Monday, July 29, 2013

Do I Have an Asian Fetish? (Part 1)

 "I launched, a mock mail order bride website that targeted Asiaphiles with images like the above. Now, 13 years later, I find myself dating the descendants of the same men I once loathed." 
-- Kristina Wong 

The Internet is so full of interesting things, like this short article I read just the other day by writer and performer  

The following is my commentary on the article, so I hope you actually read it : )

Kristina Wong's style is pretty in-your-face, which I like, unabashedly calling out those insecure white creepers who search high and low for their Asian female prey. I sort of feel that she might be over-assuming some things, but then again, these were things that were ACTUALLY said to her, so basically I dig it. My first reaction on reading this article was, "Man, those nine things ARE whack!" But then I started thinking more deeply and I was suddenly struck by a horrible thought: "Egads! Is she talking about me!?" Now if you know me personally, you will know that the great majority of my ex-girlfriends and women I have swooned over in the past have been at least ethnically East Asian, save four (or five). Think of it as a 5:12 ratio--I know, pretty severe, right? I know, I know--big surprise, the white guy with the East Asian studies blog likes Asian women--I bet you never saw it coming! So yes, it would appear that Ms. Wong is indirectly addressing me. And of course this got me thinking and reflecting on my past relationships with these aforementioned women and how I came to meet them. I started asking the only logical question: "DO I have an Asian fetish?"

It's something I had denied for years. When people asked me why I primarily dated East Asian women, I usually just shrugged and said something like "I guess I just know a lot of East Asian people." But reading this article got me thinking, is it really that simple? I mean, you saw the ratio--the proof is in the pudding. Can I really deny at this point that I have a thing for Asian women? And the answer is no, clearly not. For me to deny the fact that I "gravitate" (as Wong puts it) towards women of East Asian ethnicity would be pretty ridiculous at this point. Still, the question stands, is this gravitation the result of a fetish or something more complicated and less tangible? Come join me on a journey of self-discovery!

First things first. To know whether or not I have a fetish we need to clearly define what a fetish actually is. Now to be honest, I'm not 100% sure how Wong defines an Asian fetish, but I think it's safe to say that the popular perception of a fetish is something primarily sexual in nature--like feet or S&M or some such thing. Therefore, in this case to fetishize is to sexualize. While this is partially true, it's only one piece of the puzzle. It's dictionary time!
So according to Merriam-Webster and, a fetish is . . .

a : an object (as a small stone carving of an animal) believed to have magical power to protect or aid its owner; broadlya material object regarded with superstitious or extravagant trust or reverence
b : an object of irrational reverence or obsessive devotion
c : an object or bodily part whose real or fantasied presence is psychologically necessary for sexual gratification and that is an object of fixation to the extent that it may interfere with complete sexual expression

Hmmm . . . curious. Notice how the word object is used in every entry. I feel this is not a coincidence. In other words, it would seem that to fetishize something would be to objectify it. Actually I would agree with this, but I feel I should explain a bit more.    

Objectification in this case (or in any case, I guess) is to, as comedian and performance artist Reggie Watts puts it, "reduce a concept to an object" and in doing so give it a set of features that one perceives as being commonplace in relation to that object. For example, feet (which are actually objects) have certain features that are commonplace for feet. Foot fetishists like feet, they know what feet are all about, they may perceive some feet to be more preferable than others, but generally speaking they know what to expect, as most people have five toes on each foot, heels, soles, etc.

This is all fine and dandy for something as simple as feet but it starts getting problematic when a concept as complicated as a person gets reduced in a similar way--in this case a woman of East Asian ethnicity. To elaborate, if we are to accept these definitions, then to have an "Asian fetish" would mean that one would need to first have a number of preconceived notions of what constitutes an Asian woman as an "object." These notions would naturally include ideas of appearance and possibly dress, which I see no major problems with--most people wear clothes, most people have four limbs, a head, and a torso, fair enough (unless your ideas go beyond these basic necessities). However, where it gets problematic is when these notions include things like behavior, mannerisms, personality, habits, and culture. And here is where I believe most people have a problem with the idea of an Asian fetish.

(Check out Part 2!) 

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