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Do I Have the “Yellow Fever” Fetish?

The author of this article does not want to be named. This is his response to my article “On Being a Dark-Skinned Filipina Traveling around the Philippines.”


Far from being an issue specific to the Philippines, this is a problem everywhere, mostly in places that money is an issue, I think.  When I say “you” below, I don’t mean YOU, the blogger.  Just the general you, as in everyone.

I live in New York City , and it’s basically a way of life here that we all complain and think about.  People date based on wealth, apartment location, career advancement…basically any cynical reason you could think of.  Far from condemning it, I feel like most people here actually believe that this makes perfect sense and are open and unapologetic about it.  Proud, even.  It’s almost like capitalist dating.  Why wouldn’t you date someone with money, or a better apartment, or connections?  You can see it on any TV show set here; a group of girls sit over cocktails and talk about the guys they’re seeing, and blithely throw around his apartment, his salary/job, etc.  I’ve lived all over the U.S., and while of course there were things like this, I never felt it was really an issue.  It was more under the surface, and since all of the other cities were pretty affordable and easy to live in, nobody felt overwhelmingly focused on money/power/material circumstances.  If you had a decent job, you could live where you wanted, get a house, etc.

We are not invincible a travelogue

We are not invincible.

When I first moved here I was commiserating with a gay friend of mine about how hard it was here dating as a freelancer – you aren’t perceived as having wealth or career stability –  and he said the same issues applied in the gay community.  It was all about money and status at the end of the day.  Another gay friend, a Chinese-American guy, has complained on numerous occasions about anti-asian sentiment in the gay community, and guys who would refuse to date Asian guys.  This, of course, gave me a laugh, because the flip side is white guys like me who get the “Yellow Fever” accusation (and it is always couched as a pejorative, that somehow a genuine attraction to a certain look is creepy or unhealthy) because we tend to like the Asian look.

The other accusation is guys with yellow fever love “submissive” Asian girls who will “do anything.”  I always have to ask what the heck is it that people think a guy wants from a girl that he needs one who will “do anything”?  What kind of debauched, gymnastic maneuver are they imagining that someone needs that this supposed meek little girl will engage in?

And at a certain point I came around to thinking, Christ, can a person not just be attracted to another person on a visceral level without subjecting every aspect of it to scrutiny and moral/ethical implications, and cultural and power analysis?  I almost don’t think it is.  When I see a girl I like and she happens to be Asian, I have to have this series of arguments in my head about what my motivations are, how offensive am I being, what will people think, etc.  And honestly, all I’m thinking is, “Wow, I like her.”  Really it isn’t even that verbal, you just get that visual tug of seeing something that stuns you and demands your attention.  I see someone, I feel almost a punch in the gut, and I’m attracted.  I don’t analyze her race, her money, my patriarchal whatever.  But I know that she might be thinking it, as might others.  Thankfully, only a couple of girls ever brought those things up, and in both cases there were other issues with personality that lead me to believe that the real issue was this person’s general hostility, which had nothing to do with being Asian, and everything to do with being an ass.
As for the light vs. dark issue, that one has always had me baffled.  Again, it’s not particular to the Philippines – I have many Korean friends and they’ve all discussed the preference for alabaster skin and the rampant plastic surgery to westernize their features.  This has been confusing for me, as I always have loved girls with bronze or brown skin, regardless of ethnicity.  It’s just an incredibly sexy look, especially when they look a little athletic or tough – martial artists, for example.
 Why I Felt Embarrassed Being Called a Travel Blogger
I had a date with one girl who accused me of just liking an “exotic” look, and that this was marginalizing and emphasized the person’s “otherness”, and I was at a loss for how to even respond to that.  In this case she was born and raised in the States, had a wealthy family, had a great full-time job where I was temping, the better apartment . . . in other words, she had the power, money, connections, etc.  I was the one scraping by and on the outside, and she lived life in a safe bubble.  Again, this girl had many other issues and hurled many barbs that evening, so I take it with a grain of salt.
The other accusation is guys with yellow fever love “submissive” Asian girls who will “do anything.”  I always have to ask what the heck is it that people think a guy wants from a girl that he needs one who will “do anything”?  What kind of debauched, gymnastic maneuver are they imagining that someone needs that this supposed meek little girl will engage in?
And I have known and/or dated girls from Korea, Japan, China, and Laos, and the one word I would use to describe NONE of them is submissive.  They would kick your ass and think nothing of it, and I absolutely loved that.  They took no shit.  There are plenty of meek girls in the world, and I’m sure there are meek Asian girls, but again, when you try to pigeon-hole an entire culture—even if you are doing so in order to skewer white men and their desires—you are doing that culture and those women a huge disservice by perpetuating the very stereotypes you dislike.

And at a certain point I came around to thinking, Christ, can a person not just be attracted to another person on a visceral level without subjecting every aspect of it to scrutiny and moral/ethical implications, and cultural and power analysis? 

When placed under a microscope, you can make anything seem sinister – if you like girls that look white, blond, “Western” then you’re racist or biased in favor of your own kind, but if you like girls that look “exotic” then you’re condescending and a fetishist who doesn’t see them as an individual.  Where does it end?  There is no satisfactory response.
And I think that what gets lost is again, attraction is attraction, and for me I see something that draws me in, and that’s a starting point.  Then you sit down for a conversation and see what happens.  If every other word out of my mouth is Asian this, and exotic that, sure, I’m a creep.
But if I clearly just think someone looks/is sexy, just because, and then I want to know them as a person and see what makes them tick. How is that in any way corrupt?  It’s a genuine, honest human impulse and if not for that the species would die off.
If you’re just generally annoyed and angry because yes, most people are pushy and intrusive and make stupid comments or implications about you and the people you date and what’s really going on, then yes, I’m 100% in agreement there.  People can suck that way.
Why I Felt Being Called a Travel Blogger
But some people take these things too far and get out their scalpel to dissect every person that’s attracted to them, and it kills the whole thing.  Who knows why we’re drawn to this or that person.  I can take any girl’s wholesome interest in a guy and put a negative spin on it.  That isn’t hard to do.  The reality is that there are a whole host of reasons we like someone – sure, some of which may not be completely altruistic – and at a certain point you just have to go with it.
I would also say that what a general culture supposedly prefers in female beauty – for example here, super skinny, white, and blond – often in no way resembles what people actually want.  Just last night the topic of ballet dancers and fashion models came up in discussion, and someone made the point that the fashion industry is comprised mostly of women and gay men, neither of which can represent what men actually find beautiful about women’s bodies/looks.  I love dark Asian girls who look strong and tough, and I make no apologies for that.  When I see rail-thin models and pale K-Pop singers and all of these supposedly “ideal” women, it just leaves me cold.
For whatever reason, it’s what all of us are stuck with, and it messes with everyone’s heads.

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The Foreign Eye

The Foreign Eye is the point of view of the foreigners who find themselves traveling in the Philippines or Southeast Asia or anywhere in the world longer than planned, longer than necessary. We encourage foreign travelers from different walks of life and of different skin color to share their story with us. Make our life easier: email us at backpackingwithabook@gmail.com with the subject The Foreign Eye

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