Sunday, October 16, 2011


"I don't find Asian men attractive."

I didn't say it. He did. EJ, the guy from Amsterdam who designs IKEA stores (or something equally cool and IKEA-related) and has been living in Bangkok for 10 years. For some reason, he wanted to know if I am attracted to Asian men (and for the record, I am), and although some things are better left unsaid, he felt the need to tell me that he is not.

My first instinct was to ask him why he would live in a country where he doesn't find the people attractive, but I'd already met his longtime partner, so I figured that hooking up with the locals wasn't a priority.

My second instinct was to ask him what exactly he finds attractive then. If I had lined up every guy in the room and arranged them from the ones I found most attractive down, starting at the bar, his boyfriend might have ended up somewhere near the bathroom. I know that's not a very nice thing to say, but that's just my taste.

Which was exactly EJ's response when I suggested that his attitude has more than a hint of racism in it. Like most men with the no-Asians dating and f**king policy, EJ hid behind the old "That's just my preference" excuse. He actually compared his not having a "preference" for Asians to his preferring men over women. I let that one slide because it was too ridiculous to argue with. I think I prefer when they say it's like digging brunettes over blondes, but both arguments are irrelevant. Hair color and sexuality have nothing to do with racism. There's already a term in use for guys who prefer men over women (and for many, being labeled that word makes you as worthy of contempt as being racist), and if there were one for blond chasers, I'd use it.

But I did consider his words carefully. He hadn't said, "I would never date or sleep with an Asian guy" (though I'm sure he would have had I probed). He'd simply made a blanket statement regarding sexual preference, which is in the same neighborhood but on a different street. EJ seemed like a smart, decent guy, and I gave him extra credit for getting the reference when I mentioned EJ DiMera on Days of Our Lives. I certainly didn't mean to offend him when I called his attitude racist any more than he meant to offend me when he expressed said attitude, but the battle lines were drawn.

He wasn't entirely unsuccessful in his attempt to defend himself. He did make me think that perhaps I should cut him and all of the guys who have made similar comments over the last few months a little bit of slack. God knows I've taken them to task enough in various blog posts. Maybe it's not so important whether what they say is racist. Most of us harbor some form of casual racism or prejudice without even realizing it, but because the term conjures images of lynching and angry men in white robes burning crosses, no one wants to be associated with it.

More importantly, EJ's comment was misguided. It's basically saying that all Asian men are created physically equal with little variation. One undesirable physical quality fits all. I'll put them in a box and remove them from my dating pool. The highly evolved modern man thinks outside of boxes and beyond ethnicities and doesn't limit himself to only what he prefers. "Sorry, I just don't find them attractive," with no interest in self-reflection to determine why, is such a cop out. No matter how people might want to spin it, being rejected because you're of a certain race stings so much more than being overlooked because of your hair or eye color, or even your gender.

One might imagine that someone who has been living in Asia for a decade would realize that the contents of the Asian box are as varied as those of the white, black or Latino ones. But guys like EJ are too busy using their "preferences" as an excuse to exclude an entire continent of people from the list of guys they would sleep with.

I'd become accustomed to that attitude in Australia. In fact, I'd come to expect it. In Asia, I'd anticipated more enlightenment, but it's actually worse here. I told EJ that I find comments like his particularly offensive because I'd spent most of my life hearing the same sentiment in the United States, only they were usually aimed at black men.

Being black in Argentina, in Australia and in Asia works more in my favor than it does in the U.S., black President and black leading Republican Presidential candidate or not. Everybody wants you. Not always because of you; sometimes because of the color of your skin (what an ironic expatriate twist). Or because they're dying to know if it's true what they say about black men. You're everyone's fantasia -- as they say in Argentina, unfortunately.

"You know, I've never been with a black guy, and I never even really thought about it until I met you." 

Last week, a guy (American, of course) actually said that to me as if he expected me to jump for joy right into his open arms. I pretended I hadn't heard him, but I'm very sad to say that it wasn't the first time someone had said something like that to me.

On the plus side, it's nice to not be invisible. When I go out outside of the United States, guys actually see me. If only I didn't have to hear what most of them are saying.
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