Feedback: An actual real live Korean man speaks out.

I've been kind of cracked up at the amount of traffic and questions those silly dating posts have generated. Why? Because I'm not exactly known amongst my nearest and dearest for the being the savviest in the love department. I'm more the type who kind of just sneers around at couples (except gay couples -- they are always the exception, and everything they do is perfect and fine by me [I don't know -- don't ask]), and is known for having "friends". In quotation marks. For the most part, I'm not exactly a fan of dating. And I'm not very good at it either, being seemingly inherently far too blunt to allow the whole song-and-dance to operate very smoothly. I also haven't had a single committed (or even semi-committed) relationship the entire time I've been in the ROK. Nor was in one for a incredibly long time before I came.

Also, I've only been here for a year and a half. I'm not exactly what one might call an expert. I have spent a lot of my time here with Koreans, which somehow seems to be something that a lot of the foreigners I've known here can't quite seem to manage. Which has always struck me as a bit odd. I mean, they're everywhere. And a lot of that time has been spent discussing cultural differences openly with each other, as we encounter them within our interactions. Which has been really cool. And I guess that's where most of my perspective comes from.

This is all an insanely long preamble to the fact that I'm about to re-post a comment that just showed up on the 나쁜놈 entry, which I sincerely hope the author doesn't mine. But I basically almost did a little happy dance in the middle of my kitchen when I read it.

Why? Because it represents a perspective I've been beating my head against a wall trying to find here in Korea. A man, a Korean-Korean man, who doesn't fall on either side of some bizarrely huge divide between 'bad guy' and 'nice guy'. A man who neither completely judges a woman for being a fucking human being, nor has slid so far into a completely shallow and debauched view of the world that absolutely everything you do is alright by him, because the world is a fucking carousel ride headed straight for the pits of hell anyway. Or. Something.

This is getting worse by the second. Sorry. Let's just have a look now:

PD said...

good god, liz...sometimes i think you're really a korean girl posing as an english teacher from america. and this post only reinforces that. but i'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt because i want to believe that you are this incredibly bright young woman who has figured us koreans out. :) that said, i'm going to refute two minor points you made about us korean men. but before i do, let me tell you a little bit about me.

i am, believe it or not, a full korean-korean. i did, however, spend my formative years in america, having gone to a foreign language school here in seoul and an american university as well as a grad school there as a coveted english major. :) in short, i am a 유학생. or i was. hence, my "proficiency" in english. okay, now that we got that out of the way, let me tell you a little bit about me and my never-been-outside-of-korea friends here in seoul.

when we meet korean girls, whether we've known them for 10 minutes or 10 years, we OPENLY make sexual innuendos and overtures because we found that honesty works best when trying to get laid. we do know some korean guys who are more shy or reserved or reluctant or whatever. but not us. and not those we know and have encountered. because really, most korean guys hate 내숭. we loathe it and don't want to waste time with chicks who are 내숭. we like honesty. directness. and hey, if you're at a club which is all about booking, you're there to meet guys. and we know that you women have hormones like we men and we know you get horny like we do. so why beat around the bush? honesty works and a lot of korean guys have figured that out.

koreans can be very blunt and when it comes to sex, many of us are no different. and yes, some of these are intended for one night stands, but a lot of my friends, myself included, have had one night stands that led to long-term relationships and i almost ended up marrying mine.

so while i'm blown away by your analysis for much of it is dead on, i do think you're slightly off when it comes to us joking about sex. we do it and we do it often. it doesn't mean we want to have sex with the girl and then date her, but if the sex is too good, it often leads to relationships.

two, if a korean man wants to spend some quality time together watching movies, drinking soju and just talking or cuddling in your apartment rather than go out and be seen, yes, he wants to have sex with you. but he also probably wants to chill and spend some quality, private time with you because as you know, it's a luxury in korea and you know how much we koreans love luxury. so i really don't think there's anything wrong with a korean guy wanting to take advantage of that extra benefit of dating someone who lives alone if the opportunity is there.

that's all i have to say. you should really get your own TV show in korea...or at least a newspaper column.

So the first thing I have to say is this: a lot of where I went with that post was me kind of projecting out a bit. Because I was asked to consider something from a perspective I really just don't have, which is that of a commitment minded person who is worried about fidelity. Fidelity has not been a concern of mine since I've been in Korea, or for a long time before. So some of that was kind of, if I were this kind of person, what would I need to be looking for?

That having been said, I have been operating largely under the understanding that, by and large, Korean men, frankly, don't do a fantastic job of handling a woman's sexuality well. A lot of that judgment, I should add, also comes from the fact that before I came to Korea, I was in a big huge liberal artist Brooklyn bubble for nearly six years. Perhaps if I had spent those six years (which are rather important ones to consider, when dealing with the subject at hand) back in my red state Southern Baptist hometown, I might not be so quick to make it a "Korean man" issue in my own mind.

But now I'm intrigued. And I take these corrections not only with a big huge dose of the humility of a person who already basically knew she didn't entirely know what she was talking about, but also with a huge sigh of relief and, actually, joy.

Korean men who hate 내숭? Who will take you seriously as a human being, who is also a woman, who has all of the same feelings and desires as they do, as men?

Um. Where? Phone numbers and addresses, please!

Ladies. I know you want to hear more from this guy. I know I'm not the only one who is like, yeah Korean guys dress nice and have good manners and stuff and things and it's all great and fantastic and I'm having a great time and look he loves his mom! and everything is great and fine and I'm happy, but dear god sometimes I actually feel a little bit like I can't breathe or it might be in the wrong direction.

Girls? Questions? Comments? PD, would you be up for a little guest bloggership, if it came down to it?

Let me get the ball rolling. Here's what I'm wondering. When I said that Westerners would joke around about sex, I didn't mean to imply that Koreans don't. I'm obviously well aware that Korean men make sexual comments and sexual jokes. All the time. I guess what I meant is that I've just been under the impression that the implication is a bit different. A Western male friend may make an off-the-cuff sexual comment, and it may have literally no actual sexual intent behind it at all. At all. He may view you entirely as a sister, and have no intentions of ever, ever laying a finger on you. The joking, although sexually based, can actually sometimes be more along the lines of even the way that one male friend might tease another. I've been under the impression, however, that when Korean men make a sexual comment or a joke to a woman, generally he means it. There is definite sexual intent. Even if the intent isn't, "I want to take you home tonight," or, "I only want to sleep with you and then never call you again," it's still there. Which to me isn't the same as the other. And it doesn't feel the same either.

I am I wrong about this? I would love to be....

Note: The comments on this entry are important. I take back a bit of that happy dance, in retrospect, and in consideration of the things that Diana, who is incredibly wise (and obviously knows a good Korean guy when she sees one) has pointed out.

Yes we all know Korean men can handle female sexuality when it means (he thinks) he will be getting (easy?) sex. How does the average Korean man stand up to it out of a female friend, or, better yet, a (potential) girlfriend?

Questions, questions....


Anonymous said...

오우, 맨,,,나우 아임 임배러스드! :)

thanks for your kind words, but i think i'll just lurk and be an occasional commenter for now (mostly as Anonymous i might add). i certainly don't want the burden of being the korean male's POV on your wonderful blog. i guarantee you i'll ruin it with my paradoxical views on dating, sex, gender roles, etc.

i'll tell you this though, liz:

a lot of koreans dudes are players. i honestly have no idea why so many of us are that way. maybe the suppression of proper sex education or honest sex dialogues in our society in general has something to do with it. or maybe we romanticized too many hollywood icons whose perceived images were just that: players. or maybe the feeling of being "oppa" and all that comes with that term leads us to believe that we can pretty much do what we want as long as no one finds out and gets hurt. i have no idea. personally, i just liked sleeping with many women when my testosterones were flowing out of my ears and i couldn't control my appetite for chicks of all stripes. it was kinda like not wanting to eat rice and kimchi all the time, but instead choosing to mix it up a little. some of us grow out of it, some of us never do. if i could go back ten years, i'd probably do it again.

but then again, not all of us are players. i have friends who used to call me and my cohorts "sluts" for our debauchery. i have friends who believe in being committed and faithful to their partners. we're all different.

but there's one thing in common in all of us: we all hate 내숭. and i can speak with some certainty that most korean guys loathe 내숭. i don't know why some korean chicks think it's alright to be a 내숭. we see right through them. the dumbass losers may fall for their bullshit, but then that's whom they'll end up with: dumbass losers. well, maybe that was meant to be.

Anonymous said...

if i may make just one more comment...which is what i really came here to tell you earlier in the evening: can i just tell you that i am not a fan of your "split" decision? i hate jumping around and that "other" blog isn't very easy on the eye! can't you create a tab or something?

I'm no Picasso said...

I'm just not really buying that whole most guys hating 내숭 thing. I just *can't*. I've had way too many direct experiences with guys who either make this horrible face anytime a female says anything sexual, or who else jump to the, "Oh! You like sex?! Great! Let's have sex! Since you like it, which obviously means that you like it indiscriminately and with anyone!" perspective on things.

Maybe you complain a lot about it. Maybe you don't like having to get around it to get what you want. But do you honestly see a woman who is boldly sexual and not make assumptions about what kind of a woman she is, rather than just accepting her, 100%, as a completely normal and equal human being? Of course, maybe you do, but would you honestly be able to say that most Korean men do?

As for a lot of Korean men being players... the only thing I've noticed to be different there, really, is that Korean men seem to feel it's much more necessary to keep up the facade of a relationship or of "love" to keep something going. Which to me is, yes, much more cruel. Korean men love to have sex just as much as Western men -- no more, no less. It's just that, I guess because of 내숭, actually, the feel the need to make a production out of it and give the illusion of emotions, whereas Western men are usually more blunt about exactly what is going on. Which I, personally, appreciate.

Now. As for the split and tabs or whatever... I have no fucking clue what a tab is and I bet, even if you explained it really really slowly, it would take me at least an hour to figure it out. Which is also why the other blog looks like crap. Because I'm actually not so great at all this computer business.

For now, just think of the split as more of an addition -- this blog will stay the same, basically, but now there's another, more personal blog as well. And I'll work on the design (or get someone else to).

Diana said...

내숭 has negative connotations. It's calling girls (and guys) out on taking regular Korean dating practices to an extreme. Do many Korean guys like women that behave like dependent babies? Oh yes they do. Are those same women going to turn into super powered ajummas with crazy elbowing madness who make a single call to their child's school and get the whole department turned on its head? Yes they will. We foreigners see that as two-faced, but Koreans just kind of expect it. 내숭 is someone who does it in too obvious and fake a way.

That said, your anon commenter is a major player. Any guy, in any culture, who starts joking about sex 5 minutes in is looking for just one thing (he even admits he and his friends figured out that it gets them more play--duh!). If you're down, that's great, but if you're looking for love, um... look somewhere else. And if you respond to it do NOT expect to wind up married to him. Yes, it might happen, but it probably won't (I say this having married a Korean guy I slept with on our first real date... but I definitely did NOT expect it to go that way). It's not good advice for someone looking to get a long-term boyfriend to disregard that kind of overt "banter" (Min Gi did not joke in that way, if you want to know).

The thing that makes it especially hard on foreign women is trying to figure out when something is just lost in translation and when a guy's being a jerk. 'Cause yeah, Korean women in booking clubs are looking to get some just like the guys, so it would be culturally appropriate to joke about sex. But at a coffee shop? When you meet someone through friends at a concert? It sends a different message. A Korean guy who met a Korean girl in that context and joked right away about sex would come off as crass and rude. Yeah, some liberal or fucked up girls would have sex with him, just like liberal or fucked up girls in any culture would sleep with an asshole because either they want to or he knows how to "play" on their insecurities. In Western cultures you MIGHT be able to joke about sex in these situations and have it be more neutral. I think that was a valid point that Liz made.

Bottom line... if you're looking to DATE for serious in Korea then Liz's advice is good. If you're looking for action, you can follow anon's advice. Be careful, though. In love you can't always predict what you'll get. I was looking for action and wound up married. Lots of other girls are looking for love and get used for a one-night stand. It happens.

I'm no Picasso said...

That's kinda what I was getting at... yeah, they'll make jokes about sex to women and they like it when women don't play coy. When they're in a booking club and trying to take a woman home for the night. Obviously. Because it means it's easier for them to get what they want. Of course they don't mind it then.

And maybe they will end up in a relationship with that girl.

But if they were to meet a woman on a blind date for marriage, and she cracked a sexual joke, how would that go over?

That's what I meant about the whole average Korean man making a sexual comment to an average Korean woman. In the average situation, from what I've seen, that's not likely to go well. With a group of drunk girls at a book club... I mean, yeah, that'd probably be okay.

I dunno.

And through all of this, of course, I have faith that there are Korean men who treat women's sexuality as just as valid and normal as their own -- no big deal -- and are not just not upset by it when it means they'll be getting sex. They're just hard to find.

I'm no Picasso said...

Oh, and re: 내숭, thanks for the clarification. I was aware that it meant the whole kind of song-and-dance -- I wasn't aware that it meant going too far with it, or being too obvious about it. You could say, from the outside looking in, it kind of all looks a bit obvious and overdone to me....

But then so does dating back in the West. So. Haha.

t-hype said...

Korean men love to have sex just as much as Western men -- no more, no less. It's just that, I guess because of 내숭, actually, the feel the need to make a production out of it and give the illusion of emotions, whereas Western men are usually more blunt about exactly what is going on.

Definitely cosigning this. I have never gotten such elaborate booty calls as I've gotten since being in Korea. Personally, I'm a person who likes to reward excellence. The last guy was so good I actually felt kinda bad he wasn't getting any (since I just returned to Christian orthodoxy on the matter.)

In this regard, Korean dudes get a standing ovation. Scoring punani should not be taken lightly. ;)

[As for PD, our (now) anon commenter and k-boy representative, having spent so much time overseas, I'm revoking your representative status. My clique would definitely consider you kyopo. Having met one too many playa playa kyopos is why we generally avoid them. Stop giving your boys such a bad name. lol]

Anonymous said...

I came to Korea 4 years ago and have had a lot of experience to be hones... I found that there are guys out there who will mess around on their (Korean) girlfriends with no reservations and without bothering to tell me they had a girlfriend. One guy I dated took me home to his parents house and after a while, his mother made him sleep in the same room as me because I might be lonely!

The ones I like usually turn out to be players or don't want a foreign gf, the ones I don't really like are often ready to get married.

I've been with my boyfriend for more than a year, and he asked me to go out with him the third time we met. In 3 years of being Korea, I had never actually heard the expression "사귀자!"first-hand. I was shocked. Didn't even know he likes me. The same night he wanted to take me home to his apartment and introduce me to his sister.

Now we are living together in an apt his parents arranged for him while he studies. There are so many things that are hard to get used to (Pressure to be there for his friends and family that sometimes mean breaking a promise with me, the fact that when he goes out with his friends he never invites me -I have met his friends and family many times, but he just likes having guy-time-, the fact that he feels it necessary to study till 10 pm every day and feels this huge guilt if he spends a whole weekend just relaxing).

But he is doing his best to keep up with my demands, and I am too. And he has sacrificed alot for me, I know it.

Anyway... dating Korean guys can be mindboggling. Some people will never get it figured out. Some people will fall in love (while still not figuring it out completely) and make Korea their home for years to come.

My advice to western girls out there: Best not to act easy. Hold out for a while but don't be too cold or they might just think u dont like korean guys (that is the stereotype right?). Once you have developed some trust, I think it's okay to express your sexual desires more openly.

I was dumb and thought I'd show my boyfriend how "open minded" I was when we first started dating, and some of the things I told him more than a year ago come back to haunt me. Korean guys who genuinely like you, want to think that you are NOT a slut, at first. Later they will appreciate your skills, although you might want to be vague about how you got them, perhaps playing it off to natural talent.

Oh man.

It's time to say good bye...


Anonymous said...

Is "sex" as important in Korean culture as it is in the Western culture? In our world, if you aren't "getting some" every couple days, then it's more than likely a bad sign. Is it the same or different in Korea?

Unknown said...

I think it's unfair to claim that koreans dress up their approach in emotions. sometimes i think it would be nice to have one of these blogs with a non-american/brit/aussie point of view. not that i'm complaining. and i know that you guys are english teachers in korea for a reason, i.e. you are american/brit/aussie. but i come from a Very frank, sexual culture and so i'm always thrown whenever i meet american or british guys who always get irritated that i don't want to believe i'm their sun and moon (err, we just met?), because to be honest i just want to get laid. and so do you. that's it. no need to play shy maiden here.
my point is those types of guys exist EVERYWHERE.
it does not have to be a korean cultural ''phenomena''.
also, there's such a thing as ''from the horses mouth''?

Anne said...

I'm no Picasso's observations are spot-on. I was a Korean-American growing up, now living in Korea and fast turning more Korean every day, and I have spotted no analogue to the free-and-easy no-strings-or-emotions-attached exchange that goes on in American culture.
There is a certain nuance to this whole matter that I'm no Picasso has not gone into great detail with, and that is the sexual double-standard. I would venture that the only environment in which such risky talk can be accepted as "just a joke" is one of complete equality. If one of my American male friends made a sexual joke to me (and really, I've noticed that American jokes about sex are more about power plays than about actual sex) I would be free to hit right back and assert "sexual" dominance over him, symbolically. It is precisely because that dynamic exists that people are free to take it as a joke, have it not mean anything... because the potential for abuse is much less.
In Korea, on the other hand, women are not free to assert their sexuality without objectifying themselves for the trouble, neither do they have the power to protect it from unwanted advances. So a true "gentleman" living in Korean society would just not go there, because it's disrespect to another human being to subject them to a situation they can't do anything about. In fact, if a man talks like that in the presence of a woman he does not know, from what I know of the Korean male psyche I would venture that those women do not matter to him at that moment, as anything more than sexual objects, in the same way masters and mistresses of the good ole' South would carry on their talk as the house slaves were serving, as if they were merely furniture.

Anne said...

Also, on the subject of banter and jokes... has anyone else noticed that levity seems almost alien to Korean culture? Korean culture seems to expect sincerity from everyone, so everyone (supposedly) means what he says.
I have a Korean boyfriend. He's quite liberal, well-read, been exposed to a lot of foreign culture... but he's basically Korean, insofar that he never left the country until grad school. He loves offbeat humor, but he reacted with deep, immediate, instinctive shock when I told him my favorite dead baby joke. To an American, the focus is on the conceptual twists and the defiance of expectations, they know the macabre content is just for spice and I'm not actually talking about a dead baby. Koreans think: omg, brutally murdered baby!

In the same way, when Koreans are talking about sex, they generally mean sex, while to a Westerner, sexual talk can mean anything from sex to kinship to power. To use literary terms... Koreans are very proficient with metaphor, but abstractions and conceits are just not something they use in their everyday life.