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Earlier this year, I went on a date with a man who told me he had a thing for Asian women. We were sitting across from each other at a table in a fancy restaurant and he stood up to do a head-to-toe scan of me. I am sick of being fetishised because of racist stereotypes about "small and compliant" Asian women. Credit: Stocksy.
I told myself to run. Here was yet another man with what is not-so-jokingly referred to as Yellow Fever: the lazy and discriminatory hyper-sexualisation and fetishisation of Asian women, primarily by white men, solely based on race. When I tried to break it off with him, he texted: "I hate you. Thankfully, there are thousands of gorgeous Japanese, Chinese and Korean girls in Sydney, so I will be okay.
This is not unusual. I have spent most of my adult life expending psychological and emotional energy fending off men like him. I have a small body. I have an Asian face.
Women like me are handcuffed to a double bind. We have to fight off men who infantilise us because of our small bodies, and who also believe the Asian face carries some special gene that makes us soft-spoken, gentle and non-confrontational. I continue to be astounded by the of white men who still see me and immediately assume I am "submissive, docile, compliant, accommodating, sweet in the kitchen, tiger in the bedroom".
My body is viewed as a literal and symbolic site upon which to construct their fantasies of the perfect Asian lover. The pernicious perception that most young Asian women have petite, child-like bodies is not necessarily untrue. Equally painful is realising the extent to which the very narrow representations of Asian women in the West have created the idea in the minds of these men that because of our perceived submissiveness, they can be afforded a sense of ownership and possession of us.
I recently entered my 30s. Sometimes, I have felt I have found a person who loved my body as a carrier of the person within, only to realise that, to him, my body was simply a fetish and a curiosity.
I am never sure how to respond. Beneath what is projected onto me, is my relationship to my Asian heritage; I have to fight against the Taiwanese cultural indoctrination that to be self-sacrificing and selfless is the ultimate way of being for a woman.
I have found these men unwilling to confront their own bias and prejudices. They operate under a system of racial stratification themselves as superiorleaving Asian women to take on the disproportionate burden of fulfilling, resisting, or negotiating their stereotypes. I wonder whether I will go through my life in this country upending stereotypes.
It is not my job, or the job of other Asian women, to do that. These men should scrutinise their so-called "preferences" and work towards modifying racially unjust and untrue perceptions. I am not here for their education, sexual or otherwise. I blocked the man who sent me the aggressive, race-based text when I rejected him. I hope he examines and confronts his prejudices. Only then will women from Asian backgrounds be respected as much as we should and treated as whole human beings — not accessories that embody derogatory fantasies.
Because I am small and Asian, I am fetishised by some white men. Please try again later.
The Sydney Morning Herald. By Jessie Tu November 28, — Save Log inregister or subscribe to save articles for later. Normal text size Larger text size Very large text size. this article.Why Aren't Asian Men Sexy?
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