'Every time I go on a date, I wonder if men are only interested because they have an "Asian fetish".'

Dating as a woman can be hard enough, but dating as a woman of colour (WOC) adds a layer of challenges and complexities. 

As an Asian woman, I find myself wondering if a man will have an interest in me because I'm Asian or if he'll only be interested in me because I am Asian and he has an 'Asian fetish' or what some term 'yellow fever.'

I've had friends try to play Cupid between me and a friend of theirs, making comments like, "He's never dated an Asian before but you kind of look like his ex who was white" or "You have to meet my friend, he has a thing for Asians!" 

I'm expected to feel honoured that their friend is likely to choose me, to want me and I'm tired of having to overthink the role my Asianess plays in whether I will be appealing or desirable to men. 

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Growing up, I never felt that my Asian identity and my Vietnamese roots were something I could take pride in. 

My reality was being referred to as "The Chinese one" or "that Asian girl". 


Or minding my business and having young white men drive past in their car and yell out "Ni hao" at me. 

Or people pulling their eyes back and bowing at me to mock Asians. 

Or sitting there in discomfort as people would put on an Asian accent and expect me to join in on the laughter.

Or comments made by white men about how much they love Asian women. 

Or walking down the street and being asked "How much?". 

And sadly, this isn't even all of it. 

As an Asian woman, I can say that racism and misogyny are so deeply intertwined. 

I'm still on a journey of reclaiming my connection to where I come from and embracing this part of myself and my story. While my cultural identity is important to me, I don't want my race to always be what people see me for. There is so much more to me. I want someone to get to know me for who I am as a whole and unique individual, not based on preconceived stereotypes, hopes and fantasies they may have of Asian women, leading me to feel like I mean nothing to them and am just another person on their checklist. 

I'm tired of wondering if the man I'm talking to is interested in getting to know me for me or if he has a history of dating Asian women exclusively. 

As I mention in my book Safe Space, "An Asian fetish – commonly referred to as Yellow Fever – is typically where men engage in relationships with Asian women as largely influenced by their preconceived beliefs, hopes and stereotypes of what we are like. An Asian fetish plays into the assumption that Asian women are sexual, submissive and subservient. This desire for us is based on control and power. It's treating us as voiceless objects rather than individuals with agency." 


The image of Asian women that prevails is that we're sweet, shy and softly spoken but can also be fiery, horny and sexual. That we're there to serve one's every need and exist for white male consumption. That we're to be treated as hypersexual beings. That we're desired for being exotic and erotic.

I've been told that I can't prove that someone has an Asian fetish but for me, this is one of those things where you have to trust your gut and reflect on how this person makes you feel, how they treat you and how they, and perhaps even those in their circle, perceive and speak about Asian women. 

I've spoken to, or dated, white men who have only dated Asian women or you look at who they're following on social media, and it's almost only Asian women. Of course, every situation requires nuance as someone may have a history of having had only Asian partners however this will not mean they have an Asian fetish — it could be true that each relationship was meaningful and they saw each partner as a human being worthy of love, respect and dignity. 


I've dated men who had expectations of me as the perfect Asian lover. I've dated men who thought it was comical to mock an Asian accent. I've dated men who showed me off like I was a prize and who made me feel I lacked a voice and agency. I've dated men who kept it a secret until they happened to blurt out that all of their exes were Asian and/or after our relationship ended, their pattern of only dating Asian women continued.

Of course, some people say, "What if it's just their preference?"  To that I say that attraction can be based on things like one's presence, personality or passions however racial fetishisation has an element of dehumanisation. 

Some dating apps even allow you to customise your dating experience down to ethnicity and filter people out (or in) based on their background. 

I can't speak for all POC (Persons/People of Colour) but as a WOC this doesn't make me feel safe in navigating the online dating landscape. If anything, I wonder how many men I've matched with, spoken to and perhaps even gone on a date with had their Southeast Asian filter on. Was I just a filter to them? Did they have any interest in getting to know me down to my core and who I really am? I've become exhausted with having to ponder on these things.

Whenever I've spoken about my experiences with Asian fetishisation, I always hear things, most commonly from Asian men, like "What do you expect only from dating white guys?" or I'm accused of being a self-hating Asian. 


To that, I say there's a deep sense of misogyny and entitlement at play if we attempt to take agency away from Asian women and tell them who they should or shouldn't be with. 

We put Asian women in a difficult position when we tell them they should be with an Asian man and assume that Asian people can only be with and love Asian people or when we tell them that they shouldn't be dating non-Asians because they are then whitewashed or a self-hating Asian. 

I ask people to date for the person, not for an image you have in your mind of who and what they should live up to. 

As an Asian woman, I want to feel that I deserve to, and will be, loved for who I am and not just purely based on my race. 

Don't pursue or lust after us merely because of our race. On that same note, don't completely discount and disregard us on that same basis. 

Take the time to get to know us and make your own judgement based on who we are as individuals. I encourage you to leave your stereotypes, curiosities and racism at the door. 

Feature Image: Supplied.

Alyssa Huynh is the author of Safe Space — a book exploring the challenges she has faced as an Asian-Australian and those that made her the advocate she is today. She offers practical advice to those who are victims of racism and wish to add their voice to the discourse. 

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