Earlier this year, I went on a date with a man who told me he had a thing for Asian women. We were sitting across from each other at a table in a fancy restaurant and he stood up to do a head-to-toe scan of me. I am sick of being fetishised because of racist stereotypes about "small and compliant" Asian women. Credit: Stocksy. I told myself to run. Here was yet another man with what is not-so-jokingly referred to as Yellow Fever: the lazy and discriminatory hyper-sexualisation and fetishisation of Asian women, primarily by white men, solely based on race. When I tried to break it off with him, he texted: "I hate you. Thankfully, there are thousands of gorgeous Japanese, Chinese and Korean girls in Sydney, so I will be okay. This is not unusual. I have spent most of my adult life expending psychological and emotional energy fending off men like him.
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Top collage: Marta Parszeniew. I once asked my first boyfriend what his friends thought about me. Apparently they were amused that he was dating a Chinese girl, and teased him about "riding her like a Kawasaki. Growing up in New Zealand, I often grappled with being different. I never believed in Santa and rice was my go-to starch. By my late teens, I realized that being Chinese also gave me a typecast sexual identity: bashful, privately kinky, and rumored to be in possession of an extra snug, sideways vagina. I first heard murmurings about "yellow fever" at university. I wasn't surprised that a piece of slang had been coined for men—and, it seems, predominantly white men—who harbor a special affection towards Asian women; we all know a guy whose dating history reads like a copy of the Chinese Yellow Pages.
I was romantically involved with an Asian boy when I was in high school, but we were just friends. I knew he liked me, and he knew I liked him, but we were both too scared to admit it. We never even held hands or hugged. We were platonic friends. After he graduated from high school, he tried to contact me, but my mother forbade him to ever talk to me again. I heard that he became extremely miserable and tried to commit suicide a few times. At the time I was also in college and I was miserable too. I was depressed and I took out all my energy on studying. I excelled in college and landed a job as an associate manager for a five star hotel corporation, and I was dispatched to Shanghai, China. At this point in my life, I had yet to have any sexual relationship with anyone.
In my life, I've often encountered a certain type of Western guy who was attracted to Asian women. He tended to be older, white and yes, creepy. I wanted to know why, so I set out to make a documentary.