Yellow fever vs. genuine preference

Yellow Fever: When a non-Asian (usually white male) has a sexual obsession towards Asians.  Symptoms include over-aggressive advances, halfhearted attempts to learn Chinese/Japanese/Korean, and masturbating to Sailor Moon.

Genuine Preference: When a person has a bias towards a particular race when selecting and pursuing a partner.  Could be the person’s same race or different.

Friends of mine often joke that I have yellow fever.  Usually I shrug it off, because it’s not worth getting into a debate over whether or not my tendency to date Asian girls is a result of a fetish, my environment (I live in China), or a genuine preference towards Asian women that is about more than just sex.  That’s what blogs are for.

Consider these two guys:

John Smith (white guy): “I mostly date white girls.  I’m naturally more attracted to them and tend to get along with them better than other girls.”

Liu Xiang (Chinese guy): “I mostly date Chinese girls.  I’ve always found them more attractive and been more comfortable around them.  The best relationships I’ve had have been with Chinese girls.”

Nothing unusual about that, right?  Now pretend the names were switched, so that John Smith was the one dating Chinese girls.  Some people would immediately slap a “yellow fever” sign on John’s forehead, because a man can’t honestly prefer women of a different race for the same reasons that he would prefer women of the same race – why that’s preposterous!  When I’ve asked people who hold this belief, they usually argue that it’s in our genes to be more attracted to people of the same race.  Is that so, or are we just so used to seeing couples of the same race that we attribute it to our biological makeup?  Do cultural taboos prevent people from even allowing themselves to be attracted to certain races?

Before I moved to Los Angeles, I could count the number of black people I knew in my lifetime on one hand.  The thought of being attracted to a black woman had never crossed my mind – I wasn’t sure it was even possible for me.  After moving to L.A., I dated a girl who is half-black, and after her a Nigerian who is darker than Charlie Murphy (I kid, no one is darker than Charlie Murphy).  Maybe it was the open-minded attitude of college, or being around people who didn’t judge, but I realized then that the only thing preventing me from being attracted to black girls in the past was a psychological barrier – not so different from the one that used to prevent me from eating seafood.   I always liked black women; I just didn’t always know it.

The point I’m trying to make is that I don’t think nature makes us more inclined to choose partners of the same race; I think most of us just tend to because we’re expected and pressured to.  How else can we explain the difference in attitudes toward interracial dating between more conservative cultures like China and more progressive ones like the US?  I actually had a student in Shanghai preparing to go to University in New York ask me if she should be worried about “dangerous” black people… a few months later she had changed her name (to sound more hip) and was dating a black guy – something that never would’ve happened had she stayed in Shanghai.

But I digress.  This is supposed to be about yellow fever, and why I don’t think the term applies to all white guys who date Asian women.  I do think it applies to certain types of guys – namely, douchebags.  The kind of guys who see women as nothing more than notches on their belt, and go for Asian women because they find some exotic pleasure in it, and because, well, sometimes it’s easier (I said it!).  These guys are tourists – they’ll sleep with Asian women for a while, but they’ll probably end up marrying a white woman.

Let the term “yellow fever” apply to those douchebags; not all of us.  First of all, the term itself has all kinds of negative connotations – yellow is derogatory towards Asians, and fever implies that it’s a problem and will go away with time.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my wife thinking I married her because I had some kind of temporary infatuation with Asian women.  It assumes that only same-race relationships are “normal”, and everything else is somehow wrong.

The way I see it, yellow fever isn’t as much racist as it is sexist, because it reduces the object of man’s affection to nothing more than a sexual fantasy.  It makes it easy not to take a white-Asian couple seriously, no matter how solid their relationship is.

I’ll admit that I have a slight preference towards Asian women.  I love their straight black hair, dark eyes, petite frames, and lack of cellulite.  I also love the strong sense of family, femininity, and intellect they often possess (I know I’m generalizing…sue me.).  I’m not sure if I’ll end up marrying an Asian woman, because race isn’t all that important for me, but if I do, it won’t have anything to do with yellow fever.

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