Sex (and race) in the City

My girlfriend visited me in HK over the holidays.  For the 17 days that she walked by my side, I was visible.  She’s Vietnamese-American, but seems to look Chinese enough to pass for a local here in many instances.  People frequently spoke Canto to her, something they never do to me.  They also stared at her constantly, in a way that would be considered lecherous in the West.  I remember my former boss, who’s a Chinese-Canadian woman, telling me about this behavior, and how much it bothered her.  I had been out with Chinese women in HK a few times before this, and had seen the stares already, but until these last few weeks, I really had no idea.  We couldn’t walk anywhere without men staring at her face, her chest, and her legs.  It was as constant as construction.  Now that she’s back in Colorado, my powers of invisibility have returned.

In Boulder white man/Asian woman couples are considerably less common than they are in HK.  But here, we (or maybe just she) attracted lots of attention, and not just from men.  Women would stare at us as well, they would see her with her gweilo and then look her up and down.  The funniest incident occurred on New Year’s Eve, when some pseudo model walked by us, pausing briefly to give my girlfriend a very serious, aggressive and perfunctory peace sign.  We were unsure exactly what it was meant to communicate, but it certainly wasn’t “peace.”  The cops also noticed me a lot and gave me really dirty looks  (previously my powers of invisibility were so powerful with the police that I was considering a crime spree).  In short, we got a lot of attention.  This really was my first real experience with the stare.

I’m certainly not the first blogger to tackle the white man/Asian woman phenomenon, but I’ve now been half of that pairing on two different continents, so I’ll share my observations.  Particularly since there’s so much nonsense devoted to this topic on the internet.

White people are bigger, taller, hairier, fatter and more muscular than Asians (on average).  Asians also look younger longer, and have fewer flaws in their skin.  All these traits are all either more attractive or less off-putting in men than women.  Hair, muscles and large physical size are all masculine traits, they advertise high testosterone levels and hence high gene quality, and as a result women prefer men with these traits, particularly as short term mates.  Being overweight (i.e. having a high hip to waist ratio), having flawed skin and looking old are both associated with low fertility in women, which explains why these traits are much more important cues for men than women.

There are cultural factors as well, the most obvious of which is the high social status of white men in HK and elsewhere.  That gap is closing though, and many Chinese women will eventually prefer a more culturally competent (in Asia) Chinese man as a long term mate.  But many of these mixed pairings are long-term, and that’s where the cultural factors kick in.  Both white men and Asian women feel like their getting something from the other race that they’re not getting from their own.  Many Asian women (including my girlfriend) complain that Asian men are either chauvinistic and authoritarian toward women, or they are timid.   Many white men (including myself) complain that white women are just too confusing.  Do I pay the tab or not?  What kind of signals is that sending?  I don’t want to appear chauvinistic, but I also don’t want to appear cheap.  Asian women have more straightforward rules.  With them, men can be men; we don’t have to be the perfect man and the perfect woman at the same time.

White women have a hard time dating in this town, and not only because all the white guys are with Asian women.  I’ve met several Chinese men who say they simply aren’t attracted to white women, and many white women who say they aren’t attracted to Chinese men.  There’s definitely something to this, because in HK I’ve never met a white guy who says he isn’t attracted to Asian women (excluding gay men), and I haven’t heard an Asian woman say she isn’t attracted to white men (though I’m sure there are plenty such women, I just don’t run in very Chinese circles).  In HK, it seems that people have sexual preferences for both race and sex.  Some Chinese guys don’t like white women, some do.  Some white women don’t like Chinese guys, some do.  Most women seem to like black guys, but some don’t.  But most everyone is willing to break their race preference, for that special someone.  Not so with the sex preference.  A Chinese friend of mine is bisexual; but she’s only into Chinese women, and doesn’t seem to like Chinese guys.

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4 responses to “Sex (and race) in the City

  1. Wait, I’m pretty sure curvier women (women with bigger hips relative to waists) scream fertility and have been genetically preferred, generally speaking; birthing hips and all. I’m not sure there are too many evolutionary aversions to obesity because obesity is an extremely new phenomenon at least in being widespread. Historically, the preference would be toward the overnourished, not the undernourished, because they would better be able to handle pregnancy.

  2. For sure curvier women are preferred, up to a point. I was more talking about female choice; and from that perspective it’s interesting to note that both genders are straighter in Asians and curvier in Europeans.

    At first glance, from an evolutionary perspective, it would seem that in the human species, things are backward. In all other animals, the sex that provides the least parental investment (usually, and in the case of humans, this sex is the male) is also the sex that displays a lot of secondary sex characteristics to demonstrate genetic fitness. So it’s always seemed to not make sense that women are the ones putting on all the makeup. But when you look at white/Asian couples, you see that it’s the male’s secondary sex characteristics that determine which coupling is more common. In most species, males are much less choosy than females, so female attractiveness, ironically is actually less important. This stuff gets complex, and cuts both ways for sure though.

  3. a teacher who has been in asia for ten years

    What I am most interested in here is less the gender and cultural differences and the racial response you got from being a white male with an asian women, in HK and in Boulder. You didnt actually say much about the experience in Boulder…was it neutral? not noticeable? no reaction since Boulder is such a “politically correct city?”

    It seems what you report here is alot of hostility toward you as a white man with an Asian woman?

    I grew up in the segregated south as it moved into the civil rights and integration. There was not only open hostility toward biracial couples, but often violence. So interesting to hear where HK, an international city with white men as high status actually is.

    Do you prefer to be invisible? what are the advantages and disadvantages?

  4. In Boulder, the only attention we got was positive. Generally people just thought it was cool. Liberal, middle-aged women would often smile at us, that’s about it. It really wasn’t a big deal. I don’t think people were being politically correct (like they sometimes are with black/white couples) but they genuinely didn’t have a problem with it.
    One difference is that in our relationship in Boulder, the man (me) was in the dominant ethnic group. In HK, I was the minority, and so I’m sure Asian guys saw me as “stealing their women.” Since I’m not actually planning a crime spree, invisibility doesn’t really have many advantages. But no matter how high my status, as a minority I would prefer the cops not pay attention to me. Getting scowled at by police can feel a little threatening, even though we mostly laughed at it. But everything I experienced here is so mild compared to what black/white couples experienced, and continue to experience, in the South and other parts of the US. Violence is not something I worry about in HK.

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