“I’m not into Asian men.” I can attribute this quote to several friends and acquaintances, and the funny thing is, many of them were Asian.
Which begs the question: why? I sometimes ask that aloud. Usually the response would be a non-answer: silence, a topic change or “I don’t know, I’m just not into them.”
I’m not saying that Asians alone are guilty of rejecting Asian men. If anything, we’re likelier than other groups to give them a chance. Nor should we feel obligated to constrain our options to Asian men. But too often, Asians are as guilty as anyone in refusing to see Asian men as sexual partners. And they don’t question why.
Maybe it’s unfair of me to assume what you mean when you say you’re not into Asian men. But having been fed stereotypes about Asian men time after time, it’s not hard to put two and two together. What might just seem like a harmless non-preference for people of your own race may really just be the result of internalized self-racism.
Apparently as Asians, we are, as a collective, small, meek and effeminate. This means that we Asian women — as an Uber driver told me once — are “real ladies,” with tight fits, small, pliable bodies and no opinions.
The men, meanwhile, aren’t manly enough. They’re supposedly not “well endowed,” and as Asians, they’ve been raised to be quiet and submissive. Useful qualities for women, hence our charm! But not so for men.
Perhaps you buy into other myths about Asians. That we’re racist and homophobic. That we’re book-smart but out of touch with politics. That we aren’t creative or good conversationalists. Those are all unattractive qualities. But just as these stereotypes do not define you, they do not define the men who look like you.
You might already know that these stereotypes are nonsense. You might protest that you’re not into Asian men not because you’re racist. How can you be, anyway, when you yourself are Asian? It’s just a natural preference, you like “manly men,” you can’t help it, and besides, you have Asian male friends. You’re just not interested in having sex with them.
It’s worth it, however, to take a moment to examine this “natural” preference for non-Asian men. To acknowledge that somewhere deep down, you may have internalized these stereotypes and that rejecting men because of their ethnicity, because they’re Asian, is racism. To also examine the sociocultural factors you grew up with and know that it’s not entirely your fault.
Growing up, most of the media I consumed was in English, so most of the romantic male leads I was familiar with were white men in white movies. My experience with Asian males (or males really) was mostly limited to relatives and immature pubescent boys in my predominantly Korean school. So the white fictional characters that I fell in love with were my models for how I felt male partners should be.
When there were Asian male characters in Western media, they were typically a source of comic relief — sometimes offensive — or some sort of professional (like a doctor) who was more or less an expositional prop. They were at best likable, at worst stereotypical. They were rarely romantic, rarely sexy.
It’s true that, American media aside, the world is becoming more interested in Asian entertainment. But even representation within Asian media leaves something to be desired. In Korea, there are only so many different kinds of bodies entertainment industries favor, and lately, they like their men slim and androgynous. That may feed into the myth that Asian men are inherently small and effeminate. Maybe that sort of physicality doesn’t appeal to you. But remember that these men are only a sliver of the Asian male population.
You might also want to ask yourselves: If you’re not interested in Asian men, who are you interested in? White men? That’s part of why white men are so obsessed with Asian women, after all — apparently with them, we’re easy. And all too often, for Asian women with conservative families, they’re the only other racial group that we can get away with marrying.
The ugly truth is, some of our friends and family see having white friends as some sort of social advancement. Oh, you have white friends in college? You’re so cultured. You’re dating a white man? Wow [Average Joe] is so handsome, you’re so lucky, I want one too.
Maybe you’re turned off by the idea of marrying into a family that takes traditions you’re no longer in touch with seriously. Maybe you grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood and like what’s familiar.
Or maybe you’re making a conscious, well-meaning decision to reject the toxic obsession with so-called blood purity that pervades some of our cultures. Maybe you’re not into Asian men but you actually don’t like putting white men on a pedestal either. You go for other minorities and pride yourself in being “rebellious” and “open-minded.”
But maybe it’s time for you to look at people as individuals. Maybe people are more than ethnicities or cultures to reject or try.
Maybe, when you say “I’m not into Asian men,” you’re reinforcing harmful myths about men who look like you. Maybe you’re even reinforcing myths about yourself. Maybe it’s time you realize: Asian men can be as sexy as other men. And once you’ve realized that, remind yourself that you, as an Asian, can be sexy too.
Sarah Y. Kim is a junior double-majoring in Writing Seminars and International Studies from Walnut Creek, Calif. She is the Opinions Editor.