The ‘mail order bride’ industry, a term that I have challenged before in a previous blog, is steadily increasing in popularity and profitability annually. In that blog, I challenged the notion that women involved in this industry are desperate victims of human trafficking and domestic abuse, or that they are commodities simply bought and sold online. In another blog, I challenged the idea that most of these men are wealthy jet setters and demonstrated that men looking for brides fall into every category of income. With the election of Donald Trump, foreign brides from the Slavic region are gaining even more attention, as well as the introduction industry.
However, much of the attention the industry receives is negative. In this blog, I want to challenge the common media discourse that the industry is full of scams. The popular ‘Russian’ bride scam usually involves email correspondence in which a beautiful Russian woman cultivates an online relationship with a man abroad. Eventually she asks for money for a sick relative, a visa to come to the United States or a plane ticket fare. Any reputable agency (AFA, Dream Dates) will advise their clients to never send money to a woman abroad that they have not met in person in order to avoid these types of scams. Even if marriage occurs from a relationship brokered by an introduction agency, the common perception is that the women are going to leave their husbands once they have achieved some sort of permanent residential status in the U.S. Thus, more recent media portrayals of the industry have focused on the notion that these relationships and the entire process is largely a scam.
In an article in the Guardian, Shaun Walker argues that many women in Ukraine engage in ‘emotional prostitution’ in order to support their families by scamming foreign men online and on tour and that most men leave broken hearted and with a lot less money. Numerous blogs and articles provide men with the ‘red flags’ of what to look for in order to avoid a scam, as the stories found in the mainstream media tend to reinforce the notion that men must be extremely cautious with dating foreign women online. However, the media often ignores the success stories from this industry. The website international love scout found that a reddit thread concerning men’s experiences with foreign brides that has been utilized in many mainstream media sources to demonstrate that these relationships are fraudulent in fact proves that over half of the men (52%) questioned about their experiences had positive comments. Only 22% of the 9780 comments they analyzed were entirely negative.
In my own research experience, most of the couples that I continue to follow through social media have stayed together over the past five years, with three couples having children within the past two years. The one woman I know that divorced her husband was because of his negative behaviors, and not because she simply wanted a green card. Therefore, it is important to remember that many of the relationships cultivated through this industry can be genuine and positive. While scams do occur, and divorce happens with couples that meet through this industry, the media focus on the negative stories obscures the fact that some people do in fact find long lasting, happy and fulfilling relationships.