I wrote this article for the magazine CRANK about internet racism in December 2001. It was my first attempt to put my thoughts down on the issue, and I was happy with the way it turned out. I aimed it at a general audience not necessarily familiar with gay internet stuff:
New social relations. 21st century modes of communication. Forces for social change. That’s what they say about the internet… In my world —that of a gay urban guy living in Sydney, Australia— what I mostly see is gay men using internet sites to look for sex — as well as friendships, relationships and love, maybe in that order. On http://www.gaydar.com.au, a site that is leading the way, men-seeking-men put up photos of themselves (jpgs) in various states of undress along with a description of who they are and who they’re after. Last week on this site, there were over 200 new members from Sydney alone. My guess is that urban centres from London to Vancouver claim thousands of members in each city.
What interests me at the moment is racism on the net: sexual racism that is – how people treat each other according to race while looking for sex or dates. It’s an interesting confluence of issues. The way we relate to each other sexually involves fundamental questions about self-esteem, the social structures in which we’ve been raised, and how we love and are loved. Discussions about race touch on some of the same issues, and both are topics that inflame nations, cities and communities. And while it may sound flippant, I also admit to self-interest. As an Asian gay guy, the more racism there is, the less sex I get.
The gay world, like the straight world, has developed a ranking system of characteristics that are sexually appealing. Along with weight, fitness level, height, masculinity and more, race is considered to be an acceptable factor to take into account. I’d say that Asian guys are at the bottom of the sexual totem pole, but First Nations and aboriginal guys might have an even tougher time. Of course, the reverse is true: there are men who specifically eroticize others on the basis of race. Guys who chase Asian men are called Rice Queens. But I’ve only got 1500 words for this article…
Around the world in gay bars and meeting places, white men are found to be more attractive than men from other races. If I walk into a predominantly white gay bar in the U.S.A., most of the white guys will not be interested. But if a white guy walks into a bar in Asia or Latin America, most men will be. While there may be economic factors thrown into this, it’s a disturbing dynamic. Some people might not think this is true, but those of us who have experienced it know it is true. Just ask us sometime, or ask any of the many white gay men who travel regularly to other countries where their sexual currency suddenly rises like the value of gold after a stock market crash.
- Not interested in arrogant, effeminate guys, asians or guys with attitude.
- Seeking other similar goodlooking masculine guys, no fems, no asians please.
- Not into huge bodybuilders, fems, bears, Asians as a preference.
- I am mostly attracted to white guys but have been known to date Puerto Ricans, cubans, and Spanish guys; FYI, I am not attracted to Asians nor African Americans, so please don’t waste your time nor mine. I am being honest here.
Hey, honesty is one thing but how did it become acceptable or permissible to advertise one’s racism? Would they think it’s OK to put ‘no blacks’ in a job ad? Are they unthinking, inept or just racist? The broad construction of the category ‘Asian’ includes tiny and big men, round and square faces, fats and fems, skinny guys and gym queens. How can you eliminate an entire race of people from your sexual radar? Or is it that the gay scene has actually become deracinated? So that the category of Asian is not a race but a negative characteristic, like bad breath.
I wrote an ad in which I described myself without identifying myself as Asian. They’d figure it out when I sent them a jpeg photo. I received this:
Hi! And before you start to delete this email because you see the word asian. No I am not campy, not short and not pimpled faced and not tiny below and not have a poor command of the English language: some of the most prevalent myths that most white gay men like to think of and love to stereotype us. If still interested, please send a reply. Otherwise, stick to the myths.
Ouch. You’d have to be a masochist to think this is attractive. My reply:
Hey, why so defensive? Did I say something wrong? While it seems you are making sure I don’t stereotype you as Asian, all I can tell from this response to my ad is that you ARE asian, cause that’s the only thing you say. Maybe tell me something about yourself?
However, I’d inadvertently signed this with my real name. This is what I received in return:
You are as asian as me…
Another e-mail that I received responded to a later ad that I posted up with a photo of myself:
Do you like asians? If you do, I will send you my homepage. Just reply to this message please. Regards, Z
I don’t think you should ever have to ask someone whether they like asians or not, just send them your website link and people can decide for themselves whether they like you, not because you’re asian, but because you’re you.
Can you tell that I always wanted to write my own advice column?
I asked first if you like asians because I have also received rude replies from other people when I first wrote to them. Anyway, thank you very much for your reply.
Ah, poor Z. I can imagine it happening.
Time to strike back. Pete, an office colleague, was surfing a site on work-time and found a very cute local boy, Brad. In Brad’s ad was: no fats, no fems, no Asians.
‘Move over, Pete,’ I said, sliding into his chair.
‘Oh no, what are you going to say? The message will show as coming from me!’ Pete cried out in panic and despair (that he might lose a shag).
My workmate was walking by and saw your ad and says this: ‘Do you have to advertize your racism? If an Asian guy replies to your ad, can’t you just politely decline as you would anybody else that you’re not interested in?’
I’m not racist. I’ve got lots of Asian friends. I just don’t like the look sexually of Asian guys.
I discussed our reply options with Pete. He was disappointed at possibly losing a shag but willing to play along. I wanted to ask Brad what his Asian friends thought of his ad or if ‘no blacks’ would look the same to him as ‘no asians’. But Pete was more conciliatory. He wrote back saying that I didn’t necessarily say that Brad was racist but that his ad appeared to be racist, and was unnecessarily so. He added:
P.S. I think you’re hot.
I got angrier with the next ad I found. Not that I was looking for it, it just popped up in front of me: here’s your Big Mac, would you like racism with that? My response was to an ad for two young handsome guys looking for a third.
Just saw your ad on gaydar.com.au – do you know how it feels to be Asian and read something like “no asians please.” Probably not, since you’ve probably not experienced racism all your life, and again on the gay scene. It reminds you that no matter what you look like, short or tall, square or round jaw, that some people don’t want to even look at you because of your race. Even if you feel this way, you don’t have to advertise it. You’ve already said that people have to send you photos. If Asian guys send you a photo, just say “no, not interested” or don’t even respond. I’m trying to say this in the nicest way possible, but do you have to slap an Asian guy in the face every time they open your ad. Because that’s what you’re doing: Change it.
I expected either nothing or an aggressive response but instead received the following:
thanks for your message mate. It is food for thought and never really thought about it like that. We don’t have a racist bone in our bodies, it is purely a matter of sexual preference. Since you have been so diplomatic and polite, my good deed for the day is to change the ad immediately. Have a good night!
In the meantime, the guy that Pete was writing to changed his ad too, even though Pete still hasn’t got a date with him. Yeah! Social change one by one, I’m up for it. I’ll make the world a safe and more shaggable place for guys like me.