Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Daniel Epstein has published "Romance is Dead: Mail Order Brides as Surrogate Corpses," 17 Buff. J. Gender, L. & Soc. Pol'y 61 (2009). Here is an excerpt:
The economic imbalance between the male purchaser and the foreign spouse serves as one of many catalysts of abuse. American men spend thousands of dollars in fees to use the mail-order bride services provided by international marriage brokers (“IMBs”). [FN11] The prospective brides are on sale from “economically depressed countries” and have minimal ability to speak English, leaving them with little bargaining power as they marry American men. [FN12] In addition to these economic imbalances, there is significant disparity in the legal rights of the purchasing male versus the purchased spouse. For one, these foreign-bought brides have no knowledge of the American legal system [FN13] and fall at the mercy of their citizen-husbands who hold the power of petitioning the prospective bride's citizenship status. [FN14] This knowledge barrier coupled *64 with the everpresent threat of deportation, [FN15] leaves abusers virtually immune from prosecution and further stymies the brides' access to legal help. [FN16] “Consumer husbands” is the foreign bride industry's term for the male purchasers who use the paid-for status of a relationship to exercise control over women. [FN17]
The International Marriage Broker Regulation Act of 2005 (“IMBRA”) reflects Congress's most recent attempt to resolve these problems in the mail-order bride system. IMBRA differs from past policies by focusing on the informed-decision making ability of the prospective brides. The Act requires that prospective brides receive critical information about potential buyers including background information on the prospective purchasers and legal information about conditional permanent residency and the battered spouse waiver. [FN18] Additionally, the United States now thoroughly profiles the men seeking to *65 purchase foreign spouses. [FN19] Despite Congress's continued progress in the regulation of the mail-order bride industry, the practice remains under the legal radar even though widely condemned. [FN20] Notwithstanding the country's negative opinion of sexual trade, this sexual “consumption” continues to define the mail-order bride industry and its players within the United States. [FN21]
This Article examines consumption in the mail-order bride industry as a normative explanation for the public health risks posed by sex trafficking. [FN22] Sex trafficking, when deconstructed into an epidemic of consumption, produces a conceptual tool for understanding the health risks of the *66 industry. [FN23] Consumption exposes the international trafficking of women as a manifestation of necrophilia. [FN24] Psychoanalyst Erich Fromm described necrophilia as representative of a disposition of manipulation, control, violence and force and not merely the attraction to and intercourse with dead bodies. [FN25] The public health risks posed by sexual trafficking are intimately related to the psychological health of the consumer husband-as-necrophile. [FN26] Part I of this Article explores the relationship between law and violence in the mail-order bride practice. The mail-order bride industry is widespread and the United States has devoted substantial legislative energy to curing the abuses that have resulted from the industry. Part II discusses how the economy of purchased sex perpetuates abuse. The economic basis of the mail-order relationship degrades the foreign spouse precisely because she is financially worse-off than her husband. Part III explores how the consumer husband is a symbol of the sexuality he consumes. The consumer husband's distorted view of sexuality is fueled through the dehumanization of women. Part IV connects the consumer husband's dehumanizing impulses to necrophilia.