Everyone warned me about him.

A week into hanging out with a guy that I was hopelessly charmed by, one of my friends cautioned me that he was notorious for fetishizing Asian women. Having been tokenized in past relationships and hookups, I convinced myself that I knew the warning signs. This case seemed different. Months later, I began to scrutinize his tendency to date Asian women — a pattern verified by countless students — but still refused to believe this was reason enough to dump him. Weeks after we finally broke up, a post in the Yale Memes Facebook group led me to his cameo on an Instagram account that features brilliantly deadpan clapbacks to Tinder messages. The comments section was overrun by reactions from people of all races and genders, but those from Yale students stood out: Multiple women commented their own experiences with this particular man. Only at that point did I snap out of my delusion. I had been played by yet another white boy with an Asian fetish.

This retroactive epiphany is shared by countless women of color. Men of color are of course also objectified, especially black and Latino men tagged as animalistic and virile. However, girls and women are often fetishized in ways that feed on implicit subjugation. For women of color, race only further complicates this pre-existing objectification.

Despite how common it is, racial fetishization remains clandestine and is rarely called by name. Instead, men often dress their fetish in prettier, seemingly innocuous terms like “my type” or “preference,” or by simply denying it. A friend addressed these misconceptions, saying, “Racial fetishization is more than just a harmless preference. It’s rooted in colonial notions of power. It’s a historical memory of how the West has penetrated Asia for profit and gain.”

Whether a racial fixation is conscious or subconscious, it requires hollowing out the subject, reducing her to a pornotrope — an object of sexual impulses. It removes the subject’s identity — her consciousness, perceptions and formative experiences — in favor of a flattened eroticization of her race and ethnicity. This aggressive pursuit of one’s crude fantasies stems from fiercely defending one’s privilege, often as a white man. By this slippery nature, racial fetishization is often just a symptom of a base pathology that manifests itself in everything from degrading sex to leering condescension to infantilization. I’ve struggled to convince people, especially white people, why fetishization is despicable. Perhaps racial tokenization feels quotidian to someone who’s never been the subject.

By denying its subject’s humanity, a fetish threatens to transfer from its possessor to the subject herself. Especially in relationships, we’re inclined to give the other person the benefit of the doubt, to think that we’re overreacting. At least we’re wanted, right? Another Yale student described this self-invalidation by saying that women of color are preselected — we are considered lucky if a white man chooses us.

These fallacies are reinforced by internet trolls’ comments on women of colors’ accounts — comments that suggest that we should be grateful for any attention we receive from a white man.

In the case of soft boys, their true intentions fester under a facade of “wokeness.” This guise of open-mindedness is especially deceiving in an age of performative and superficial understandings of identity politics. This allows people to pretend to understand women of colors’ subjectivity while still defending microaggressions. But this expands beyond Yale and romantic relationships: Microaggressions have real, unavoidable repercussions. According to a study done by Robert T. Carter and other professors at Columbia University, microaggressions based on race carry a variety of consequences, from depression to low self-esteem. Being racially fetishized irreversibly damages a woman’s self-worth and hope for future relationships, fueling a lifelong cycle of mistrust and self-doubt.

The reality is that white people will never internalize nonwhite subjectivity. We can never truly understand each other’s experiences in all their detail and idiosyncrasies, but we owe it to each other to listen and trust those who’ve been harmed. Likewise, we cannot spotlight any one person — no matter how prolific or damning their behavior is — without addressing all wrongdoers and bystanders. The countless stories that emerged from the Instagram post highlight the scale and depth of such abuse, and third parties must listen to our pain. I believe in the power of testimony and power in numbers, but individual narratives must eventually cede to reflection for the sake of recovery and protecting others.

I don’t know if there are appropriate reparations for women of color. Perhaps the best we can do is call out marginalizing behavior immediately and thoroughly. It’s time to stop masking fetishization and call it as we see it. Recently, as I sat with other women reflecting on the past few weeks, I felt the first semblance of comfort and optimism I’ve felt in months. Women of color, it’s really just us out here — only we can understand these ugly, broken feelings and support each other’s recovery.

Michelle Erdenesanaa is a first year in Berkeley College. Contact her at michelle.erdenesanaa@yale.edu .

  • dr steve brule

    IKT! IKT! IKT! IKT!

  • dr steve brule

    GOOD DAY MR TAYLOR

  • Boott Spur

    Speak his name, coward; you are only going to kill a man.

  • Brixton

    Doublethink: a diagnosis

  • habitualjoker

    While it is certainly a problem if a person’s racial preference indeed stems from a “hollowing out [of a] subject”, it isn’t actually necessary as you claim. It is no more necessary than a preference for brown hair over blonde, green eyes over blue, tall over short stature or any other physical feature that might form the raw initial basis of attraction.

    Moreover, moralizing individual negative sexual preferences (causes for a person to say “no” to sex) is to place consent secondary to some perceived “harm” they cause. Seriously: what harm could any sexual refusal alone possibly do that is worse than eroding the absolute right of a person to say “no”? Dating as a societal phenomenon and sex are inextricable. To say that people can’t absolutely choose who they don’t date is to say they can’t absolutely choose who they don’t have sex with.

    Your enemy isn’t sexual preferences, it’s simple disrespect and objectification.

    • speakyourtruth

      She’s not saying you can’t choose who you want to have sex with. She’s saying that you should think about your preferences and reconsider them if they stem from embedded cultural stereotypes or reductions of people’s identities, which is completely valid and which we should all be doing as we navigate the dating scene. Sexual preferences aren’t just there – they’re influenced by culture and notions of sexuality, which means that to pretend they’re just “there” is disingenuous.

      • habitualjoker

        While it is completely valid to ask others to “think about [their] preferences and reconsider them if they stem from embedded cultural stereotypes or reductions of people’s identities”, it isn’t what she’s saying. Instead, she asserts that any racial preference “requires hollowing out the subject, reducing [them] to a pornotrope — an object of sexual impulses. It removes the subject’s identity […] in favor of a flattened eroticization of her race and ethnicity.”

        In her view, having such a preference is automatically wrong, so there’s only one acceptable outcome for any such reconsideration. As it is possible for such preferences to _not_ come from a place of disrespect, I disagree with her statement. She simply does not address what makes that preference alone (again, alone) different from any other preference for other physical features.

  • Man with Axe

    You know that a whole lot of non-white men have a thing for white women, right? It’s something that drives black women crazy.

    In other words, there is nothing special about white men fetishizing Asian women, or women of any other ethnicity. I don’t agree that it is based on some sort of historical colonialist memory. Plenty of ignorant slobs who wouldn’t know a historical memory if it bit them on the ass have a thing for Asian women. The amount of porn starring Asian women probably dwarfs the amount featuring all other non-white women combined. Or so I have read.

    It occurs to me that your complaint is that the white men who fetishize Asian women are not treating them as individuals, but as members of a defined ethnic group. Isn’t that exactly what is wrong with identity politics, treating people as members of a group and ignoring their individual personhood?

    • speakyourtruth

      You really need to stop picking out the part of the article you don’t like just because you feel attacked by it. That’s not how constructive debate should work.

      To address your first point: that’s irrelevant to the point of this article – her issue is that she feels fetishized by white men because of her Ethnicity, and because she is not a part of the dominant sect of America, it can feel oppressive and even suffocating. Non-white men who have fetishes for white women are not fetishizing their ethnicity per se, but rather the perceptions of power and social acceptance that are perceived to come from having a white person on their arms. There are also valid criticisms of sexism and patriarchy that play into those dynamics – but that isn’t the focus of this article, and it’s not her job to address every single situation you can think of.

      To address your second point: whether the slobs you mention know of the historical undertones is irrelevant – the fact that they can go around not knowing, while others (like the author) must navigate the world fully aware of at least a part of those histories, is part of the problem she’s getting at. People who don’t know about these historical issues or stereotypes are bound to repeat them in their own lives – as demonstrated by most of the white partners this writer has encountered.

      To address your third point: this is disingenuously misrepresenting her point. Part of her complaint is that which is implied – white men who fetishize Asian women are problematic, because they are not only reducing their identities to a cultural stereotype, but there are forces of sexism also at play, which further reduce their already stereotyped bodies down to objects for personal pleasure. We need to address these currents and others like them to eliminate this culture.

      • Man with Axe

        Thanks for the advice, but I will disagree with any part or all of any article I read. I don’t know who doesn’t.

        Yours is one of 10,000 comments I have read that treats everything that white men do as evil and everything that non-white men do as perfectly fine because their forebears have some history of being marginalized, even though they personally have never been. Rather the treatment that their ancestors have received is an excuse to let them off the hook for everything they do. I reject this completely. People are responsible for themselves. They are not blameless because their ancestors were treated poorly nor are others culpable because their ancestors were somehow wrongdoers.

        This author is generalizing about white men based on her experience with one or maybe two from what I read in the article. I could just as easily generalize about all Asian women from the two or three I have had relationships with. But doing that would be racist, don’t you think?

        I am not expecting her to address every issue, but I am expecting her to have some kind of perspective. That perspective comes from knowing that people are individuals who do not all share the negative characteristics of their ethnic group, nor the positive ones. There are plenty of Asians who fetishize people of other races including whites. Some history of oppression that these people themselves did not suffer does not excuse their own fetishizization of people of other ethnicities.

        • Eric Leavitt

          I met the author on tinder, and she vehemently hates white men, and assumes they are all sexist and racist. She also doesn’t believe that there can be racism against white people. She’s a lunatic. Honestly surprised that she got into Yale.

  • marcedward

    Cool story bruh.
    Countless asian men complain about how asian women much prefer dating whites to Asians. Who’s fetishing who?

    • Josh Plumridge

      whom

  • olu

    I don’t disagree with her assertions but I would have more sympathy for her if she hadn’t left out Asian *men* from her discussion completely.

  • xoxohth

    If anyone is fetishizing anyone it’s Asian women with White men.