|25th birthday. A day or night out with "friends" can easily lead to disaster.|
One Sunday evening a couple of months ago, I met with a potential language exchange partner. I wanted to practice using Korean, but the course I was taking ended, and wasn't going to start up again for several months at least.
We met at an ice cream parlor. He told me that he had lived in America for awhile, and we were interested in the same TV shows. I thought we had hit it off. He could help me.
Not too long later, he started making comments, suggesting that I "must be popular" and he asked me whether I had a boyfriend. He began pestering me about coming over his place to cook dinner sometime. When I told him that I didn't know him well enough, he became pushy about it. "Then, I'll come over to your place."
I let him know that also wasn't acceptable. I wanted to only meet him in public places. He quickly became frustrated. He told me that it was okay, nothing would happen. I didn't have a boyfriend, so why did it matter?
By then, what he was looking for was clear. I bluntly told him that I wasn't looking for sex. I wanted a language exchange partner.
"What?? No, that wasn't what I wanted!! You're crazy!"
They're clever, always positioning themselves in way to maintain that oh-so-necessary plausible deniability. They'll use every euphemism in the book, but staunchly deny that it was what they were looking for. That's frustrating, but it doesn't matter since by that time, I'm already done talking to them.
This is a relatively new territory for me, as I hadn't truly started dating until about two or three years ago. While in Korea, there have been many ups and downs, but with each person that goes by, I become even smarter about the game. I am becoming more skilled at detecting people I shouldn't keep around me in my life.
Not that practically all men don't want the same thing, but I realized quickly that a good amount of Korean men seemingly see me as nothing more than a sex object. So far, I've only met three of them that were truly interested in dating me properly. The rest bill themselves as friends, then they eventually either outright ask me to bed them, or ask in a more roundabout way. This usually occurs by a Korean man asking me to go to one of four special places:
|Why so eager to go here?|
- His Apartment
- My Apartment
- A Love Motel
- A DVD Room
All of those things mean sex in Korea (or elsewhere). This is doubly true if I barely know him. Once I hear any of that, I immediately decide that it's a "friendship" not worth having.
It happened for the first time in early 2011. I had accompanied a fellow American girlfriend to Hongdae, and she was a huge fan of the local Korean men. After hitting the bars and a club, we found ourselves tipsy and in a coffee shop with two local men. I was having a broken conversation with a man I wasn't particularly interested in. After awhile, I looked around and my friend (and her new guy) was gone.
"My" guy kept asking me if I was tired, and kept suggesting that we go to his place. I refused. Then, he asked if I was hungry. When I answered that I was, he then suggested that we walk to a restaurant to find soup. Feeling alone, tired and hungry, I knew I needed to pass time before the subway opened again. I went with him. After doing some walking where did we end up? At a love motel. I protested, and he checked in anyway.
"No, no, no! It's okay. Nothing will happen. If I touch you, you can scream!"
I walked away, humiliated. I sat in a coffee shop to wait for the subway to open. Note: In hindsight, this story sounds so much worse knowing what I know now!
I'm not some special case: this is something that many foreign women experience in Korea. Lots of Korean men see us as "exotic" and would love to see how we are between the sheets. Most of these same men wouldn't consider actually dating, much less marrying us. We're just something to experience for them. That's obviously what we want too, haven't you seen shows like Sex in the City?
If you ask to be treated like a human being, they're truly perplexed. I asked one guy if he would approach a Korean woman the same way he had approached me. Of course he wouldn't have, he told me. I then said, "Then why is it okay to do it to me?" I am a woman just like they are. I wish to be respected. Sadly, it took all that for him to finally realize why I found his come-on offensive.
We never spoke again.