TW: rape culture
A is Japanese-American like me. There are only eight years of age difference between A and me. The liminal difference in age—eight years—is enough to have made us see ourselves in the mirror in completely different ways as adults, however.
We both experienced the Japanese Bubble economy and all of its fallout in the US. Americans accused our people of taking their jobs and of generally making the country a worse place. We were ching-chonged at school. We watched Vincent Chin news likely on the same channel. Cried and feared for our well being. The key difference between A and me during this time, though, is that she was entering sexual maturity and I was still very much a child. A experienced her puberty at the height of 1980s yellow peril.
A tells me that during this era, she was told there was nothing attractive about her. She was told Asian women were hideous monsters and that they should be so lucky as to pass as anything like white so she better try as hard as possible. I know this is not unique to her. Asian Americans during this time were seen as little else than an economic threat to whites. At best we made them food.
I on the other hand honestly can’t remember a day of my sexualized existeince, since puberty ten years later in the mid 1990s, that wasn’t stained by fetishistic orientalist tropes. Me so horny. A lot of Act I of Apocalypse Now, actually. I remember being 8 or 9 and seeing a news item about 2 Live Crew having sex with an Asian woman on stage at one of their shows. I was revolted and knew it was rape. I could imagine the kind of pressure that would cause this to happen. There was no version of my beauty that would not be an invitation to cultural molestation; whether I looked “natural,” artificial, or whitewashed (read: normal). When I was bullied, I was bullied sexually, and I was explicitly told I would be sexually bullied because that’s what Asian women were for. It felt relentless at that age.
I’m not a victim. Trust me, fam. I am smart, and benefited from being surrounded by proud (maybe even supremacist) Asians. In this one small way I am so grateful to have chanced being the child of immigrants and not have had to inherit generations of the diffuse trauma of exclusion and imprisonment of a motherland.
My loins were tightly wrapped in banzai headbands like I was going to kamikaze anyone who came within an inch of me. There was a turning point in high school I’ll never forget, when I decided to take moderate and then aggressive measures to appear repellent and endearing at the same time. I was not alone here either. It was a whole zeitgeist. Just think of any dweeb Japanese girl who looked like a cross between Punky Brewster and a shark on your college campus. Yes, us.
It is no accident that kawaii grotesque, quirky perverse, lolicon and so many other femme style sub cultures grew out of the post-Bubble aporia of sexual identities. I’m sure this has been researched to death, actually. What I want to drive home is that women needed to be seen without being culturally raped. Give us one goddamn second to breathe.
In the eight years of difference between A and me, two very smart women have learned very different things from white people and especially white men and yet somehow came to similar strategies of interacting with them.
An unrelated Asian girl friend, N, once complained to me years ago about how annoyed she was by those Asians. “You know, the ones who give you grief for only dating white people?” I guffawed and said I might be one of those Asians, alas. “But you date white guys!” said N. I said, “obviously not exclusively. That would be weird…” The friend said she assumed it was exclusive “like for so many Asian women.” This really hurt my feelings and made me depressed. I stopped talking to her for a few months after that.
I get it, though. I’m also never apologizing for those Asians. You know the ones. The psychotic mens rights activists. But interracial dating for Asians is extraordinarily complicated by layers of colonialism and imperialism. Men have consistently put us in passenger seats. When we refuse they break us into pieces and throw us into the trunk. We could be dolls. It wouldn’t make a difference. The point for me was somehow that I didn’t want anyone who had a car. My husband doesn’t even know how to drive (metaphorically). At the risk of pulling an “I don’t see color” kind of obliviousness, I would say that you want a dick-less hitchhiker. Trust me.
Ego is a murderer. I can’t believe what’s happening in Korea right now. What’s happening with the anti-feminist political crest and all that it represents of masculine disintegration is absolutely horrifying. Will women never achieve true freedom? Wasn’t our sublimation enough?
Men are murderers. I cannot believe what is happening to my sisters in this country.
On my qualification to speak men. I’ve become an expert on the eros of the Asian masculine form. I’ve seen a lot. Some versions of it are getting better while others are, frankly, trash. Social crisis is no excuse to stop adjudicating the form of art. (I kid)
Straight Asian men truly need to be spending more time with queer Asian people if they want their nude forms to have more integrity. That’s me talking like an art critic. But as a sister, I wish men, especially Asian men, knew that their bodies are absolutely exquisite.
If I were god, I would pluck you by the nape and lower you into my gaping mouth slow enough for you to feel the hot wet warmth of my love as you descended. I would withdraw you as slowly as possible, to carefully and painlessly denude you of all of your terror and your fear and your assumptions. I would slowly unravel all the fibers of passing, of butching, of big dicking small dicking until you felt the joy of being a raw person. I would repeat this until what feels ecstatically good feels sublimely normal. I would repeat this till you learned to trust women not to have anything other than your best interests and your good faith at heart. I’m so sorry that it is less painful to be a jerk. I’ll stop if you stop. I’ll start with you. Let’s do it together.
If I were god I would make all of us free.
A tells me that it still blows her mind when people say they are attracted to her, that they like her, find her compelling and interesting. This breaks my heart so much. I wish she knew the power of her beauty. I wish I knew, too. I wish I could trust that anyone who said they found me attractive wasn’t brainwashed into fantasies of imperialism. The culture is capitalism. I laud the women who have leveraged these realities and gamed white men out of their fortunes (hashtag V Stiviano). I commend sex workers who leverage it and understand the mission is to bring means to their families and not to worry about romantic individualism.
I remember the women who were murdered this day last year in Atlanta. I hope they knew they were beautiful, too.
For all of my Asian women: Sori, by Younghi Pagh-Paan.
I AM AWAKE IN THE PLACE WHERE WOMEN DIE. —Jenny Holzer (Lustmord, 1993-1994)