Asian fetish

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A fetish is something that is desired so heavily that it becomes an abnormal obsession. Objects, body parts, clothing and people are all things that can be fetishized.

Asian fetish is a slang term for an interest, obsession, or preference for Asian people, culture, or things of Asian origin by those of non-Asian descent, stems from Sexual Fetishism.[1][2][3][4][5] Asians are typically fetishized for their mannerisms and bodily characteristics.[6] In combination with other stereotypes, such as intelligence, an Asian women is seen to be the complete package.[6] People who possess an Asian fetish often fantasize about Asian people in order to gratify their sexual desires, especially because Asian women are seen to be passive and sexually compliant.[7][8]

An Asian fetish is different from an interracial partnership because in an interracial partnership everyone is equally respected, whereas an Asian fetish means the person being fetishized is not considered a person, but an object.[9] The fetishized person in the relationship is viewed as a target based on predetermined criteria.[10] The term Asiaphile is sometimes used to describe the person causing the victimization based on an Asian fetish. Another term describing the same phenomenon is yellow fever (not to be confused with the disease yellow fever, but derived from it).[11][12]

Origins of Asian Fetish[edit]

Asian fetish comes out of a European tradition of fascination with the East, and a history of othering inhabitants of those regions.[13] After the First Opium War in the 1840’s, Western powers, like the United States, swarmed the port cities of China, Japan, and Korea, which sat on a lucrative trade route.[13] As a result, the appetite of the Western middle class for Asian goods and art grew.[13] Some of this art, like postcards and fans, featured sexualized depictions of geishas.[13] The geisha was portrayed as a petite woman heavily made-up and richly dressed.[13] The prominence of the provocative geisha image on trade goods fostered, in the eyes of Western men, the idea of the geisha and east Asian women as decorative, sexual objects.[13] The image of the sexualized Asian woman in the United States was further solidified by the presence of the U.S. military in Asia during the Second World War, the Korean War, and the Vietnam war.[13] Brothels formed in towns surrounding U.S. military bases, their primary clientele being U.S. soldiers.[13] American men who may not have had preconceived notions about Asian women were drafted and sent to fight in Asia where they saw Asian women working in the sex industry.[13] This representation of the Asian woman has persisted and grown into the stereotype of the sexualized Asian woman and the Asian fetish.[13]

Another well known stereotype of Asian women is that they are subservient, passive and quiet.[14] Throughout history in the Western World, the image of an Asian women was 'geisha-like', meaning overly sexual but silent.[14] Asian women are seen giving suggestive gazes but remaining quiet while seducing the man. This image persists today, along with the idea of asian women being exotic and submissive.[14] Asian women are often referred to as a 'china doll', meaning they are dainty and beautiful, but also meaning they have no feelings and are able to be controlled.[14] In movies, television and media, we see this stereotypical representation of Asian women as an objects rather than humans. Continuously seeing this image in mainstream media has lead to the idea of the "Asian Fetish".[14]

Terminology and usage[edit]

In the afterword to the 1988 play M. Butterfly, the writer David Henry Hwang, using the term "yellow fever", a pun on the disease of the same name, discusses white men with a "fetish" for Asian women. The term "yellow fever" describes someone who is inflicted with a disease, meaning that someone with an Asian fetish has a sickness. Hwang argues that this phenomenon is caused by stereotyping of Asians in Western society.[15] Other names used for those with an Asian fetish are: rice kings, rice chasers and rice lovers.[14]

Effects of Asian Fetish[edit]

Asian fetish places a psychological burden on Asian women, who are forced to cope with constant doubt and suspicion that men who find them attractive have an Asian fetish.[16] Asian American women report both in popular media such as blogs, and in social scientific literature, that they are often uncertain whether people are only interested in them for their race.[16] The doubt that targets of Asian fetish experience stems from feelings of depersonalization, which compound on the objectification Asian females already face as women, to create a further sort of objectification where Asian women feel like interchangeable objects.[16] The fetishized body of the Asian woman becomes a symbol of other people’s desires, she is not valued for what she is, but what she has come to represent.[17] Racial depersonalization can be especially hurtful to Asian women in situations where being recognized as an individual is important, such as romantic relationships, because a person may feel unloved if they sense they could be replaced by someone with similar qualities.[16]

Another effect of Asian fetish is that it causes its targets to feel like an Other, because they are isolated and held to different standards of beauty.[16] Asian American women report being complimented in ways that imply they are attractive because they are Asian or despite being Asian. Because of Asian fetish, an Asian woman’s racial difference is either seen as a failure to conform to mainstream white standards of beauty, or as something that can be appreciated only on an alternative scale.[16] This can cause insecurity, and affect a woman’s self-worth and self-respect.[16]

Men with an Asian fetish are also affected by the stigma that accompanies the term.[16] These men are viewed as inferior, and it is assumed that they date Asian women because they are unable to date White women.[16] This logic holds that Asian women are lesser than White woman.[16] The stereotype that the Asian fetish perpetuates, about the sexual superiority of Asian women, reduces Asian women to objects that are only valuable for sex and not as complete human beings.[16]

NPR correspondent Elise Hu offers that this can be a source of insecurity in Asian women's dating lives, "Am I just loved because I'm part of an ethnic group that's assumed to be subservient, or do I have actual value as an individual, or is it both?".[18][19] In the other direction, it has been argued that the notion of an Asian fetish creates the unnecessary perception of multiracial relationships as being characterized by "patriarchal, racist power structures" in relationships that are actually mutual and equal."[20]

Writer Agness Kaku believes the mainstream white culture undermines efforts to combat sexual harassment based on Asian fetish. Noting how frequently women of Asian descent are subjected to verbal and online harassment, Kaku argues that Asian fetish "thrives on double standards that make light of racial bias against Asians" and states this downplaying leaves women vulnerable to stalking and violence.[21]

Asian American Women and White Men[edit]

20% of married Asian American women and 7% of married Asian American men have a non-Asian spouse, 17.1% of married Asian American women are married to a white spouse, and 3.5% of married Asian men have a spouse classified as ‘other’.[22] 75% of Asian/white marriages involve an Asian female and a white male.[22] There was a spike in white male/Asian female marriages during and following the U.S.’s involvement with wars in Asia, including WWII, Korea, and Vietnam.[22]

Since the beginning of the twentieth century, the image of the Asian woman has been seen as subservient, loyal, and family oriented.[23] After World War II, over feminized images of Asian women made interracial marriage between Asian American women and white men popular.[23] Asian femininity and white masculinity are seen as a sign of modern middle-class manhood.[23] Postcolonial and model minority femininity attract white men to Asian and Asian American women and men see this femininity as the perfect marital dynamic.[23] White men often racialize Asian women as “good wives” or “model minorities” because of how Asian women are stereotyped as over feminized.[23]

In an NPR program, Tell Me More, Michel Martin interviews Chinese-American filmmaker Debbie Lum who interviewed men who posted online personal ads exclusively seeking Asian women.[24] She found that men often describe Asian women as subtle and quiet.[24] Their long, black hair is eye-catching.[24] Their dark, mysterious look with their dark eyes.[24] They give more consideration to how their man feels rather than themselves.[24] She found that men look for Asian wives because they are stereotypically known as docile, traditional, submissive, and the perfect wife who is not going to talk back.[24]

Asian women are viewed as "good wives".[6] They can properly take care of their children during the day and fulfill their mans' sexual desires at night. In interviews done by Bitna Kim, white men explain their fetish for Asian women. An Asian women contains both beauty and brains.[10] She is "sexy, intelligent, successful, professional, caring, and family oriented."[10] They do not wear white girl clothes, wear heavy makeup and they are not high maintenance.[10] Hence, they have respectable mannerisms.[10] These men that were interviewed see Asian women to be exotic because of her mysterious beauty and petite physical appearance.[10] Sexually, the men in these interviews had a commonality. They all perceived Asian women to have submissive sex. They felt that Asian women did not mind putting her mans pleasure ahead of hers.[10] This interviews exemplify the idea that white men believe that an Asian woman embodies a perfect wife as a "princess in public and a whore in the bedroom." [10]

A white women is seen to lack the same femininity that an Asian woman has to offer.[6] Instead, a white man gets the next best option that will benefit him most.[6]

Asian Fetish in Media[edit]

Since the start of immigration, Asian men and women have been negatively stereotyped in mass media.[25] Although the stereotypes have evolved throughout the years, they have not necessarily changed for the better.[25] There are a few specific ways that Asian women are typically portrayed as: the lotus blossom baby, the China doll, and the dragon lady.[25] The lotus blossom baby exemplifies the shyness assigned to the Asian woman stereotype.[25] The China doll resembles a geisha-like woman.[25] The dragon lady represents a woman that is either cunning and deceitful or a prostitute.[25] Both the lotus baby and dragon lady are very sexualized and continue to objectify these women as exotic property. These images elicit sexual fantasies for men who then believe them to be true, which helps to create the Asian Fetish.[25]

Media continuously furthers the progression of the Asian woman stereotype. This can be seen in movies, where the women are characterized by submissiveness.[7] This trend is embodied within pornography, which focuses on an Asian womens' stereotyped body type and her ability to remain submissive to males.[7] Asian pornography uprose when the United States government banned prostitution.[7] But in other Asian countries, porn was supported, which lead to the accumulation and sexualization of Asian based porn in the United States.[7] The inability for one to truly understand another culture or production opens up more room for imagination and fantasy.[7]

See also[edit]

Attraction to specific cultures[edit]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ Moon, Ailee. Korean American women. p. 134. 
  2. ^ Short, Stephen (26 September 2001). "Directors Want Freshness". Time Magazine. Archived from the original on 5 November 2012. Retrieved August 22, 2016. 
  3. ^ Sherer, Theresa Pinto (29 November 2001). "Identity crisis". Salon. Retrieved 28 March 2015. 
  4. ^ Chang, Cindy (2 April 2006). "Cool Tat, Too Bad It's Gibberish". New York Times. Retrieved 28 March 2015. 
  5. ^ "Definition of ASIAN". Retrieved 2017-04-24. 
  6. ^ a b c d e "Racing Romance : Love, Power, and Desire Among Asian American/White Couples". Retrieved 2017-04-20. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f Embodying Asian/American Sexualities. MD, US: Lexington Books. 2009-01-01. ISBN 9780739133514. 
  8. ^ "Definition of FETISH". Retrieved 2017-04-24. 
  9. ^ Kuo, Rachel (December 25, 2015). "5 Ways 'Asian Woman Fetishes' Put Asian Women in Serious Danger". 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h "Asian Female and Caucasian Male Couples: Exploring the Attraction.: Discovery Service for Loyola Marymount Univ". Retrieved 2017-04-20. 
  11. ^ Nam, Vicky (2001). YELL-oh Girls!. Harper Paperbacks. pp. 131–2. ISBN 0-06-095944-4. 
  12. ^ Eng, Phoebe (2000). "She Takes Back Desire". Warrior Lessons: An Asian American Woman's Journey into Power. New York: Atria. pp. 115–42. ISBN 0-671-00957-5. 
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Park, Patricia (Fall 2014). "The Madame Butterfly Effect". Bitch Magazine: Feminist Response to Pop Culture. no. 64: 28–33. 
  14. ^ a b c d e f Chang, Maggie (2006). "Made in the USA: Rewriting Images of the Asian Fetish". 
  15. ^ Hwang, David Henry (1988). "Afterward". M. Butterfly. New York: Plume Books. p. 98. ISBN 0-452-26466-9. 
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Zheng, Robin (2016). "Why Yellow Fever Isn't Flattering: A Case against Racial Fetishes". Journal of the American Philosophical Association. 2: 400. 
  17. ^ Kwan, SanSan (Winter 2002). "Scratching the Lotus Blossom Itch". Tessera. 31: 41–48. 
  18. ^ Chow, Kat; Hu, Elise (30 November 2013). "Odds Favor White Men, Asian Women On Dating App". NPR. 
  19. ^ Hu, Nian (4 February 2016). "Yellow Fever: The Problem With Fetishizing Asian Women". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved 3 June 2016. 
  20. ^ Chen, Vivienne (9 September 2012). "So, He Likes You Because You're Asian". Huffpost Women. 
  21. ^ Kaku, Agness (4 January 2017). "Death by Fever". LinkedIn. 
  22. ^ a b c Chou, Rosalind (2012). Asian American Sexual Politics : The Construction of Race, Gender, and Sexuality. EBSCOhost: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. 
  23. ^ a b c d e Gold, Steven J. (2010). Racing Romance: Love, Power, and Desire among Asian American/White Couples. ProQuest: Contemporary Sociology. 
  24. ^ a b c d e f Martin, Michel (22 June 2012). [ "For One Man, She Had to be Pretty and Asian"] Check |url= value (help). Tell Me More, (NPR). 
  25. ^ a b c d e f g Parmar, Pratihba (2003). "Hateful Contraries. Media Images of Asian Women". The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader: 287–293. 

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