Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Interracial Sex: The White Woman Abroad, por Emily Monroy*

É Verão no Hemisfério Norte!
Pessoas de países mais setentrionais rumam para paragens mais a Sul em busca de sol!
Dentre estas, algumas procuram também o sexo com criaturas de outras nacionalidades, ou etnias.
Esse turismo sexual é por vezes gerador de diferenças de perspectiva, equívocos ou constrangimentos.
EMILY MONROY, uma canadiana de origem siciliana e irlandesa, que diz ter alguma experiência própria neste domínio, escreve sobre a perspectiva de uma mulher do norte:

I distinctly remember the first time I saw a woman topless in public. I was walking on a beach in Palermo, Italy, and seated on a lawn chair near the water was a blonde of about twenty or so wearing nothing but bikini bottoms. Her state of semi-undress marked her as an anomaly in my eyes; she struck me as possessing a sense of freedom and daring that seemed out of place in her immediate environment.

When I reported the incident to my Italian teacher the following September, his first response was "She wasn’t Italian." Italian girls were too chaste, too virtuous for such behavior. As a result, he continued, Italian male beach goers set their eyes on German, Scandinavian and American female tourists but never on women of their own kind.

That was twenty years ago. Now these North American and Northern European ladies (and increasingly, Italian, Spanish and other Mediterranean women who in previous times would have stayed home) are expanding their horizons and traveling to shores beyond Italy, shores of places where the majority of the population is not white. All this begs the question: what do the locals in those countries think of white women?

A common perception among whites themselves is that their women are seen as sexually immoral by men of other races. In an essay entitled "White Sex," sexual politics author Susie Bright discusses the stereotype of the Yankee Whore. The white woman abroad, she writes, is the "symbol of feminine amorality. She’s like that little kid who’ll eat anything -- except she’ll f*ck anything. She has no shame, she’s sexually voracious, and kinky is her middle name." Bright recounts how during a trip to Central America her Spanish instructor claimed his previous American female student had used a boa constrictor as a dildo. Bright doubted her instructor’s story, but he preferred to "delight in the titillation of rumor."

Writing in Cosmopolitan, the much less sex positive Andrea Todd paints a more somber picture of the Yankee Whore stereotype. (I discuss Todd’s article in greater detail in my piece "The Other Man: Is He Being Resurrected in the Name of Protecting Women?") She warns American women traveling outside Europe and North America that their liberated lifestyle, which includes anything from remaining unmarried after a certain age to drinking in a bar, makes them vulnerable to sexual harassment, rape and even murder at the hands of local men who regard them as "easy game." In Todd’s eyes, white American female tourists are literally innocents abroad.

After analyzing Bright’s and Todd’s statements, I’ve found myself in the odd position of defending the honor of the white American female. Are these women really so unchaste? Sure, they may seem "loose" to people in the Middle East, for example. But so do Asian women, who strike most Westerners as demure and conservative. It should be noted as well that unlike their Asian sisters, white women in Middle Eastern countries face a very low risk of being raped. One of my French teachers in university said she felt safer in the streets of Abu Dhabi than in Toronto, Canada.

It’s also far from clear whether white American women are that much more liberal than the inhabitants of many non-white countries. Bright’s Yankee Whore notwithstanding, Latin Americans may actually be less traditional than Americans in some respects. A 1997 Gallup poll, for instance, found only a third of Mexicans and a tenth of Colombians but almost half of Americans disapproved of out-of-wedlock childbearing. As an anecdotal aside, the mother of my Mexican ex-boyfriend, a religious Catholic woman who went to church every Sunday, was desperate for him and me to provide her with a grandchild, even if we weren’t planning marriage.

And contrary to claims of white American women being viewed as the playgirls of the non-Western world, in some places they are considered sexually repressed rather than liberated. "In Search of the Big Bamboo," an article in Utne Reader on female sexual tourism to the Caribbean, underscores this point. While the local men -- the so-called "beach boys" -- glory in the attention given to them by French, British and Canadian visitors, they find white American women disappointing in the romance department. The latter’s racial hang-ups allegedly translate into sexual hang-ups as well.

"In Search of the Big Bamboo" provides a glimpse into another side of the white woman abroad image: the status symbol. According to one "beach boy," an American black woman might be good for obtaining a green card to go to the States, but she doesn’t do much to enhance his social standing. In his own words, "I can get a black girl anytime." That a white girlfriend may be a status symbol in the Caribbean is hardly surprising: after all, race mixing has gone on in that region for over half a millennium, and there’s evidence that individuals with lighter skin there are viewed as more attractive than their darker-complexioned peers (i.e. the term "good hair" for straight hair). Even in places where miscegenation was traditionally rare or frowned upon, a white female companion or spouse has become a sign of prestige. An American or European wife ranks high on the social scale in some Japanese circles, for example. Talk about white privilege.

Furthermore, some non-white men in foreign countries actually find white women "nicer," for lack of a better word, than their local counterparts. One Jamaican houseboat owner profiled on an Internet site explained that he liked white women because they didn’t "make things difficult for me" (ironically the same reason some American black men give for dating interracially). His last girlfriend was a tourist from Germany. His impression of white women casts doubt on Andrea Todd’s belief that all Third World men regard American women as ultra-liberated in their sexual and other behaviors.

Having dated a number of non-white men myself, I’ve been cast in the roles of both the good girl and the wild woman. My Mexican ex-lover saw me as the girl of his dreams because I didn’t drink, smoke or take drugs. I was a breath of fresh air compared to his previous girlfriend, also Mexican, who spent every Saturday night partying at the bar. By contrast, a Colombian co-worker on whom I had a sort of crush told me that although he found me physically attractive, I was "demasiado santa" - too saintly - for his tastes. At the other end of the spectrum, a Lebanese man I dated thought of me as wild because I wore a bikini (with the top on, of course) at the beach, contemplated having a child out of wedlock, and sometimes spent the evening at the library rather than come directly home. Yet paradoxically he appreciated my seeming lack of inhibition. One man’s whore is another man’s virgin.

A contributor to the book Showing Our Colors: Afro-German Women Speak Out (which I reviewed in a previous essay), a young woman born to a German mother and African-American GI, described a trip to Africa during which some children shouted out "white lady" to her. Having been regarded as black all her life, being called white came as a surprise to her. It sometimes strikes me as ironic that after dating a man who saw me as the "bad girl" (the girl who is fun to have fun with but not settle down with), I suddenly became a goody two shoes in the eyes of my Mexican boyfriend. At this point in life, as I contemplate motherhood and a long-term relationship, I prefer to play the good girl. But no matter who I end up with, there will probably always be a bit of the bad girl in me too.

Emily Monroy is of Sicilian and Irish descent and lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada


Also by Emily Monroy:
Left-Wing Anti-Miscegenism
Interracial Sex
A Different Kind of Couple
Interracial Sex #2
Book Review of Miscegenation Blues:Voices of Mixed Race Women
White Guilt
Interracial Sex #3
Book Review: Showing Our Colors
Book Review:In the Land of God and Man: Confronting Our Sexual Culture
Reverse Racism
Right-Wing Pro-Miscegenism
Interracial Sex #4: The Black Woman's Undoing?
The Chador: A Western Woman's Perspective

Jamaican Beach Party

The rise of female prosperity and independence in Europe and America has now enabled women to visit exotic societies for sexual tourism.

1 comment:

Emily Monroy said...

Hi. I am Emily Monroy, the author of this piece. Sometimes I wonder whether I should have penned it in the first place. It led to a response from a man who proceeded to destroy my sense of self-esteem and self-worth. On the other hand, perhaps I've learned the lesson of not becoming involved with individuals who may be so unhappy themselves they strive to make others feel as bad as they do. Still, I am grateful that this article did help launch my journalistic vocation (I don't say "career" because it's not a full-time job for me). So if you can use it on your own site, that is great.