Best of P-Mag: Yellow Fever: Dating As An Asian Woman

Lauren sMash is another amazingly talented writer, whose work has consistently knocked my socks off. I thought this was one of the best pieces that thoroughly debunks the whole “exotic-fetishization-of-your-race-as-a-compliment” and what it’s like to navigate the dating world as a person who’s desired as a stereotype, not as a whole person. – Coco Papy

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?

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laurensmash

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

13 thoughts on “Best of P-Mag: Yellow Fever: Dating As An Asian Woman”

  1. Hi.

    You are right, I am comfortable making generalisations based on my experiences of what is generally the case (although I wouldn't impose it on an individual) eg I wouldn't assume a new guy I meet is not good at communicating to girls when hitting on them just because that is the generalisation I see.

    You are right again. I unashamedly am attracted to girls who I find sweet and adorable (amongst other things of course).

    I also agree about assuming people speak other languages other than English. I don't assume, I always speak to new people in English, I ask them their names, where they are from etc, and often (to white people too :) ) ask if they speak other languages, because I am a lover of  languages. Most of the people where I live are bilingual which means its a normal thing to ask.

    I do have one difference of opinion though. I would argue there is a difference between a stereotype and a generalisation. I am NOT stereotyping anyone…I am generalising based on EXPERIENCE.

    I found this explanation of the difference online which explains it really well.

    When examining other cultures from one's own perspective, one thing to get straight is the differences between stereotypes and generalizations. Generalizations are statements that help give insight to the tendencies of a particular group of people. Generalizations are not only useful but necessary for human lives, although you shouldn't necessarily make decisions based off of them. Since all people are different, you should never assume an individual is exactly like others, however a generalization can possibly give you a better starting point to better understand a person. Stereotypes may at first seem similar to generalizations because they both attempt to identify and categorize the tendencies of groups of people. However, stereotypes are taken to the extreme, becoming exaggerated beliefs and concepts. Different than generalizations, stereotypes also are ending points to understanding of an individual. Stereotypes are applied to every member of a particular group and tend to limit understanding, rather than broaden it.

    (Source: http://drewfordski.blogspot.co.uk/2006/02/stereotypes-vs-generalizations.html )

     

    1. I'm a little annoyed that you're trying to explain these concepts to us like we're obviously just not understanding what you're saying. We understand perfectly well what you're trying to say. We just think what you're saying is offensive.

      However, since we're going this route, I took a look at that nice little link you posted. Let's examine that blog post, shall we?

      One of the examples this post gives is this:

      "Alejandra might be late because Latin-Americans are more likely to be impunctual.
      Alejandra will be late because Latin-Americans are never on time."

      It says that the first one is okay because it's a generalization, but the second one is a stereotype. Therefore, it is TOTALLY OKAY to think the first one. Right?

      Wrong. 

      The article makes a huge mistake in that it conflates examining cultural norms with examining individual behaviors – especially when an individual from one culture interacts with people from a different culture. 

      Now, it is entirely true that different countries have different norms regarding punctuality. In Japan, for instance, if you show up five minutes early, you are "on-time." In the US that's not really the case. In some places (I believe Germany is one, if I'm recalling the stories I've heard correctly, but I could be mistaken), things such as university class start times are taken a little more laxly.

      However, there are a few problems with jumping to a statement such as "Alejandra might be late because Latin-Americans are more likely to be impunctual."

      First, just because someone appears to be from a particular ethnicity doesn't mean they were actually raised with that ethnicity's culture. Someone could be, say, a fourth-generation American who is in every way extremely American.

      Secondly, even though the "out" is supposed to be that you're saying someone "might" be this instead of saying they "are" this, it's still an issue. For one, you're still making judgments about what the person PROBABLY will be based on your presuppositions about what you see that person's "group" to be. It would still be offensive for me to ask my gay male friend if he was into fashion when I would probably not ask that of a straight man. It's true, I didn't simply assume said friend would be into fashion and ask if one color matched better than another one. However, I  would still have an expectation that gay men are generally into fashion.

      This is bad because of two main reasons.

      First, because according to this, I would be more likely to think that is appropriate to gay men, I would probably be less aware of straight men's interest in fashion becaue I wouldn't even bother to find out. So, my generalization would be self-fulfilling.

      Secondly, even if I DO happen to ask everyone, I'm still associationg "fashion" and "men" with homosexuality. If we think this kind of association is bad, if it says offensive things about gender roles and such, then our goal should be to NOT use it at all. 

      Furthermore, because you're still making this association, you're still teaching children that these associations are okay to make, therefore repeating them.

      I realize that you think you have an out because you're saying that this is true MOST of the time and not all. You claim that this makes it somehow not "black and white." I disagree. 

      For one, you have no actual evidence for your generalizations. Yes, you speak of your experiences, but as I said before, people often see what they want to see. Additionally, what we want to see is colored by our own political history. For instance, black Americans are called lazy, uneducated, more animalistic, and whatnot because those were justifications made for slavery. Saying that it's okay because you're only saying such assertions are GENERALLY true still plays into the same old awful awful reasons for why it came about in the first place.

      But let's say that you do your homework for real, and you find some sort of study that supports your generalization. For example, say you looked at a study that talks about how in the US men are generally better at spatial judgments than women are. (This is a real thing, though I don't know how it stratifies across things like class groups or ethnic groups). However, it is also true that studies from countries with greater gender equality show LESS of a difference in this regard between men than women.

      So, you can do one of two main things from here.

      You can take this statistic and you can apply it to the people you meet, or even the people you know, in order to try to "learn more about them," as you seem to say.

      Or, you can challenge it.

      Challenge the shitty reasons for why it is a difference in the first place.

      The qualities you describe for Asian-American women are impressions seeped in histories of violence. They in large part come from exposure to Asian women in World War II, when US soldiers helped drive back the Japanese. Rape was a common war tactic used by the Japanese army, so the US soldiers showed up in areas where women, having had to accept such a horrible trauma on sometimes a regular basis, were far less likely to resist. They seemed more demure for it.

      Additionally, many of these cultures (and the US, too, to an extent) place a huge emphasis on the submissivity of women. This means that these women might seem "nicer" or more "amicable" because they're taught to simply go with the flow and not speak up for themselves.

      So.

      If it is actually true that Asian-American women behave in this way, they behave this way because of a history of awful terrible reasons that help deny their humanity. 

      Or, if what I suspect is true, that you took the generalization and see what you want to see, that you ar self-selecting in your judgments and your information, you inadvertedly use concepts from this history of violence in your everyday life.

      Either way, these ideas are not okay, and we should fight it rather than use it.

      You might feel that I'm attacking you, that I'm saying you're some kind of awful monster of a person. I'm not. We all absorb the shittiness of society in some way or another. Society sets some people up with privileges, and from others it takes away.

      What I'm saying is, your responsibility as a person with that privilege is to do something about it.

      Don't feed the monster.

      1. Hi Silverwane.

        Thank you for your perceptive comments.

        Sorry if the link offends you, the reason I posted the quote was because it summed up nicely what I meant by generalisation, I didn't read all of it. What I was trying to get at was that I was not saying "she is an Asian girl therefore she WILL be like this". Rather I was saying "In hindsight, I've noticed Asian girls who I met and have dated seem to have these qualities that I like more frequently than other girls do". I think everyone is different which makes meeting new people so interesting so I don't really have any expectations when I meet someone new :)

        In terms of evidence for my generalisations, I'm not claiming their generally true for everyone. I was just giving feedback to the OP, that as a guy who meets a lot and has dated a few Asian girls, I have noticed that they generally (as in more often than not) have particular (attractive) traits that other girls I have met (more often than not) do not have.

        I don't apply statistics to people to learn more about them lol, I like to learn about people because I am curious :)

        With regards to the Asian-American women bit, just so you know, I am not referring to them :) I am from Europe. I have only met one or two Asian-American women in my life and I didn't notice any differences in their personalities from other American women. I agree that it is where you grew up, not your ethnicity that shapes your personality more. All the girls I am referring to and have dated have been born and grew up in China, Korea, HK etc and then came to Europe as adults.

        I don't feel attacked by you, but I think we are probably coming from very different levels of analysis. I am just sharing 'from the horses mouth' so to speak my personal reasons for why I have dated (and still do) Asian girls more often, and some of the characteristics I liked.

         

         

         

        But, following your suggestion I tried to see if any studys had been done to understand this better. I found a study from the University of Columbia which said the following:

        "We found no evidence of the stereotype of a white male preference for East Asian women. However, we also found that East Asian women did not discriminate against white men (only against black and Hispanic men). As a result, the white man-Asian woman pairing was the most common form of interracial dating—but because of the women's neutrality, not the men's pronounced preference. "

        (Source: http://www.slate.com/articles/business/the_dismal_science/2007/11/an_economist_goes_to_a_bar.2.html )

        If you strongly disagree with this study then please don't write an angry reply to me. I couldn't really care less about it. I only originally posted on this thread to share my personal feeling, but as you asked me to look for a study I thought I would pass it on.

        1.  

          I was just giving feedback to the OP, that as a guy who meets a lot and has dated a few Asian girls, I have noticed that they generally (as in more often than not) have particular (attractive) traits that other girls I have met (more often than not) do not have.

          I'm sure Lauren really values your feedback.

           

           
        2. My apologies for assuming you were American. I hadn't realized that such gross stereotyping of women from Asiatic descent also existed in various European countries, too.

          I'm pretty much done with this discussion because you're reaaaally not getting the point. In additionally, you're picking and choosing from everything I said to continue to defend your position, when I already at length talked about why your position is bad EVEN IF you're saying "in my experience most of this people act like this." I'm sure there's more that could be said, but I'm not convinced you're really listening.

          1. Hi!

            Again, I am AGAINST sterotyping, I am observing and acknowlidging a trend. And it is not women of Asiatic descent who I have met, rather women born and raised in Asian countries…I am saying the ASIAN CULTURE has differences (based on the people I have met who were raised there), not the fact that they happen to have a particular background based on dna lol, that would be dumb.

            I actually had an interesting conversation about these cultural differences with a Korean girl (moved here a few months ago) last night. She brought it up! and was saying she went to a party and the girls here were a lot more loud and wild then they tend to be back in Korea, and she's finding adapting a little weird. WITHOUT ME SAYING ANYTHING ABOUT IT! lol.

            I think we should agree to disagree, but if you feel I have avoided a point and would like me to respond to it specifically, let me know and I am happy to give my perspective.

             

            1. I can't imagine that anyone wants or cares much about your perpective on this. Your insistence on continually mansplaining obervational bias is neither interesting, clever, nor useful. But I do find it rather disgusting that, when it's been pointed out to you that some of the cultural 'demureness' in Asia stems from horrific, inhumane treatment of women and a history of rape culture, that you insist that the ends justify the means because of your sexual preferences. 

    2. Oh also, if we're going to play the "use internet resources to back up our ideas" game, how bout this nice definition of the word "stereotype" from The American Heritage dictionary:

      "A generalization, usually exaggerated or oversimplified and often offensive, that is used to describe or distinguish a group."

    3. Why are you here? Seriosuly dude, what are you trying to achieve? Are you trying to get people to say 'no, it's totally cool that you stereotype people with a narrow world-view'? Are you trying to say that your experience is somehow more important that that of the author's, or that, because you have some anecdata, that we're all supposed to just be amazed and listen to the same old white guy perspective in a world filled with them? Because if you're not here for those reasons, I suggest you use your ears and listen and stop talking. Learn something. However, if you are, please go somewhere else.

      You being a 'lover of languages' certainly does not mean that it is appropriate to ask people to perform like a puppy to entertain you. If someone wants to share their language and culture with you (white or otherwise), they are certainly capable of offering. There are very few cultures where it's not rather rude and controlling to ask people those things in the way you are describing (the words you choose to explain that experience are rather telling), as if you are talking at them, not sharing things mutally. But maybe that's just part of the 'men can't communicate well' thing.

  2. "If you realize it is a gross generalization, why do you voice it?"  You go to lengths to qualify it, to defend yourself"

    Uhh, because it is not a straight forward black and white truth by a LONG SHOT. Like, you can see that's why I emphasised the word 'generally' right? and provided counter examples :)

    I also anticipated people would misconstrue the post, so was trying to make it clear what I was saying. As in, the devil is in the details, forget it being black or white, the truth is in the grey area.

    "Perhaps it does, to an extent, reflect the individuals you've had contact with, and perhaps there are cultural elements to how so-and-so is socialized, or it might even have more to do with the political and historical realities (which are actually the reason why Asian individauls are seen as more "feminine"…not because the people there were somehow more "feminine")"

    I liked that part. I'd agree that it's the main factor for sure :)  I am basing this100% on reference experiences. Like, I'm not looking out and stereotyping new people, rather I'm looking back and drawing conclusions from experiences I've had. Maybe in the next few years my experiences will be different.

    "Perhaps your notion about various "races" of women is not, in fact, justified. I think that's something you should consider."

    LOL. What notions? This was what I was hoping to avoid ><

    Like, instead of thinking of what I'm actually saying and looking for truth in the subtleties and the  GREY AREA… I guess it's easier just to say itss wrroooong, its wroooongg.

    1. So, others 'would misconstrue your post,' not that they'd see the sexism in what you said and understand it perfectly. Ooookay.

      You seem to be very comfortable with generalizations, though – guys don't communicate well (why would that be true, or acceptable if it were?), sweet/adorable are qualities to look for in an 'equal partner' rather than, say, a puppy, and so on. It's not appropriate to assume that someone who looks Asian's language is anything other than English (or whatever the language of the country they are physically in is), any more than someone should assume that a white person doesn't know other languages.

      But, now you're making yourself some victim after trying to mansplain why it's okay to stereotype a race of women. Just don't. 

  3. Hey, interesting to see your perspective.

    I tend to date Asian girls (as a white guy) more often, but its more of a personality thing. My experience from meeting a lot of people is that GENERALLY Asian girls  are more a) sweet/cute/adorable and b) smart/mature/rational (which is something I prefer) and GENERALLY white girls can be a little more bullish and irresponsible.

    I emphasise GENERALLY  because I know that is a gross generalisation. I have met and dated amazing white girls who were sweet, smart and great hearts etc and have met at clubs etc Asian girls who were completely obnoxious. But overall this trend from my experience is at least 75% accurate.

    Guys saying "What kind of Asian are you?" is outrageous though, the majority of guys suck at communicating. I actually do try and get girls to teach me their language (if I don't speak it) just because I find that kind of interesting…as in I do it with German, Spanish, Russian etc not just Asian languages.

    I don't really like the label of 'yellow fever' which I get put on me and I also get it as I happen to be fluent in Mandarin. It would for sure bother me if people thought I was using them or whatever, even if I do have a 'preference'.

    That being said, I can see what you are against in the situations you talk about it though, like with the porn stuff (like WTF, why would anyone even say that??? LOL).

     

     

     

    1. If you realize it is a gross generalization, why do you voice it? I get the impression that you are at least partly uncomfortable with your statements. That you realize something is wrong with it. You go to lengths to qualify it, to defend yourself, to distance yourself from *THOSE* creepers. Your position is justified, you're not like them, etc. 

       

      From what you're saying, I don't think you take it to the levels of some of these other people, but I think you do realize there is something wrong with what you ARE saying. If you didn't, you wouldn't take such great lengths to qualify it and justify yourself.

       

      I believe that most of any stereotype is seeing what you want to see. Perhaps it does, to an extent, reflect the individuals you've had contact with, and perhaps there are cultural elements to how so-and-so is socialized, or it might even have more to do with the political and historical realities (which are actually the reason why Asian individauls are seen as more "feminine"…not because the people there were somehow more "feminine") However, to a large extent, we interpret things how we want to see it, and if we choose to view the world through a certain stereotype…well, we will. We will constantly confirm evidence of it in our own eyes, because we ignore or explain away the things that disagree with it.

       

      I suggest opening your eyes a little more to the possibility that maybe this ISN'T an okay thing to feel, maybe the discomfort this article makes you feel means something. Perhaps your notion about various "races" of women is not, in fact, justified. I think that's something you should consider.

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