WOMEN

White Woman Kisses Asian Dudes To Prove Point. Here's Where She Went Wrong

If you want to break stereotypes about Asian men, don't use them as sexual props.

01/10/2017 12:53 pm ET
YouTube/Leela Rose
Leela Rose, a Missouri-born Tokyo resident, wanted to prove that white women can find Asian men attractive.

Actress and occasional YouTuber Leela Rose set out to prove that Western women like herself can find Asian men attractive. While it was seemingly well intentioned, it definitely wasn’t well received. 

As explained in a video Rose published in September and reposted last week, she was upset with the underrepresentation of Asian men in the film industry and she wanted to prove that they deserve the more sexy and dominant roles that are often reserved for white males, instead of being type-casted as “wimpy” or “nerdy.”

To get her point across, Rose, a Missouri-born Tokyo resident, attempted a “social experiment,” as she called it, on the streets of Japan. The resulting video shows Rose surprising Japanese men with an aggressive kiss, sometimes even pushing her targets to the floor and climbing on top of them.

“I kissed random Japanese men on the streets,” Rose says in the video’s introduction. “There’s so much stigma around how Asian men are portrayed in the film industry. They’re usually portrayed as being wimpy or the typical geek or nerd. I just wanted to prove that Asian men can be portrayed as very attractive.”

Rose seems to mean well in aiming to bust stereotypes, but the result is that she reinforces them instead ― all while straddling the lines of consent.

Rose seems to mean well in aiming to bust stereotypes, but the result is that she reinforces them instead -- all while straddling the lines of consent.

One obvious problem in Rose’s video is the issue of physical consent.

Rose claims that she had met and flirted with most of the men in her video earlier in the evening, during which she says she was drinking.

“I just thought it would be funny if I ran back into them and I filmed them,” she said last week in a YouTube interview with pick-up artist JT Tran. “I let them know what I was doing.”

While that may be the case, the video makes it appear as if Rose is approaching men at random, giving them no chance to agree to a kiss. Rose doesn’t explain in the video that these men previously consented to her advances, inadvertently sending the message to her fans that all Asian men are dying to be kissed by a white woman.

And, according to the backlash Rose received in the comments and from Asian bloggers, this is definitely not the case.

Rose seems to thinks that the sexual identity of these Asian men can only be affirmed through a white woman.

Rose’s experiment was also counterproductive to her original goal, which was supposedly to shatter damaging stereotypes of Asian men.

By forcing herself on the men ― even pushing one to the ground by his neck ― she reinforces the stereotype that Asians are passive and weak. She even laughs in the face of some of the men, making them appear to be the butt of a joke that only she is in on, much like the problematic way Asians are portrayed in media today. (See: Chris Rock bringing Asian kids on stage during the Oscars for a joke.)

In her interview with Tran, Rose seemed to further push the idea that Asian men are passive, without offering a deeper cultural explanation.

“Japanese guys just don’t talk to females. It’s a very passive aggressive type of culture. And they work 14-hour days,” Rose told Tran, who took no issue with the video. “They’re so socially impaired, that’s the thing that people don’t realize about Japan.”

What’s more, Rose’s affinity for Asian men seems to be based mostly on their otherness: “I know that Asians populate most of the world, but for me, that’s something exotic."

What’s more, Rose’s affinity for Asian men seems to be based mostly on their otherness.

“Japan is one of those countries that’s so weird and different than western culture that it’s fascinating,” Rose told Tran. “I know that Asians populate most of the world, but for me, that’s something exotic and it’s something I’m very attracted to. It’s different than what I’m used to seeing day after day.”

Even worse, Rose seems to thinks that the sexual identity of these Asian men can only be affirmed through a white woman, such as herself. She doesn’t leave space in her video for the men to voice their own opinions on Asian male sexuality, dating or stereotypes.

Instead, they’re used as props for Rose and her audience’s enjoyment.

YouTube/Leela Rose

Although Rose’s experiment is off-key ― given the apparent lack of consent and fetishizing ― the problems she attempts to tackle are very real.

Asian actors are indeed underrepresented in entertainment, making up only 3.9 percent of speaking or named characters in film, TV or digital media, according to a 2016 USC study. When they are represented, they are often depicted as passive, as seen in Fox News’ offensive Chinatown segment with Jesse Watters, or as the butt of a joke, as seen in Chris Rock’s all-Asians-are-smart Oscars joke or Glamour Brasil’s Instagram photo showing staff members pulling their eyes slanted to celebrate a trip to Japan.

The underrepresentation and stereotyping in media probably isn’t helping their love lives either. Data collected in 2014 by dating site OKCupid revealed that Asian men have more difficulty finding dates than other racial groups.

But Rose knows just as well as we do that Asian men can be sexy, and we’d all like to see that statistic change for the better.

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