The sex workers are very much interested in my personal life, and above all my love life. I readily share with them because, given all their experience with men, they give me great advice. I have dated several Ecuadorian men and due to profound cultural differences, I’m often left confused and hurt. Gringos also leave me confused and hurt, but for different reasons. Every time I get hurt or feel confused I go running to the sex workers for comfort. They always put things in perspective and lay down the law. Without a doubt, they give me the most cynical interpretation of the situation, which I often need, as I feel like a naïve gringa when it comes to Ecuadorian men. They shake their heads and frown when I tell them I found out an ex-boyfriend of mine was discovered with another woman. They reassure me, saying all the things any good friend would say in such a situation, but then firmly tell me, “Anita, that is the way men here are—they are good for nothing pigs. Don’t date any more Ecuadorian men, they will always cheat on you.” On the one hand it seems surprising that they speak so poorly of men here since all of them have Ecuadorian partners. But on the other, they’ve been hurt over and over that they’ve learned not to expect much from any relationship. They have even given me advice to never be monogamous in a relationship here because my potential boyfriend will never be faithful to me either. It’s a lot for me to swallow since I come from a culture where infidelity is stigmatized.
According to my own experiences, observations, and conversations with sex workers (and other women friends), infidelity is such an integral part of any relationship here that it would never occur to a man (or woman) to confess such an act. I know plenty of men and women in the United States who cheat on their partners, but many of them (at least my friends) grapple with whether they should tell their partners or not. Here, one tries to get away with as much as possible, living by the coda “What she/he doesn’t know won’t hurt him/her.” The problem is that Quito is a tiny city of under 2 million people and the social circles are so small, with the same people going out to the same places, it’s impossible not to get caught. Perhaps it’s true, that what you don’t know doesn’t hurt you, especially if one’s partner has a simple fling, but the problem with Quito is that no one can have such a fling without the ENTIRE world knowing.
I often turn to the sex workers to cry on their shoulders when I get hurt yet again by an Ecuadorian man. There must be nice, perhaps even faithful men out there, but the sex workers dissuade me from them again and again, telling me that I need to stick to my own kind. They are wise women who point out, that relationships are already difficult enough, why on earth would I throw in all the cultural differences as well? They explain that no Ecuadorian man will ever, ever treat me with the same respect as a gringo. A curious comment considering many of them had never had gringo boyfriends. They seem to have idealized gringos in their minds, viewing them as extreme counterpoints to the traumatic experiences they have had with Ecuadorian men. Obviously I take their comments with a grain of salt since many of these women have never been exposed to healthy relationships in any part of their lives—many come from abusive homes and find themselves in abusive relationships as adults. But that doesn’t mean they like it or don’t recognize that it is wrong. Although I haven’t had the traumatic experiences with Ecuadorian men that they have accumulated throughout their lives, they always offer perfect pearls of wisdom when I need them most. They always take my side (with fierce loyalty) and always remind me not to expect much from men here.
It is not my intention to offend Ecuadorian men, as I’m sure faithful ones exist. (Interesting, my Ecuadorian male friends are the first ones to support my views and readily admit that they are cheating Latin lovers—after all the more women you have, the more manly you’re viewed). I think the extreme double standards of sexuality that exist between men and women here make it difficult for foreign women and local men to have successful relationships. We’ve been socialized in different cultures and I find machismo very much alive and thriving here, making it difficult for me to conceive of dating another Ecuadorian man. (Not that there aren’t good parts of machisimo….to be explained later…)