A brief exchange that occurred a few days ago:
Me: walking down to Mr. S, minding my own business.
Slightly unkempt guy walking a dog in front of me, looking back over his shoulder: “Hey! You are very beautiful.”
Me, a little startled: “Huh? Oh, thank you…”
Him, slowing down to match my pace: “So, what’s your ethnicity?”
Me, immediately slightly defensive: “Uh, I’m…Chinese.”
Him: “Oh! You must be quite an athlete, then – the Chinese are such amazing athletes! I’ve seen videos where they start training their girls at six or seven years old…”
Me, thinking, Yeah, it’s nothing short of child abuse over there… Aloud: “Oh yeah? I guess so…”
Him: “Anyway, I can tell you’re athletic by your gait.”
Me, slightly bemused: “My gait?”
Him: “Yes, gait. You know gait? G-A-I-T-”
Me, slightly annoyed: “Yes, I know gait. You can tell I’m athletic by my gait?”
Him: “Yeah, I used to be a trainer, I can tell how athletes walk.”
His dog starts pulling and barking at something in front of us. Slightly unkempt guy pulls sharply at his leash and admonishes him before turning back to me.
Him: “Hah, he’s just jealous. You know jealous?”
Him: “Anyway, have a great day!” And turns a corner.
Good fucking riddance.
Sadly, this is not a unique occurrence. I am often asked about my ethnicity, and when it’s a white guy who’s doing the asking, I immediately cringe, and my defenses (as well as my hackles) go up, assuming he’s got a case of yellow fever. I know, I know – it’s an unfair and sweeping presumption to make, but it’s also been reinforced by past experiences. As soon as I notice that a guy is specifically interested in my ethnicity, I lose all interest and patience in him.
(A friend of mine, who openly admits to being primarily attracted to Asian women, can attest to just how cold and brusque I can be about this. I refused to associate with him and barely acknowledged his existence for the first three years I knew him.) – Sorry, AB!
To have to deal with that in the world at large is annoying enough, but now that I’ve also entered the kink community, the fetish is not only much more prevalent in my social circle – it becomes that much more blatant. A quick scroll through the “Asian” group on Fetlife is enough to make me gag.
There are many different viewpoints regarding ethnic fetishes. On the one hand, a person cannot necessarily help what they are attracted to, and an attraction to a certain race may be equivalent to being attracted to blond hair or a certain height. It’s just another physical attribute that a person considers in the overall makeup of someone they’re checking out.
On the other hand, I am more than the single dimension of my ethnic background, and I am certainly more than the perceived beliefs of what that ethnicity says about my personality and my behaviors. And I’ve found, more often than not, that those who fetishize my race narrow in on those aspects; they aren’t viewing race as one part of my overall person. They are, in fact, replacing my individual personality with one they’ve already constructed in their mind to fit their fantasy.
There is nothing that grates on me quite as acutely as having another’s fetish or presumptions pushed on me. I can’t imagine that anyone appreciates this, actually. Sure, there are people who embrace having their own race fetishized, and who am I to judge them? But don’t assume I am one of those people, and don’t start talking and behaving towards me as if I’m agreeing to act on your fetish!
I suppose a possible analogy I can make here is to bottoms (especially submissive males, it seems) who assume anyone who is dominant will dominate them, especially if they just start submitting to them without regard for whether the other person actually wants to engage. The opposite also works: tops who are somehow arrogant enough to believe anyone who identifies as submissive will automatically submit to their domly self. (Spare me my ribs, they may crack from laughing at the thought!)
All of these circumstances are rude, disrespectful, and self-serving. Asian fetishism is no different.
[note: I went off in another direction altogether from what I was thinking when I started writing down the short conversation I had with slightly unkempt guy. Besides the blatant interest in my ethnicity, it was actually his only-too-happy assumption of my English ability and vocabulary that royally pissed me off.]
Years ago, I wrote a post, cheekily titled “Masturbaticon I“, wherein I reflected on how I began my sexual journey and learned about my own body and my sexuality. I never did follow up on that post the way I’d intended, but I’ve recently found myself thinking a lot about my childhood influences on my emergent kinkiness.
This was in part sparked by an interesting experience I had while behind the counter at Wicked Grounds a few days prior. A rather disorganized college student walked up to the register and requested an interview for a school project he was doing on bondage and bdsm. It was slow enough that I agreed. I could devote a separate post on the interview alone, but for now, the question he asked that prodded me towards childhood reflection was in regard to how kink develops in people. Were people who had been abused or sexually assaulted more likely to be kinky?
Yes, well. My answer was much longer than anything he wrote down, and I get the feeling he was only half-listening, but as far as my personal experience goes, I was certainly never victim to either of those things. If anything, I was raised more sheltered than most, in a relatively conservative white town.
Regardless of whether I was able to disabuse him of the misconception that kink is a product of childhood trauma, the question of how kink develops in people is an interesting one. I know people arrive at kink from many paths; not everyone can pinpoint specific memories from their youth as kink precursors. And this was a question I also heard while in Australia, from my college friends.
Personally, the more I explore and experiment my kinky side, the more I am reminded of events, thoughts, and fantasies from when I was quite young that were definitely not straight-laced. And I think a significant chunk of those kink precursors can be found in what I was reading and watching as a kid. Besides the normal diet of age-appropriate books like The Chronicles of Narnia and Redwall, I was also inhaling my library’s supply of science-fiction and fantasy books. And between the highly designed book covers depicting scantily clad heroes and heroines (often wearing leather boots!) and frequently erotic undertones of these two genres, I was undoubtedly creating some highly charged erotic connections to alternative sexualities, rituals, protocols, and power exchange.
Still, it didn’t have to be sex-related or fantastical for me to take interest. There was definitely already a predisposition for kink in me. I remember reading the Nancy Drew books, for instance, and feeling a mixture of excitement and fear whenever the protagonist was in trouble – say, caught and bound by the bad guy, awaiting her fate, or being threatened with a weapon after making a climactic discovery. This was also true for many cartoons I watched that centered around the hero-villain battle. I was fascinated, utterly fascinated, by villains. The more devious and vicious the antagonist, the more thrilled and mesmerized I was by the show – especially if there was any kind of personal history between the characters.
The trend grew with me, and in high school, I met Iago in my sophomore English class. This villain enthralled me, and I’ve probably inflated his character in my memory since reading Othello, but I still love the dark, sinister imagery that appears in my head when I think of him. Darkly charismatic, devious, completely consumed with vengeance yet cool as ice…
I never actually wanted to either emulate or meet an Iago in person, of course. It was the darkness that attracted me – me, the good girl, the quiet one, the nice one. Villains were my outlet, my connection to a darker, more primal side I never dared to explore myself… Villains always sought power and took it by force if they had to (often enjoyed taking it by force anyway), and that above all hit a nerve in me.
I’ve held all these feelings tightly in check for years. But, little by little, and partner by partner, I’m not only getting to reveal some of these desires, but also fulfill quite a few of them.
And there are many more layers waiting for me to explore in the years to come.