Asian fetish refers to objectifying 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."[1] The objectification, typically by white men, is usually sexual in nature.[1][2]

Asian fetish, used in a more benign context, has been used to indicate "a harmless preference for specific physical characteristics, such as narrow eyes and flatter noses, as harmless as some people's preference for dating, say, fatter partners." [3] Asian fetish has also been cited as causes of sex crimes against Asian women in the United States.[4]

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.[5] 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.[6] Babysan, a cartoon character sketched as an exotic, curvaceous, slanted eyed woman, was published in the East Asian edition of the Navy Times.[7]

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.[8] Darrell Hamamoto, a professor at University of California Davis, have stated that the stereotypes are a result of colonialism of Asian countries and increased interaction between different races in the United States after immigration laws have been relaxed since the 1960s.[9] Hamamoto said American soldiers' contact with Vietnamese prostitutes during the Vietnam War have further contributed to reinforcing the images of Asian women.[9]

Phoebe Eng wrote in her book Warrior Lessons,[10]

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 an article published 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. Some non-Asian women referred to Asian fetish as a result of "inability of men to have intimate relationships with women they see as equals." [2] Practices of marrying mail-order brides from Asian countries is also sustained by sexual stereotypes of Asian women.[6]

Media studies

In 2002, Jennifer Lynn Gossett and Sarah Byrne conducted a content-analysis study of 31 pornographic Web sites that advertised scenes depicting the rape or torture of women, and found that nearly half of the sites used depictions of Asian women as the rape victim.[11]

Association with sex crimes against Asian women

See also: Sex crimes against Asian women in the United States

While many consider an Asian fetish as a benign phenomenon that does not need to be taken seriously, some Asian American authors and activists claim that the proclivity has dangerous implications.[4] There are critics of the negative connotations of Asian fetish that claim that Asian fetish is a harmless behavior or preference. Although some Asian women view it as harmful.[12]

In an article in AsianWeek, author Lisa Wong writes,[13]

Asian American women across the country are outraged and disgusted by the arrest of a Princeton student two weeks ago for harassing fellow Asian women students. Many believe the incident is symptomatic of larger problems, including stereotypes and the exotification of Asian women.

Sex tourism

Prostitution in Thailand and prostitution in the Philippines is largely supported by men with Asian fetish.[14] Trafficking in human beings is needed to support these industries.

Phoebe Eng believes that the sex tourism industry has a significant impact on the perception of Asian females in the United States and that Asian American females should be aware of this. She finds that some Asian females ignore such notions as they believe the lives of prostitutes overseas have no bearing on their lives. Eng wrote,[10]

a legacy of prostitution that began in the servicing of American and European soldiers has since flourished into a sex industry that has grown into a major source of foreign exchange that rivals the gross national product of many developing nations.

Mail-order bride

Phoebe Eng acknowledges that Asian fetish is what largely driving the mail-order bride industry in America. She wrote the following,[10]

it is estimated that two or three thousand men each year find wives through mail-order catalogs.

Shannon Stockdale, co-chair of NAPAWF’s (National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum) Yale chapter InSight, said,[4]

It’s like a benign thing and there’s no stigma. People are very open about it. It remarks on society’s acceptance of it. It goes so deep. We have to end the militarization of the sex industry, the proliferation of porn, and the marketing of Asian women as mail order brides and the Internet catalog industry. We have huge work to do.


Bloodhound Gang, an American alternative band, wrote and performed a song entitled "Yellow Fever", which caused controversy within the Asian-American community.[15]

OC Weekly caused a controversy after publishing an article, "Yellow Fever - They got it bad, and that ain't good." [16] This article was also published in "The Village Voice".[16]

Sandra Fey defines what she calls the "Asian Female Fetish Syndrome" and indicate that it can be avoided by Asian females by dating Asian men.[17]

In 2006, Rumpus Magazine published an article entitled "Me Love You Long Time" which was panned for emasculating Asian men while portraying Asian women as promiscuous. After protests from Asian American Students Alliance at Yale University, Rumpus co-Editor in Chief Sam Heller responded, "We weren't necessarily [politically correct] about it, but I think that you have to have a sense of humor. You shouldn't take it so seriously. We're not trying to tear down the Asian community here." [18]

University of Virginia students were criticized for their Facebook group "Americans for the Increased Importation of Asian Women." Initially stating that the group was intended to be a joke, the creators renamed the group to "Americans Who Value Females of Asian Descent" after pressure from the university.[19]

Salon Magazine published an essay, "Identity crisis", by an adopted Korean girl. She describes being very much aware that her mother has an Asian fetish and that this was part of the reason why she was adopted.[20]

Raymond Fisman, along with others, conducted a study, "Racial Preferences in Dating," which was published in the Review of Economic Studies. Raymond also published a controversial article on Salon that used the results of this study to conclude that that there was no evidence that supports the stereotype the white males' preference for East Asian women.[21][22] A blogger at Hyphen found the study to be flawed.[23] Journalist Moe Tkacik also expressed skepticism to the findings of the study.[24]

Opinion that Asian fetish is not all bad

In order to provide a counterpoint to the overwhelming negative impact that Asian fetish has on the lives of Asian American females, Phoebe Eng wrote the following,[10]

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.

Asian American writers such as Erika Kim and Tracy Quan, a former prostitute who advocates sex workers' rights, have written that the term is used to condemn interracial relationships between white men and Asian women.[25][26] 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." [26] The controversy surrounding the term has been criticized as a notion that preference for a minority and portrayal of a minority as an attractive group is abnormal.[27]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Prasso, Sheridan (2005). "'Race-ism,' Fetish, and Fever", The Asian Mystique. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books, 132–164, 141. ISBN 9781586483944. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Walsh, Joan. San Francisco Examiner. Asian Women, Caucasian Men (2002-04-22)
  3. Deconstructing 'Asian fetish' - the appeal of physical appearance and/or cultural traits
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Wong Macabasco, Lisa. "Princeton Incident Shows Extreme Case of Asian Fetish", Asian Week, Apr 29, 2005, pp. 115–142. 
  5. 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.
  6. 6.0 6.1 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. 
  7. Hume, Bill (1953). Babysan: A private look at the Japanese occupation. Tokyo: Kasuga Bokkei. ISBN 0804800499. 
  8. Hwang, David Henry (1988). "Afterward", M. Butterfly. New York: Plume Books, 98. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 Sung, Helen E. Dating Outside the Color Lines. Audrey magazine. Retrieved on 2007-12-29.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Eng, Phoebe (2000). "She Takes Back Desire", Warrior Lessons : An Asian American Woman's Journey into Power. New York: Atria, 115–142. ISBN 0671009575. 
  11. Gossett, Jennifer Lynn; Byrne, Sarah (October 2002). ""Click Here": A Content Analysis of Internet Rape Sites". Gender & Society 16 (5): 689–709. doi:10.1177/089124302236992. Retrieved on 2007-12-29. 
  12. Kim, Sallie and Stockdale, Shannon. "For Asian Women, 'Fetish' is Less Than Benign", The Yale Daily News, April 14, 2005. 
  13. Princeton Incident Shows Extreme Case of Asian Fetish
  14. Prasso, Sheridan (2005). "'Race-ism,' Fetish, and Fever", The Asian Mystique. Cambridge, Massacusetts: Perseus Books, 262–295, 307–317. ISBN 9781586483944. 
  15. Lee, Tom. AsianWeek "Bloodhound Gang Draws fans and Protesters to Fillmore" June 1, 2000
  16. 16.0 16.1 Chang, Vickie. "Yellow Fever - They got it bad, and that ain't goodOC Weekly (2007-11-02). Retrieved on 2007-11-02.
  17. Fey, Sandra. "Asian Female Fetish Syndrome Asiance Magazine (2007-09-04).
  18. Macbeth, Cullen. "AASA accuses publications of racismYale Daily News (2006-04-17).
  19. Rao, Mythili. "Facing Up to Facebook Racism (2005-05-24).
  20. Sherer, Theresa Pinto. "Identity crisisSlate magazine (2001-11-29). Retrieved on 2001-11-29.
  21. Fisman, Raymond. "An Economist Goes to a BarSlate magazine (2007-11-07). Retrieved on 2007-11-09.
  22. Fisman, Raymond; Iyengar, Sheena S.; Kamenica, Emir; Simonson, Itamar. "Racial Preferences in Dating". 2007-05-11. Retrieved on 2007-11-09
  23. neela. "Asian Fetish Myth: Not Debunked". 2007-11-08. Retrieved on 2007-12-26
  24. Tkacik, Moe. "Are "Asian Fetishes" A Myth? We're Gonna Have To Go With "No" (2007-11-08). Retrieved on 2007-12-26
  25. Nam, Vicky (2001). YELL-oh Girls!. Harper Paperbacks, 207. 
  26. 26.0 26.1 Quan, Tracy (December 2003). Asian fetish?. Retrieved on 2007-05-23.
  27. Chan, Elizabeth. Fetish or Forever?. Audrey magazine. Retrieved on 2007-12-26.

See also

External links

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