As soon as I published a couple of posts on Russia, Google started placing ads for sites with mail-order brides listings on my blog. The last (and the only) time I visited a site of this kind was many years ago. The moment I saw the flashy heading proudly announcing "Place 10 girls in your shopping cart, and we'll give you 3 more for free", I felt my blood pressure rising to a dangerous level and had to flee the site. This time, I armed myself with an alcoholic beverage (which helps lower the blood pressure) and plunged into the depths of one of the sites advertized on my blog in order to see for myself how bad things are.
The first glance on the site in question (which I'm not going to link here to avoid promoting this horrible practice) made me realize that I would not be able to place any of the personal ads that appear there as an ilustration to my blog post. Doing so would immediately cause my blog being tagged as pornographic in every single directory.
This was one of the saddest things I have seen in a while. You see pictures of women of all ages and social/educational backgrounds wearing next to nothing in the best of cases, assuming the most provocative sexual positions you can imagine, and accompanying these pictures with captions that are often sadder than the pictures: "I am a very spiritual person," writes a woman who is photographed lying naked on her stomach, smiling at the camera. "I don't care about your appearance. The only thing that matters in a person is your soul," says another participant who is wearing an almost non-existent g-string and is pushing up her naked breasts with her palms. "I love reading poetry and prose," announces a very young woman who is barely out of her teens. She is sitting with her legs spread apart touching her vagina.
These women are obviously not doing this because they are on the brink of starvation. The picture portfolios are evidently done by professional photographers, often in a studio. The underwear (when there is any) looks expensive, the women are well-groomed, some of them know English pretty well. When we read the women's profiles, it becomes clear soon enough that these are middle-class (sometimes even upper-middle-class women). There is no doubt in my mind that there is a lot they can offer to themselves and to the world. Why, then, do they choose to humiliate themselves in such a way? Why do they turn themselves into a piece of meat ready for consumption by any one who chances to come upon their pictures?
I blame the Soviet Union, people. Human beings have this need to strive for something, you know. We need a goal, a dream, something to organize our existence. Spiritual, intellectual, and professional growth were not an option for the citizens of the USSR. Personal relationships were broken down and undermined through a series of policies instituted specifically for that purpose. So, what was left? Material possessions, of course. The 70ies and the 80ies in the Soviet Union, were the decades of the purest, utterly unbridled, insane materialism. Accumulating stuff was the only goal the people were allowed to pursue and they pursued it with a vengeance. Today, people often mistakenly believe that this rampant consumerism came to the post-USSR space with capitalism. This belief can only be entertained by those who haven't lived in the Soviet Union in the last decades of the Soviet regime.
As a result of this cultural and historical heritage, beautiful, intelligent, educated women in the former-USSR countries often believe that selling themselves for sexual consumption of people from other countries is a great life choice. We were taught to believe that the only thing worth desiring is material well-being. At the same time, working for a living came to be considered shameful and stupid. Having a lot of money and things but not through actual work, that was - and still is, unfortunately - the ideal life strategy.
The kind of collective trauma we experienced in the Soviet Union does not heal overnight. I don't know how soon we can start hoping for a change in the Soviet mentality. Until then, sadly, mail-order brides*** will keep trying to sell themselves.
*** I hope it is clear from this post that my analysis has to do only with the countries of the former Soviet Union. Other countries also have this phenomenon but the reasons for it there are completely different.