Changing Opinions Towards Mail Order Brides

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International Love Scout is in a unique position as far and away the oldest and most comprehensive source of news about international dating and lately we have noticed a change in attitudes towards the modern mail order bride – a positive change.

We have spent the last decade examining every angle of international dating culture. We read every news article on international dating and regularly visit a huge number of web sites, far more than the ones we review here.

We write articles on the major issues that arise about mail order brides, watch the TV shows, and personally know many of the owners and employees of the agencies we review. We regularly hear from many of the women signed up at the agencies. In short, we keep a close eye on the entire culture of international dating.

When we started this site the anti-mail order bride forces were at high tide. In 2005 the United States passed the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act of 2005 to protect foreign brides from potential abuse and Belarus tried to stop marriage agencies from operating in Belarus, because the President Alexander Lukashenko thought that all of the most beautiful and talented young women were fleeing his workers’ paradise.

They were, but his efforts largely failed and the most beautiful, talented young women still sign up with international dating agencies.

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It was common for feminist women studies professors to accuse men who searched for love overseas of almost every crime imaginable from prostitution to human trafficking, child abuse, and murder. Worse, the mainstream press parroted these claims without ever checking the validity of the claims or interviewing the men and women involved in these relationships.

But lately there has been a change. It looks like the consensus of opinion about international dating and the modern mail order bride has finally begun to change among both academics and the general public. The publication of Buying a Bride: An Engaging History of Mail Order Matches by Marica A. Zug, a law professor at the University of South Carolina, the release of an award winning documentary Love Me, and the explosion of a new genre of mail order bride romance novels each illustrate the evolving perception of international dating.

The Old Stereotypes About Mail Order Brides

One of the strangest thing about international daring was the incredible amount of anger and criticism that critics hurled at this particular niche of the dating and romance industry.  In the early days of International Love Scout we seriously examined this criticism.

We had absolutely zero interest in being involved in an industry that people claimed was abusive to women and contributing to human trafficking, child abuse, prostitution, and other crimes and social ills. So, we started an exhaustive investigation into the history and practice of international dating.

We reviewed the History of Mail Order Brides and examined How Mail Order Bride a Derogatory Term. We looked at why feminists hate international dating and looked at Why Women From Eastern Europe Want to Marry Foreign Men and if Mail Order Brides Just Want Your Money.

The amazing thing we learned from our research was that the deeper we dug the less negative information we could find.  Often it turned out the criticisms were based on nothing but feminist theory and semantics, because of a literal interpretation of the term mail order bride.

Yes, sometimes there were abuses and tragedies on both sides.  There are women who scam dumb men and there are Guy Who Should Not Pursue Foreign Brides but in general the outcomes of international dating were as good or better than among couples in general. 

Slowly, the scholarly research supporting international dating began to pile up as younger scholars began to look at the evidence and interview actual participants in the process.  The younger scholars actually stepped away from feminist theory and interviewed the men and women looking for love on international dating sites.

In part this was possible because there were so-called mail order brides in almost every American city or town of any size. The lives of these women, and the men who loved them, was not hard to document.  So, the younger scholars wrote dissertations and journal articles attacking or at least addressing the criticism of an earlier generation of critics who mostly operated within a theoretical frame work.

Why “Buying A Bride” Is So Important

Despite the hyperkinetic media world we live in books still matter, especially among academics and elite policy makers in the government and media.  Academics, particularly self-identified feminist academics, led the charge against the modern mail order bride industry since the very beginning of the business in the early 1990s when the fall of the old Soviet Union and the creation of the internet revolutionized an almost forgotten part of the romance and dating industry.

Generally, these early academic critics conflated organized crime rings specializing in prostitution and sexual slavery with lonely law abiding and often highly educated, successful men looking for romantic companionship and marriage.  It is almost amazing to read in retrospect.  Here is an early example from 2004: that was published in the International Journal of Victimology:

Although some women may find the jobs, romance, and opportunities they seek, many become victims of violence, sexual exploitation, and sex trafficking. There have been many documented cases of women being deceived by traffickers after the women responded to advertisements for employment abroad. There are also cases of women being abused and/or murdered after marrying a man they met through marriage agency correspondence.

This incredibly odd sort of analysis, is about as sensible as comparing the dangers of wolves and beagles.  At first glance there are a lot of similarities between wolves and beagles. They are both in the dog family and physically bear a great number of similarities, but the actual danger levels are vastly different.  Yes, people do get bitten by beagles, somewhere someone has probably been killed by a beagle, but historically wolves have killed literally tens of thousands of people.

So, comparing the threat of wolves and beagles is as silly as comparing gangsters kidnapping women and forcing them into sexual slavery, which happens to hundreds of thousands young women each year, with the dangers, though sadly real, that women face as mail order brides in the United States, Canada, Australia, or the European Union.

Women who are forced into prostitution are physically and emotionally abused, often end up as drug users, and usually die very young.  Women who meet men from Europe, North America, or Australia on international marriage sites face the same challenges and opportunities as all married women.

But this extraordinarily muddled analysis comparing international dating to human trafficking and prostitution was the central feature of criticism of the modern mail order bride industry from academics, politicians, and humanitarians beginning in the 1990s and lasted for about twenty years with very few challenges.  These attacks, made by critics who rarely spoke with the men and women who met through international dating agencies, led to the passage of a variety of legislation.

So, softening the attitude of young feminist scholars is a real step in the right direction, because it helps change the mainstream perception of international dating.

Zug, like several of the other young feminist scholars, was hostile to the concept of mail order brides, because of a 2006 article in GQ magazine about a fashion photographer who had a married a Colombian woman.  It was a disaster and the man seems to confirm some of the worse stereotypes about men who marry mail order brides.

Zug writes that she was, …horrified. It seemed to confirm my worst suspicions regarding mail-order marriage. Here was a man routinely dating beautiful, desirable women yet turning to mail-order marriage because he believed his previous girlfriends had not been sufficiently grateful.

So, of course she started her research with the mainstream feminist bias against international dating. She explains that, As I started my research, I expected to find that modern mail-order marriages are fundamentally harmful and that these problems are long-standing.

However, the more research she did, particularly interviews with women involved in these relationship, her negative attitude underwent a metamorphosis.

She explains that, As I started my research, I expected to find that modern mail-order marriages are fundamentally harmful and that these problems are long-standing. I was surprised that this is not what I found. Despite significant risks, mail-order marriages are typically beneficial and even liberating for women.

Now, here at International Love Scout we have been saying exactly that for almost a decade, but Buying a Bride is published by NYU Press and received a nice short review in the New Yorker.

That is the sort of publicity that academics, politicians, and policy makers pay attention to.  So, the next time so-called feminist activists consider a push for more restrictive legislation like IMBRA, Buying a Bride will be something they seriously consider.

It would be nice if they took the articles here at International Love Scout just as seriously.  Our articles rely on many of the same sources as Buying a Bride, but that is not how the world works.  We understand that, but it is nice to see an unbiased source reach the same conclusion as we have.

Loveme documentary

Love Me – An Award Winning Documentary

Love Me,  the documentary is another great development that helps to change the perception of mail order brides for the general public.   This is a very simple film that tracks a group of American and Australian men as they pursue foreign women using international dating sites.  The men in the film seem like a pretty average cross section of the men who pursue romantic relationships through international dating.

The men are far less than perfect and the end results are not particularly great, but the movie gives a very honest recording of the process and provides incredible reviews of both and

In the film  the audience meets both John Adams, the president of A Foreign Affair, the company that operates, and Elena Petrova, the owner of Elena’s Models.  It also gives you a feel of how each company works and what is involved in a tour.

Every man considering pursuing a mail order bride should watch this film.  It is something that might be even better for men to send to worried friends and relatives.  It is available on Amazon, so men can buy it for worried friends and family.

For the Doubting Thomas’s or worried relatives this is a great film, because it shows the basic humanity of everyone involved.  These are not perfect people, but everyone, men and women, and the employees of the dating services all start with the best of intentions.

It is simply impossible to say enough good things about this movie.  The only other cinematic portrayal that even comes close is was the National Geographic Channel’s Bachelor’s Abroad.   It was a short lived series that followed a group of men on one of A Foreign Affairs tours of the Ukraine, but it did not have the emotional resonance of Love Me.

Mail Order Bride Romance Novels

But determining when a cultural belief has actually shifted is often hard to determine.  It takes more than a book and a movie.  A real cultural shift is broader and deeper.  It gets into the cultural DNA.

One sign that international dating might be changing is that there is now an entire genre of mail order bride romance novels.  There are literally thousands of these books, most of which are set in the Old West.  Most present a sweet sort of view of love and marriage.  A lot of the books are set as Christian romance novels.

These books are cheap romances.  They do not seem to have spawned much in the way of movies or television shows, but someone is reading them or the authors would not be constantly pounding out dozens of new titles every month.  

The interesting thing about these is that they do help counter balance the negative portrayal of international dating that often occurs in the mainstream media.  After all, it is difficult for anyone reading these novels to complain about their son or grandson marrying a hot young thing from Ukraine or Thailand.  Certainly these novels can only contribute to an improving perception of international dating among the general public.

The Changing View of Mail Order Brides

Perhaps the changes in the perception of international dating really became obvious with Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign for the presidency of the United States.  There was a lot of message board activity, far too much to be random, questioning whether Melania Trump was a mail order bride.  Maybe, all of this was done by Hillary Clinton’s campaign or maybe it was just her supporters.

There was even an article that claimed that Donald Trump met Melania with the help of the good people at A Foreign Affair.   According to the article, Anna Novak a matchmaker who operated an office in Slovenia for several Mail Order Bride companies, including a company called A Foreign Affair, says she received a call sometime around 1995 from the head office to help arrange a call between a female member Melanija, and A VIP client she only knew as Donald.

Of course, A Foreign Affair would neither confirm nor deny this rumor, but what is a little shocking is that this attack went absolutely nowhere.  That might be because Mrs. Trump was never signed up with A Foreign Affair, but perhaps it is because the image of international dating is changing.

There has been push back against the shaming of mail order brides.   Slowly policy makers, the general public, and even academics are beginning to recognize that these women made the best possible choice for themselves and that the long term results of marriages arranged through international dating agencies is at least as good if not better than other marriages.

The research is now pretty clear on this point.

Happily Ever After?

Hopefully, these developments will help even more of the marriages that start on international dating sites succeed. Buying a Bride, Love Me, and the thousands of mail order bride romance novels will only help increase this cultural movement, because everyone knows that true love is not easy to find and harder to hold and there is increasingly no doubt that many people do manage to find true love on international marriage sites.

But for the last thirty years the men and women of these relationships have often been shamed and ridiculed. Often their children are embarrassed. This stigma has made these relationships even more challenging than marriages where the couples met through traditional means and hopefully the success rate of these couples will rise even higher as the stigma against them falls under the weight of evidence that many happy marriages do begin with a click and a scroll.

These relationships deserved to be judged on their merits. That is all that anyone really expects and finally it appears that is what is occurring.

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