The Asian fetish. Asiaphilia. Yellow fever. You've probably heard of these terms before — maybe you can even think of that one Caucasian friend of yours that only ever dates Asian women. A negative stigma exists around individuals suspect of such traits, and I always felt compelled to dig deeper into interracial dating between Asian women and Caucasian men. The issue is really a lot more complex that one would think, and deserves a closer look.
A common conception is this: The appeal of Asian women for Western men largely lies in the fantasy-indulging experience that engenders a feeling of dominance and masculinity which is lacking, or perhaps even threatened, in their own culture. Just look at the funny Charisma Man comic below (click to enlarge). Because Asian women come from a history where they traditionally serve men, the stereotype of the docile and submissive Asian woman feeds this dehumanizing fantasy. The sex industry catering to Westerners is constructed around selling not only the flesh, but what Sheridan Prasso calls the "Asian Mystique...the fantasy of the exotic, indulging, decadent, sensual Oriental who will indulge you and delight you with the decadence and servility that no women in your own culture could." This fetishization of Asian women causes many women to wonder whether a Western suitor is interested in her as a person, or in the expectations surrounding the Asian Mystique.
It's true that independence and power is valued more highly in Western women, whereas Eastern values traditionally emphasize community and social harmony, and are unfortunately more patriarchal. This may influence the behavioral traits of some Asian women. However, men sometimes take this to feel "remasculated" in their interactions and perceptions of Asian women because they can experience feelings of dominance, power, and wealth (real or imagined) — especially in Asia, where some women cater to these fantasies for personal gain, or associate with Western men as a status symbol. There's fantasy built into the idea of dating a Westerner, too, which makes them appealing to Asian women; the stigma goes both ways. On the other hand, there's also a common notion among more affluent Asian women that the only men who hang around chasing women in Asia are just "creepy losers" that can't find a girl back home.
I know, it sounds terrible, doesn't it? While we all know that the "Creepy White Dude" does exist, these notions feed dehumanizing stereotypes that prevent mutual respect, and taint those interracial relationships founded on mutual love and respect due to judgment passed by others. The fact is, each person is attracted to certain characteristics in a prospective mate, whether they are physical, cultural, or behavioral. Who's to say the attraction is based only on fantasy? A bit of fantasy can be beneficial in relationships. It's unfair to pass judgment on a person for race and culture-related characteristics they find desirable based on the color of their skin.
As I mentioned before, a stigma exists toward Asian women who date Western men, which also casts interracial dating in a poor light. They are condemned as being social climbers, materialistic, and superficial. However, that, too, is a stereotype, and some of the reasons Asian women prefer to date Western men extend beyond perceived social status or physical attraction. Sexism has, in fact, been an integral part of Asian society since its origin, and is still prevalent in Asian societies. Asian women may prefer pairing with Western men because they feel like they are treated more as an equal, and enjoy greater independence in a relationship. Moreso in Asian cultures, men feel threatened when a woman's abilities, talent, and social status exceeds their own. I'm sure there are plenty of Asian and Asian-American men who do not adhere to patriarchal beliefs, but there's no denying the inherent values embedded within certain cultures that may shape a woman's preferences.
There's another prospect to consider: Asian men in Western media have the unfortunate tendency to be depicted as being nerdy, feminine, comical, and shy. That, or kung-fu masters (which I find hot, but perpetuates an annoying stereotype). Older men are portrayed as being conservative and patriarchal. They are often desexualized and portrayed as not belonging in America. Although it's changing, there simply aren't very many positive representations of Asian men in Western culture, and this negative image may very well affect the perceptions of Asian women living in the West.
I've only ever dated one Asian man, and we were teenagers at the time — but it's certainly not because I find Asian men undesirable, or that I felt controlled by men. However, my trend of dating Western men had a lot more to do with the culture around my personal interests. Growing up in Taiwan, most of my Asian peers were much more engrossed in their studies and into mainstream culture than going to punk concerts, watching experimental film, and dressing up like Marie Antoinette. Today, my interests are much more broad, but the long-term relationships I've held in the past decade of my life has precluded further investigation.
What have your experiences of interracial dating been? As an Asian woman, have you ever felt a man was attracted to you for their Asian fantasy? Or, have you ever suffered from the stigma of being an Asiaphile for dating an Asian man or woman? Please share your thoughts.
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Image via Mark Mainz/Getty.