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Whenever I come across a hot Asian couple -- as in a couple that consists of two attractive people of full Asian descent -- it's akin to witnessing a solar eclipse. It doesn't happen much, at least not in my L.A. bubble, but it's always a pleasant surprise.
Now, before I get any further, please allow me to clarify my usage of the term "hot Asian." It is usually heard in the context of Western ethnocentric bullshit, as if it is a shocking thing for an Asian person to be deemed "hot," and hence a noteworthy distinction needs to be made. In this context it becomes the equivalent of saying, "You are hot for an Asian person." It's one of the most backhanded and racist compliments you can say to an Asian person, so don't do it anymore. Just say, "You're hot." Period. Don't be Ja'mie King.
But that said, there are indeed many hot people within the Asian races (as there are hot people in every race), and upon closer inspection, many of these hot Asians don't seem to want each other. Why is that?
I live in Westwood, right next to UCLA (which stands for "U C Lotsa Asians"). Walking to the gym every day, I notice that the campus seems to be coupling grounds for one particular type of interracial pair: the white person and the "hot Asian." This is by far the most common interracial couple that I see in California.
Now, is this wrong? Of course it isn't. Love between consenting adults is always beautiful, and it should be celebrated in all its forms. No one should ever feel ashamed for loving someone, regardless of gender or color. Besides, "hapa" (meaning "half Asian, half white") people tend to be ridiculously attractive, so it's (probably) not an offense against nature.
Personally, I grew up with white uncles and hapa cousins, and I like miscegenation in general. If everyone reproduced with each other until we were all the same lovely shade of brown, the world would be a better place, I guarantee it.
But this is still a trend worth overanalyzing. So let's overanalyze.
Gay culture, of course, has a lot of snarky fun with this phenomenon. A "rice queen" is a white gay man who has a strong proclivity for gay men of Asian descent. A "potato queen" is a gay Asian man who returns this exclusive attraction to his white admirers. But my favorite label has to be "sticky rice," a hilarious title for a gay Asian man who only dates other Asian men. Sticky rice is the forbidden carb of rice queens.
As for me? I like to say I'm "jasmine rice": not exclusively sticky, and happy to mingle with everyone else on the dinner plate. In fact, I prefer not to date rice queens or sticky rice because I like people who are open-minded in general, regardless of whether or not it falls in my favor. In my book, equal-opportunity sexploitation is the way to go.
But it is rare for me to be mutually attracted to another Asian man. I'll approach an Asian hottie in WeHo only to be interjected by his white boyfriend -- who is rarely as hot, it's worth mentioning (or that might just be my sour grapes).
Granted, I myself have been seen with my own share of non-Asian men, and there is heavy judgment from some sticky-rice Asians, as if I'm betraying my own race by opening my Great Wall to outsiders, particularly if the guy is white. In the meanest of contexts, to be labeled a "potato queen" is to be a self-hater, and to be a "rice queen" is to be a fetishist. It's rather unfair. I won't go so far to say that it's a lose-lose situation, because everyone in it is still getting laid.
But there is a certain uncomfortable undertone to all of this, and I need to ask it: Do hot Asians feel like they have to "graduate" to white people?
I'd prefer not to think so. What if there's just a naturally common attraction between Asians and whites? Is that so wrong? When I come across a hot interracial Asian/white couple, my first thought is that I want to join in, not that they're betraying their own races.
We can even approach it from an aesthetic viewpoint. In fashion, interior design, art, and even food plating, we are encouraged to match separates and to embrace juxtapositions of different colors and shapes. Why not do that with race and romance?
But of course it isn't that simple. When I first came out, my most liberal cousin Karen (who is notably one half of a hot Asian couple) told me that I should strongly consider dating only other Asian men. When I asked her why, she told me that there are certain cultural barriers when it comes to dating outside one's race. And that's completely fair and valid.
But that's probably the point, isn't it? Because maybe the complications of an interracial relationship are what make them attractive: a rebellion against societal expectations, a "fuck you" to status quo. Maybe it's even a status symbol: "I'm so baller than I'm dating this hot person who isn't my own race, and what are you going to do about it?"
I'll never forget this: I was in San Francisco several years ago (S.F., by the way, is where gay boys go to get interracial), and I was talking to a hot Asian guy who definitely wasn't interested in me. Instead, his eyes wandered to a handsome white boy who was clearly trying to figure out if we were sticky rice. The two locked eyes and exchanged a knowing look.
Later that night I was having a cigarette outside when the two of them stumbled out, rip-roaring drunk. The white boy had his hand in the Asian guy's back pocket. As they strode past me, the hot Asian, for the briefest of seconds, turned my way and smiled. It wasn't an unfriendly smile, exactly, not cruel or condescending. I pondered over it as they climbed into a taxi together, and as they disappeared up the hill it struck me: His smile was a smile of triumph.
And I couldn't help it: It turned me on.
This essay also appears on I AM YELLOW PERIL, a sociosexual blog about the intersections of race and sexuality.
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