“It’s totally normal for white Western women not to be sexually attracted to Asian men,” wrote a woman in a comment I happened to read.
I shouldn’t have been stunned or surprised by her words. Hadn’t I heard variations on this theme before? After all, I’d been privy to many conversations where white Western women dismissed the possibility of dating Asian men in all sorts of ways. Sometimes in unprintable language.
But I was jarred by her comment, feeling the mental equivalent of a sudden static shock pulse through me as I read it. That’s because there was a time when it might have applied to me. That I might have concluded my own pre-China track record of exclusively dating white guys was “normal” and “natural”.
A few years back, I wrote the post, Why Did I Assume I Would Stay Single in China?
Why did I think I would never date Chinese men? Was it merely that I grew up in an incredibly white middle-class suburb (I could count on one hand the Asian men I knew from kindergarten to high school graduation)? Was it the overwhelming absence of positive images of Asian men in the whitewashed world of American popular culture?
I think back to my college years, a time when I met many foreign Asian men – including Japanese and Cambodian. I called many of them close friends, yet why did I never let them get any closer to me? Why did I always immediately relegate them to the “friend zone” and nothing more? Why did my white girlfriends and I only giggle over white celebrity heartthrobs in high school, like Tom Cruise?
It’s just not right.
All I know is this — in China, I found the sexiest and most amazing men that I had ever known. I ended up marrying one and I’m still crazy in love with him. (Thank you, John!) It took crossing an entire ocean and time zones to realize that my assumptions about dating in China were a lie.
I think we need to be very careful when we talk about what’s “normal” or “natural” in terms of relationships. After all, as NPR reported a few years back, “According to new data compiled by the free online dating service OKCupid, racial biases are very much part of the romantic choices we are making online, even when we insist that they are not.”
And Eduardo Bonilla-Silva once wrote in his book “Racism Without Racists”:
The word “natural” or the phrase “that’s the way it is” is often interjected to normalize events or actions that could otherwise be interpreted as racially motivated (residential segregation) or racist (preference for whites as friends and partners). But, as social scientists know quite well, few things that happen in the social world are “natural,” particularly things pertaining to racial matters.
As much as I’d love to tell you that the string of white guys I once dated was “normal” or “natural” or even “how it’s supposed to be”, I know better.
I only wish that commenter did too.