Tim Footman: Not every farang male comes to Bangkok for sleaze

Tim Footman: Not every farang male comes to Bangkok for sleaze

Fed up with the innuendos and winks, a Bangkok-based writer points out that not all men are here for cheap beer and the pleasures of Asian flesh

It wasn’t the sort of job interview I was used to. The man in charge, an ebullient New Yorker with seriously hairy arms, scanned my resumé for a few seconds, then posed his first question. 

“So, what brings you to Bangkok? As if I need to ask.”

And he actually winked when he said it. 

I knew, of course, that lots of heterosexual men come to Thailand for reasons other than spiritual enlightenment. But it wasn’t until I encountered my hirsute interlocutor that I discovered I’d been co-opted into this tribe against my will.

As I was riding the Skytrain, buying a coffee, dodging the jewellery scammers, how many people had assumed that I was just another paunchy, balding farang whose main purpose in coming to the Land of Smiles was to indulge in cheap beer and the pleasures of Asian flesh?

Passing a bar in Nana, I saw lumpy Brits groping females who could have been their granddaughters. In Pattaya, I watched a Spam-pink septuagenarian stumbling down the middle of the road dressed only in scuffed brogues and grubby underpants. At 10 in the morning.

Was I going to turn into that? 

OK, time for the “some of my best friends…” disclaimer: of course there are plenty of foreign men who have settled down in stable, happy, mutually respectful relationships with Thai women (or, for that matter, men).

So why did I feel so uneasy at being co-opted into this apparently unexceptional tribe? 

It was the implicit camaraderie that lay behind that interviewer’s wink; the idea that any heterosexual Caucasian male who negotiates Immigration at Suvarhabhumi is here for the same reason.

It’s the sort of attitude that becomes more overt once a few beers have been consumed, or when the anonymity of the web allows for a candid expression of what they really feel. Because you realize pretty soon that for many men, it’s less about the joys of Thailand, than the horrors of what they’ve left behind. 

Try this, from a recent discussion on ThaiVisa: "Easy for me, in Thailand I can go months without seeing or hearing a fat-arsed loud-mouthed white woman, screw your political correctness it's just a plain simple truth for me at least."

Or this, from the lamented Mango Sauce: "Hey feminazi white bitches! You rule U.S. and UK and parts of Europe. Here you are nothing! Get it!"  

Or, from one of the more respectable introduction sites: "If you are one of the growing band of disillusioned genuine single Western gentlemen, who is 'sick to the back teeth' with the new breed of twenty-first century woman; if you are disillusioned with the kind of de-feminised, over sized, self-centred, mercenary minded lady, available on the Western singles scene, who is only out for what she can get..." 

The message is plain: the West has gone to feminist hell, while Thai women are attractive and thin and know their rightful place and only speak when they’re spoken to and don’t worry their pretty little heads with subversive notions of equal rights.

Of course, any sane response to these comments is met by the retort that one is either one of these fat white feminazis in disguise; or a castrato turncoat who’s only disagreeing because his vicious gorgon of a woman told him to.

In the Land of Farangry, political certainty straight out of Fox News is added to an already peculiar blend of smug superiority, impotent rage and bitter disappointment. You could almost call it a philosophy, but not with a straight face. 

You know what these men remind me of? The Afrikaners who refused to admit that apartheid is dead, and have established a whites-only settlement in South Africa.

Or maybe the Japanese soldiers who didn’t believe the war was over, and occupied tiny islands for decades, in the name of the Emperor.

The only difference is, these pitiful misogynists haven’t got the imagination to set up a pre-feminist neo-Stepford community themselves, so they just squat down somewhere that’s a bit closer to their ideal already.

(Oddly, their complaints about rampaging feminism in their home countries are often accompanied by disgruntlement about hordes of immigrants ruining the place. All that anger clearly kills off the irony cells.) 

OK, guys, if your dream existence is to shack up with an underweight woman who thinks feminism is a new brand of skin-whitener, and who willingly brings you a Singha when you click your fingers, I’m not going to burst your bubble.

You just sit there in your shorts until either your mind or your liver disintegrates. And if there’s a Thai woman who’s prepared to do the job, that’s her lookout. Just don’t try to implicate me in your Neanderthal world view. Enough of the winking, OK?   


The opinions of this commentary are solely those of Tim Footman.
Tim Footman has written for The Guardian, Mojo, Prospect, Thailand Tatler and the Bangkok Post. He is the author of "The Noughties 2000-2009: A Decade that Changed the World."
Read more about Tim Footman