Leading Article: Warrior, be my Valentine

Charles Wardle may be fearful of foreigners, but for some of us they have lost none of their romantic appeal. Today Cheryl Mason, 34, from Newport, Isle of Wight, will turn fantasy into reality at her local register office when she marries Daniel Lekimencho, 24, a 6ft 3in Masai warrior from Kenya.

Mrs Mason is one of an increasing number of women who are finding romance while holidaying abroad and are intent on marrying their exotic lovers. Coronation Street fans will recall the recent marriage of Deirdre Barlow and the youthful Shamir, whom she brought back to rainy Salford after her sun-drenched visit to Morocco. The Rover's Return had never seen anything like it.

Love has always been able to overcome cultural differences. Classic novels such as Jane Eyre and Rebecca are built around romance crossing a rigid class divide. But love founded in a foreign land is more exotic: an unconventional relationship with a foreigner holds for many the promise of sexual fulfilment, freedom from the confines of custom, and the allure of undiscovered mysteries.

Mozart's opera Cos fan tutte tells of how even a lovestruck fianc cannot resist the charms of a foreigner. Perhaps the most extreme example in film is Earth Girls Are Easy, in which Geena Davis overcomes social, cultural and language barriers to fall in love with Jeff Goldblum, a creature from outer space.

There is, however, another factor that helps to explain why men - and now women - are marrying holiday lovers. For some men have traditionally wooed foreign women in the hope that they will be prepared to play more submissive roles than their British contemporaries. It now seems that British women are also looking abroad for old-style relationships.

Like Deirdre, Mrs Mason is a Nineties woman with financial power and the opportunity to travel. She has used the fruits of feminism to indulge nostalgia and retreat from bald modernity. "In his tribe women are less important than cattle and Daniel can be domineering. He expects me to fetch and carry for him," Mrs Mason recently declared. "Not that I really mind. All my life I've been in charge and suddenly I've got this gorgeous, masterful man telling me what to do."

To British men, Mrs Mason's marriage should serve on this Valentine's Day as warning that they must strive to satisfy ever more complex and often paradoxical requirements. The demands of post-feminist women may be beyond even the fittest, most able males that these shores can produce. As Mrs Mason's jilted ex-husband said of the warrior who took his place: "What do you say to a man who has killed a lion with his bare hands?"

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