Behind Closed Doors: Sexy stereotypes not so hot, not so accurate

Last Sunday the Asian Student Council and the African American Male Coalition hosted a date auction. A good friend of mine was set to be auctioned off. When I talked to her before the auction, she told me that she was nervous that whoever bid on her might have yellow fever.

“Uh, isn’t there a vaccine for that?”

Looks like I’m not up on my slang terminology. Turns out “yellow fever,” in addition to referring to an acute viral disease, also means being more sexually attracted to Asian people than to other types of people. This is also known as Asian fetishism. According to, this phrase is usually applied to white men attracted to Asian women, but can apply to anyone obsessive about Asians.

Apparently, yellow fever is a common condition nowadays. But what’s behind this craze? Is there something different about Asians behind closed doors?

If you ask the internet, it’ll tell you that Asian women have hot, sexy, Asian vaginas that are completely different from hot, sexy vaginas of other races. What’s so special about these vaginas? Some speculate that they are super-tight because they have an extra muscle to contract around non-Asian penises.
Asian men get an arguably less attractive stereotype. Their penises are rumored to be itty-bitty. But they still have the whole exotic, mysterious Asian thing going for them. They look different. Those eyes, that hair — take me now.

Of course, all of this is nonsense. It’s a classic case of sexualization of the “Other.” Because they look different, we assume that means they are fundamentally different. But they’re not. In the bedroom, we’re all alike. Biological and cultural variations pale in comparison to the immense sexual similarities between members of the human race. All penises swell with blood and excitement, causing the men attached to them to do silly things, and all vaginas discharge a sticky substance.

Just because I’m Jewish doesn’t mean my vagina repels uncircumcised penises like two magnets of the same polarity. Irish women’s nipples don’t drip beer, Hispanic men’s balls can’t do the Meringue and there’s no way Asian women are endowed with extra vaginal muscles.

But, as a linguistics major, I’ve learned that when something is given a name, such as “yellow fever,” it has some significance. There certainly is a phenomenon currently at work in American society of non-Asians being attracted specifically to Asians, especially East Asians. The stereotypes are — as stereotypes tend to be — ridiculous, but there is something behind Asian fetishism.

One study claims that yellow fever has geopolitical origins. American soldiers’ contact with prostitutes during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War spurred a fascination with women from these cultures.

A scientific inquiry into this phenomenon took place at Columbia University. Two psychologists and an economist studied more than 400 participants over two years in a speed-dating experiment. After each speed-date, the daters were asked to rate each partner. The researchers found that women of all races had a strong preference for men of their own race. Men, on the other hand, liked women of all races. So what does that have to do with yellow fever? One anomaly in the data: Asian women discriminated against all men except other Asians and — you guessed it — whites.

So maybe it’s not that white men love Asian women so much, it’s more that Asian women are the only minorities accepting their advances. But if that’s the case, it shouldn’t be called yellow fever: It should be called something like beige craze or pale eroticism.

The phenomenon of yellow fever has the possibility of being very demeaning. While it’s nice for there to be positive stereotypes about a race (“Hey, have you heard that black dudes have huge dicks?”), they also turn people into objects. Of course, your preference is your preference. If you find that you are most attracted to East Asians, that’s completely fine. Just be sure you’re interested in people for who they are, not their racial identities.

Besides, we can all learn a lesson from the men in the speed-dating experiment: Take what you can get. The more sexual and romantic options you allow yourself, the more likely you are to find that special person. And by special person, I mean woman who has a genetically-mutated vagina with extra muscles.

__Maya Horowitz is the Flat Hat sex columnist. She doesn’t discriminate.__



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