In July 2005 ”Times Higher Education” posted the information about academic scandal that arose in Stockholm University. Tobias Hübinette – the doctoral student from Department of Oriental Languages – was barred from a conference because of his controversial research on interracial marriages and adoption. Due to the multiple complaints received by university, its legal representatives had to investigate Hübinette’s works in order to determine whether they fall under the category of reverse racism.
So, what exactly sparked the controversy? To make the point, the aforementioned article quoted a sentence from Hübinette’s paper:
“what drives (Western man’s) fetishism with Asian women is quite simply pedophile tendencies”
After reading it, I naturally became very curious and decided to find the research itself. Unfortunately, the long searches haven’t yielded any result. Moreover, although there were tens different blogs and forums that quoted exactly the same sentence in their posts, neither of them provided a link to the source.
So, I personally contacted Dr. Tobias Hübinette through his site and asked him to send me the copy of his paper which he kindly did. The only problem was that the paper was in Swedish and hasn’t been translated to English (which actually explains why the multiple sites that discussed Hübinette’s work never linked to it).
However, the article itself was so interesting that in order to share it with my readers I decided to translate it with the help of Google Translator. Actually, the draft version of translation has been reviewed and corrected by Dr. Hübinette himself – so I can rest assured that even if the English version is not the precise translation, its original meaning has been preserved. Anyway, those of you who know Swedish language and want to read the original paper can follow this link.
Yellow Fever, is it a multicultural symbol or a pedophilic fetish? The white man’s approach to Asians has evolved into a mixture of exotisation, sexualization and pedophilic fetishism.
Unlike Asian feminists in the U.S., Swedes have been silent over the phenomenon of “yellow fever” – the fact that some white Western men have a very specific attraction to yellow East and Southeast Asian women, manifested in everything from marriage and relationships to prostitution and trafficking. It’s time to break the silence. Exotisation (the term commonly used when sexuality and ethnicity intersect) has historically occurred in a colonial context. It is obvious, however, that the colonial images about the sexuality of others have not disappeared after decolonization. On the contrary, many of them have been revived in modern times when white Westerners are forced to live together with their former colonial subjects in their own countries.
I agree with bell hooks who in her essay “Eating the Other” described why in recent times non-Western cultures are admired and coveted by white Westerners rather than despised and eradicated as under imperialism. Hooks linked it to a desire of cultural difference and colonial nostalgia. This multiculturalism exploded towards the end of the last century in the context of globalization and is expressed in the consumption of the Other that takes place both in popular culture and public life. […] In the post-colonial era white Westerners turned to ethnic niches where they can choose potential partners among their former colonial subjects. Hooks exemplifies it with an anecdote about a group of young white men discussing “ethnic experiences”. This colonial attitude of eating the Other manifested in relationships, continues hooks, is in fact the imperialist superiority disguised as multiculturalism – since the white partner is almost always the active one having the priority to choose in the relationship.
The first relations between white Western men and yellow East and Southeast Asian women have likely occurred in 1500s when Portuguese and Spanish, and later also the Dutch, French and British empires landed in the region. According to Ann Laura Stoler such relationships in Asian colonies during the Classical Colonial Period were encouraged as a means of ensuring the permanent European presence, particularly in the Dutch and Portuguese settlements. This situation, however, changed during the 1800s as the European empires considerably consolidated [their presence] through the increased emigration of European women to the colonies. Racial segregation was applied more and more often, and by the end of 1800s even concubinage became socially stigmatized in all European colonies in East and Southeast Asia.
Around the turn of 20th century the superiority of the white race and Western culture was put into doubt. European dominance was particularly challenged in East Asia […] The Chinese Boxer Rebellion with its anti-Western rhetoric, military victory of Japan over Russia and the rising anti-colonial struggle in Southeast Asia sent shock waves throughout the Western world and laid the foundation for the fear of the “yellow peril“. Basically, however, the “yellow peril” was nothing more but a modern version of the ancient European fear of the “Orient’s hordes”. The new awareness of the population numbers in East and Southeast Asia of the late 1800s created the nightmare visions that the West would be flooded with yellow people masses, and combined with the Asian work ethic it was considered as a matter of a not too distant future when the yellow race [would celebrate] victory over the whites. […] As an example, take the evil Chinese Fu Manchu, the subject of popular novels, who poisoned the drinking water in London.
While at the turn of the last century the relationships [with Asians] were officially condemned and the “yellow peril” was seen as a real threat, there was a subculture of forbidden lust and erotic fantasies both in straight and gay versions. The travelogue of Pierre Lotis “Madame Chrysantheme” (1887) and the legendary opera of Giacomo Puccini “Madame Butterfly” (1904) are two stories describing the bonds between A male colonizer and a female native, while the scholar Srilata Ravi has depicted the homosexual relationships between male French colonists and Southeast Asian men […]
After World War II and during the Cold War, European empires in East and Southeast Asia were replaced by the massive American military presence. Hundreds of thousands of young American soldiers were stationed in Japan, Korea, the Phillipines, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand and Vietnam. It is precisely in this historic moment that the “yellow peril” and the “yellow fever” propelled the prostitution industry and gave the rise to today’s sex tourism, while the legislative reforms [back home] allowed the mass exodus of East and Southeast Asian women married to American men. Film studies scholar ,Gina Marchetti has convincingly shown that the romantic depictions of the link between the East and the West in the popular culture have further feminized the Asia’s oriental image, masking the U.S. brutal imperialism under romantic motives. The Asian migration and presence in the U.S. have since been heavily influenced by this history of relations between whites and yellows. Although the migration of mainly East Asian male “coolies” had started at the end of the 1800s, it was only in connection with the migration of nearly a quarter of a million “military wives” and their relatives during the post-war period that a major Asian-American minority developed in the country.
Today, 10 million East and Southeast Asians represent barely 5% of the U.S population. At the same time this small minority has the highest proportion in interracial relationships in the U.S. and this fact becomes even more remarkable as it almost exclusively refers to the Asian women, of whom according to the 2000 U.S. Census, depending on nationality between one-third and half of any age cohort is expected to choose white men as a partner. On the other hand, the proportion of Asian men who marry white women is almost negligible, which means that every Asian-American generation ends in a variety of relationships among women and a variety of bachelors [among men], some of whom choose to “pick up” a woman from the country of origin. This demographic imbalance has led to deep and almost irreconcilable divisions. Asian women married to white men claim that they are more polite (less “collectivist” and “patriarchal”), manly (less “geeky” and “silly”), stylish (physically bigger and “better looking”) and wealthier (richer and more “stable”) than Asian men, and that the latter cannot claim any right to “their” women. The sexualisation of Asian women and the equivalent desexualisation of Asian men is [also] reflected in the American popular culture […]
A parallel to this is also the African-American minority, where a disproportionate share of men chooses to enter relationships with white women, while many of the women are left without a partner.
In today’s Sweden, the view of [inter-racial] relations is influenced by the history of European colonialism and American imperialism, although the country hasn’t had [many] colonies and was officially neutral during the Cold War. In the postcolonial Sweden with its imposed multiculturalism, relationships between white Western men and yellow East and Southeast Asian women are viewed as almost natural and normal […] In fact, the “yellow fever” seems to have a special representation in Northern Europe in general, and Sweden specifically – as according to SCB’s estimation about 15,000 East and Southeast Asian women are married to Swedish men, while the opposite barely exists. Even the adopted men from East and Southeast Asia have in today’s Sweden obvious difficulties in finding (Swedish) female partners.
Here are three examples of Swedish “yellow fever”. Internet ads for Jewel De’Nyle pornographic movie “Asian Babes” (2002), the “Man seeking woman” personal ads in the newspapers from the 10/10 in 2003, and Harry Stevens travelogue “Traveling with Mr. M” (2003). Jewel De’Nyle “Asian Babes” belongs to the pornographic genre known as “Asian Girls“. An extreme example of this genre is “Sex: The Annabel Chong Story” [documentary film] by Gough Lewis (1999) which was shown at the Stockholm International Film Festival. In it a 22-year-old Asian-American woman has sex with 251 white men and there also appears an Asian-American man – however, with the sole task of “serving” in this “world record” by cleaning up afterwards. Internet texts contained the following advertisement of the movie:
“It’s a delight for eye to see these timid, slim and incredibly sexy little pieces […] in a way that only Oriental can. Come and enjoy the pleasure of these young girls, always smiling dolls with cute and hot bodies.”
The Swedish [interracial] personal ads almost without exception go under the title “Man seeking woman” where Swedish men look for Asian women, while again the opposite trend hardly ever occurs. There is a whole host of organized agencies and virtual meeting places for this target group on the Internet, such as “Thai contact” and “Thai women” where they can find marriage partners, get help with legal advice and practical tips and privately discuss between themselves what it’s like being married to an Asian woman. In a personal ad in the newspaper Expressen from 10/10 in 2003 [I] found the following text:
“Girl in 20-30s from Phillipines, Thailand or the like who lives in Sweden is wanted by a youthful 45-year-old man, 176 cm.”
Finally, “Traveling with Mr. M” by Harry Stevens (2003) is a true guide to the women of different nationalities in East and Southeast Asia written for Western men who travel around or live in the region. Another bestseller of this genre is “Women of the Orient: Intimate Profiles of the World’s Most Feminine Women” by Boye Lafayette De Mente which was republished in many editions. In “Traveling with Mr. M” two Swedes visit five different East and Southeast Asian countries to gain “experience” which they then share:
“Have you done it with any Vietnamese yet?” asked Maud.
“Oh my God, we arrived only yesterday… Is there anything that attracts you, then?” asked Lisen.
“Yesterday morning we’ve seen hundreds of temptations in white robes on the bike” said Mr. M.
“You are mean. School girls – isn’t it perverse?” exclaimed Maud.
“I think uniforms are chaste. You should have seen those Japanese” I say “By uniforms I don’t mean, of course, to do it with children!”
“The Vietnamese wear school uniforms until the age of nineteen’ defended us Mr. M.
What is particularly evident in all three text extracts in addition to the usual Asian orientalism standing for femininity, is that the Asian woman is expected to be young [accompanying] a Western man who is older, or even middle-aged. There is thus no coincidence that this type of relationship almost always follows the pattern “yellow girls – white elder men” in the same way as the mentioned counterpart “black boys – white elder women”. The Asian woman is not only feminized but also infantilized, and thus converted by the Western men to a pedophilic fetish – that is, an object that can be worshipped, and provide the satisfaction of repressed desires. What drives this fetishization of Asian women is nothing more than displaced pedophilic disposition that can be perceived as socially acceptable in an “anti-racist” relationship, and [even] praised for its multiculturalism. In such a way Swedish men having the “yellow fever” [not only] embrace the long Western tradition of colonial supremacy and walk in the steps of European colonists and American soldiers, but they are even rewarded for their pedophilic fetishism as being anti-racists.
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Amateur translator from Swedish, Crystal Tao