About a million years ago (in fact, in 2003 with an update in 2005), I typed up a few Questions and Answers to try to expand on a few of the issues we’d encountered with the campaign.
Some questions, some answers, more questions, some general principles, etc, etc.
What about other prejudices – against black guys, or latinos, or whites – or against fat men or effeminate men?
I think it’s important to talk from our own experiences, and mine is of an Asian guy who is pissed off at seeing anti-Asian ads. I would love our campaign to extend to battle all sorts of racism, and I’d be pleased if some proud fat guys and effeminate guys want to add their thoughts to our campaign. You can’t tackle everything at once. This is only one small step.
I don’t have sex with women. And wouldn’t want to be forced to. What’s the difference?
Do you really think that attraction to a gender is the same as race? I think that attraction to men or women is mostly biologically determined – though in truth, I know a number of gay men who have enjoyed sex with women or feel sexual attraction to women – but don’t act on it, or even talk about it, because humans like to simplify… if you’re gay, you’re gay. Right? Attraction to men of different races is very different. I know many white men who have suddenly found themselves attracted to Asian men after travelling to or living Asia. My sexual attraction to women hasn’t increased by hanging around a lot with women. Also, while there are big messages in society about how “men” are and how “women” are, both in terms of gender and sexual roles, the language in straight and gay communities about sexual attraction to different races is pretty specific: black men are studs, usually dangerous ones, Asian women can be sex kittens, ah Latino lovers: hot. But Asian men, in particular, are seen as non-sexual, and not attractive. I think these messages have filtered into society pretty well.
I just prefer white men. Why is that racist?
I don’t think that’s racist at all, actually. We all have preferences and we all make choices. What I think is racist is when men completely exclude all men of a certain race. Asian men do NOT all look the same. I actually think a lot of men in Sydney just haven’t met enough Asian guys to have considered them in a sexual way. When I was young, I didn’t think I was attracted to Asians. Truth was, the only Asians I knew were my relatives and childhood friends. That’s not very sexual. When I finally did meet more Asians, I realized that there were Asian men I am attracted to. Say you’re attracted to only five white men out of a hundred. If you’re in Sydney, hanging out at gay bars and seeing hundreds of white men, you’re going to find men you’re attracted to. Say you’re attracted to five Asian men out of one hundred Asian men. Maybe it will take you a little longer to find someone you’re attracted to. Maybe you’ll even have given up before that, and decided that you’re not really into Asian men.
Isn’t it better for Asian guys to know where they stand, and not waste their time writing to a guy who isn’t into Asians?
People respond to ads all the time and people respond to them or ignore them. I’d rather send a response to someone and get no response then having to read beforehand a phrase like “no asians” and be reminded of racism I’ve experienced in my daily life, and sexual racism that I’ve experienced on the gay scene.
Do you think you’re going to change anything? The gay scene is a total hierarchy based on beauty and other factors.
We don’t expect to change the world. Or even the whole gay community. But we’d like to make people think, and if we can make the internet and the community a bit friendlier for all of us, why not give it a shot?
Is this racism as bad as you say it is? My friends aren’t racist. In fact, they like having sex with men who aren’t white.
Well, that’s great. People’s experiences of whether a gay community or gay people are racists are very different. I would propose, however, that people who aren’t white are going to notice different things. And that their opinions should be respected.
I can’t believe you’re trying to force me to have sex with Asian men. You fascist nasty-heads!
The truth is: we’re not. There have been a number of responses like this that misinterpret what we’re saying. Actually, we think you should have sex with lots of people. Sex is good. But we’re not trying to force anyone to do anything – we’re putting out opinions and trying to create discussion. At the least, we’d like people to consider their attractions and how they express them, and leading on from that, how we treat each other as human beings. Why not work for a better society?
I have particular types of men and bodies that I like. That’s preference and discernment, not racism.
I totally agree. I myself have a weakness for muscle. One of my favourite responses to a campaign was from a man who wrote to say that he’d had sex with hundreds of men, including Asian men, and because he prefers hairy men with bigger builds, he doesn’t prefer Asian men. I quite like this. That’s he was open to experience and figured it out. Some men like smooth men and are therefore more likely to be attracted to Asian men. Likewise for men who like “boyish, slim” types. Sexual attraction is complicated. And so is racism. What I’m really trying to raise here is when people haven’t challenged themselves on this issue – and that would be the quite large number of white gay men who have decided that they aren’t attracted to Asian men without ever 1/ meeting many 2/ thinking about the issue. And then, how they express that – either in internet sites, or to their friends, or in the gay community, which leads others to think that it’s fine to think and do the same thing… Now, I don’t think that gay men have to sleep with women, or Asian men, or anyone to know that they don’t want to. But, as I’ve said above, I think that racism in the general and gay community can interfere with what people think they know. I also think (as I said above) that there will certainly be men who are not attracted to white/black/Asian men, and that it’s probably not going to change. But at the least, I’d rather them not express this in a way that makes a community (whether internet or real) seem racist. A number of responses to our campaign say that everyone has preferences, and what’s wrong with that? At a basic level, nothing: yes, everyone has preferences. On a broader level, why do so many white men have sexual preferences that exclude Asian men?
I think you’re being wishy-washy. You’re using the word “racism” and you’re also backing off from it. What gives?
We’ve consciously chosen to use the word “racism” because 1/ we have noticed racism in the community 2/ we believe that something called “sexual racism” exists 3/ it has evoked strong emotions and reactions. I’m still not sure of the last reason. Would it have been better to not use the word “racism” because a number of men have not been able to actually read or think about what we’re saying because they’re so upset about possibly be considered “racist”? I’m not sure. However, I am sure that racism is a complicated concept. It’s not something that is set in stone. Now, “racist” while seeming to be nearly the same as racism, is actually a bit different, and I’ve tried to avoid using the word on this site. In terms of personal interactions and dialogue, it’s too strong a concept to use, and is not that useful to accuse someone of unless it’s really blatant. It’s more useful to describe racism in the community, and how someone’s words might be considered racist, or contribute to racism in the gay community, but actually calling someone racist is usually too strong a word, and it may be inaccurate anyways.
Is sexual racism the same all over? Is this campaign international?
I think the world has similarities, but is mostly different, and culturally specific. Big western cities with more Asian men are changing, I think, for the better. Then again, I read a study from the USA where black men in some major cities were considered sexually unattractive by white men, either the same or even lower than Asian men. I was pretty surprised by this since my stereotype was that black men are sexualized in gay culture. And black guys have been in American cities for a rather long time. I think talking about this issue is also going to be different in each place. We’ve found in the Australian context, that men who have written “no GAMS” or “no Asians” in their ads, when challenged, particularly with the Australian concept of “giving someone a fair go”, will realize that the wording is negative and unfair. This concept – “a fair go” – is really engrained in Australian culture, and I think it’s a lovely one. More effective to use as a concept than “racism” since discussions of racism here tend to all be about Australian aboriginals. It’s possible that in Canada, where I’m from, using the term “racism”, would work fine. Canadians are well-versed in multiculturalism and talking about race, and more importantly, we’re polite (too polite sometimes) and generally concerned about whether we’re being nice to each other or not. I think in Canada that if someone used the words “racism” or “racist”, a typical Canadian will think “am I being racist?” and consider what the issue is, rather than being defensive. On the other hand, I think we may have received the strongest reactions to our campaign from the USA. Race politics in the USA are so heated, and so confrontational. I think the American concepts of libertarianism and freedom of speech can sometimes make people react strongly: “how dare you try to stop me from saying what I want to” and “this is the way I am.” In some cultures, perhaps confrontation works better. In other places, even if someone IS a little bit racist (and after all, we all are), it’s better to try to open conversation in neutral or friendly ways.
I don’t think you’re going far enough. Why are you just sticking with internet? Why aren’t you challenging racism on a broader level in the gay community?
We encourage people to tackle racism, prejudice and other stupid stuff wherever they find it. That’s great. I’ve done lots of other activist work in my time as well. Social change sometimes works well by being specific and tackling a concrete issue, and this is what’s we’ve tried to do here.
Any other questions or issues that you think I should address? If you write to me in the spirit of dialogue, I’ll see what I can do.
SOME BASIC PRINCIPLES AND QUESTIONS (according to me)
1. Sex is good.
2. People are beautiful in different ways.
3. We all have prejudices.
4. People’s attractions and “types” can change over time.
5. It is not difficult to say what you’re looking for rather than what you’re not looking for?
6. Why is it so frightening to so many men on these services that a “fem” might write to them?
7. Why does the phrase “no asians” look less racist than the phrase “no blacks” or “no aboriginals”?
8. Has anyone noticed how many gay men who try the hardest to be masculine are a bit girly?
9. Since most of these personals sites have pictures, why do we need to use the abbreviations GWM (Gay White Male) and GAM (Gay Asian Male)?
10. We all can make the choice to treat each other with respect and kindness
(Sept 03 / Updated Oct 05)