Asian American Sexual Politics

Alexandra Polymeropoulos

Asian American Sexual Politics

Summary

  • In this book, Rosalind Chou includes information relevant for understanding the lived and historical realities and experiences of Asian Americans. Specifically, the author highlights the difference in stereotypes for both Asian American men as well as Asian American women through the inclusion of pop culture, murder, and crime examples.
  • Asian men are portrayed as “racially castrated” and Asian women are “docile” and “submissive” (1-2, 105). Overall, Chou focuses on “sexual politics,” a term coined by Patricia Collins when discussing the black experience in America, that explains how the various “ideas and social practices that intersect with “gender, race, and sexuality” which negatively influences how men and women see each other, inside and outside minority groups or those with marginalized identities (2). 
  • One of the most intriguing aspects of this reading was learning about the “Hegemonic domain” and how it has created a way where whiteness is used as a weapon to control Asian Americans (14). Specifically, controlling sexuality and perpetuating homophobia, but also the ways in which this worked as a means to control BOTH gay and straight men and women. However, due to cultural differences, many Asian cultures do not have the same rigid heteronormative structure we have that operated in this field of toxic masculinity, which provided colonizers an opportunity to enforce Western gender roles. I thought this was very intriguing as it related to the marriage market, where Asian men will often look for wives in Asian countries rather than marry here (13). By “feminizing” Asian American men, negatively impacts their self-image and self-esteem when Westernized aspects of toxic masculinity are placed upon them. Respondents say they “internalized” this issue and it was very harmful, but could have easily been avoided (107). 

Analysis 

  • I also thought the sexualization of Asian women as “tight” stood out to me because I have experienced this secondhand twice—once with an ex and recently with the girl I’m currently seeing (89). I received extremely odd, violently inappropriate comments about both of them because they are both South Asian (however that is a little different than the groups we focused on in the reading). I was extremely offended when I figured out what was happening was based on race and responded accordingly but the fact that anyone would feel comfortable to: 1) Discuss personal relationships with me/my own sex life 2) Come to me and feel comfortable being openly racist like I would relate and engage 3) Be sexist and inappropriate demonstrates how big of an issue this truly is. I also recognized after doing research and reading more books like this, that there were many moments my ex was portrayed as a sexy “freak” but was supposed to appear modest, and that definitely impacted our relationship negatively by playing into stereotypes. On the other hand, the girl I’m seeing now pushes back against Asian stereotypes more and does “what she likes,” but I am fortunate to have evolved and educated myself so I never let things slide again—everyone should feel free to be themselves fully and authentically and not feel like they need to play a part as Maya has mentioned in class. However, she is a lighter South Asian woman so she does not face the “collective black[ness]” associated with South Asian women, whereas my ex was much darker (115). I absolutely believe this influences their behavior because my ex is doing what she can to survive in comparison with the girl I am seeing who can be mistakenly labeled as racially ambiguous, mixed, Hispanic, white-passing occasionally, etc and has absolutely heard anti-African American sentiment from others her entire life, though that has not caused her to be racist or internalized racism—she is very sweet and kind (140). However, my ex has struggled with internalized racism. Overall in terms of relationships, both women in my case are more ‘dominant’ sexually but extremely submissive in relationships. This all relates to the idea that “Asian American sexuality is socially shaped in ways that maintain social and political dominance for whites” via globalization, colonialism, and other oppressive methods of control and the ways in which it can impact not only heterosexual relationships, but relationships of all kinds (2, 138, 148).
    •  Side note—the inclusion of queer women who expressed how their families relate “gayness with whiteness” is so accurate (170). The girl I am seeing’s family cannot imagine she is bisexual so they either genuinely ignore very obvious context clues, are in denial or do not want to talk about it. Even her friends who are Asian do not understand bisexuality and have not taken any of her relationships with women seriously, which is very alienating and unhealthy. My ex’s family still struggles with the understanding she really is not attracted to men at all and has literally told her in front of me this is not “what we do,” as in this is not what Asian culture allows. They do not understand that Asian people can be queer and view that as a white, Western issue. 
  • Regardless of what I say and do, white supremacy is too influential and powerful to not impact interpersonal relationships, especially within relationship dynamics. However, it is still our responsibility as White people to change this and be extremely aware of our own biases as not to engage in problematic, racist, and harmful behavior or rhetoric. 
    • Also, they most likely do not have connections to “hypermasculine criminals” as women but I wonder what they would share if I sent them this (116)! I might text them both and share this reading after our discussions in class because I have never heard about this prior to the reading. 
  • Overall, I appreciated the inclusion of the harmful consequences of racism in terms of violence that was included throughout the reading, especially in regards to racism and bullying. The connection to “Angry White Men” with the inclusion of toxic masculinity and the impacts of racism with Asian men like Cho in the VT shooting reminded me that we still have a long way to go to dismantle white supremacy and the impacts of white supremacy. Due to this “perpetual foreigness,” he was deemed an outsider and was ostracized and bullied which had disastrous consequences (105-106). Clearly, there is no excuse for violence, but it is important to consider preventative measures in the first place so nothing like this occurs in the future. The author put it perfectly—“scholars have argued that people living in a racist, white supremacist society are psychologically damaged by the effects of racial oppression,” which in turn, can damage others like in this case (106). We have to consider what damage has been caused before trying to rectify this problem so we go about it properly, addressing the complexities of racism.