And what about the dudes who seek out an obliging bride? They're just desperate, old, hairy, and invariably wearing denim jeans with running shoes. There’s really no boundaries to the misogyny of the rich Western man who wants to import a woman: a wife who does nothing but cook, clean, look after the kids from the first dude's marriage, and not speak much English. (Or at least that’s the stereotype.)
But MOBs and the men who love them aren’t just caricatures. Not by a long shot of the ping pong ball. They’re real women (some of the time) and real men (mostly older ones) brought together by a bunch of different factors: loneliness, inequality, the desire for a better life, unattainable sex, a visa, or the promise of love and a Labrador in a far away land. And there’s an easy way that it happens, apparently: through “international dating” websites or “romance tours”, such as Russia’s famed Tver Romance.
Setting up my very own profile with one such online agency, Rose Brides, was easy. Like 90 per cent just ticking boxes easy. I decided to live dangerously and be partial to tennis, opera, and horseback riding. A bit like a young elderly woman who’d love nothing more than a Father figure to take her boating. And of course I cast a wide net (“seeking men 18-80”) and put up homely pictures. Really, the hardest thing about the whole process was setting up a fake email with Hotmail, which did require me to time travel back to 2007.
While I waited for my profile to be approved, I took a look around at my fellow RB ladies. Some MOBs just look like ordinary women in their 20s and 30s. Some are glamourpusses (fakies). Some of the smiling faces crammed into square profile pictures are really young and it’s fucking scary to think about what’s driven them online. It’s impossible not to think about all the emotive NBC doccos, feminist legends, and skeezy VICE fashion editorials
that depict them as desperate… either in a gold-digger or poverty-stricken way, depending on your interpretation.
The morning after I lodged my profile was a bit like that scene in Sex and the City: The Movie
where jaded, heart-broken Carrie discovers all that spam mail from Mr. Big. Except my expression was probably closer to the docile stupidity of Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail
. Also, I didn’t type in the password “LOVE” to access the emails because that wasn’t what I was looking for. Anyways, here’s a re-enactment. With Tom Hanks!
A number of things struck me about the dudes’ responses. Firstly, there was a fuckload of them. Hundreds over the space of a week. (Turns out I give good profile.) Secondly, there were no flashing $$$ signs. From the basic outlook, both these sites' creators and the men who frequent them are somehow smart enough to know that money talk is A) classless and B) in direct violation of the UN convention on people trafficking. So that was something.
Another thing that was weird was the was the sheer amount of white dudes responding. Especially Aussie ones. Admittedly, it surprised me to see them on there. Then I remembered that time our ex-family friend (who aptly looks like Jack Nicholson in The Shining
) ran out on his wife for this 25-year-old Thai lady he met online. As it turns out, Australian men are up there with the Americans, Brits, and South Africans in terms of driving demand for MOBs. Something about the local dudes made me feel especially bad.
For instance, there was “John”, 30-years-old, from Brisbane, who told me he was just “looking for someone special to share things with”. I couldn't chuck him in the pervy "Yellow Fever" category: I'm white and said I was from Sydney. Other men who emailed me were new to the country and were looking for local "love" (most from places where arranged marriage is totally culturally acceptable). I even felt bad about the dude from Nebraska with a gun fetish and handlebar moustache. I couldn't fit ALL of them into the pervy, misogynistic stereotype like I'd hoped to. Some of them were just too much like Lars*.
(*Although, let's be honest here, if I'd found Ryan Gosling on Rose Brides, I wouldn't be writing this article because I'd be on my honeymoon right now.)
The pity party got even worse when I read that sites like Rose Brides
and BeHappy are basically 75 per cent scam profiles
, i.e. fake overseas women pry cash-money off hopeful men through claims of “sick parents” and “costs for visa”. Some, of course, are really obvious. (They can sing! They love to cook your favourite meal! They lie on park benches in bikinis! And they want to be your wife.) I mean, if I was a lonely old dude with a dick and some retirement money, I’d think I’d won Powerball. So yeah... I feel really sorry for the horny pensioners who go broke.
But not that
sorry. After a brief sojourn online, I just couldn’t bring myself to do anything more with the emails. (Even though I asked my boyfriend for "permission" to go on a fake date and he said yes; in a moment perhaps indicating that I am indeed cut out for a life of female subservience.) It was all too creepily close to a Today Tonight
expose. I couldn't help but react like a big fat Miranda Devine... Until I saw the profile of Alex, a 22-year-old male from Moscow who looks remarkably like a Calvin Klein model, seeking a 35-year-old woman, and realised there's hope for womankind yet.