"I'm Obsessed With Asian Massage Parlors -- Should I Tell My Wife?"
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Editor's note: Sex questions so often boil down to the simple, pleading query of, “Am I normal?” Tracy Clark-Flory talks to the world’s leading experts, explaining where individual readers fall on the spectrum of sexual behavior but also dismantle the notion of “normal.” Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Question: I am an early-40′s, very successful man with a great family and a beautiful wife. Over the course of the past year, I have developed a terrible obsession with Asian women. It’s unexplainable to me, as my wife has been great to me, loves sex, and really is an incredibly beautiful woman. However, I find myself thinking constantly about Asian women, during the day, during workouts, at night when I should be sleeping. It’s completely new to me as I have never been attracted to Asian women, and it really is interfering with my life.
I have been visiting Asian “spas” now a couple of times a week, and in the morning when I should be working, I’m instead surfing the Web trying to find a way to meet Asian women. It’s to the point where I’m acting like a teenager again around any type of Asian woman.
What the “f” is wrong with me? Why can’t I just go back to being the stable family guy I was, interested in work, family and screwing my wife 4-5 times a week?
Before I put you to sleep by deconstructing Asian fetishism and “positive” racism, let’s address the real issue here: You’re married, presumably under the pretense of monogamy, and you feel tempted to stray (if you haven’t already at one of these “spas”). This temptation won’t go away by simply wishing it away, or by continuing to conceal it from your wife. Joel Block, a psychologist who offers couples and sex therapy, tells me, “If it were up to me, he’d see a well credentialed, experienced therapist before this gets him in trouble, either with his wife or with his work.” The fact that you’ve acted on your desire for other women — to a degree that isn’t explicitly clear in your email — is more important than the fact that these women are Asian. Still, it might be an important piece of the puzzle.
It’s possible that you’re really into a particular physical quality associated with Asian women, like a petite frame or straight, dark hair. People have physical sexual preferences; this is normal. But plenty of non-Asian women have similar traits, so the specificity of your interest suggests to me that you’re more likely fixated on a stereotype. This too can be totally normal, in the sense that when talking about sexual desire, we often reduce people to a type or category — just look at the norm of categorizing online porn according to various “exotic” (i.e., not white) ethnicities. Race carries that charge of taboo that drives our little lizard brains wild. “What isn’t normal, however, is when preference crosses the invisible line, when Asian and Asian American women on the receiving end feel … objectified and valued not for who they are as people, but for their race or perceptions of the culture they come from,”says Sheridan Prasso in “Asian Mystique: Dragon Ladies, Geisha Girls, and the Myth of the Exotic Oriental.” Similarly, researcher Derald Wing Sue reports in a study, “Many of the participants also suggested that the exotic image of Asian American women also serves as an unconscious backlash to feminist values and that it potentially creates antagonism with White women as well.”
Is it possible that you’ve fixated on Asian women because they are so often stereotyped as quiet and subservient — and, if so, why might that be? Prasso writes of the draw of sex tourism, “It is an easy purchase, this experience of Asia that is fantasy-indulging and, ultimately, ‘remasculating’ — engendering feelings of masculinity or dominance which these Western men may have found diminished in their own cultures.” This can hold true, although to a lesser extent, for white Western men with a self-professed “fetish” for Asian Americans. For a paper published in the journal Pastoral Psychology, author Bitna Kim conducted in-depth interviews of 10 white men “interested in having a relationship with an Asian female” and found, “Almost all of those interviewees started with a sentence that negates Asian women as submissive, but, nevertheless, they all mentioned, in one way or another, that Asian women are submissive.” Block wonders if your wife is “a more dominant personality” — maybe you crave power and control.
Like I hinted at earlier, some people refer to an erotic fixation on a particular ethnicity as “positive” racism, right along with generalizing declarations like, “Asians are good at math.” Lena Chen, an Asian American feminist and writer, explains in GOOD: [M]any guys with whom I discussed the topic failed to recognize the racism inherent in forming a racial preference in the first place. They pointed to ex-girlfriends who fit their stereotypes and asked if I would have preferred the alternative of being viewed as undesirable because I’m not white. They couldn’t see that even if their assumptions weren’t obviously insulting, they nonetheless imposed an arbitrary set of expectations on radically different women.”
So, if you do arrange a meet-up with an Asian woman, don’t expect her to be flattered by your obsession. Also: Tell your wife first, will you?