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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Tresther’s Tru-pinions: Asian American sexuality and the fetish

Photo by Scott Lew.
Photo by Scott Lew.

As a Korean American who thinks a lot about how race is created and recreated, I notice how I react to social interactions between Asian women/people and non-Asian people. Whether it’s seeing an old right-wing white supremacist arm-in-arm with a young Asian woman because she’s getting herself that visa, or being hit on by a guy asking you where you’re from (“I didn’t know there were women like you in the area!”), I can’t help but have race on the brain.

White supremacy and the alt-right’s embrace of Asian women (see Audrea Lim’s New York Times article) are so deeply tied, not to mention global push and pull factors that create the mail order bride system in non-Asian countries. There is of course the long history of American military in Asian countries and the mostly nonconsensual business of sex trafficking. And there are the images in media and the stories people tell about how “Asian women make great wives.”

With all of this in mind I’ve had a lot of conversations with my female and gender non-conforming friends about their experience with their sexuality, media images and fetishization of people who look like them. A lot of these conversations were about race, queerness, yellow fever, anime and pornography. Our ideas were structural but our stories were personal, and so many of them were related to dating and sex.

In one conversation with a friend, we discussed problematic fetishes. We talked about how the BDSM community supports most kinks and fetishes as long as they are consensual. But in regards to racial fetishes, when are these consensual? When do you actually have agency to racialize yourself?

I think about the story of my friend who matched with a guy on Tinder and felt some red flags about how much he likes Asian culture. One perk of this was how well he knew the good Asian restaurants in town. On one hand, she loves not having to explain her culture, and of course she loves eating good Asian food. On the other hand, she has had negative experiences in the past with people telling her about their vast knowledge of her own culture. These red flags stay in the back of her head.

After dinner, she went to his house. She thought, I wouldn’t date this guy, but I could go for some sex. They entered the apartment and towering over her was a wall of oriental fans, stacked one above another. The second red flag propped itself up in her mind but they went to his bedroom. This friend really just wanted to have sex. They made out, they took their clothes off. They had sex, and in the heat of the moment the man spoke Chinese as he is climaxed. She didn’t even know he spoke Chinese. She’s not even Chinese! At this point she was petrified but did want to think too much. They both finished and she left the apartment laughing. She processed it later when she went home and told her friends.

In this case, my friend consented to sex the whole way. But did she consent to the highly racialized surprise at the end? I personally would have been traumatized if a man started speaking Chinese to me while climaxing, but maybe that’s just me.

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