Cyberspace and Cross-Cultural Relationships Online

Monday, July 14, 2014: 11:50 AM
Room: 413
Oral Presentation
Wilasinee PANANAKHONSAB , School of Social Sciences and Communication, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia
Previous studies claim that intermarriage dating sites are new digital technologies that have transformed the mail-order bride business. It is generally assumed that, when women from developing countries turn to intermarriage dating sites, economic deprivation and opportunities are the main driving motivation. What is ignored in such accounts is the role of desire for love and intimacy. Does the presence of economic and social gain in cross-cultural relationships exclude the fact that women are seeking ‘intimacy’ in online contexts?

This research seeks to understand why women in Thailand turn to intermarriage dating sites to pursue relationships online and why intermarriage dating sites appear to be displacing other ways of meeting foreign partners. It draws on in-depth online and offline interviews with 24 Thai women who have experienced dating Western men online. The study shows that the development of ICTs and increased accessibility of the Internet in the context of globalization and transnational networks allows women to consider a wider set of possible lives and partners than they ever have before. Although some women might be confronted with dilemmas or stereotypes of seeking cross-cultural relationships online, almost all of the women interviewed perceived intermarriage websites as an important channel leading them to meet and fall in love with Western men in the Internet era.