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Stereotyping Gender: Occidental Reflections on Asian Sexuality.


Whether we like it or not, the past century has been concluded with the unquestionable triumph of the Euro-American civilisation. And like all other civilisations this one too has spun tall yarns about why it’s ‘way of life’ is the most superior and how it’s morals are the most valid. What sets apart Euro-American ideals of the good life from all of it’s rivals, is the degree of prominence they have acquired. Evidently, the prominence in question is not so much due to any intrinsic values inherit in Occidental culture as it is to the military and economic power behind it. After all, is it any wonder that the same cultural paradigm that launched the crusades, colonised the entire known world for over a century and ‘liberated’ countless nations from the horrifying perils of planned economy; is now standing on the tallest soapbox to preach about what political system is best, how money should be spent and even how we should express our sexuality.

The implication that the way we express our sexual identity is shaped by a political force may strike the more naive readers as ludicrous. “Surely something as intimate as how I make sweet love is an individual matter”, he or she may cry. It certainly is not this author’s intention to precipitate a state of gloom to those blissfully unaware of the extent to which the consumerist paradigm shapes the most private aspects of our lives.

The consumerist dream of success, carries with it certain assumptions. It shapes our ideals of beauty and self fulfilment. At the core of the consumerist dream is the suggestion that it is the most ‘natural’ way of organising society. It convinces us that humanity is greedy, that life is nasty, brutish and short and the only way to prevent humanity from destroying itself is to allow for a political economy that will permit the expression of it’s insatiable desires.

Sir James Goldsmith, The ruthless mouthpiece of the 1980’s corporate takeover movement and the inspiration behind Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, could not resist making analogies to nature given half the chance. The idea is that state regulation to cushion the effects of predatory corporate behaviour merely causes the economy to ‘degenerate’. Here is one exceptionally poetic nature related analogy by Jimmy (emphasis my own):

“there can be no continuity in nature, because there are predators. And in fact there was some game reserve set up by some well meaning people. Who said this is horrible, these poor animals should live constantly, under the threat of predators [Jimmy actually means to say 'without the threat of predators' here but he is so drunk on power he mixed up his words]. Those animals subsequently became degenerate and died. Because predators are a necessary stimulant. If you eliminate predators in business and just create comfortable bureaucracies and monopolies with no predators you will have a dead industry. The prosperity of the country will shrivel away and your people will suffer infinitely more, then by being subject to the constant stimulation of threat and competition”

Considering that Sir Goldsmith has spent the final years of his life standing trial for corporate corruption, spying and insider dealing, we could say that Jimmy himself, being a predator, “became degenerate and died”.

It is tempting to go on making fun of Jimmy and his rubbish theories, but this article is in fact about how the Euro-American civilisation stereotypes Asian sexuality.

Well, at the core of Asian sexual stereotypes there lies the assumption that there is indeed a ‘natural’ way to express sexuality and that Occidental civilisation has a monopoly over it. Any other form of sexuality practiced by other societies is a repulsive deviation from nature and should inspire a sense of disgust on men and women of good character.

Sir Goldsmith’s jargon of degeneracy also manifests itself in the way popular Western imagination has construed Asian sexuality. We need look no further than Hollywood- the new Vatican of Occidental morality, to identify the origin of this discourse.

In what follows, I will combine my fieldwork with Western expatriates in Taiwan, with observations from the horror classic Mask of Fu Manchu (1932). In an attempt to reveal the extent to which a civilisational model that claims individual freedom as it’s founding principle has in fact created a collective visual language and moral discourse that strictly restricts deviation.

Let’s have a look at some of the common stereotypes propagated by both Western expatriates in Taiwan and the Visual language of Hollywood.

Stereotype 1: Westerners are more direct/natural with their sexuality

The artificiality of the Orient is explicit on this scene as we get to see Fu Manchu (Boris Karloff- the choice of which is quite revealing, as he is credited for Frankenstein. The ultimate fantasy of the artificial human being) milling about in his laboratory setting giant swords on fire, presumably because it is an absolute imperative to world domination. The more sexual aspect comes later on when the hero is stripped of his shirt and whipped by similarly half naked African slaves as the arch villain’s sadistic daughter cries “Faster! Faster!”. The scene fades out with Karloff’s dark smirk hinting at a degree of homoerotic delight.

The next scene we see him injecting a concoction that includes his own fluids into the helpless hero. The latter, clad only with a loin-cloth by this point. He describes the contents of the syringe and it’s effects as follows: ” This serum, distilled from dragon’s blood, my own blood, the organs of different reptiles, and mixed with a magic brew of the Sacred Seven Herbs, will temporarily change you into the living instrument of my will. You will do as I command” The Euro-American suburban home maker is left to wonder: “Why isn’t good old fashioned white collar crime and heterosexual adultery good enough for those Asians? Why do they have to make elaborate plots for world domination and get their sexual kicks by torturing and manipulating helpless victims with Chinese Voodoo?”

A similar discourse is prevalent among Westerners in Taiwan. It is not uncommon among Western women especially, to express fatalistic sentiments on the subject of ‘competing’ with Taiwanese girls. The language of mystery and enchantment through artificial, unnatural means is very much prevalent. One informer who has described Taiwanese courting rituals as being ‘artificial’ has illustrated her claim by remarking that Taiwanese girls copy dancing moves from music videos instead of dancing “however they feel like dancing”.

Stereotype 2: Western men have easy sex with Asian girls

This stereotype is the one common stereotype among Western expatriates that is not addressed in Mask of the Fu Manchu. It is a suggestion which is impossible to confirm. I have the impression that the basis for this mythic suggestion originates in isolated observations in some of the more notorious nightclubs of Taipei. There is often a fundamental assumption about the docility of Asian women. One American born Chinese blogger summarises the alleged slave-like attraction Asian women have for foreign men. She draws a list of why she believes Taiwan is some sort of a ‘garden of earthly delights’ for western men.

3) Local women will let foreign guys treat them like crap without consequence and stick around. Many foreign guys I’ve spoken to admit that they know they can get away with murder when it comes to locals. As much as the guys crave the ‘Asian’ experience in Taiwan, these women crave the ‘Western’ experience and will put up with Johnny American being a jerkoff, just because his blonde hair and blue eyes are just so darn cute. Foreign women have a lower tolerance when it comes to bullshit and guys are well aware of this. Sticking to the local demographic bodes well for the Western player.
4) A lot of male expats come to Asia because they can’t score with chicks back home. Physically inferior and socially inept in the West can equate to Brad Pitt-likeness in the eyes of a local. If we didn’t want you back home, we won’t want you over here.

I say, Reginald my dear chap. Sometimes I can’t help but think, these coolies do not deserve the British Raj!

The suggestion that Western women have higher standards then Asians when it comes to picking their men reeks of colonialism from top to bottom. This stereotype infantalises consenting Asian women as dazzled victims of white men’s aesthetic perfection.
A quick reality check here will reveal a fundamental contradiction with this line of reasoning. If the white men in question are the absolute scum at the bottom of the gene pool, or as the author describes “Physically inferior and socially inept” like something out of a selective breeding catalogue. Then why is the author mourning the fact that they are sexually unavailable to her?
This fundamental logical flaw belies the terrifying truth of racism. The suggestion is that the most physically inferior, the least socially capable specimens of the master race, are still preferable to Asian men.

Dolly Wink

Stereotype 3: a direct approach to sexuality is considered more ‘masculine’

One expatriate lady who resides in Taipei reported after a trip to the countryside down South that she found the boys in the countryside to be more masculine then grown men in Taipei. When prompted to expand what she considers to be ‘masculine’ she replied “Taiwanese men have no fire in their eyes”. Some women have even gone into elaborate descriptions of Asian men’s skull shapes to explain why they don’t constitute a masculine ideal. I wish I was exaggerating.

Fu Manchu displays the same effeminate characteristics. His display of affection for the hero, whom he finds “not unhandsome, for a white man”, his pseudo-sexual sadistic delight during his torture and his promise of offering the hapless hero for the sexual consumption of his spoiled daughter all hark back to the idea that homoeroticism and femininity are in the same constellation. Her position is of great interest, unlike a ‘natural’ white girl in 1932 who is supposed to woo the object of her affection with her innocent charms, she resolves to having her henchmen (who are unaccountably African) whip him. And then have her father inject mind controlling ancient chinese medicine into his veins.

The sexual tension of the torture scene in Mask of Fu Manchu paints the picture of a civilisation in which the role of men an women are ‘unnaturally’ reversed. A civilisation that is incapable of expressing it’s desires in a ‘natural’ way, and has to resolve to torture and magic to get it’s kicks.

Interestingly, this approach has been internalised by Taiwanese. Some Taiwanese I have spoken to, have reported that they not only found Western men to be more direct then Asian men, but also Western women to be more direct then Asian women. This is also due to their alleged preference for more ‘natural’ attitude to sexuality.

The Western ideals for what constitutes ‘natural’ sexual behaviour has been so internalised in Taiwan that most Taiwanese men and women see the way they sexualise as more long-winded and less ‘natural’ in comparison with Westerners. Crucially however, what Westerners call ‘artificial’, young Taiwanese men and women call ‘civilised’. So, all roads lead to the familiar nature/culture dichotomy.

Although the Western consumerist ideal allows it’s cheerful drones to solve their dandruff problem with an infinite variety of aromatic products, it places certain forms of sexual expression on ridiculous pedestals and denies the possibility of experimenting with thrills that lie beyond it’s description.

The present political-economic conditioning has shaped our understanding of what constitutes natural, that most of us fail to see the problem with John (who looks like Marlboro man) and Jane (who looks like barbie doll) Doe. Most of us consider it ‘natural’ that John is having an affair with his single mom secretary, who depends on him for her income. It is not only perfectly fine that Jane only eats artificial orange flavoured diet biscuits then binges on chocolate all weekend and vomits compulsively, it is in fact the sexual ideal. Mr America and Mrs Europa and all their ships at sea owe it to the world to spread the dream of heterosexual couples with 1.7 cars and 2.4 children, white picket fenced suburban homes and racial purity.

Kind Regards,
Uncle Joe

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