Yellow Fever: Dating As An Asian Woman

laurensmashPerspectives40 Comments

I was IMing with a friend recently about a guy she has an unrequited crush on. She was absolutely smitten, but thoroughly convinced that he would have nothing to do with her. When I asked her why, she heaved a heavy Internet *SIIIIIIGH* and said, “Ugh, well he only dates Asian girls”¦ you’re so lucky you’re Asian!” All right. I think now is an appropriate time to discuss exactly how “lucky” we Asian women can be in the dating world.

I am proud to be an Asian woman and to look the way that I do. It took a while to get here since nobody on The OC or One Tree Hill looked like me when I was growing up, but I am finally happy with the way that I look. My issue with being an Asian woman and trying to date has less to do with my perception of myself, and everything to do with the way I am treated and perceived by men, specifically non-Asian men. Meeting new people in a romantic sense is difficult for anyone. And, for me, the experience has been made all the more difficult and uncomfortable by stereotypes about Asian women. There are times that I have been discriminated against because of my race. Weirdly enough, that kind of rejection isn’t that difficult for me to get over. If I know that someone is rejecting because of racist preferences, I can let that roll off my back easily because that person is just another racist that I don’t have to concern myself with.

The more tricky situation concerns something called “Yellow Fever.” No, not the actual disease. Yellow Fever is more of a social disease. Carriers of Yellow Fever are obsessed with Asian women to the point where they rarely, if ever, date or enter into a sexual relationship with any other women. They actively seek out Asian women to satisfy their romantic and sexual desires. I can usually tell almost immediately if I’m dealing with someone who has this fetish for Asian women. Sometimes, the guys are extremely vocal about it and proudly proclaim that they have it. Most of the time, it is framed as a preference by men who simply “prefer” Asian women over other women. Either way, I can’t take this phenomenon as some kind of compliment. I sure used to, though.

When I first came across guys like this, it was my first year in college. I was fresh out of high school, had a lot of self esteem issues, and was really excited that anyone would even be interested in me at all. For a while, I admit that I tried to use this “yellow fever” thing to my advantage. It’s incredibly easy to seal the deal with a dude that exclusively has a thing for Asian women. You just tell them “what kind of Asian” you are, tell them the words you know in that language, and giggle. Giggle a lot. That’s it! But, the reason why it is so easy is because these guys really don’t care who I am as an individual. I could just as easily be another person entirely. The only thing that matters to these guys is that I’m Asian and everything else is unimportant. And, once I figured that out, it made me sick to my stomach. But, even after I stopped entertaining the Yellow Fever nonsense, the hits just kept on coming. I have dealt with a seemingly endless array of shit that is directly linked to my Asianness. Here are the top 5:

  • When I was Internet dating a couple years ago, a guy told me that he had found me by searching for only Asian women. Well, that’s one way to use the Search function on okcupid.
  • “What kind of Asian are you?” and “Say some things in your language,” are deemed suitable ice breakers and pickup lines for men who hit on me at parties, clubs, and bars.
  •  I’ve been told on multiple occasions that I could make a living in porn because I am an Asian woman with big breasts. Every time it was meant as a compliment.
  • An ex once casually told me that he almost exclusively watches Asian fetish porn, assumed that I would be okay with it, and then got upset with me when I hinted that he might possibly be doing something racist.
  • I opened the laptop of ANOTHER ex to check my email, and I saw that he had searched “asian” on a porn site and was halfway through a video with a bunch of white guys ejaculating on an Asian woman’s face

I don’t know about you, but being subjected to all of that doesn’t make me feel very lucky at all.

Obviously, the things on this list don’t happen to me all the time. Not all men are like this and there are plenty of people I’ve been romantically involved with who have never treated me this way. I am actually in a relationship right now with a great non-Asian guy who would never pull things like this and doesn’t harbor those harmful stereotypical ideas about Asian women. But, ever since the last two experiences I listed, I still constantly question if any of the other people I’ve been involved with or who have found me attractive only felt that way because I’m an Asian woman. And, that’s a hard thing to shake. I still feel like I have been objectified, exotified, and hypersexualized because of my race and sometimes I have trouble trusting people who find me attractive because of that.

People with Yellow Fever don’t want to get to know Asian women. In fact, I would venture to say that they don’t care very much about Asian women at all. They are more concerned with the idea of us–  the notion that we are adorable little kawaii girls or demure lotus flowers or geisha-like sexual objects. Their attraction to Asian women relies on stereotypes that turn us into exotic sexual objects instead of real women. Stereotypes turn people like me into things that are measured against a caricature, and they strip me of the individuality that, frankly, I would probably have been more freely assigned if I were white. It is dehumanizing at best to constantly be compared to a stereotype and to have people chasing you not as a person, but as an embodiment of the stereotypes that they use to define you.

Settling for being treated like nothing more than an exotic souvenir gets really old really fast. I am a real person. I am an individual with depth and emotion and interests and flaws. My skin, my eyes, and where my ancestors came from do NOT make me any less of a human being worthy of being respected and treated like an individual.

I do feel good about being Asian. I am lucky to have the family and culture that I grew up with. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the ethnic part of my identity. But, when it comes to dating, my Asian identity, or rather the stereotypes surrounding it and my treatment because of it, have the potential to hurt me more than help me. Does that seem very lucky to you?

Profile photo of laurensmash


Writer, feminist, pop culture addict, and unabashed nerd living in Southern California. I'm enthusiastic about the Internet, and I enjoy smashing things.
Profile photo of laurensmash

Latest posts by laurensmash (see all)

Thanks for rating this! Now tell the world how you feel via Twitter.
What feel do you feel after reading this post?
  • Inspired
  • Smart
  • Tickled
  • Hungry
  • Sad
  • Smash!
laurensmashYellow Fever: Dating As An Asian Woman

40 Comments on “Yellow Fever: Dating As An Asian Woman”

Leave a Reply

  1. Profile photo of Sri

    I stubled on this while fulfilling my curiosity on Yello Fever (the actual desease). I have it say, it is a refreshing view.

    I can understand the frustration from being sterotyped when trying to find someone you want to have a romatic relationship with. I have been there, it’s hard.

    There was a rich man with so-so looks dating a young attractive woman. He asked her one day if she would still love him if he lost his money. She said ofcourse not and he got upset. Then she asked him if he would still live her if she looked like the girl at the other table (obviously not as attractive), and he said probably not. And she told, well, you like me for the whole package and I like you for the whole package. Lets not think too much into it.

    The same thing applies to you or me or everyone in the US who is not white. You said you used yellow fever to date white guys. Does that mean you were stereotyping them too? Did you date a less attractive race, say an Indian or a Maxican? I would imagine not. Then, I dont see why you should be cringing about being sterotyped. Would an Asian man that only dates Asian women have yello fever since he can as easily date other races?

    If someone liked you, he liked you for the whole package, including your features, what you do, the way you think and even the fact that you are asian. I would say get our it and accept it for what it is. Stop dwelling in to this race thing and work on looking looking past someone’s race.

  2. Profile photo of freckle [M]
    freckle [M]

    And again, it is probably women much more often whom are subject to Yellow Fever than Asian men being agressively ”flirted” with in name of YF. Because hey, women are just around for looking at and stuff. Ugh.

    I’m not going to claim I’ve experienced a tenth of what you’ve been through, but time from time I also get the ‘ginger-focused men’ who proudly exclaim that they want to ‘experience’ a red haired girl. Yes, like Samson my hair is my strenght and carries all my good qualities. Don’t look further than it.

    1. Profile photo of Meghan Young Krogh
      Meghan Young Krogh

      Ditto this comment with “chubby chasers.” It’s definitely not the same – there’s no systematic history of racial discrimination and oppression, no culture-wide stereotypes of submission/exoticism, but I have been on the receiving end of pigeonholing dating attention just enough that I can feel a lot of compassion for what you’re going through. I’d definitely never claim that I get what it’s like, because I’m white and I haven’t had all the different problematic elements that this entails forced on me at once, but I have been on the receiving end of pointed “type”-related sexual attention enough that I can nod my head and say, “Yes, this is wrong, and I have felt gross with my own limited types of this attention that I can only imagine how much worse it is for you.”

      1. Profile photo of laurensmash

        Objectification comes in so many forms, it’s absolutely ridiculous. No one should be made to feel like a checkbox. And, unfortunately, that’s how a lot of women are made to feel- and to an extent, how our society conditions people to see us.

        1. Profile photo of Samuel Sukaton
          Samuel Sukaton

          Thanks for writing this, Lauren! I was linked to it by a mutual friend of ours, who’s (South) Asian and who I’ve spent a lot of our time together discussing this. An interesting aside to this objectification (and a corresponding de-sexualization of Asian men) is a current of (admittedly racist) resentment among some Asian Americans.

          I remember walking into an internet conversation in a popular APA issues forum (which will remain nameless) which took a very ugly turn, suggesting Asian women were leveraging “yellow fever” to date and marry white men, thereby increasing their own economic and cultural capital, and that Asian girls who dated outside their race were “sellouts.” Conversely, Asian men who dated white or Asian women were deemed “winners” by many of the participants in this conversation. Responding to objectification with further objectification was awful, and I hope that you face less “yellow fever” and none of this “sellout fever” (as you said you were dating a non-Asian man right now.)

  3. Profile photo of [E] Slay Belle
    [E] Slay Belle

    Thank you so much for writing about this.Its certainly a phenomena I know about (but do not experience personally for obvious reasons) and has constantly perplexed me. I’m sorry that you’ve had to go through this.



  4. Profile photo of kypris

    I totally hear you! I’m mixed ethnicities, caucasian and asian, and it’s so often exoticised (I like to make up words?) and/or fetishized almost (by men and women alike, even some of my past friends!). And I look asian enough that I am sometimes wary of guys who may have ‘yellow fever’. I think I’ve been lucky that thus far, I don’t think I’ve run into any (perhaps it helps that most of the guys I’ve dated are asian?), but I’ve run into people who stereotype me nevertheless, based on very few things, whether they think that I’m ‘so asian’ or ‘so white for an asian’ type of thing (neither of which actually makes sense!). Bah, I’m not very coherent today, but hopefully this paragraph is somewhat understandable!

  5. Profile photo of Jon

    I hope you realize that these blanket generalizations do nothing but worsen the effect of stereotypes.

    I am annoyed that you think this is specific to your race. There are rude people in every race. If I choose not to date an Indian woman, that is not racism, that is personal preference. Yes, some of the things you listed are not acceptable actions. But do not generalize and say that you are discriminated against because you are asian. That is not true; you are discriminated against because it is the nature of people.

    Does that seem very lucky to you?

    Actually, it does seem lucky considering that there are still people who are forced into arranged marriages, and other completely irresponsible things. The fact that you have the choice to avoid the people that are not kind to you is in itself a huge gain. I empathize with your struggles, but do not think that this problem only pertains to you.

    1. Profile photo of Millie

      Riiiiiiiight, racial fetishizing has nothing to do with race, and everything to do with your hurt feelings from rude people in totally nonsexual contexts.

      And the whole “stop getting your shorts in a knot because look at all these worse things that could be happening” is a piss-poor excuse of a response. Oh look, we’ve progressed as a society to the point where marital rape is generally considered a bad thing!  Guess we’ve got nothing left to whine about, ladies!

      I am giving you some serious side eye from here.

      1. Profile photo of kypris

        Additionally, I have heard some men say specifically that they like asian women because they’re so ‘docile’ and tractable, and sweet, and any other similar generalization or stereotype about them; these adjectives are often used towards asians, compared to other ethnicities, partly because of what was explained in the article linked, and also because of the western interpretation of certain asian cultures, where women may appear to be ‘meek’ relative to women in the western world, though in reality they certainly are not meek (there is a lot that can be said about this but I’m not going into detail here).

    2. Profile photo of marthamydear

      Hi Jon, while I don’t intend to speak for Lauren, I’m confused about your point in posting this comment. When you say ‘this problem’, are you talking about discrimination in general? Because yes, ‘discrimination’ as an umbrella term is a widespread problem and can happen to anyone for any number of weak reasons.

      However, Lauren is writing about her experiences as an Asian woman- her individual, personal experiences- not claiming that ‘discrimination only happens to Asian people’.

      It’s saddening to hear that you’ve had negative experiences as (I’m presuming) a white man in a relationship with an Asian woman as a result of stereotyping. However, the deconstruction and challenge of the same stereotypes that have affected you would also positively affect Lauren- that is, eliminating the idea of Asian women as some kind of sexual archetype rather than full, embodied people.

      Any clarification about your original comment would be welcome.

      1. Profile photo of Jon

        I am not discounting her experiences as an Asian woman, but rather her attitude toward everyone else.

        Let’s look:

        Stereotypes turn people like me into things that are measured against a caricature, and they strip me of the individuality that, frankly, I would probably have been more freely assigned if I were white.

        Well, from my point of view, the stereotypes I encounter would also have not affected me if I were asian! You can’t say that these stereotypes would not affect you if you were not this race; of course they wouldn’t! But that doesn’t mean that others would not apply to you. I find this jumping to conclusions frustrating.


        he almost exclusively watches Asian fetish porn, assumed that I would be okay with it, and then got upset with me when I hinted that he might possibly be doing something racist

        So, having sexual preferences is racist now? Let’s say that I grew up in a small rural area in the Southern United States and I not only preferred white women, I chose only to date white women. Does that make me racist? I can’t force my own attraction to something that I am not biologically wired to enjoy. Is it racist if I don’t equally spread out my PERSONAL viewing habits to include all races?

        my Asian identity, or rather the stereotypes surrounding it and my treatment because of it, have the potential to hurt me more than help me

        Being Asian has both its advantages and its disadvantages, as do all other races. Asians are far from being the worst off, especially if you are in San Diego. UCSD’s 2011 accepted freshman class is 45% asian, which is DOWN from previous years and they are the majority on campus. I personally have been passed on for an internship because the advisor was Asian and did not want to work with me; yes it is anecdotal but I do not conclude from this that being white is overall hurting me more than helping me.

        I thank you for actually reading what I wrote instead of encouraging “self-reflection for being defensive”, whatever that means.

        1. Profile photo of Alice Nevada
          Alice Nevada

          In response to what you wrote:

          “he almost exclusively watches Asian fetish porn, assumed that I would be okay with it, and then got upset with me when I hinted that he might possibly be doing something racist”

          So, having sexual preferences is racist now? Let’s say that I grew up in a small rural area in the Southern United States and I not only preferred white women, I chose only to date white women. Does that make me racist? I can’t force my own attraction to something that I am not biologically wired to enjoy. Is it racist if I don’t equally spread out my PERSONAL viewing habits to include all races?

          Having sexual preferences is not racist, and being comfortable with and seeking out partners that you are familiar with is not racist.  I can’t answer for Lauren, but I believe she means that watching exclusively asian porn, or seeking out sexual relationships with exclusively asian women solely based on  the stereotype of sexualized asian women is racist.  If you grew up in the Southern US  and only dated white women because the women you happened to know are white, it would not be racist.   But if you chose to date only women of a specific race just because that race has a sexual stereotype applied to it, without regard to the character of the woman herself, then yes, that would be racist.  You would be choosing that woman for her race, not for her individual attributes.


          1. Profile photo of Jon

            But porn is, for all intents and purposes, used for aesthetic devices only. You don’t, and it probably wouldn’t be healthy to, fall in love with a porn actress. Preferring a certain type of porn is an aesthetic or personal choice; but making that choice does not necessarily reflect on the choices that you make in real life.

        2. Profile photo of [E] Rachel
          [E] Rachel

          Yes. You are absolutely being hurt by being white. You are being oppressed at every turn, and you certainly have absolutely no advantage or privilege in life overall by being a (I’m going to assume at least middle-class because you mention you’re in college, and those pesky minorities probably took all of your financial aid) white man.

          Oh no, wait. The opposite of that.

          Dude, I’m not quite sure how you got here, although I’m starting to think it was from a Google search that included several keywords Lauren used in this piece, although probably with very different intent, but you’re barking up the wrong tree. Coming in here and lamenting all the ways in which you, a white man, are being oppressed is not going to get you any support. Newsflash: YOU CANNOT SYSTEMATICALLY OPPRESS THE GROUP THAT HAS ALL THE POWER. I’m very sorry that you’ve anecdotally suffered “discrimination” several times because you’re a white man, but Rule #1 of discussing race is: if you have to ask, “Does that make me racist?” then yes, you probably are. If not, you’re just willfully blind to the realities of race relations in society, which is understandable because they all benefit you, a white man.

          1. Profile photo of Samuel Sukaton
            Samuel Sukaton

            “I’m very sorry that you’ve anecdotally suffered “discrimination” several times because you’re a white man, but Rule #1 of discussing race is: if you have to ask, “Does that make me racist?” then yes, you probably are. If not, you’re just willfully blind to the realities of race relations in society, which is understandable because they all benefit you, a white man.”


            THIS. If anybody on Persephone would be willing to write a brief primer on privilege, or the idea that racism = power + prejudice, I would read the HELL out of that.

    3. Profile photo of Meghan Young Krogh
      Meghan Young Krogh

      In addendum to the above comments, I just wanted to add: I don’t think Lauren said this was specific to her race; she only said that there were many men whose fetishizing was specific to her race. There are plenty of racist misogynists who fetishize other races.

  6. Profile photo of anhiebananhie

    Thanks for this piece.

    As an Asian American myself, I have been lucky enough not to be seriously interested in or involved with an Asian fetishist.  However, growing up in Orange County, CA where Asians and/or Asian Americans comprise of 20% of the population, such bigoted individuals can be found on every corner.

    The most vile example is Mr. Bananhie’s uncle who is a white middle aged man from East LA. After knowing him for years, I thought that he was really sweet and friendly.  After he secured a promotion at his work a few months ago, his racist & misogynist views came out.  After declaring that he had enough money to support a spouse, he kept asking me to introduce him to one of my friends.  When I told him that he was too old for all of them (he is 23 years older than me), he asked me, “Don’t Asian women like older men?”  I replied that I didn’t speak for other Asian women or any other women for that matter and that it was wrong for him to think that we were all alike.  I even reminded him that I am older than Mr. Bananhie and that I didn’t have a lot of Asian American female friends.  Trying to make up for his ignorance, he said something a lot more disgusting, hoping that I would laugh– “Can you at least tell me why Asian women are loud crackling screamers in porn?” I immediately left the room and told Mr. Bananhie what happened.  Mr. Bananhie and I left immediately and haven’t spoken to that uncle ever since.

    Sadly Mr. Bananhie & I know that there are others who are probably worse.


    1. Profile photo of laurensmash

      That is DISGUSTING. I’m glad you both got the hell out of there and that Mr. Bananhie had your back. It really is astonishing how many people are like this.

      And, isn’t that the worst? You go someplace diverse, and you assume that because there are so many of us, you won’t have to face that kind of bigotry, but in reality, that’s where all the Asian fetishist creeps hang out. Asians were the majority at my undergrad university, and the diversity didn’t help the fact that those guys were EVERYWHERE.

      1. Profile photo of anhiebananhie

        Yeah, it is maddening that fetishists know where to find their targets.

        I went to a women’s college in MA and assumed that I would miss boys but I was sick of the sleazebags hanging out in the foyer of my school’s library and taking the bus to my campus on the weekend looking for opportunities.


        1. Profile photo of [E] Slay Belle
          [E] Slay Belle

          I’m going to guess that I know what school you went to — I went to one of the other 5 colleges in the area. That happened? It makes me very sad to hear that, because as I’ve gotten older I’ve often thought I picked the wrong school and I should have gone to one of the women’s schools just to have gotten away from that kind of sexism. I’ve even been encouraging Mini to look into those particular schools.

          1. Profile photo of anhiebananhie

            Correct! I’m a MoHo.

            I would still encourage Mini to look into a Seven Sisters College or something similar like Sarah Lawrence, Randolph-Macon, Scripps, etc. While sexism is unfortunately unavoidable in most of Western Society (there are always a few Dr. Laura Schlessinger types at every school), I thought that the nurturing and pro-womyn environment was great. You didn’t hear as many idiots cracking rape & harem jokes during social science class discussions nor any apologists using evolutionary psychology or selective moments in history to justify their sexism & racism. Also, I’d like to add that while not everyone got along with one another, I didn’t notice as much jealousy and girl-hate there as I do now at the public university I am at now (it’s sad because I’m in a graduate program).

            Overall, I think that MHC’s academically rigorous & sober environment gave many of the aforementioned men warranted opportunities. Although most of my classmates knew what they were getting themselves into when engaging these men, I knew quite a few who were hurt & clearly taken advantage of.



  7. Profile photo of Bangs with Glasses
    Bangs with Glasses

    I’m so sorry you have to deal with that crap, but I would like to thank you for sharing your experience on here. This pisses me off to no end just reading about it and seeing it from the outside; I can’t imagine what it’s like to have to directly experience this level of jackassery. People that are like this are one giant, disgusting ball of racism and misogyny all wrapped into one, and that’s not acceptable on any level.

  8. Profile photo of Stephanie

    I don’t have any words except I am really sorry that people treat you and other Asian women this way. I mean, what do these people think you are, a goddamn toy? An accessory? I really have nothing coherent to say, just sputtering. This is just so offensive.

  9. Profile photo of [E]Coco Papy
    [E]Coco Papy

    Girl, I cannot even imagine going through anything like this. Its flat out gross and dehumanizing and it makes me furious to hear about the exotic / subservient / hyper-sexualized stereotypes you have to deal with. Dating is hard enough as is, adding this bullshit on just seems like an exercise in not trying to flip tables over.

    Mr. coco is chinese and the way that dating/attraction issues are between him and his sis are like night and day. He, and other asian men, are often seen as desexualized or “unattractive” ( I cant tell you how many  times I’ve given a straight up bitch face for someone thinking its a compliment to come up to me and say “oh he’s so cute for an asian guy!” ). Meanwhile, his sis has dealt with the other extreme- hyper sexualized, the “konichiwa’s” (yo, if you are going to be a racist, at least get your damn cultures right) and everything you described here. Its foul.

    F a bunch of yellow fever.


    1. Profile photo of anhiebananhie

      It’s pretty sad that ethnic sexual stereotypes are so prevalent in American culture.

      Look at shows like Hawaii 5-0 and the dreadful 2 Broke Girls.  Daniel Dae-kim is a hottie but he gets a lot less action than his white cast mates.  I don’t think that I need to elaborate about Long Duk Dong II on 2 Broke Girls.

      Even Sofia Vergara’s acceptance speech at the Golden Globes was mistranslated into a hypersexualized stereotype.


    2. Profile photo of Samuel Sukaton
      Samuel Sukaton

      Real talk, homegirl. It makes my kind of glad that I don’t “look Asian” – I have big lips, big eyes, dark skin, and straight, bristly hair, so usually people guess that I’m multiracial or Pacific Islander. My SO is white. We don’t get awkward looks when we go out – I can only imagine the gawks if I looked “typically Asian.”

Leave a Reply