#9 | June 5 - 18, 1997  smlogo.gif

Feature Story

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Feature Story


eXpat Women

By Antonella Morosi

By now, everyone pretty much knows the sordid truth about Moscow's male eXpats. And yet it never ceases to amaze. Formerly respectable, squeaky-voiced Western men arrive in Moscow and, in a matter of a couple of months, transform into barking sexist pigs of a sort we thought only existed in the paranoid fantasies of turbo-feminist Andrea Dworkin. Almost without fail, they abandon their eXpat girlfriends and turn into modern day Hun-a-bies, burning their money on $500 whores, coke-head bimbos, and teenie-bop airheads in an orgy of condomless one-night stands. Things are even worse in the office. There must be more boss/secretary sex going on just in the conference rooms of Moscow's multinationals than in all of Switzerland at any given time. Expat men, most of whom were sex-starved nerds growing hair on the palms of their hands back home, are now living lives they thought were reserved for rock stars, and nothing, it seems, can stop them. Why do they behave like this? Well, as Phil Sutter of Sutter Foods put it, "It's like the joke about why a dog licks its balls: eXpat guys act like this because they can."

Just as I was about to forget my Women's Studies lessons as a kind of amusing exercise in intellectualized anger, suddenly, it turns out, all of those semantic games didn't even begin to prepare for how lame men can be.

So now we all know the truth about eXpat guys. This isn't the first time you've read about it, and won't be the last. It's been written up everywhere: in the current New York Times Magazine, in Forbes, in Russia Review... But in all of this, aren't we forgetting about someone? What about, say for example, the other fifty percent of the eXpat population who aren't male? What's the deal with Moscow's eXpat females, and why do we hear so little about their romantic lives?

Well, the answer is actually very tricky. Or rather, dangerous. Printing the truth about the love lives of Moscow's eXpat women is so potentially explosive that even the testosterone-crazed editorial board of this newspaper broke out in a cold sweat. They were afraid that such an article would alienate their readers (!) in a way that "wouldn't be funny, but rather just ugly." Perhaps that's why they hired a woman to write this piece. I give this article a semblance of respectability, and, most importantly, I deflect responsibility from the editors... but remember, this newspaper is still controlled by men, so this is their problem more than mine.

The most interesting thing about the findings of my article is that everyone knows the truth and will recognize it as such; the problem is that it's almost unprintable. You can overhear it in most eXpat bars and parties-and now, you'll finally read about it. So here it is. The Bitter Truth about Moscow's eXpat Women.

The most striking thing about the eXpat world of romance is that guys aren't the only ones who wind up abandoning their homegrown values. The gals do too. Only for women, it's anything but a fantasy come true.

"Western women become a lot more sexually aggressive over time here," observed Hungry Duck bar manager Craig Richter. "They start behaving in ways they didn't back at home. It really freaks the Russian guys out."

The typical scenario goes something like this. Expat girl comes to Russia either in possession of or expecting a good, high-paying job, and also expecting to find or, frequently, already having an eXpat boyfriend. Unlike Western men who've heard all the raves over Russian women, she hasn't heard anything flattering about Russian men that would attract her; upon arriving, for a variety of reasons, she is even less inclined to start up a relationship with a Russian. Instead, she expects a monogamous medium-to-long-term relationship with a sensitive, non-alcoholic, drug-and-disease-free Western guy who holds a decent job, and respects her as a person, not as an object. As for dating, sex is out of the question on the first, if not the fifth, date. Sex is a matter of mutual consent, safety and respect.

Six months later-after 183 days of disappointment and bitterness-she has become a different creature. The eXpat boyfriend has long since abandoned her for the polygamous pursuit of dyevushki flesh. After a spell of loneliness, she's reduced to dating guys she never would even talk to back home, and sleeping around far more easily, and with far lower standards, than in her worst nightmares. And that's only if she's lucky.

There is a story going around that I ran into more than once while researching this piece. Whether it is apochryphal or not is something I can't tell you. But it goes something like this: an eXpat woman-a USAID employee, to be exact-was said to be complaining to a bar manager at one of Moscow's eXpat hangouts.

"I want you to understand something," she says. "I'm not a lesbian. But I've been reduced to licking pussy."

"The basic problem is that eXpat men don't want eXpat women, and Russian men don't want eXpat women," said notorious ex-Moscow Times columnist Owen Matthews, best known for his nightlife column "Batwing Soup." "That doesn't leave eXpat women with much room to maneuver."

Everyone here knows that there is far more cross-fertilization between eXpat men and Russian women than between eXpat women and Russian men. Evidence of this comes not only from observing bars and parties, but also in the form of statistics.

Karmen Bruyeva, the director of the Dvorets Drakosochetanya #4 (marriage registry), which handles marriages between Russians and foreigners, noted that of the roughly 1,200 marriages between foreigners and Russians that she registers annually, only about 40-50 are between Western women and Russian men. When asked why this was the case, Bruyeva threw up her hands and said, "I don't know-you tell me!"

Zhanna Kaminskaya, a partner in the International Agency Gimeni, a Russian marriage agency, has an answer. She says that Russian men simply aren't attracted to Western women. "Western women can scare them away," she said. Only one Western woman has actually tried to use her agency to find a Russian man. "I'm puzzled as to why Western women don't want a Russian man. I think Russian men are nice, normal guys."

Apparently, Western women disagree. They find Russian men to be "pigs," "not handsome," and generally either too rude or too obsequious.

"A Russian guy will chat you up for fifteen, twenty minutes, then expect you to go home with him," said "Stacy," an American from New Jersey who works at a local advertising agency. "I've heard things about them-beatings and stuff-I don't want to find out."

Nadya Pokazeyevna, the Moscow director of the Russian Connection Agency, also counts only one Western woman whom she successfully hooked up with a Russian man. A picture of the woman revealed a heavy-set, greasy-haired Midwestern American type with her smiling Russian partner. "The Russian men who use our agency are only interested in Russian women," she explained. "They never ask for Western women."

According to Sergei, the manager of the Moosehead Bar, a popular eXpat hangout, eXpat women rarely talk to Russian men, and visa-versa. "Whereas Russian women usually come here to meet a guy, Western women come just to hang out with friends. Russian guys are apprehensive about going for Western women, first of all because they're too independent, and secondly because they want to pay for everything, and they fear that they won't be able to pay for her things."

Western women in the Moosehead, speaking off the record, admitted that they only had "working relationships" with the Russian men. "A lot of it is because of the money. Usually they don't have enough and that makes them feel weak. And when they have money, they show off."

Other people have a different, darker theory on why there is so little romantic interaction between eXpat women and Russian guys. "Physically, they aren't attracted to each other," suggested Doug Steele, owner of the Hungry Duck. "The Asiatic features of Russians go much better on women than on men. And Russian men think that their women are simply prettier than the Western women."

Personality-wise, Russians say they find eXpat women to be too aggressive and masculine, while eXpat women find the Russian men to be rude, bossy and macho.

And as for that certain something, that je ne sais quoi, the "natural" look so popular with Western women is a flop in Russia, and cannot compete with the lipstick-smeared blowjob mugs in fashion with Russian girls.

So eXpat women are stuck between a rock and a hard place. The men-expats and locals alike-prefer Russian girls. Expat women resort to lowering their standards. In the absence of the possibility of finding Mr. Right, they succumb to one-night stands with Mr. Wrong. And that's only on a good night.

Antonella's Sleuth File

I went undercover-or was it overcover?-as a common eXpat woman hungry for love with a Russian man. A few weeks in bars left me with a lot of sad stories and a longing for my native Italy.

One guy offered to buy me a tequila, and I agreed. He asked me,"Do you know how to drink tequila?" "Yes," I said. "No, but do you REALLY know how to drink tequila?" "Of course." "No, I don't think you know. Let me show you how it's really done." He made me promise that I wouldn't be offended, then he took the salt and poured it on my cleavage. When he grabbed my shoulders and started to lick the salt from my breasts, I took the tequila shot and poured it over his head.

Time he took to ask me to come home with him: 20 minutes.

Another, an 18-year-old, went back to my apartment with me. I told him that I wouldn't sleep with him without a condom. "Why?" he asked, hurt. "Don't you trust me?" "Well, no," I said. He got scared, and after a fake street-search for a condom, he went home. He never called me again.

Time to ask me to come home with him: 1 hour.

The last story in this bunch is the saddest of all. Nothing else happened.

Zero. Time to check schedules for flights to Milan.

From experience I know that there are plenty of places in the world where foreign women make out like bandits. Catholic countries are a good start. Italy is the best of these. Egypt isn't bad. France, if only because the men like to show off. Australia. The list goes on.

Russia, at least today's Russia, isn't on that list. If you're here, you're here on business, you're here with your husband, you're here because you made a bad decision. And you're probably thinking hard about leaving.

Should we all feel badly? No, not really. The way men behave with women here strongly resembles the way companies behave with the market here. In both cases, the former are taking advantage of an absence of civilized norms. Men-narrow-minded men, anyway-had, let's face it, a better deal before feminism. They come here and take advantage of women the way corporations take care of cheap labor. Women don't stand up for themselves here; they get raped constantly, denied jobs unless they have the "good appearance" requested in the ad, and forced to clean and cook for their slob husbands. Until they get past that, Western women are always going to be the slobs' second choice.

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