Mistaking preference for a fetish

In his June 25 feature article, ‘Yellow Fever’ and the fantasy of the Asian female,” writer Nicolas Gattig asks “what are the fantasies driving ‘yellow fever,’ the fetish for Orientals [by white men]?” The question he should be asking is to what extent preconceptions of race and racial normalcy predispose people to pigeonhole interracial relationships as “fetishism.”

Let’s be clear, using ethnicity (one’s own or a different one) in choosing a partner is not a fetish; it is a preference. Being aroused by a woman’s feet (and only her feet) is a fetish; having a tendency to date brunettes is a preference.

Hair, eyes, height, body type, even birth country are all deemed acceptable preferences so long as both partners are of the same ethnicity. But cross racial lines and the choice is made to appear not as a “preference” but rather as a “fetish,” a term denoting deviancy and sexual perversion. Although common, this idea is fundamentally racist. Its purpose is to discourage interracial relationships and maintain racial normalcy, even racial purity.

In Gattig’s article, Reina Mizuno, a Harvard MBA graduate, is quoted as saying that she could tell that a white guy had an “Asian fetish” if he ogled her while he was walking hand in hand with another Asian woman. But would she ascribe different motivations if the jilted girlfriend happened to be white? Would this, then, simply be a case of “men being men?”

Why must we jump to charges of fetishism only in cases where racial lines are crossed? Apparently even the well-educated can be guilty of stereotyping and promoting racial normalcy.

Most Caucasians tend to date other Caucasians, just as most Asians usually choose Asian partners. It’s simply a preference, a product of imprinting and socialization, but a preference nonetheless. So if a Caucasian chooses not to date other Caucasians but rather Asians, why is this not also merely a preference?

todd strickland

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

  • Starviking

    Excellent letter!

  • http://getironic.blogspot.com/ getironic

    Strongly agree with this. Good on Todd Strickland for identifying the underlying racism (which is based on on fear).

  • hatepc

    You misunderstood, Todd. The writer of the essay made it clear that not every Westerner dating an Asian has a fetish. He talks about preferences as well, which are perfectly legitimate. But the line between an “exclusive preference” and a fetish can be blurred. I have heard Western men say that they can only be with a Japanese or an Asian woman. The fact that she is Asian becomes the object of fetishism, to the point where personality is secondary or irrelevant. So at what point do some people with a “strong preference” objectify an Asian woman – or a black man – because of their race? As it says in the essay, that is for every man and woman to decide.