Infidelity in Thailand: Are Affairs Common?

How did Thailand come to have a reputation for infidelity?

Apparently, when it comes to having affairs, Thailand tops the global list when it comes to infidelity. A recent survey published by condom manufacturer, Durex, proclaimed that the Thai people were the least faithful in their relationships with 59% of women and 54% of men admitting to cheating on their partners. In a nation that has a strong culture of family values and purity is preserved until marriage, these headlines have been strongly refuted by Thai media.

In this feature we take a closer look at the claims that Thailand is the most adulterous country in the world and shed some light which may make you think twice about the headlines.

The Headlines

The story of Thailand’s cheating couples broke the news in 2012 and has been spreading across the internet ever since. Each report cites the same piece of research that was undertaken by the condom manufacturers, Durex.

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Headlines like these have been giving the Thai people a bad reputation. Image via Daily Mail.

The Bangkok Post summed up the report’s findings in its coverage in 2012:

Women from Thailand are ranked the world’s second most unfaithful lovers…. The survey….names the women of Ghana the world’s most unfaithful, with 62 per cent of the women questioned there admitting they often cheat on their boyfriends and husbands.

Thai women were just a little more faithful, with 59 per cent admitting to infidelity…..As for men admitting to extramarital affairs, Thailand came out on top (54 per cent).”

Other headlines from around the world include:

  • Thailand Ranked Most Adulterous Country in the World’ – Asian Correspondent
  • Thailand Rates As Number One Country For Extra Marital Affairs’ – Love Pattaya Thailand
  • ‘Why Thai Women Is (Sic) So Casual About Spouse Infidelity’ – Thai Visa

Since the report was published, numerous agencies have reported on the top 10 cheating countries in the world with Thailand taking the number one spot. Even in 2019, some seven years after the report was issued, we are still talking about it….even here on Asia Sex Scene.

So, is there any truth to the claim? What do the Thai people think of holding this dubious title? And, is this just a case of ‘fake news’?

thailand most adulterous nation fake news
Is there any truth to the claim that, in Thailand, affairs have become the norm? Image via Flickr.

Where Does the Data Come From?

The data used to obtain the above statistics was produced by Durex and is reportedly the result of questioning 29,000 people across 36 countries; that’s right, a representative figure of around 800 people per country!

In a nation that has a population of more than 69 million people, that equates to a proportion of under 0.002%!

Aside from the obvious fact that this is hardly a fair representational figure, the statistics alone immediately start ringing alarm bells. According to the report, 59% of Thai women cheat on their partners vs 54% of Thai men. So, that’s more women than men in Thailand are adulterous?!

Anyone who knows anything about Thai culture could immediately tell you that this could not be true. There is little doubt that cheating is not restricted to just one gender but the fact that, in Thailand, the tradition of men having a mistress is still reasonably widespread should mean that more men than women are having extra-marital affairs.

The backup data for the statistics is unavailable on any site we researched with all media outlets simply reiterating the headlines with no pdf from Durex to back them up.

What is more strange is that Durex, who collate lots of reports like this, had only reported in their 2005 Global Sex Survey that just 16% of Thais admitted to having extramarital affairs. Compared to the global average of 22%, cheating in Thailand was definitely not an issue according to the same company not more than seven years previously. Incidentally, Turkey was the highest nation on this 2005 list at 58% and Israel the lowest at just 7%.

is thailand a nation of adulterers
Durex claim that wives are more likely their husbands to be the cheaters. Image via Wikimedia.

Is There Any Truth To The Claim That Thailand Is The Most Adulterous Nation?

Until 1935, Thailand was a polygamous country and monogamy was less popular than the practice of taking more than one wife.

Known as a mia noi, (minor wife), the practice is still popular with many married men taking a mistress, often with the full knowledge and consent of their wives. In one poll conducted by a Mahidol University, 42% of Thai men admitted to having a mia noi.

The same survey revealed that other wives would allow, and sometimes facilitate, their husbands having sex with a prostitute in order to deter them from having a permanent mistress. The risk of having a minor wife does bring with it the potential for having to share things like property and a husband’s income.

In fact, the Encyclopedia of Sexuality: Thailand believes that the Thai culture is such that it ‘flatters men for their promiscuity’ with minor wives, mistresses and commercial sex outlets being common for men of all social standings, ages and backgrounds.

Conversely, women are expected to remain virgins until marriage and sex is not considered a recreational option for the female Thai population.

In 2003, the Thai Rak Thai political party tabled the motion that all candidates who stood for election should be only ‘faithful and monogamous husbands’ but this was openly protested by many with one MP going on record to state, ‘to have a minor wife is an individual’s right.’

Is Thailand a Nation of Love Cheats?

There is definitely a lot of contradiction between the data sets which are being used to report the fact that Thailand is the most adulterous nation but there is also some evidence to give the claims credence.

As with any study on a small percentage of people, the headlines often just scratch the surface. Dependent on the kinds of people being surveyed and whether they are likely to respond truthfully is a critical point. Ask women in an Arab nation, where infidelity could result in severe punishment, the question of whether they have been unfaithful to their husbands and the chances are you won’t get an accurate measurement.

infidelity thailand love rats
Does Thailand deserve the title of being a nation of love rats? Image via Wikimedia.

As for whether Thailand’s married couples have a problem with fidelity, the truth is more likely to be less headline-grabbing. Certainly there are few media channels that would lead with a story which claimed ‘A lot of Thai men still have mistresses and some women are also having extra-marital sex’.

In general, there is a permissive attitude towards the notion of men being able to have sex outside marriage and society is beginning to catch up to the fact that women are also taking advantage of opportunities when they arise. We just don’t think that it is more prevalent in Thailand than anywhere else in the world.

Who is the Most Adulterous Nation?

So, if Thailand isn’t the nation with the highest number of cheats, who is?

Well, there is no easy answer to this as the matter of being ‘unfaithful’ is one with many different cultural values and social attitudes. Some countries have a tradition of polygamy so would that count as being a cheat? Other nations have historically embraced open relationships but does that make them adulterous?

Featured image via Wikimedia.