Trigger Warning: The article content can be very triggering, so be careful while reading it. The article does not aim to promote Asian fetish. It focuses on racial fetish towards East Asian communities however Asian fetish affects all Asian populations.
NB: If you feel offended by the article, you might be the problem.
I can not believe just by writing the title that I dated someone with an Asian fetish. After such an experience, I became more sceptical about interracial relationships. For some people, everyone has the right to have their own preferences. Yes, you can, regarding the ideal partner personality, mindset, to name a few, but not when it comes to ethnicity. Racial fetishization is dehumanizing and is one of the many layers under the label ‘Racism’. As racially fetishizing a specific group, racial prejudices, preconceived ideas, fantasies are constantly projected and the group fetishized is essentialized and not considered with their own individuality.
Asian fetish involves a racist romantic and/or sexual preference towards people with Asian heritage. ”The terms refer specifically to Caucasian or other non-Asian males who are attracted to Asian females with more intensity or frequency than is shown for other groups of women; in some instances, the intensity reaches the point where it may be difficult or impossible for such a man to form relationships with women of his own race, or even non-Asian women in general (Prasso, 2005, p. 136). While the term regards interracial associations, it is not meant to concern customary, healthy interracial relationships and marriages.”
Where Asian fetish is rooted and how it did evolve?
The roots of Asian fetish
Asian fetish is rooted in history, in a colonial-era that turns out to be increasingly romanticizing, exoticizing, fetishizing non-Western populations, leading to sexual oppression and exploitation. Through the colonial discourse, many cultural elements are completely stripped of their meaning, in line with the Western imagination as the sexual fetishization of Geisha. Geisha are sexualised by westerners, seen as promiscuous and the fascination is kept to be fed through literary works as Madame Butterfly, postcards, fans of sexualised Geisha, shaping the Asian fetish narrative but not only.
Besides the cultural side, colonial military conquest also contributed to Asian fetish, as the Philippines-American war, where the American soldiers referred to the Filipinas as “little brown fucking machines powered by rice.” The colonial period was then a time when the exploitative sex industry flourished, through the legalisation and management of sex work by the colonial authorities as in Vietnam in the late XIX century but also sexual enslavement as the ”comfort women” in Japan or sexual exploitation in camptowns in the 1950s in South Korea.
Such tragic events had a huge impact on the Asian fetish towards women with Eastern Asian heritage, feeding it and participating in the imagery of Asian women as hypersexualised and exoticised – The imagery has come to be normalized in our media, in the media and in the entertainment industry – You may have seen those series characters like Ling Woo in Ally Mcbeal, Jenny Matthews in Working Moms, portrayed as very ambitious, fierce women and using sex to succeed or the opposite, as submissive and still objectified and hypersexualised. However, many don’t see the harm in Asian fetish or don’t understand at all what they know, starting with my ex.
And how does Asian fetish come into play in everyday life?
Just online, you can find online social media groups of people with Asian fetish, thousands of asian women dating sites, events using the sexual imagery of Asian women or offensive comments as ”I love Asian women”, ”You’re so beautiful for an Asian”,
Reflecting on the history, cultural references and representations to which we were constantly exposed and still are, Asian fetish cannot be taken as ”harmless”, it is the legacy of dark parts of history.
Yep, I dated someone with an Asian fetish, and I didn’t know
The thing that clicked for me, that my ex had an Asian fetish, was one of his trips to a Southeast Asian country. He was supposedly invited by an acquaintance. When I asked about this acquaintance, he hesitated at first to tell me. Then he admitted to me that he is the kind of person based since a while in Southeast Asia, enjoying life and women, the locals one. Super shocked, I retorted that it was the same, since you know each other, that you share commonalities with the people you spend time with. He ardently pretended that he didn’t.
And then I see more and more signs that don’t deceive: lots of exes with Asian heritage, only going to Asian restaurants, learning a Southeast Asian language getting a tattoo with a ‘Chinese sign’, labelling North and Southeast Asian people as ”nice” (nice because he can easily get the upper hand on them.) having flatmates with Southeast Asian heritage and cheating on me twice with women with Northeast Asian heritage.
As you see, his Asian fetish was displayed in various ways.
No matter how much I called him out, I was always the one seeing the bad everywhere, imagining things and that it wasn’t racist. Having a racial fetish for a particular ethnic group is simply racist, since, as we can see from my ex’s example, these individuals have lost all individuality, they become objects to be used for his own interests. He admitted to me that he liked having “Asian housemates” because “they are polite and easy-going” and that I, in comparison, was far too temperamental.
As non-Asian people, we need to work on our prejudices, our racist stereotypes about these people, where this comes from and when we started to normalise it. The fight against the many forms of racism starts with us. Asian fetish, as any other racial fetish is not flattering but either is racist, demeaning and it is really time to stop disregarding its seriousness.
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