or each others' cultures and behavioral norms. I try to help the guys understand. (Also, I help the ladies understand when I talk with them, but they don't read English language websites, so I'd waste my time writing for them.)

Contrary to some complaints, I don't think I encourage guys to do one thing or another. There are different ways to analyze one's situation and options, and what a guy or Thai lady chooses to do depends mostly on their own values -- what is important to them. Not your values. I'm not going to impose my values on them, and I think many of them would not think highly of arrogant, inexperienced and self-limiting critics.

Sure, I have my own opinions and preferences. A lot of that comes out in this website. You are free to have yours, too. But think twice before trying to impose your values on others.

It is clear to me that a lot of critics, both foreign and Thai, don't have much experience in this world and don't realize a lot of what's going on. Let me tell you, I've been doing private investigations since 1997, and my company has a private investigations division. We've "seen it all", it seems. Hundreds of cases, maybe over 1000 by now, learning vicariously. Many of our customers give us the most intimate details. Our agents go out on assignments to socialize undercover with Thai ladies as well as foreign husbands.

We don't try to "get" people. We research, analyze and assess situations. In most situations, the results are not all good. If an outright scam for money is happening, then it's pretty simple. However, usually it's not that simple and we try to counsel our customers. For guys, we try to tell him the lady's viewpoint. In long distance relationships, foreign guys are often as unreliable as Thai ex-bargirls. Few ladies are "perfect". Or men. We encourage dialogue, working things out, and clear agreements when appropriate. Regarding cheating husbands, we ask the wife to understand the husband, not react by running to self-serving lawyers, just calm down for awhile and open up dialogue. I suggest things for her to discuss. We have helped wives and husbands save many marriages. Others, to understand and accept the situation.

The typical Thai lady agent is a university graduate and proper lady with prior work experience at other jobs, and with no experience with foreign men at first when she starts as an apprentice. (They prove far, FAR more reliable and quality workers than experienced ex-bargirls/freelancers.) It's a select population because they are interested in the job, but they adapt well to understanding in nonjudgemental ways. So, regarding emails we receive that are very negative, why do highly educated other people have such a difficult time with these issues? What is the difference between our agents and the hypercritical?

I could expand upon that, but I will leave it to others to ponder.

Suffice it to say that these lady agents ponder the situation and have no problem socializing undercover with most Thai ladies they encounter. If they can do it, then why can't others?

In Thai society, like any society, people of different classes are generally not close friends, just based on educational level, mannerisms, lifestyle, economic class, occupational field, and so on. However, they are mutually respectful and acknowledge others' places in society. Equality is an idealistic myth that some people give lip service to.

On the other hand, given some motivation or common interest, people of different classes in Thai society can mix remarkably well.

(Notably, in one of my first few social encounters in the USAID community, there were ex-prostitute girlfriends of government employees and contractors who were ostracized by a few of my colleagues. Not all, but a few. It seemed so hypocritical that some USAID professionals would prove so class-conscious. I have also experienced some of this in the purely private sector in Thailand, e.g., ex-prostitute girlfriends of managing directors, managers, or expat employees.)

I have been encouraged about how some ex-prostitute ladies have been able to adapt and mix socially, and improve their lives, but there are always natural class differences at least at the outset. These should not be misinterpreted as negative judgements, but just natural class differences. Intellectual class and economic class. I'm not talking moral class.

People who self-righteously put down others, or who express cultural arrogance, are themselves the questionable ones.

On this website, I do not encourage guys one way or another. I mainly try to help people understand what they are dealing with. I even have a section on Mating 101, to put human sexuality into perspective in one's greater life. I discuss the kinds of Thai ladies you are likely to meet in certain kinds of places in Thailand. I discuss the advantages and disadvantages of different kinds of Thai ladies. It's up to the man to decide for himself if he wants a Thai girlfriend, or casual relationships of mutual benefit, or whatever. Does he want a career wife or a subserviant lady? Assertive or peaceful? How important is education? (Usually not as important as personality and empathic compatibility.) And so on. Up to him.

When I first came to Thailand, it took me awhile to deal with some of my own hangups. Then I unabashedly went out to experience what other normal guys working in Thailand did. No regrets. However, I much preferred the suburbs, and more highly educated companionship with different kinds of personalities, different subsets and lifestyle choices. Nonetheless, everyone has their own lifestyle, and if you like socializing in pool halls and getting out and about in leisure and entertainment districts, then another match would suit you better.

I've also had people call me various names. Fine, if believing your delusion is what you need, that's your freedom. The reality is usually different, and it amazes me how much of a figment of peoples' imaginations I can be. It tells more about them than it does about myself. I write about my history in Thailand on my website. Nonetheless, if I wanted to be a whoremonger and encourage other guys to do the same, as it's a huge market, then I would have done just that, unabashedly, instead of what I have written. What you see is what you get.

Feedback is welcome, but if it's going to be useful, then please read the entire section. And look within yourself as well. There's no reason to have anger towards me.

Then perhaps it would be better for both yourself and me, and maybe some useful analysis will come out of it which we can contribute to this section.


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Short time prostitutes      Longer time bargirl and freelancer girlfriends

Short time hotels      Journals      Moral issues

Good guys just trying to "save" usually get burned

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