When I was in my late twenties I moved to Japan to teach English for two years. When I returned to Canada, I struck up a correspondence with a Japanese woman I had worked with at my school. She came to visit me for a few weeks and one thing led to another, as they do.
For the purposes of this piece, we’ll call this woman, Keiko.
After Keiko returned to Japan, our original plan had been for her to come back to Canada for a longer visit. However, family obligations kept her from being able to. Also at the time, my job was really turning up the suck, and I was having no luck finding anything better (or even comparable). So I realized that returning to Japan was the best thing for me romantically and professionally. It totally was, too. We’ll have been married for ten years next month.
However, outside of my immediate family, who were very supportive, there was a lot of resistance to me returning to Japan, and the different ways it was articulated was quite interesting.
I had been aware for some time about the bubble of altered reality that most white men in North America are equipped with. “Racism? Prejudice? These don’t exist!” I learned this fairly early on when I started working with a Sikh man at the gas station. Again and again, regular customers who I had always known to be polite and reasonable would fly off the handle in ignorant tirades at him over the most petty bullshit. Of course, as “polite” Canadians, they had been long since trained to avoid any overt racist language, so to my coworker they just seemed like plain old assholes. To me, I realized there was something else going on. It turns out there are a lot fewer assholes in a white male’s world.
So I wasn’t too surprised when Keiko and I would go out places and receive what I now refer to as my “inter-racial couple customer service downgrade.” But my friends are all reasonable and open-minded people, right? I mean, what complaints could they possibly have about this?
I expected flak from my more typically blue-collar circle of friends, but was surprised when Keiko’s visit was a wild hit with them. This was a trans-pacific booty call of epic proportions, and my status among them was upgraded to full-on player. Most of these guys remained completely positive about my relationship and my move to Japan. (“You mean they pay you to sit around and shoot the shit with Japanese hotties? Fuck man, go! GO! Go live the dream for all of us!”) However there were exceptions; ironically from the people who style themselves as more enlightened.
“How can you go back to Japan, with how they treat women over there?”
What do you mean by that? Not that there aren’t issues, certainly there are, but what do you know about them?
“Well, there’s all that foot binding!” (No shit. I’ve had this fucking conversation multiple times.)
Uhhhhhhh. No. That’s China. Or, was, actually, since they stopped doing it almost a century ago.
“Well, they abort or just throw away baby girls!”
Again, that’s China. They are different places, right? Babies of either sex are cherished to a degree that borders on mania in Japan.
“Well, they’re weird sexually.”
Really? How have you ascertained that?
“Well their porn is all rapey. How could you want to be with Japanese women, since they all want to be raped.” (No shit. People have said this to me.)
Okay, then, if we’re going to play the Let’s Judge Women Based on The Porn Men Watch game, how’s about we turn that around on North America? If you were to judge North American sex lives on the more vanilla porn produced there, giving a blowjob is the only foreplay women need for unlubed anal sex. Then, if you want to get into rapey predatory stuff, we don’t even need to talk about the full on rape fantasy porn, what about GirlsDoPorn and all the casting couch horseshit? Nothing unpleasant going on there? No? Okay then, we’ll just keep pretending that North American culture is totally perfect and normal. Nothing to see here, move along.
If you watch the vast majority of Japanese porn with the sound off, the only distinguishing feature is how bland and pedestrian it all is. Yes, those squeaky, “I’m being raped,” noises the women make is weird and off-putting, no doubt. What this feature of Japanese porn says about Japanese men’s fantasies and turn ons is certainly debatable and potentially significant in a cultural analyses, but it should also be remembered it is no more real than all the, “Oh! YEAH! Fuck my ass! Oooooo!” bullshit in American porn. It also does not mean that all Japanese porn consumers like it. It’s probably much the same situation as all the women in American 90s porn wearing high heels: it double loads a scene to cover a wider base of consumers. The shoe fetishists got something, and the shoes were easily ignored by those who didn’t give a shit for them.
So mainstream American porn producers think men want to fantasize that women love going mouth to ass to mouth and getting coated in semen, and Japanese porn producers think that men want to fantasize that taking their cock is painful. And keep in mind that porn producers are fucking idiots at just one remove from pimps, so let’s not take what they think too seriously, shall we?
Be all that as it may, I was suddenly in this weird position of defending an entire culture and country from the random ravings of people who had no idea what they were talking about. What was really going on was that they were sorry to see me go. They missed me when I went the last time, it looked very much like this time was going to be longer term, if not permanent, and they didn’t want me to leave. But, being men, they wouldn’t admit to any feelings on the subject, and instead adopted a bullshit, moral high ground position from which to be a cunt and vent their anger. I just had to suck up the worst for a little while, and once I was married I only had to do the, “Pardon me? Did you just call my wife a Jap? Well, she is Japanese, so I think you did,” routine the once before most folks got the message. Those that didn’t have not proved any great loss to me.
Another group that exhibited extreme displeasure at my move was almost all of the non-familial women in my life. At that time, I had finished picking up the pieces from getting dumped by my spouse of ten years and bottoming out in a spectacular, alcoholic crash. But I was now sober, employed, in good shape, and looking more and more like a prospect for at least some casual fun. A plague-rat no longer. Yay!
When I got into the long-distance relationship with Keiko, and let it be known that I was taking it seriously, I figured the attention I was getting would diminish.
Boy, was I wrong. It seems that in the North American sexual climate at that time, being a desirable male in a committed long-distance relationship was some kind of invitation to be used as a disposable booty call by every down-to-fuck female who could get near me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming them for it, and the attention was flattering. I guess it’s the same phenomenon that makes a wedding ring such a pussy magnet: fucking a married man provides sex without all the potential danger of male emotional entanglements and delusions (or, at least, it probably seems that way in the wishful thinking initial stages). In this way of thinking, a man in a long-distance relationship is even better: he’s guaranteed horny, and obviously has his long-term sights set on someone else.
That was all well and good, except for one catch: I don’t cheat. I never have. Not even a little bit. So you can tempt me all you want, I’m not going to bite. Just try not to take it personally; I aint fuckin anyone, but if I were, I would most certainly exchange some fuck faces with you on any timetable you cared to devise.
But they did take it personally. And when word got around that I was taking the whole “Japanese thing” seriously, oh boy was there a lot of hostility. I do run with a more educated bunch, generally, so the nastiness was never fully articulated, but it was there. I had a real feeling that it was coming from notions of competition: Team Caucasian vs. Team Asian in the strictly racial sense, and the slightly more philosophically evolved, Team North American Feminism vs. Team Patriarchal Foreign Paradigm.
This was pretty fun to fuck around with, I must say. I’d already run the gauntlet of full on ignorance with chaps prone to regarding a punch in the face as an acceptable stage of human interaction, so this was minor. I’ve also had a liberal arts education, so I can play your little games with the best of them, thank you very much. With the racial side, there isn’t much for you to say that isn’t going to come off as anti-miscegenation. With the more intellectual savvy types, you want to talk patriarchal society? That’s fine; I’ll just counter with cultural imperialism. Either way, it’s all just so much more posturing to tart up and cloak what you’re really mad about. And I don’t really know what that is, but I can venture a generalized guess. Maybe it’s a bit threatening when an attractive, respectful to women and yet masculine man gets completely fucked over at the buffet of North American monogamy, and he decides to say “fuck it, I think I’ll try something different this time.” Perhaps your white knuckled refusal to criticize a fellow woman, no matter what she does isn’t serving your cause in the long run, and you don’t like it when a specimen such as myself slips through the cracks. Or maybe not. Maybe you’re completely right and I am just a patriarchal douchebag who’s looking for a subservient stereotype to service my every need. Either way, I don’t really give a fuck. Peace out; it’s been a slice.
This takes me to my final observations about the negative reactions concerning my moving to Japan to marry a Japanese woman. These observations are more generalized, and not based on any specific instances; they’re more simply an attempt to articulate my long-term ruminations on the topic.
When I was really gearing up for the move, one of my smarter friends gave me the best caution I received from anyone. I don’t think he was trying to talk me out of it, it was more that he wanted to be sure I was moving forward with my eyes wide open. This I appreciated, and his caution was well noted. He said that in an international relationship, the only practical outcome for its long-term survival is that one of the partners say goodbye to their homeland for all practical purposes. I can’t disagree, and I have made that choice. I already had, deep down inside, when he talked to me about it; I just hadn’t articulated it in those clear terms yet.
I think this truth is the missing puzzle piece on what was so disturbing for so many in my move to Japan. This was not a one thing leading to another, happenstance kind of thing. This was me, eyes wide open, making the conscious choice to leave Canada and move to Japan. This led to several conversations that went basically along these lines:
“When are the two of you coming back to Canada?”
We aren’t. The job market sucks for me, and is basically nonexistent for Keiko, so there’s really no professional incentive to do that. Keiko has said she is willing to live in Canada for a time, but was clear right from the start that she needs to return to Japan when her mother gets elderly and needs her help. She was also clear, in no uncertain terms, that she will not raise her children anywhere but Japan.
That last revelation has consistently been the one to really set people aback. It took me a while to get my head around what was going on, but another clue came from some other cautions people would give me when things were just beginning:
“Careful, she probably just wants an easy way to move to Canada.”
Yeah, but she doesn’t want to move to Canada. The overwhelming majority of Japanese people have absolutely no interest in living anywhere but Japan.
People in Canada really don’t like hearing this. Combine this reaction with the one to Keiko’s refusal to rear children in Canada, and we have our finger on a major revealing issue here.
You see, in your average North American’s mind, the rest of the world all want to be like them. Ours is the culture that matters. Our culture is the cock of the world that penetrates others and injects them with the seeds of our ideas and thoughts. All those foreigners want to move here and be like us. They should do things our way, think our way, and want our way.
Well, sorry, they don’t. Not even a little bit, in most cases. And when a white man in his prime of life decides to emigrate from Canada to Asia, this is deeply unsettling for many people. This is not how their world is supposed to work.
Just before Keiko’s first visit to Canada, many people liked joking about my mail order bride. However, when I was heading back over here, there were not so many laughs when I joked that Keiko’s mail order husband was on his way. This is not how the world is supposed to work.
Sorry, times change. There is no natural primacy to North American culture. The clock has already run out on that; only the perceptions of chauvinists lag behind the reality. Joke and pat yourselves on the back all you want about the lack of Chinese women, but do understand that the laws of supply and demand do not serve America alone. When the caucasian mail order brides start flowing that way, as they will, perhaps these notions of cultural supremacy so many North Americans cling to can start to implode.
This is the way the world works. Get used to it.