Thursday, May 14, 2015

Foreign Men and the Pinay Online Dater: A social experiment

Hey there, online daters! How does the following go? 

"I am 65, retired, and travelling to your country in two months. I am looking for a younger woman to live with me being there. Maybe it will continue if we like each other after some time. I can support your family every month with supply of gas, a sack of rice, and P1500 worth of groceries."

Perhaps, for many online daters who had been around the dating sites, this is an everyday thing. For the fraction of regulars, this might even mean an opportunity served right in front of someone ready to grab a chance. Who wouldn't want to live without having to work on night shifts or 8-5 jobs, and still get to be provided with such necessities? For sure they are perks... and maybe curses too. 

For me, that was one of the most amusing statements I have heard in my entire existence (so far). 

Basically, I can't blame him though. 

There has been the decades-old view among Filipinos that goes something like "improve your race" (translated as: your kids have to at least look a bit better than you), "half-foreign breeds are just the most beautiful" (you can produce a bunch of actors and actresses), and "be practical, make your children's life better, so go marry a foreign man" ( insert dollar sign here). 

The most common stereotypes. Pinays dating or married to foreigners even get stereotyped in their own country.

We love everything foreign: clothes, chocolate, shoes, language, TV shows and even mates. That's how 333 years of Spanish colonization, 40 years of US control (if we have been really freed after 1946), three years of Japanese occupation, added to what has originally been a product of interaction with Indians, Chinese, Malays and other sultanates of South East Asia, have shifted the standards of every thing in the Philippines. The colonial mentality thrives as well as it was in the previous century. 

Of course, the easiest way to find a foreign man is through a free dating website. I have family members and friends who married foreign men (though not from dating sites), and I've even been into relationships with foreign guys myself. It was not a bed of roses entirely. There are major cultural misunderstandings, social stigma (though not as strong as it was previously), and confusions. Extra caution are then advised for online daters. With all that, I realized that before you jump the gun and get into an inter-racial relationship, you must be able to reflect on the following questions: Are you ready to get stared at while you both are in public? Is getting your conversation eavesdropped tolerable?  Is getting labelled a "gold-digger", at some point, something you can shake off? Those are just the basics. You see, Pinoys are fond of making other people's lives part of their business, and that might be not fair but definitely existing. That's added to the fact that Pinoys are racist (check the recent research on that). 

An example of how widespread Fil-foreign marriages are. Screenshot from Christian Filipina.

But there are still many Pinay online daters on countless websites, and that watered my curiosity. In one of my linguistics classes in grad school, we were tasked to study language use (English) in the different facets of life. While many chose print ads, billboards, novels and short stories, I opted for a strange one; the dating site.  I was fresh from a heartbreak that time, and it was quite a good diversion too. Of course that entailed that I sign up for one site, and so I chose DIA.

Curious enough? When I presented it in class first as part of the discourse analyses project, it plastered smiles on my classmates' faces, burst of laughter from some who can relate, and curious facial expressions for those who heard them first. I admit I was personally stunned by how far some Pinays will readily go to get to that "greener pasture" aspirations. There is nothing wrong with online dating, what's surprising is how some can tolerate the kind of treatment they get from foreign men (to be fair, not all of them). Okay, there must be "good matches" for every one of us. 

Here are the remarkable finds: 
1. Men vary in their language choice depending on your profile content. Yep, you get that right. Not all men who sign up in dating sites are blind or frustrated; they can be choosy too. I made three profiles on the site, all varying in language ability, social status, profile picture, and means of flirtation (haha. I can't believe I can do that! hell yeah, I can do that!) 

Profile A (which adheres to all the qualifications I have, definitely, no flirting) received messages that are quite respectful, educated and grammatically correct.  With 30 men I observed (they initiated the talk), 26 of them claimed to be educated, can use English well enough (despite not being a native speaker), and ask open-ended questions. Two men expressed the desire to have a relationship upfront, and two have offered support for my family if I agree to live with them. On this experiment, it is safe to say that 26/30 have quite sanitized language. 

Profile B (an unemployed Pinay with a bachelor's degree, decent photo, and with extreme eagerness to talk) received messages that suggested sex after several exchange of information. With 30 men that initiated contact, 23 men started getting sexual after an average of 5 exchanges. Twenty-seven of them used endearments such as "baby, honey, sweetheart" early on. Fifteen of the men asked if I am willing to relocate, and if I wanted to have a job or stay at home after marriage. Twenty-five men used contractions in their language, like u instead of "you", and 24 of them do not use proper capitalization. 'zup bby? 

Profile C (a young petite woman without a college degree, directly expressing the desire to marry a white man, with a decent picture, but poor language skills) received messages that contained the words, "sexy". "hot", "steamy", "playful", "submissive" and "baby" among others. Of the 30 men that initiated the contact, 20 had asked for or left their email addresses and/or skype name right away. Eighteen men asked if she has kids, 10 asked if she is gay, 5 asked if she can do oral, and the rest said something like, "will you taste my scrambled egg?", "I want some pony ride tonight", and "Can I be your slave?" 

See the disparity? Is it safe to conclude that men also want a great catch? Whatever the nationality, no one's gonna settle for anything that's least of their expectations, may it be for social status, emotional security (to be needed and adored), or sex. 

2. Men showed a trend in their approach according to country/region. Socio-linguistics have told us people use language differently, and this can be attributed to the society they live in. Some are quite direct, some are not. Though it is not true to every one, most of the men from the same region have shared similarities in their approach. 

Europeans: They tend to be more polite, would compliment the profile (picture or content), and wait for a response before they start asking more questions. After some exchanges, they asked direct questions and would often apologize for asking such if they realized that might be too personal. They would express early on, if they like you.Yes, call that indecent proposals. 

N. Americans: Many would start with niceties, clarifies what the woman is looking for, ask if the search is successful, and would proceed to more personal questions. Many would react to some parts of the profile content, questioning its validity (like, how sure are you there are men who are scammers here?). Would take some time before they say they like you, though they would be very eager to send messages regularly. Not an easy bunch to catch, if I may say. Because theirs is a culture quite popular around the archipelago, I find them the easiest persons to relate to. 

Aussies: Similar to Europeans, they would start by complimenting your profile, open up quite sooner, and would not hesitate expressing their fondness of you. Of the 10 Aussies involved with the three profiles, one had blasted comments on why the profile picture was the one in sunglasses, and that the member might be a scammer. Another had a violent reaction when the messages he sent were left unanswered. 

Asians: As expected, Asians are on for something else. Majority of the Asians (East Asians)  would ask about your work, educational qualifications, and knowledge of their country. If you know some things about them, they're hooked. After some exchanges, expect that they give themselves an ego boost, too. Some others would compliment your physical attributes and express willingness to communicate with you regularly (South Asians). Twelve out of 21 Pinoys who communicated asked why the woman was looking for men from overseas.     

Yep, perhaps the theories on socio-linguistics are true even for communications made online. 

3. Men of different age groups vary in their communication style. Perhaps it is true that with age comes experience, and with experience comes confidence.  

below 30: They are fond of using endearments right away. They would also ask if the woman has a boyfriend (which of course, is ironic. If you have some one, and you are sane, you won't be there in the first place, right?) 

30 to 40: Most men under this category, who are involved in the social experiment, are on for more fun talks. Most would talk about adventures. Perhaps for the 34 men in this age range, 22 have talked about how they love adventures, holding hands or kissing in public, and yes, sex. They are concerned with social status and qualifications, too.

41 to 55: Most men in this range offer practical life topics (perhaps out of their personal experiences). Many would be upfront in expressing intentions, and would continually view the woman's profile. They are the ones that will quickly have vacation plans, perhaps looking for a tour guide or some thing else. The group is also the most open-minded of all, while being practical on the side. 

56 and up: Would most often say what they have to offer, and do not settle to selling themselves short. They are also the most aggressive, constantly sending messages despite not getting responses every time. 

Yeah, age does matter when talking about quality of talks. That depends on the kind of topics one is looking for, or can keep up with (to some, can stand). 

4. Men hesitate to admit how many females they chat with on the site.  Yes, I asked men how many women they are actually in communication with. For Profile A, 20 out of 30 men admitted they chat with someone else. For Profile B, 19 out of 21 who dared answer say they have "other friends". For Profile C, 12 out of 30 said they are only talking to the woman exclusively. 

You know what's funny? Of the 20 men that communicated with the three profiles (A,B and C), nine admitted they are talking to someone else in the Philippines. Of course they didn't know I was the one talking to them as well. Of the 4 men I like, nobody replied to the couple of messages I sent from profiles B and C. Kudos to the four of you! :D 

It has been an exciting, frustrating and overwhelming ride. Oh, heart-breaking too. (Read previous posts if you wanted to find out why). I have gained some friends along the way, and sadly lost the dearest one two months ago. 

So, fellow Pinays, be careful. Online dating sites can be a good avenue for finding romance, but it's not for everyone. Taking it from my late friend Dave, "give people masks (being anonymous) and see who they really are". 

Language research is fun! I'll do a more elaborate one when I get into Post Grad  (haha, God knows when). Those men I have had great connections with, when told what  I was on, ended up calling themselves lab rats, guinea pigs. and cultured bacteria when they found out. 

Have you been a member of an online dating site? How was the experience?