#173 Over-thought sexual angst
submitted by Greg Vaughan
EAWs are alternately fascinated and frustrated by the moral ambiguities they encounter in their assigned countries. Certain basic value judgments that seemed black and white in their Western countries of origin (Bernie Madoff, Florida rapist football players, and Illinois governors notwithstanding) take on rich shades of gray in the Third World countries they now call home. Local people often have surprisingly few compunctions about infidelity, nepotism, child labor, and the like. It’s part of what keeps EAW life interesting.
Sexuality is a particularly enthralling gray area. If romance is sticky and complicated in the West, where the ubiquitous pop culture machine constantly works to sterilize, objectify, commercialize, and even televise sex, the world of development aid work throws in numerous exciting variables to spice things up even more. Insurmountable cultural divides, gaping differences in wealth and education, and unclear relations of interdependence and reciprocity make sex a seemingly indecipherable enigma for EAWs. If EAWs tend to be philosophical people to begin with, who generally dwell too much on issues of morality and ethical coherence, then sex and romance are sure to send them over the edge into endless back-and-forth self-questioning and fretting about what to do!
To the inheritors of the Puritan intellectual tradition, certain things like prostitution and sex with minors remain pretty clearly off-limits. But if you’re a rich-world brat with a sense of entitlement and a poor moral compass, or a Communist bloc survivor of twenty years of moral vacuum who now has disposable income for the first time in his life, or your country of origin is lax on the whole age of consent thing, even these issues aren’t so cut and dried. Furthermore, if you’re wont to engage in endless self-questioning and moralizing, you might wonder why you shouldn’t follow the lead of other local people and delve into the pleasures of sex with minors or sex for hire. Anyway, paying for sex is perhaps no more demeaning to both parties than paying to have your socks washed by hand, or your food cooked for you, or any other number of things that neither the payer nor the payee would consider doing or having done if there weren’t a massive gap in wealth between them…. Right?
The majority of people who don’t partake in these extreme behaviors are still faced with the question of whether the cultural divide is such that even normal, consensual relationships with local people are morally problematic. Those who refrain from any sexual relations with local people are still making a conscious decision, and thus diving into foggy moral waters. Is it elitist or racist to avoid romantic contact with locals? On the other hand, what could an EAW possibly have in common with a gabby, charismatic driver with a sixth-grade education and a penchant for polygamy, or with a servile, mute maid with coy eyes whose sole goal in life seems to be to provide for your every need? Then again, the chemistry you feel with these would-be paramours is no less rational or more exploitative than whatever drew you to your first serious college girlfriend, or the series of hookups you had in your mid-20s. And ultimately that first girlfriend’s obsession with Keeping up with the Kardashians was no less formidable a cultural breach than the language or education barrier between you and the local market woman, right? Are the sensations of exotic whimsy that both you and your local lover seek in one another inherently objectifying and immoral? Moreso than those same sensations of novelty you’ve at times sought in people from your own country, or even in other EAWs? What if your lover is a local elite, so you don’t have to worry about the economic inequality issue?
The preferred EAW response to this endless, fruitless moral vacillating is to refrain from all romantic contact with local people, engage in decadent tangles of sex and romance with fellow expats, and all the while spectate and judge anyone you see straying from this code!