When Asian men are seen as 'undateable'

Date

Beverly Parungao

Walking Dead's Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan).

Walking Dead's Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan).

In the post-apocalyptic TV series, The Walking Dead, Maggie a Southern belle, with an equally Southern drawl, falls in love with Glenn, a Korean-American. It’s a pairing we don’t often see on our television screens. Even Glenn himself, has trouble accepting Maggie’s initial advances. “She doesn’t mean it. I mean, she can’t…” he explains. But when the world turns topsy-turvy, and you’re one of the last men standing, anything is possible, right?

Whether in fiction or in real life, Asian men, unlike their female counterparts, seem to have it tough when it comes to dating people outside of their race.

“Are You Interested”, an American online dating website, recently surveyed over 2.4 million interactions on the site, and found Asian female users were in high demand. They were more likely to get messages from a man of any race unless those men were Asian.

Steven Yeun and Lauren Cohan attend the AMC's 'The Walking Dead' Season 3 Premiere.

Steven Yeun and Lauren Cohan attend the AMC's 'The Walking Dead' Season 3 Premiere.

The not so scientific affliction, “yellow fever”, a rather racist term that typically describes a preference for dating Asian women,  is not a new phenomenon. In multicultural Australia it’s quite common to see Asian women partnered with non-Asian men, but rarely the other way around.

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A report on intermarriage in Australia conducted by Monash University using data from the 2006 Census confirms this trend. Its authors found higher rates of intermarriage for women than men in all of the East Asian and South-east Asian birthplace groups.

While Asian women are increasingly courted, their male counterparts seem to be shunned. In a 2007 study conducted by Columbia University, researchers surveyed more than 400 students during speed dating sessions. They found African-American women and white women said “yes” 65 per cent less often to the prospect of dating Asian men after the speed dating session, in comparison to men of their own race.

Dr Janet Hall, Clinical Psychologist, says these superficial stereotypes are reinforced in popular culture. According to Hall, these representations can impact women’s dating preferences. “Asian men are often depicted as geeky nerds with high intelligence but low charisma.

According to PolicyMic writer Justin Chan, the constant stereotyping of Asian-Americans in the media, conditioned his initial interactions with non-Asian women. It became a source of anxiety. “What if they thought I was a nerd with poor social skills? What if they rejected me?” he wrote.

“Asian-American men approaching non-Asian women often either feel an unnecessary burden to prove themselves against Asian stereotypes or keep to themselves in fear of rejection.

Asian actors continue to be typecast in restrictive stock roles, from nerds, to evil villains, and martial artists. Rarely are Asian male actors cast as leads in films, let alone as leads in romantic comedies. Instead, Hollywood film-makers often have a tendency to cast white, bankable actors in Asian roles. Think 21, Prince of Persia, and the Last Airbender.

Nicolas Cage, recently criticised the lack of Asian actors in lead roles, and welcomed change in the industry. “My son is Asian. He may want to direct one day; he may want to be an actor like his father - and I want that to be open to him,” Cage told Chinese state broadcaster CCTV in October.

The perception of all Asian men as effeminate and passive will continue to be propagated if the roles offered to Asian men are not diversified. It also precludes an understanding of heterogeneity within the Asian race, and discounts the potential positive benefits dating an Asian man can bring to a relationship.

But breaking stereotypes is also about challenging our own cultural perceptions. Senthorun Raj, a researcher at the Sydney Law School says, “Our desires are racialised as they are gendered, as they are subject to other cultural and social values.”

Raj says there’s a tendency to shy away from challenging our sexual preferences, proclivities and desires because it is often seen as an emotional rather than conscious part of our lives. He says, “I think the real kind of important thing for us to do as individuals is to confront racism as an intimate part of our lives. And that’s a really difficult word for people to hear because racism is often thought of as something intellectual, something that operates on a conscious level.”

Then perhaps an Asian man dating a non-Asian woman, won’t only seem more plausible in post-apocalyptic scenarios.

62 comments

  • I think you have to look at culture and history more broadly than just blaming representations in Hollywood movies.

    Commenter
    The Real Mac
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    December 10, 2013, 9:56AM
    • Love shouldnt have boundaries, rules, preconceived or ill conceived beliefs, love can challenge our beliefs, it sure as hell challenged mine! My partner is Indian and I love him more than I ever thought possible, more than I have ever loved anyone.
      He has taught me so much about his culture & his religion and I feel a deeper sense of self for having had the opportunity to have my heart and my head opened.
      We have experienced racism once as a couple, I am surprised it hasn't happend more often for which I am glad but sad that that is the my expectation.
      I know we get looks from time to time, I know older family friends have made disparaging comments and I know some people may think to themselves that I am settling because I am not enough of a catch to find better.....think what you like because what I know is that I have found a man I love so deeply and who loves me the same, I have never been so happy.
      I feel that every mixed race couple, especially those with Asian males and non Asian women, help bring a greater love and respect for being human and not being of a certain colour or race. I hope that people open their minds and hearts to possibility, it is so much more empowering than the alternative.

      Commenter
      No boundaries
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      December 10, 2013, 10:02AM
      • I'm in a mixed-race relationship and the funny thing about it is how much of a non-issue it is. We're just two people who fell in love, get along, and just had that certain indefinable something for each other. At no point did race factor in.

        We get the odd comment. Usually nothing bad, but enough to make a deal out of something that doesn't exist. "So, are there cultural barriers?" "Do you have to eat strange food?" "Did you have to learn a new language?" or a nervous look before just charging on and telling that racist joke anyway.

        More common is the looks you get, mainly in supermarkets, mostly from older white people. The look that just says "Tsk, these young people hooking up with immigrants, what's the world coming to?" or "I wonder if they're mail order?"

        But it doesn't impact us. If we worried about what people in supermarkets thought of us, or what the depictions are on TV, we'd never be happy. And that's the real trick to it, not worrying about others, only each other.

        Commenter
        C
        Date and time
        December 10, 2013, 2:36PM
    • Its just a matter of time. My friends of Asian background who were brought up in Australia with many traditional Australian male friends seem to have no problems meeting and going out with traditional Australian "white" females. This to me suggests its a matter of time before things change and they will change. Being brought up in Australia enhances their knowledge of social interactions. Then they have benefits of both worlds.

      Commenter
      Matter of Time
      Date and time
      December 10, 2013, 10:10AM
      • A middle eastern man is undateable to middle eastern woman... even when you ticks the right boxes sometimes,ha!

        Commenter
        dude.. please
        Date and time
        December 10, 2013, 10:14AM
        • And then there is the issue of height...........where most asian males are shorter then caucasian females..........

          Commenter
          bbjai
          Location
          Sydney
          Date and time
          December 10, 2013, 10:33AM
          • And that's a barrier to a successful, happy marriage because????

            Commenter
            Laura
            Location
            Melbourne
            Date and time
            December 10, 2013, 11:29AM
          • @bbjai,

            No. The new generation of asian men, the one before and mine (X), are catching up due to addressing the proper eating of food.

            I smell jealousy in your wording. And even if you were right, i have seen a lot of taller females dating and marrying shorter men of different ethnicity including asians. They just happen to be in that minority bracket.

            If you think that height is an issue, that would be a juvenile thought as anything being issues come down to self insecurity.

            Commenter
            Not_A_Normal_Man
            Location
            Sydney
            Date and time
            December 10, 2013, 12:07PM
          • Laura it's a factor because most women tend to want to marry up both in a figurative sense and a physcial one. Likewise many men don't want to marry a woman who is taller than them. There's nothing stopping a short guy and a taller woman having a happy successful marriage, but there are prejudices stopping them from getting together in the first place.

            Commenter
            Hurrow
            Date and time
            December 10, 2013, 12:14PM
          • Because Laura, no man likes being with a woman taller than himself. It's a caveman thing.

            Commenter
            ANDY
            Location
            Haberfield Heights
            Date and time
            December 10, 2013, 12:35PM

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