Seeking Asian Female

This is the name of a new documentary by Debbie Lum who wanted to examine the phenomenon of “yellow fever”, the extreme attraction some American men have for Asian women that sometimes borders on fetishism. While starting out with every intention of being just a dispassionate observer of one man’s search for an Asian bride, she ended up as an awkward participant.

An article on the documentary says:

The topic, standing as it does at the charged intersection between sex and race, is a hotbed of controversy among some Asian Americans–just raising it in conversation is often enough to generate uproar and cause tempers to flare. So Lum’s decision to make it the focus of her feature documentary debut had its risks. As she began contacting and interviewing men who’d posted “seeking Asian female” personal ads on Craigslist, she knew was already dancing along a metaphorical third rail.

It was then that she encountered Steven, a 60-year-old, twice-divorced white male with an uncanny resemblance to Aussie actor Geoffrey Rush and a case of yellow fever bordering on the terminal.

Steven was, Lum says, her worst nightmare — the kind of guy she’d spent most of her life trying to avoid. But he was also an irresistible character, and, she thought, a perfect subject to illustrate the deeply dubious nature of the “yellow fever” phenomenon. “He seems to have a broken filter,” she says — freely giving Lum unabashed access to thoughts that others might discreetly choose to keep in the vault.

Here’s the trailer.


  1. 5upMushroom says

    My father married a Chinese woman a few years back. She didn’t speak much English then, and he didn’t speak a lick of Chinese. Unlike the lady and fellow in the clip, I believe they both married each other out of love, but even still, I couldn’t help but see much of their relationship in that trailer. The same excitement mixed with frustration while both tried to not only figure out each other, but also their partner’s culture, language, heritage, food, and.. everything, really.

  2. mnb0 says

    Heh heh, I catched this yellow fever (the real one is far less fun) already as a teenager. So I did the logical thing: 23 years ago at the age of 25 I emigrated from The Netherlands to Suriname and within 1½ year I married a Surinames-Javanese girl. We remigrated to The Netherlands, were our son was born, remigrated to her birthplace Moengo and divorced 9 years ago. Now I have a LAT-relationship (Dunglish; it means Living Apart Together) with another one.
    When it comes to sexual attraction I’m an unashamed racist. But you know what? I loved my ex passionately (she me too) and have a very stable, satisfying relationship with my “girlfriend” (she is 55, so older than me). Call me dubious, we don’t care as we just are happy; this evening we spend another few highly enjoyable hours.
    No guilt and regret for me in this department.

  3. mnb0 says

    I recongnize this from my own experience. My girlfriend for several years called me “different”. Then you must know she speaks excellent Dutch, even if its only her third language.

  4. mnb0 says

    To make things even more interesting, my girlfriend is a muslim and for several years has been member of the female board of the local mosque. I would love her to take Arabic lessons, but she doesn’t feel like (yet?). At Id-ul-Fitr, the end of Ramadan, I usually join her visiting the mosque. Yes, she knows I’m an atheist and so does her family. Three of her younger sisters have converted to christianity.
    Then again, Surinames capital Paramaribo is the only city in the world where a mosque and a synagogue can be neighbours – peacefully.

  5. smrnda says

    I’ve always found it a kind of odd thing and always felt that it was either some weird exoticism fetish and I thought of it as just another expression of western orientalism. Then again, being a woman, I can’t pretend to understand and I don’t think I’d be capable of having the type of conversations with a man on the topic to gain any real understanding.

    I tend to get creeped out by men who express any sort of race-based preference since it just seems to be part of objectification and turning women into fetish objects. (I’m an asexual areligious mostly Jewish girl, so I guess i’m not too compelling in that department, and very grateful.) the worst is that it seems based on incredibly blatant stereotypes about Asian women in general. I feel bad for a few assertive, confident Asian women I know since guys hit on them assuming that their personalities are exactly the opposite of what they really are, and really seem not to even listen when they found out they don’t match the expectation.

    My brother made a comment to me though that made me think a bit. He said that he knew lots of white guys who were into Asian women, along with men of other races, though he noted that he rarely noted a preference for Black women from any males he knew, and he told me he thought it was something about how certain types of women are seen as feminine in some idealized way, and there’s too many negative stereotypes about Black women for it to turn into a widespread cultural fetish.

    All said, I’m glad someone is investigating it. It can’t be a fun topic though, but I hope we all learn something.

  6. Scott says

    At a college at which I used to work, there was an English professor who was married to a woman who was also a professor. She was not Asian. This professor would frequently come into the department in which I worked accompanied by a female Asian student, apparently working on a project of some sort. What was really odd was how this mature, serious college professor turned into a giggling schoolboy when around Asian women. It was really a sight to behold.

  7. James says

    This is very interesting Mano, thanks for posting. I am a white male in my early 40’s and I have never had a “thing” for Asian women. In undergrad I was romantically involved with a brilliant and beautiful young Korean woman, but even after that great friendship faded I didn’t develop a preference for a specific race of women. Also, I don’t get the idea of a stereotypical Asian woman as being humble and submissive. I tend to error on the side of thinking that Asian women are very assertive, bright, energetic and ambitious. Maybe because I work in higher education and healthcare I have an exposure most of white America doesn’t. In addition my wife and I adopted an Asian girl a number of years ago. She is wonderful and to both my joy and chagrin she is anything but humble and submissive! As she grows older though I will now be keeping an eye out for boys coming to the door with symptoms of yellow fever…

  8. left0ver1under says

    There’s no difference between saying “Asian women are hot” and saying “Asians have slanted eyes”. Both are equally offensive statements that objectify people. And why is it people say that when white people (e.g. me) are the ones with slanted eyes?

    I’ve been living in Asia teaching English (don’t laugh) for several years and have seen “yellow fever” first hand. A lot of men come over here thinking they’re going to find an “Asian honey” and end up disappointed…mainly because women in every country and culture can tell a loser when they see one. And the men who deliberately seek out Asian women usually *are* losers.

    In the countries I’ve lived in, there are generally three types of women who date and marry foreigners:

    (1) Women who want a ticket out (similar to “anchor babies” used to get families out of countries). I’ve heard of cases where the wife expects the husband to help the whole family emigrate, and pay for it too.

    (2) Women who seek out abusive relationships, the same way western women do. I don’t mean they want to be abused, I mean they don’t know how to have a healthy relationship because of past abuse. I’ve seen foreign men who don’t treat women as equals (or even human), yet the women put up with it because of the cachet of dating foreigners, or as a means of emigrating. Such men want a “maid in the kitchen, whore in the bedroom” as the saying goes.

    (3) Women who have travelled overseas and are willing to travel and emigrate. Such women tend to be the most open minded and best at building good relationships. They’re experienced enough to know the problems in living overseas, and are more able to deal with the culture differences. When both the foreigner and local have this mindset, the relationship works.

    But it’s not just foreign men who date locally. I’ve seen western women who date and marry in foreign countries for various reasons – usually because like foreign men, the couldn’t land a spouse back home, or because the local man has money. Dating foreign women appeals to local men in other countries, they’re seen as “cool” for doing so, even with women no foreign man would want to date.

    My advice to anyone who thinks about dating and marrying people from foreign countries is this:

    (1) People are people and generally think the same everywhere. If you can’t build a functioning relationship where you live, a mail order bride or quickie marriage isn’t going to work either. The problem is you, fix that first.

    (2) Only date people who have travelled outside their own country. If you try dragging someone out of their country and into yours, they’re likely to get homesick. Unless you can afford at least one trip back to the old country every year and long international calls, it’s a bad idea. And why should the other person have to emigrate instead of you? Try living in their country instead.

    (3) If you marry someone from another culture, expect to live by that culture’s rules, even in your own country. Many people, especially Asians (and especially confucianists), are socially conservative and expect things done their way. If your mother-in-law comes to visit, she’s not a guest – she’s the family elder, and she will likely tell you how to run your own house. It *will* happen, whether you like it or not.

  9. msironen says

    “There’s no difference between saying “Asian women are hot” and saying “Asians have slanted eyes”.”

    That just screams for reductio ad absurdum, but frankly it’s ridiculous enough as it is.

  10. left0ver1under says

    So what are you saying? One form of objectification is okay by you, just not the other?

    Civilized people realize that all objectification is equally wrong.

  11. says

    There’s a rather creepy ad currently running on the ad loop on the popular amateur art site Deviantart. It’s for an Asian dating service, featuring a picture of a young Chinese woman accompanied by “Your Asian Girlfriend Checklist.” The initial point on the list, “Cute and exotic,” is questionable enough. But the final point “Worships men” puts it over the top. It’s not hard to guess what kind of guys it’s intended to appeal to, the kind who have fantasies of submissive Asian women who cater to their every whim. And who probably whine about Western women being agressive and unfeminine. But I wonder about the women who’d sign up for the site. Do they even know they’re being presented like that? I haven’t clicked on the link to see what’s lurking behind the ad.

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