Fragments from a War Diary, Part #84
Those of you who read my diaries on a regular basis will recall the prospective Kyiv tour guide who introduced herself to me and then started to send me repetitive photographs, unsolicited, of her in a bikini and in her lingerie. Although I did not mention this in an earlier diary entry, she also sent me descriptions of her various sexual encounters with foreign boyfriends and other such things that contained more detail than I had any wish to know about. So I blocked her communications. Then, a few weeks later, she contacted me via another means, apologising, and asking whether we might meet up. I am very reluctant to say no to any Ukrainian who extends what appears to be a genuine hand of friendship to me; so, as an act of kindness, I agreed, given that I was unexpectedly in Kyiv.
This was a mistake. The afternoon started promisingly enough, as she apologised for sending me all those photos and her unwanted messages and she explained that she had been suffering from mental distress at the time and she had endured all manner of difficult experiences since the beginning of the war which had caused her to “go quite crazy” (her words). I had sympathy for this. The stresses and tensions of war can drive people to many an unusual act and I do not believe that people should permanently and irrevocably be judged for their errors. However things progressively went downhill from there. She suggested that we sit in an Irish pub all afternoon, which I was not intrinsically adverse to but then she was clearly encouraging me to drink more and more alcohol. I have a strong tolerance to alcohol, by reason of my heavy build and my by now near-military physique. So I supped on a few beers while I listened to her narrative.
We returned to the subject of her boyfriends. She showed me various screenshots on her mobile telephone of communications she had been engaged in with unknown men across the world. One had offered her US$30,000 to come to Ukraine for a week and to have sex with her. She was of course disgusted, so she said; but she had not blocked this contact. Instead she had humoured him with suggestive remarks and taken screenshots of all the communications. I insisted that I did not want to see all of these communications. But she wanted to show me them nonetheless.
Then she moved onto the subject of her returning to my hotel room with me. This would not of course be for sex; she would be coming with me just to make sure that I got home safely and then she would be “financially satisfied” (her words). I started to feel sick. This woman is a professional blackmailer of foreign men and she tries to persuade men who visit Ukraine to say compromising things in instant messages and then she tries to persuade them to engage in acts of prostitution with her, by making them get drunk (so she imagines) while she drinks coffee.
I must say that I was absolutely revolted by her behaviour. No trauma associated with war can justify this sort of gross manipulation which she was trying to perpetuate upon me.
After a while, and notwithstanding her pleas that we were not communicating clearly (I think the communication was absolutely clear; she was offering me sexual services in exchange for money and I was rejecting her offers), I decided to eject. I went to the bar, paid for the drinks and food we had ordered, called a taxi, bid her goodbye and stepped out into the street. Naturally she tried to follow me and even to get into the taxi with me. I had to make it very clear that this was unacceptable. I got into the taxi on my own and then I blocked her once again. I had made an error of judgment in meeting her at all. I suppose I felt sorry for her, and she had noticed that and was taking advantage of it.
Ukraine has a sad history of sex tourism in which western men have travelled to the country to meet substantially younger women with imagined aspirations of marriage, only to have their wallets emptied in various sorts of scam. The men who did this in the past might range from the exploitative to the naive but what they used to do can by no means be condoned. However we must accept with regret that some Ukrainian women, having bought into the narrative that western men have no value other than sources of easy money with promises (fulfilled or otherwise) of sex, love or simple family life, are likewise participants in an ugly set of practices. The lady I met this afternoon was part of this narrative, calculating how much money I could be fleeced for as a foolish foreign man in Kyiv.
This sort of exploitative sexual culture - in which both men and women see one-another as objects of potential exploitation rackets and as victims of different kinds of abuse - needs to be stamped out if Ukraine is going to undergo the transformation necessary to become a modern European country. It is imperative that a comprehensive system of sexual education is undertaken within Ukraine to teach both Ukrainians and foreign visitors alike that sexual relationships ought not to be matters of mutual exploitation but instead to be partnerships fashioned on the principles of common love and harmony. No sexual relationship is perfect; but great strides are possible from the current position within Ukrainian culture towards a more gender-sensitive culture and society in which men and women treat one-another with respect and, indeed, social space is found for other sorts of sexual and personal relationship. Ukraine has a long way to go in these regards to meet European standards, and the work needs to begin now.
Just before I blocked this lady on my mobile telephone, and as I was sitting in my taxi returning to my hotel, I received a cacophony of links and images on my mobile telephone from her. I did not open any of them, but I can imagine what they might have consisted of. She was able, it seems to keep up the facade of decency only for a limited time, even though it was I who was drinking the beer. I arrived back at my hotel with a mixture of emotions, principally ones of disgust, naivety and regret.