‘Yellow Fever’: The Fetishization Of Asian Women

Asian women.

What’s your first thought when you saw that? I’m sure many characterizations and traits came to mind. Maybe the overbearing dragon mom? The nosy judgmental auntie who’s already on her 4th marriage? The sharp-witted brainiac who does complex mathematics calculations at the top of her head? (Someone should see my grades in Add Maths and this stereotype would surely not exist)

Or the one that crosses most Western men’s mind: the submissive and docile female, most perpetuated by the 2005 film Memoirs of a Geisha and of course, porn (That doesn’t really count seeing how porn is just a big melting pot of every race being submissive). 

The History of “Yellow Fever”

Upon googling “yellow fever”, you’ll only get icky results of a real disease but the yellow fever we’re referring to is the sexual preference (bordering on fetish) that has plagued white men towards Asian women.

We can trace this stereotype back to the 18th and 19th century when Western imperialism in Asian countries was just getting started and literary works such as Arabian Nights portrayed the women as exotic and sensual. Just to be concubines or members of harems to the powerful White saviours.

Then onto World War 2, when our own continental relatives prolonged this festishization of Asian women by the Japanese Imperial Army. They abducted young girls from the countries they occupied such as Korea, China, Philippines and yes even, Malaysia. 

Chinese ‘Comfort Women’ forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army, c. 1937-1945
Source: Bridgeman Images

(Comfort women? Seriously? A therapist would have been a better comfort, you sick perverts)

Not forgetting the Western militants who bought sex from these women or making them their “war brides”, again buying into the myth of the obdedient Stepford wife-esque housewife. 

Spoiler: most of these war brides were opinionated ladies who married to get out of Japan to work on their own ambitions, not just to start a family.  

With a history dating that far behind, it’s no wonder why Asian women are always expected to be submissive, quiet and docile in the eyes of men. 

Asian Women, in the eyes of the 21st Century

And this myth has been carried onto the modern world, with the boom of the mail-order bride industry which matchmade Western men with either Eastern-European or Asian wives. 

Source: Meg O’ Shea’s Drawing Power

The men get to select from a catalogue of potential brides from developing countries like Thailand, Philippines and China, usually framed as “damsels in distress”, just waiting to be rescued by these white men. 

(Or as I like to call it in my own terms, the Bali Bintang man, a white man who vacations in Thailand or Indonesia (only Bali though) to exclusively find a submissive Asian woman to marry as most probably women from his country know better). 

The Bali Bintang Man in question
Source: Reddit

On the other hand, Asian women also fuel this imbalanced dynamic between white men and Asian women as OKCupid reports Asian women were found to rate white males as more attractive than their Asian counterparts. Only in 2013, did Asian men finally live up to these white knights. 

(Another topic worth discussing is the portrayal of Asian men as non-attractive weak nerds in Western media)

And just from a quick google search, there are DOZENS of  Asian specific dating websites and no wonder there’s an influx, web tracker SimilarWeb gathered in 2018 that in the U.S alone, websites like DateInAsia and AsianDating garnered over nearly six million and four million visits, respectively. 

Seeing how coveted Asian women are in the dating world, you’d expect world-class treatment but that’s not the case, unfortunately. In 2017, a Tinder user in California was banned from the app due to him calling his match a racial slur because…

Drumroll please

She didn’t reply to his messages fast enough. 

Not to mention the cringey messages Asian girls receive whilst in the online dating world. So much so that an artist named Ada Chen made earrings out of her cringey encounters with these Asian-festishizing men.

Source: Wonderland Magazine

Hey, if you can’t beat them, at least monetize them!

She’s not the only one who has experienced this. When I was in London for a holiday, many of my Tinder and Bumble matches commented on how they’ve “never matched with a real Asian” before. Uh… whatever that means. Though somewhat true as a UK born Asian will definitely have differences with a Malaysian born Asian but in the end, we’re both REAL Asians, genetically proven, dude.

Suffice to say, he didn’t get a date. 

Moving on, thankfully as the world progresses, more people like Ada Chen are speaking out about this. 

Including Crazy Rich Asians and Fresh Off the Boat actress Constance Wu who uses her fame to constantly bring awareness of the constant festishization of Asians and also the misrepresentation and underrepresentation of them  in the media as well. 

Source: Entity Mag

Stereotypes Made On Asian Women

In a more local sense, I’ve heard a few Malaysian boys wistfully lust over Chinese girls, stating how their sweet and quiet personality made them the most charming potential wives.


In a more misogynistic note, they continued on to say although Chinese girls were boring in bed, at least they weren’t as feisty and mouthy as the other races in Malaysia…

Again, what rock were they living under, right??? I know so many Chinese girls who are loud, opinionated, independent and yes, quite freaky in bed.

Sigh. So even yellow fever has affected the people of Malaysia too.

All in all, we can only hope this fetishization of Asian women comes to a halt. Not only does it demean them as mere sex objects, baby-making machines without any thoughts or ambitions on their own, it definitely gives a bad impression to younger girls.

I still remember my dad saying “You need to stop being so rude, like a boy. Stop swearing so much and stop arguing back. No husband will tolerate that.”

Well….. no husband then.

This article is a part of The Cool Bear’s Taboo Series where we dive deep into topics most Malaysians shy away from. If you like reading this, check out our other Taboo articles on shaving male genitalia or female circumcision! Yes, we might be a bit too into genitalia.

Katricia Lum
Katricia Lum
Will write for iced blacks and Panadols. Also if I'm not hunched over my laptop trying to meet deadlines, I'm most definitely sleeping.







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