But actually now, we have brought a lot of culture from Western and now it’s much more open. Like, in that time my parents get along together, if you have sex with your lover before you get married that was a very, very bad thing. “But of course, they have sex with other women.” Trang agreed, “Yes, normally the men always have another girl.” “Especially in the South, the men treat their women not well… There is a gap between the theory and the practical implementation at all levels.” The study offered as explanation that domestic violence is considered “a private family matter in which society should not interfere” and that “violence is considered normal behavior.” I hopefully asked my interviewees if they thought this aspect of their culture was changing, but I didn’t get much of a straight answer. The general consensus: yes, no, not really, we don’t know.Once upon a time if a man wanted to date a girl he had to ask permission from her family. I noticed that the younger students, especially Nguyen and Trang, spoke more willingly than the older people present.I asked about dating and the courtship process and what they described fit the near universal paradigm. Ly disagreed, saying Viet Nam is still “more traditional than U. A.…a relationship of girlfriend and boyfriend not so common that before they marry they have sex together.According to Nguyen and Trang, two first-year university students, and Ly, a 27-year-old mother, boys and girls start dating around 14 or 15. I think in America much more common and also they have sex very early! Here now it’s a little different, maybe they can have sex before they get married but maybe 19 or 20, not 15 or 16.” Nguyen and Trang heard Ly telling me this and gave me some silent headshakes.Sometimes this was obvious such as in statements like, “You know, in Viet Nam we still have the old generation.But in America, the teenagers, they are very open; they really are easy to have sex with another one.” A 24-year-old girl named Bi said this to me, and the concerned expression on her face made me laugh out loud. In the family the man has to decide to buy anything.In Thailand, a few friends told me I would never be able to get Vietnamese people to talk about their dating culture.
I literally had people crowded around me, elbowing each other to answer my questions.
That conversation in the park in Saigon served as a reminder to tread lightly on the line between relativism that glorifies and excuses and universalism that blinds.
In some countries, love is often accompanied by sex.
Your presence here is really tremendous.” He kept saying “tremendous.” I winced.
Not much time has passed since the Viet Nam War, so I found this Vietnamese celebration of American culture especially puzzling if not troubling.