My first choice of a name for this blog was russianwoman.com. It already exists. There, Russian women are being “matched” with foreign men. It is a common practice, and one artist even did an art project about women’s desire to leave for foreign lands: Tanja Ostojić’s Looking for a Husband with the E.U. Passport. There are movies now about Russian and other East European women as wives and brides of foreigners.
I remember the beginning of this process, which also had a much darker side to it: the formation of sex trafficking from the former Eastern block countries to Western Europe. In the late 1980s and early 1990s central Russian newspapers started publishing ads with calls for dancers, maids, escort services, and bar attendants among young Russian women to work in the UK, especially Italy (trafficked through Albania), Germany, and other Western countries. These were the scariest ads, I still remember them, even then it was clear that something was not right there. I do not know of anyone personally who answered to any of those, but I’ve seen many documentaries and reports about these ads being the beginning of a sex trafficking network. No one cared about women then enough to stop sex trafficking. On the opposite, that was the time when an attitude to women as “sex objects,” previously considered to be a Western capitalist curse, became suddenly fashionable. It manifested itself in friends and husbands displaying Playboy copies and talking about visiting prostitutes in Amsterdam. Certainly, many “respectable” men do it around the world, but only a few share these experiences back home. This is one interesting legacy of Soviet sexuality: men and women were often “buddies,” or at least, male sexuality could be as easily discussed as female, often as something “rational and scientific.” One day I’ll devote a special post on this topic, as it’s rather peculiar.
In the same classified space there would be women’s ads with calls for men to serve as “sponsors.” For example: “I am a 20-year old brunette with a beautiful body, law degree, and a toddler son, looking for a sponsor. I will give you all my love and cooking abilities, and you will give me your support and respect for life.” A few of my classmates in college had sponsors through personal connections. One had an American sponsor, and spent a semester at an university in New England. She was about 20, and he was at least 50, as I recall. She returned to Moscow with a credit card (we did not have credit cards then) and a new hair style. Shortly after she gifted me a selection of small-size shampoos and body creams. It was great. Years later I realized these were free samples and hotel toiletries (there were no toiletries in Soviet hotels. Not for locals, at least). I am still ambivalent about those gifts. On the one hand, it was nice of her. On the other hand… And, by the way, today you call a sponsor a driver who is speeding, and you can follow him. If he gets caught by the traffic police, you will just slow down. Hence, he is sponsoring your speeding. “He is her sponsor” just does not mean the same thing anymore.
What I am trying to say here is that yes, Russian women are for sale on the global market. Not all of them end up in brothels or as forced exotic dancers. But many do. And yes, many of them are educated in literature or math, have never been hungry, and would be assuring you that they do it because they want. They have never been educated, however, about the dangers of sex trafficking or overestimating one’s control over one’s own life, and still no one cares about them that much. Including themselves?