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.


Alexi said...

...most of what they are saying?

Jeremy Helligar said...

Oops! Thank you, Alexi.

Truth said...

This is from an Oriental guy who has hit it up with almost every race

Just b.c u preference towards racial backgrounds doesn't mean yr racist. If u like everyone equally then technically you don't have a preference at all and lets be honest here, u don't like everybody in the world now do u (as individuals but reality is there are individuals who are racist). Even though u have a preference it doesn't mean yr automatically racist b.c u still like them, it's just u have a different preference.

No not everyone will like you but the same can be said about there being people who will like you.

For myself I prefer my own race but that doesn't mean I hate everyone else or that I wouldn't give it a shot.

People who actually hate another race are racist, people who actually hate their own race are racist (with the addition of also being a living disgrace I must add) but having a preference over racial backgrounds does not automatically mean racism.

On a final note I will say that some things are better left unsaid and a clever (and humble mind you) individual will turn someone down without having to bring up a hint of racial preferences as it can be interpreted as racism and come across as rather unpleasant to say the least

Jeremy Helligar said...

Hi, Truth. Thank you for reading my blog, and thanks for commenting. I did address the preference argument in my post. There is nothing wrong with having preferences, but I don't think we can always hide behind them. We all have preferences, but when you begin to use them to justify excluding entire groups of people, then you are marching into dangerous territory.

You said, "For myself I prefer my own race but that doesn't mean I hate everyone else or that I wouldn't give it a shot." This is how open-minded people think. Yes, you have your preference, but you aren't making blanket judgements based on them. There is nothing racist about that.

There is a difference between saying, "I prefer white/black/Asian guys" (which is okay, but as you point out, is probably best kept to yourself) and saying "I don't like Asian guys" or "I don't like black guys" or putting "no blacks" or "no Asians" in your dating profile. When you (not YOU, but generally speaking) start making judgements about an entire race and start lumping an entire continents with many different countries and many different looks into a box and tossing it into the "Do not touch" pile, I'm afraid you've begun to harbor a racist attitude. That's not just about preference; it's about exclusion.

Rich said...

Hey, just stumbled upon this and wanted to comment. Really interesting read in general, because it fits so well with my own, though I hadn't really considered it in terms of preferences based on ethnicity.

I've spoken to a lot of straight guys over the years about why it is that they're so closed off to the idea of ever being attracted to another guy, and so few of them are even willing to reflect on it that it's really just kind of sad. I mean, they don't have to like guys, but the idea of going through life without the natural curiosity to even consider it seems really alien to me.

I dunno, heh. So many people still just seem so strange to me, and I don't think they ever even consider it, living as they are as straight people in a straight world. Kind of sad.

Filipino dating said...

Thanks for sharing , ideas are indeed true Asian Men are very attractive.

Black woman said...

Asian men are created physically equal to Western men. Not many difference can be found here.

But I prefer black man.

Greetz, Cindy
A black woman from Kenya

Asian Man said...

If "Asian men are created physically equal to Western men" why don't they look alike? Why are they not represented in the media like "Western men"? Why don't white women date Asian men equally?

I think whoever Black woman is should rethink her statement.

Jeremy, I really liked your article. Some, many, should rethink their racial "preferences". They need a reality check. Why do they have their racial "preferences"? Is it because of media portrayal?