How America tells me and other Asian American men we’re not attractive


I used to be born in a small port the town in Japan and moved to Eugene, Oregon, when I used to be 5 years previous, the place I lived till I graduated faculty. I’m half-Asian — my mother is Eastern, and my dad is white — however that used to be sufficient to be most commonly handled as Asian rising up in a the town that’s round 83% white and only around 4.5% Asian

In center and highschool, acquaintances regularly referred to me and my dual brother as “the Asians” as a substitute of via our names. Pals casually known as us racial slurs. I brushed a lot of these feedback off as well-intentioned, if faulty, jokes. 

However out of all the racist feedback, those that stung probably the most had been those who attacked my fragile sense of adolescent masculinity: “Asian guys aren’t scorching.” “They’re awkward and dangerous with women.” 

On the identical time, within the TV displays and films I used to be gazing — stuff like “South Park” and “The Hangover” sequence — Asian males had been regularly the butt of jokes and not critical love pursuits. As a directly, cis youngster, it made me suppose I’d by no means get a female friend. 

From a tender age, it used to be transparent to me: The usa doesn’t to find Asian males horny. 

This perception used to be bolstered over and over again as I were given older and girls, even those that had been interested in me, instructed me they aren’t in most cases interested in Asian males, and as white folks round me made jokes about how Asian males are sexually unwanted as a result of they’re overly educational, unathletic and insecure. 


Lately, there’s been more representation and richer roles for males of Asian descent in mainstream American TV displays and films, equivalent to 2020’s “Minari,” for which Steven Yeun turned into the first Asian American to earn a best actor Oscar nomination; “Searching” with John Cho; “The Green Knight” starring Dev Patel; and Wonder’s upcoming “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” starring Simu Liu. There’s been an explosion in popularity for K-pop bands like BTS. Even so, or even because the country undergoes a racial reckoning, issues don’t appear to have modified all that a lot for Asian males who’re courting. And previous stereotypes about Asian males persist.

Grace Kao, a sociology professor at Yale College, has been monitoring how Asian American males fare within the courting pool for years. Her analysis gives a take a look at how a lot discrimination Asian American males face when courting.

A 2015 study Kao co-authored discovered that simplest 65% of Asian males ages 25 to 32 had been in romantic relationships, in comparison to over three-quarters of Black, Hispanic and white males. The information additionally confirmed that Asian ladies had been half of as more likely to be unpartnered, when compared with Asian males. She additionally discovered, in a 2018 paper she co-authored, that homosexual Asian males in The usa face the similar discrimination of their love lives. 

Kao says the statistics display a transparent hierarchy in accordance with race that leaves Asian males at the backside rung. If everyone had random personal tastes, issues would even out and there’d be no sturdy bias for or towards males of any race. “If that’s no longer racism, I don’t know what’s.”

Roots of discrimination

Kao says the roots of this discrimination come from stereotypes used to degrade Chinese language male immigrants within the past due 1800s, who had been considered as a “yellow peril” that may take white males’s jobs and endanger American society. Again then, Chinese language folks had been portrayed in unsightly caricatures with dollar enamel and slanted eyes. All through Global Struggle II, the similar caricatures had been utilized by cartoonists as a way to drum up enthusiasm for a warfare towards Japan.


All through the yellow peril technology, the perception that Asian males had been female or asexual additionally took root, says Connie So, an American ethnic research instructing professor on the College of Washington. So says the stereotype began as a result of, in conjunction with development railroads, lots of the first male Chinese language immigrants to the U.S. labored jobs related to ladies, like laundry and housecleaning. Later waves of male Asian immigrants from Japan and the Philippines additionally labored these kind of jobs, and the stereotype grew into probably the most most powerful prevailing concepts about Asian males in The usa, So says.

In lots of well-liked American motion pictures and TV displays, Asian males had been portrayed as vulnerable or unattractive caricatures that might by no means be the intense love passion of a white girl. Mickey Rooney’s yellowface portrayal of the nature I.Y. Yunioshi within the 1961 movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” is a particularly evident instance, entire with dollar enamel and squinted eyelids. For a extra fresh instance, I see Leslie Chow, a gangster persona performed via Ken Jeong within the 2009-13 movie sequence “The Hangover” who makes use of an over-the-top Chinese language accessory to yell and swear, as a continuation of Asian male characters used as comedic foils to white leads.

Sure, there used to be Bruce Lee, who performed sturdy, fierce characters, however he used to be the exception to the guideline, highlighting simply how few Asian male characters had been in motion pictures and TV displays in any respect, and the way the ones few roles had been most commonly for vulnerable or comical characters. And So issues out that Lee used to be hardly ever noticed in romantic or sexual eventualities.  

Bruce Lee in the documentary “I Am Bruce Lee.” (Bruce Lee Enterprises, LLC)

On account of those stereotypes perpetuated via the media, lots of her Asian American male scholars have deficient vainness, So says. “I don’t know the choice of occasions I’ve needed to communicate to my [Asian] male scholars to inform them, ‘Why do you glance down on your self like that? You shouldn’t do this.’”

Overcoming internalized racism

I didn’t know those statistics and this historical past in center college, however I knew (a minimum of subconsciously) that being Asian used to be one thing that detracted from my beauty. I entered highschool with no need had my first kiss, shy and insecure, looking to subdue my Asianness up to I may just. 

A technique I did that used to be via simplest attempting thus far white women. Even though I didn’t understand it on the time, all the racist feedback, films and TV displays that instructed me white ladies would by no means need me made me desperately need to date white ladies. If I may just date a white lady, I believed, I’d be commonplace and accredited.   


In my freshman yr of highschool, I had my first kiss (with a white lady, in fact). And as I moved up the grades I casually dated white women and sooner or later were given my first critical female friend, who used to be white, close to the start of my senior yr. One of the vital women I flirted with instructed me, “You’re Asian however you’re scorching.” Or, “Asian guys aren’t scorching however you’re simplest half-Asian.” 

I had combined emotions about that. Being instructed I used to be scorching used to be a huge reduction after years of pondering I used to be unattractive. I began to imagine that in spite of my Asianness, or possibly as a result of I used to be simplest half-Asian, there have been white women available in the market who discovered me horny. However on the identical time, it nonetheless felt like being Asian used to be one thing I needed to combat and triumph over to get women to love me. It nonetheless supposed that I’d had been thought to be higher if I used to be white.

It wasn’t till years later that I started to comprehend that my short of thus far white women used to be tied to a necessity for validation. Having grown up with such a lot of films and TV displays that introduced white ladies as the head of attractiveness, of white society because the norm and the highest of the racial hierarchy, I believed that courting white women would imply that I used to be a hit, that I had made it to the highest of the hierarchy, too. 

Maximum Learn Existence Tales

Once I began taking categories on the College of Oregon, I majored in Eastern. After such a lot of years ignoring and even actively suppressing my Asian id, I felt to blame and sought after to reconnect with my Eastern roots and communicate to my Eastern prolonged members of the family, none of whom discuss English. Even though UO is in Eugene, it has a slightly higher Asian population (6.4%) than the remainder of town, and lots of the scholars within the Eastern main are Eastern American or Chinese language global scholars. In that atmosphere, I felt much less extraordinary for being Asian.

The summer season after my freshman yr, I studied Eastern at a school in Tokyo and were given to grasp my kin higher. I didn’t really feel absolutely accredited in Japan, being ethnically half-Eastern with American mannerisms, however I began feeling extra happy with my Eastern background. 

Then, in the summertime after my sophomore yr, I interned at a newspaper within the East Bay Space, probably the most numerous position I’d ever lived. My first evening there, I went out to a bar in downtown Berkeley, and whilst spilling my gin and tonic as I used to be jostled via the group, I felt a profound sense of reduction: It used to be the primary time I felt like I didn’t stand out on account of my race. It made me understand the ache I’d skilled for no longer feeling like I belonged in Eugene. That’s once I began actively inspecting my racial revel in and attempting to triumph over my emotions that I used to be lesser for being an Asian guy.

I got here to comprehend how the racism I confronted as a child formed my vainness, and the way my trust that Asian males weren’t horny used to be harming me. My internalized white supremacy used to be degrading an immutable a part of who I’m.

Since then, I’ve been telling myself, “I’m Asian, and I’m scorching.” Now, at age 23, I imagine it. And I don’t simplest check out thus far white ladies anymore. 

Are issues converting for Asian American males?

Asian male illustration within the media has come far from when I used to be a child. Folks cite films like “Crazy Rich Asians” and the Ok-pop explosion as indicators that issues are converting for males of Asian descent. 

Henry Golding and Constance Wu in “Crazy Rich Asians.” (Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

However has that modified issues for normal Asian American males who’re courting? 

Now not in point of fact — a minimum of it sort of feels that means anecdotally from the reviews of Asian males within the Seattle space who I talked to.

Actually, even though Eugene is a whiter town than Seattle, which is round 15% Asian and 67% white, Asian males my age who’ve lived in Seattle a ways longer than me inform me they’ve felt a equivalent bias towards them when courting, and felt one of the vital identical issues I did. 


Clovis Wong, a 24-year-old fundamental college trainer who’s lived within the Seattle space his entire lifestyles, says that after he used to be in center college in Bellevue he believed, “If I date a white girl, I’ll turn out to be an actual American.” Wong says since then, he learned his id doesn’t hinge on who he’s in a courting with.

Wong, whose ethnic background is Chinese language, says he’s struggled with courting on account of his race. He’s had Tinder, the preferred on-line courting app, since 2017 and has simplest gotten two dates. Wong says it’s not possible to pin down precisely why he will get rejected, nevertheless it’s painful to surprise each time if it used to be as a result of he used to be Asian.

“Realizing that there’s this sort of basic bias towards me … I believe I’m simply afraid to means any individual now,” Wong says. He says courting is tricky sufficient with no need racial anxieties within the combine, even though he says he doesn’t fear as a lot when he approaches Asian ladies.

And even though there are unquestionably extra Asian males portrayed in American media now, Asian American males are a various crew with quite a lot of bodily appearances, and plenty of I talked to mention they don’t see themselves in actor Henry Golding from “Crazy Rich Asians” or the contributors of K-pop group BTS

Seven-member South Korean K-pop boy band BTS performs at The Rose Bowl on May 4, 2019, in Pasadena, California. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times / TNS)

Chris Masangcay, 22, a Filipino American who’s within the army within the Seattle space, says many of the Asian males American citizens drool over have gentle pores and skin and glance not anything like him. And, he says, with so few Asian male celebrities in The usa, Asian males are held to the next usual than white males (lots of whom are well-known in Hollywood, even though they don’t have chiseled physiques and jaw strains).

Kevin Nguyen, 32, who’s Vietnamese American however most often perceived as Indian (he not too long ago came upon considered one of his organic grandparents is Indian), says South, Southeast and East Asian males all face discrimination in courting, even though he has noticed extra illustration of East Asian males in U.S. media not too long ago. Nguyen says he’d hardly ever get any suits when he used courting apps, and even though it’s onerous to inform if it’s as a result of he’s Asian, “mediocre-looking white guys get suits at all times.”

Kevin Nguyen says South, Southeast and East Asian men all face discrimination in dating, though he has seen more representation of East Asian men in U.S. media recently. (Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times)

Some Asian American males even suppose the Ok-pop phenomenon, which is regularly heralded as a boon for Asian male illustration, is inflicting a fetishization of positive forms of Asian males that complicates their love lives. Wong says he not too long ago matched with a woman on Tinder who wrote in her bio that she used to be “on the lookout for her Ok-pop boyfriend.” He says her bio made him really feel uncomfortable, and he didn’t catch up with her, since he needs to be noticed for who he’s, no longer as an embodiment of a stereotype.

Perhaps it’s too early for contemporary notable traits for Asian American citizens — the higher visibility in Hollywood, the country’s racial reckoning, the “Forestall Asian Hate” motion began in accordance with an increase in hate crimes against Asians in 2020 — to have a measurable impact on how Asian American males are handled within the U.S. 

However I’m hopeful issues are converting. I’ve had numerous conversations during the last yr with younger Asian American males who’ve consciously attempted to really feel and specific delight for his or her cultures within the face of prejudice pushed via racist concepts about the reason for the coronavirus. And even though the upward push in hate crimes towards Asians used to be painful to peer, it helped create a in style acknowledgment of the discrimination Asians, together with Asian males, nonetheless face in The usa. I believe this acknowledgment is a great first step towards combating this racism. 

If folks recognize that discrimination towards Asian males exists within the courting pool, they may query the explanations for their very own sexual personal tastes and sooner or later triumph over the racism that warps their alternatives in romantic companions. 

And if issues in Hollywood stay progressing the best way they’ve been, possibly there will probably be a long run the place Asian males who aren’t as stunning as Ok-pop idols or as muscular as Henry Golding can get main roles, and the average-looking Asian guy may have as just right of a shot as anyone at scoring a date.