Asian fetishism is a derogatory term originating in the United States sometime in the late Twentieth century. The use of the term has been criticized for stigmatizing non-Asian males, perpetuating the stereotypes of Asian females. The term is usually, but not exclusively, directed against Caucasian males who date, or have married, women of Asian descent.[1]

In the late 1990s and early 2000s a few authors have tried to legitimize the term as a genuine psychological phenomenon by defining it as "the sexual objectification of people of Asian descent, typically females, who are objectified and valued not for who they are as people, but for their race or perceptions of their culture."[2][3]

However the condition does not appear in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, of the American Psychiatric Association and is thus not a recognized fetish or psychological condition.

Stereotyping of Asian personality traits

During the periods of yellow peril in the United States during the late 1800s, the image of Chinese women emerged as sexually corrupt, immoral, and threatening to the white population.[4] During World War II when American soldiers directly interacted with East Asian and Southeast Asian women, the women were portrayed as obedient, passive, and exotic.[5] Babysan, a cartoon character sketched as an exotic, curvaceous, slanted eyed woman, was published in the East Asian edition of the Navy Times during wartime.[6]

In the afterword to the 1988 play M. Butterfly, the writer, David Henry Hwang, using the term "yellow fever," a pun on the disease of the same name, discusses white men with a "fetish" for Asian women. Hwang argues that this phenomenon is caused by stereotyping of Asians in Western society.[7] Darrell Hamamoto, a professor at University of California Davis, has stated that the stereotypes are a result of Western imperialist influence in Asian countries and increased interaction between different races in the United States after immigration laws were relaxed in the 1960s.[8] Hamamoto said American soldiers' contact with Vietnamese prostitutes during the Vietnam War have further contributed to reinforcing these images of Asian women.[8]

Phoebe Eng wrote in her book Warrior Lessons, .[9]

While hypersexualized, commodifying images exist for all women, and especially women of color, the image of the Asian woman combines with this the notion of ultrapassivity. Sexuality for an Asian woman is so tightly wound up in issues of power and global economic order that it is virtually impossible to address the spector of an Asian woman's sexuality without examining the subtle roles of governments and enterprise in perpetuating this situation, especially in developing countries.

In her article in San Francisco Examiner, "Asian Women, Caucasian Men", Joan Walsh wrote that some non-Asian men pursued Asian females for "their appearance - and stereotypes about how they treat men." The article referred to a "feminist backlash" that drove Caucasian men away from Caucasian women. She referred to Asian fetish as partially as a result of "inability of men to have intimate relationships with women they see as equals." [10] Practices of marrying mail-order brides from Asian countries is also sustained by sexual stereotypes of Asian women.[5]

The term used for a man, usually white, who exclusively dates Asian males is "rice queen."[10][11][12] In a similar manner as Asian females, gay Asian males are stereotyped as submissive.[11]

Studies related to Asian fetishism

Raymond Fisman authored an article published in Salon which claimed that the existence of Asian fetish is a myth. Raymond based his conclusions on the results of a study, "Racial Preferences in Dating," that he helped to conduct.[13] The study, based upon speed dating experiments among Columbia University graduate students, found no general statistically-significant racial preference among males.[14]

Dissenting views

Phoebe Eng wrote:[9]

Not all of us, for instance, agree that the current trend of "Asian fetish" is bad. In fact, for some of us, the new visibility of Asian women, even though stereotyped, can actually be liberating.

Erika Kim and Tracy Quan believe that the concept of "Asian fetish" is used to condemn interracial relationships between white men and Asian women.[15][16] Quan has written that terms such as "yellow fever" or "Asian fetish" are meaningless as she feels that personal attraction is a complex result of many factors "some of which are too mysterious for words." [16] The characterization of the term as "racist" has been criticized because it implies that a noted preference for a member of a minority group and the portrayals of minorities as attractive is abnormal.[17]


  1. Walsh, Joan. San Francisco Examiner. Asian Women, Caucasian Men (2002-04-22)
  2. Prasso, Sheridan (2005). "'Race-ism,' Fetish, and Fever", The Asian Mystique. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books, 132–164, 141. ISBN 9781586483944. 
  3. Song, Young In (1998). Korean American Women: From Tradition to Modern Feminism. Greenwood Publishing Group, 134. ISBN 9780275959777. 
  4. Okamura, Raymond. 1976. Iva Ikuko Toguri: Victim of an American fantasy. In EmmaGee (Ed.), Counterpoint: Perspectives on Asian America (p. 86-96). Los Angeles: Asian American Studies Center, University of California.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Uchida, Aki (March - April 1998). "The Orientalization of Asian women in America". Women’s Studies International Forum 21 (2): 161–174. doi:10.1016/S0277-5395(98)00004-1. Retrieved on 2007-12-29. 
  6. Hume, Bill (1953). Babysan: A private look at the Japanese occupation. Tokyo: Kasuga Bokkei. ISBN 0804800499. 
  7. Hwang, David Henry (1988). "Afterward", M. Butterfly. New York: Plume Books, 98. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 Sung, Helen E. Dating Outside the Color Lines. Audrey magazine. Retrieved on 2007-12-29.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Eng, Phoebe (2000). "She Takes Back Desire", Warrior Lessons : An Asian American Woman's Journey into Power. New York: Atria, 115–142. ISBN 0671009575. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 Walsh, Joan. San Francisco Examiner. Asian Women, Caucasian Men (2002-04-22)
  11. 11.0 11.1 Bohling, James. Embracing Diversity?
  12. Ayres T (1999). China doll - the experience of being a gay Chinese Australian. Journal of Homosexuality, 36(3-4): 87-97
  13. Fisman, Raymond. "The Myth of the Asian Fetish: An Economist Goes to a BarSlate magazine (2007-11-07). Retrieved on 2007-11-09.
  14. Fisman, Raymond; Iyengar, Sheena S.; Kamenica, Emir; Simonson, Itamar. "Racial Preferences in Dating". 2007-05-11. Retrieved on 2007-11-09
  15. Nam, Vicky (2001). YELL-oh Girls!. Harper Paperbacks, 207. ISBN 0060959444. 
  16. 16.0 16.1 Quan, Tracy (December 2003). Asian fetish?. Retrieved on 2007-05-23.
  17. Chan, Elizabeth. Fetish or Forever?. Audrey magazine. Retrieved on 2007-12-26.

See also

  • Asian American contemporary issues
  • Racist love
  • Yellow cab (stereotype)
  • Amejo

External links

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Human sexual behavior > Paraphilias > Sexual fetishism
Fetishized subjects
and categories
Fetish society