Even before I came to Thailand, I’d heard of the reputation of Thai men. Known to not be monogamous, for the most part, many Thai men have two or more sexual partners and some have a lot more. Thai women call them ‘butterflies’, men who flit from woman to woman like the butterfly flits from flower to flower, never settling on one for very long. Now that I’ve lived in Thailand for over six years, I’ve learned that the reputation Thai men have as being ‘cheaters’ is definitely deserved and probably even worse than I realized.
Most of the Thai men I’m friendly with have more than one girlfriend, although, in Thai culture, the second girlfriend is not called such. Thai men have someone they call a ‘gig’. This is a girl or woman who is like a girlfriend, but not someone they plan on marrying. They’ll often have sex with the gig, where they don’t have sex with their main girlfriend, as that is saved for marriage for ‘good girls’ in Thailand. Some Thai men will also have several gigs (the most I’ve heard of is six), but how they manage to juggle that many women is beyond me?
Having taught children in Thailand, one of the reasons I think Thai men are not monogamous is because, unlike Thai girls, Thai boys are usually very spoiled by their parents. They’re babied, even when they’re not babies, even being spoon fed, literally, by some devoted parents, until they’re seven or eight years old. They’re fed with the best food possible, given the most toys and often allowed to avoid household chores. Their sisters, on the other hand, are expected to help at home, are held to much more rigid moral standards than their brothers, and aren’t allowed to do half the things the boys are. This seems to make Thai boys grow up into Thai men who expect everything to be accessible to them, even if that means lots of different women.
Now, don’t get me wrong, even though they’re spoiled, most Thai men are very sweet, very kind people. They take care of their mothers, fathers, sisters and the rest of the family very well, and are quite responsible when it comes to taking care of the kids. But, when they get married, because the idea of not being monogamous is so embedded into their culture, they’re no more likely to be monogamous as they are to grow wings and fly.
Add into the mix, the prostitution scene, which is available just about everywhere in Thailand (although actually on a lower level than the US, surprisingly!), and you’ve got a whole nation of men who think having sex with multiple women is acceptable, even after they get married. According to a recent study of military recruits, all who were unmarried, 87% of them said they had visited a prostitute in the last year. Numbers are high too for married men, almost 40% of whom said, in the same survey, that they had visited a prostitute. As far as the married men response is concerned, my guess is it’s actually a lot higher as Asians spend a lot of time ‘saving face’, so admitting they’re married and have visited a prostitute is not something most Thai men would want others to know.
Once married, Thai men who have money also often have a ‘mia noi’ or minor wife. This is basically someone who is a second wife. She’s usually put up in an apartment, has everything paid for and, in some cases, even has a second family with the man. Thai women know this exists but, up until just the last few years, have turned a blind eye as long as their husband is taking care of the ‘first family’.
Thai men not being monogamous is also a big reason why so many Thai women are looking for western (farang) husbands. They have the mistaken belief that western men don’t cheat, although some of the ones I’ve met in Thailand have a Thai wife and still find time for another on the side – so, for the poor Thai woman, they don’t seem to be able to win.
Things do definitely seem to be changing in Thailand as it becomes more modern with every passing year. However, if you plan to hook up with a Thai guy, be aware there’s a pretty high chance you won’t be the only one he’s dating, so don’t go off the deep end until you’re absolutely sure what’s what.
SOURCES: Health Transition Review – Thai views of sexuality and sexual behavior