There's no right way to find a mate -- happy couples have met on the Internet, at orgies, and in prison cells. So when we point out the thoroughly bizarre dating rituals you see in far corners of the world, we try not to pass judgment. This dating shit is weird for everybody:
When a young girl comes of age in the Kreung tribe of Cambodia, it's tradition for her parents to build a small hut for her away from the main home, sort of like setting up a small apartment in the room over your parents' garage. Except the Kreung tribe's so-called "love huts" serve a bit of a different purpose -- so teenage girls can have all the sex they want without their parents having to listen to it.
anna leopolder/iStock/Getty Images
In the Kreung culture, girls are encouraged to sleep with as many boys as they need to in order to find a husband. It's basically dating, only without the stigma associated with premarital sex, and confined entirely within four-legged sex huts. If a girl is interested in a boy, she'll invite him back to her private clubhouse for an intimate evening that may or may not result in sex, depending on how well his jokes are landing. Regardless of the outcome, the boy has to get his ass out of the hut by dawn, because a young man and a young woman aren't allowed to be seen in public together unless they are officially a couple. It's a little like high school in that regard.
The girls are in complete control of the process, with jilted boys dutifully leaving the love huts if the girls decide they're just not feeling it. There's little evidence of domestic violence, and reports of rape are nonexistent. If a girl winds up getting pregnant with a boy she decides not to marry, the boy she does marry will raise the child as his own without complaint (or at least will keep his complaints to his damn self).
And while a fair amount of sex is certainly being had in the love huts, it is by no means their only purpose. They exist to provide girls with a safe, controlled way to find a legitimate life partner, with parents trusting their children to make the decisions (read: have the sexual encounters required) that will help them find a loving relationship. It seems to work, too -- divorce is almost nonexistent in the culture. Although, we admit that could have something to do with middle-aged Kreung men being realistic about their chances of being invited into a love hut.
Bill Rice/iStock/Getty Images
"There's plenty of fish in the sea" is a lot less comforting when given as an actual option.
We tend to forget that standards of beauty aren't universal. For example, in Western culture, films and television tend to present beautiful women as people who are so thin they could disappear through a sewer grate like loose change. If you're a girl growing up in Mauritania in Western Africa, however, making yourself beautiful enough to attract a husband may involve a casual reenactment of the gluttony scene from Se7en.
New Line Cinema
Or in their dubs, the lust scene.
In rural parts of Mauritania, the generally accepted belief is that the fatter a woman is, the better wife she'll make. Being fat is seen as a wealth and status symbol, and a man whose significant other is on the heftier end of the spectrum is thought to be taking good care of his wife. In short, the largeness of your wife is like sexual currency over there. To that end, some areas of Mauritania still participate in "fat farms," in which the older women of the community basically imprison young girls and force-feed them gallons of milk and couscous until they're pretty. In some extreme cases, the girls are punished with a beating if they can't keep everything down.
Joost De Raeymaeker/Marie Claire
"If we have to use a stick, we make them eat that too."
The government has recently begun trying to eradicate the practice by bombarding the region with PSAs warning of the health dangers of obesity, and even spreading new folk songs about thin, beautiful women to replace the popular traditional songs about scale-tipping princesses. It isn't that they want to destroy the idea of heavier women being desirable; rather, the message is that kidnapping someone and force-feeding them out of several dress sizes is dangerously irresponsible and should probably be illegal.
Naturally, the most effective method for changing the cultural mindset and combating the "fat farm" practice has been the influx of Western soap operas, which are packed with pipe-cleaner-thin actresses wrapped in glamorous clothing. We apparently need to team up with Mauritania for some kind of international television exchange program.
Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Lightwavemedia/Getty Images
In many cultures, the road leading up to the wedding is the most stressful time for an engaged couple. After the embarrassing rhyming vows have been said and all of the cake has been eaten by 3-year-old cousins you've never met, it's time to relax, take off your rented shoes, put your dress in a box, and engage in some child-creating pelvic collision. However, for the Tidong people of Borneo, the wedding is the easy part. After you're hitched, you'd better have a bladder like a wine cask, because neither you nor your spouse will be allowed to visit a bathroom for the next three days.
Jonathan Austin Daniels/iStock/Getty Images
"God, why did we go Greek-Indian fusion for the catering?"
For some reason, the Tidong came to the conclusion that vacating your bowels during the first three days of married life could lead to a broken marriage, infertility, or even the untimely death of your children. It also makes for a bonding opportunity for the new couple, because God knows nothing forges bonds better than an extended stay in the same room as someone who needs to take a whistling titan shit as desperately as you do.
To make sure that the happy couple doesn't cheat on their responsibility, family members and other people from the community are tasked with the responsibility of keeping them prisoner in their home and plying them with only a minimal amount of food and drink. You know, so that the pain of really needing to go can be overshadowed by the pain of starvation. Truly, the best honeymoon is a three-day binge of clenching exercises and ripened, angry farts.
"May you break wind, not vows."
After the trial-by-bladder-agony is over, the couple is finally permitted to bathe and take the most satisfying bathroom break of their entire lives, and over a period of months you may forget the secret pile of waste your beloved was forced to shudder out in a corner of your honeymoon suite long enough to bear being in the same room with them again.
Taking the familiar practice of trolling bars for casual sex up a notch, young men in Bhutan engage in a ritual known as night hunting, which is a charming euphemism for prowling random neighborhoods until you find a house containing a single woman, then breaking into said house, entering her bedroom, and trying to persuade her to let you into her bed. You may recognize this as an activity that in many societies will get you arrested or shot (or both).
Night hunting began as a rural tradition in the Eastern part of the country, but it proved popular and quickly spread throughout the whole nation. It begins like any love story: a man scales a house to break in through a window for the purpose of sneaking into the bed of a knowing or unknowing sleeping woman. It's often a collaborative effort -- groups of men will gather late at night and roam the streets until they find the house of a potential lover.
Design Pics/Design Pics/Getty Images
In most countries, there are more possible prison years than words in that paragraph.
Of course, though the practice is an acceptable method of courtship among teens, there are others who find it less romantic: namely, the girls' parents. So teenage Romeos engaging in a little romantic breaking-and-entering are often pitted against locked gates, barred windows, and guard dogs, all of which probably fail to deter them.
Believe it or not, we haven't told you the craziest part -- if, during a spirited round of night hunting, a man is caught sneaking into a house, he has to marry the girl he intended to visit, which is sort of like catching someone in the act of stealing a pie and punishing them by sitting them down and making them eat the entire thing.
"Got my stealth suit ready."
Pregnancy is treated with a similarly cavalier attitude -- one Bhutanese fellow who was interviewed about night hunting said, "Yes, there were cases of some making women pregnant, in which case they had to pay a penalty to the family, like digging up a field or agreeing to get married." That's right -- the penalty for breaking into someone's house and impregnating their daughter can be anything from a shotgun wedding to doing some yard work with a shovel.
Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images
If you live in India and you meet that one perfect person who sends your heart all aflutter, you'd better hope that the planet Mars doesn't have anything to say about it. Astrology is important to Indian Hindus, and if you or your partner happens to be born under the influence of Mars, there's a good chance your marriage will end in disharmony, failure, and death. None of those outcomes are mutually exclusive.
There is one exit strategy for those who are deemed Mars-influenced (or manglik) -- before you tie the knot with your significant other, you should first marry a tree.
"I'm a good suitor. Deep roots in the community, and I can put food on the table."
By that we mean a literal tree -- local custom dictates that it should be a banana tree, because when you're talking about marrying a tree to offset the fury of the Red Planet, it's best not to question the specific details. Alternatively, you can marry a statue of the god Vishnu, as long as it's made from silver or gold, but banana trees are presumably easier to come upon. Now, stick with us, because all of this makes a surprising amount of sense.
The reasoning behind all these tree nuptials is that if a manglik first gets married to a certain inanimate object (like a golden statue or a banana tree), then the wrath of Mars will be wrought upon that object rather than some poor bride's unfortunate husband. Mars' rage is apparently limited to your first wedding -- all subsequent marriages should be pretty much in the clear. That banana tree is taking one for the team.
"It's cool. But maybe you guys can leave the window open? I ... I like to watch."
It may sound like some superstitious claptrap, but it's a prevalent enough tradition that Bollywood actress and former Miss World Aishwarya Rai, who starred in The Pink Panther 2 and the internationally acclaimed Bride & Prejudice, married a tree before her actual, human wedding, after it was determined that she was a manglik. She has since come under fire for participating in a custom that is irrevocably linked to the illegal Indian practice of caste discrimination, but at least she can reasonably assume that Mars won't murder her husband. Though there's presumably a banana tree somewhere out there that was scorched from the Earth for the sake of her happiness.
Himanshu can be found blabbering stuff at the Internet on Twitter.
For more seemingly unusual rituals, check out 5 Cultures With the Most WTF Wedding Rituals. And then check out 24 Things Other Countries Suspect About Life in America.
Want to do some 'mating' yourself? We...can't promise that. But if you click the Facebook 'share' button below, maybe you'll have a talk on your wall that leads to finding the love of your life.