It’s interesting to analyze how our minds work in regards to sexuality and race. As we have seen with sexuality, society loves to group people into binaries and categorize them based on their perceived stereotypes. Hetersexual folk go on one end of the spectrum, gays go on the other side, and bi-sexuals are cast out because it’s too difficult to categorize them easily. After learning about this societal impulse it was no surprize to me when I read about racial stereotypes involving Asian males, in Travis Kong’s, “Sexualizing Asian Male Bodies”. In his work, Kong brings up the racial stereotypes regarding Asian males, specifically in relationship to sexuality. He argues that society has created a de-masculinized and a-sexual or homosexual image of the Asian male (a concrete binary) through media and overall opinion. Alpha male characteristics such as physical strength, aggressiveness, and rationality are virtues that Asian men apparently lack. Kong argues that these Asian male stereotypes are harmful, and urges people to “take sexuality and race… seriously and be more sensitive to the hierarchy of bodies” (Kong 88). Kong boldly addresses how he thinks society sees Asian males: negatively. His use of concrete examples of Asian representation in media helps support his argument that Asian males need to be thought of in a more positive sexual way. However, the argument is not one-sided, and he brings up ways in which media is trying to show Asian males in a more sexual light; but, this is very uncommon.
There are some limitations. I noticed that in trying to fight against the stereotypes of Asian males, Kong often falls into them himself. He makes some statements that seem pretty extreme, even for societies’ stereotypes: “Sex and Asian men? Hard to imagine these two things could go together” (Kong 84). It’s not hard for me to imagine Asian men having sex, and I doubt that any decently intelligent member of society would deny that Asian men have sex (the 4.4 billion people in Asia had to come from somewhere). There exists a disconnect between the media’s representation of Asian male sexuality and people’s knowledge of reality, and this is where Kong underestimates the intelligence of the average citizen. I believe that most people in society can deny a movie’s representation of an a-sexual China-man as an accurate depiction of the Asian male majority. The depictions are often so exaggerated that they’re basically jokes, and I think most people understand this. Kong seemingly does not, which clearly impacts the language in his work.
This entire concept of Asian male sexuality ties into heteronormativity and society’s construed ideas of normativity and superiority in general. Kong argues that Asian men are seen as homosexual or a-sexual, physcially small, and non-aggressive which makes them inferior, but how did these characteristics get labeled as inferior in the first place? Society of course! Kong’s article connects with “Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Politics in the United States” because they both address societal norms. Sediman argues that “our sexualities are regulated by means of a very dense network of social norms and rules. We are all potentially sexual outsiders” (Sediman 1). There is a slight disconnect because sexual norms have to do more with direct sexual identity (Straight people are normal, gays are not) while racial “ranks” are motivated by characteristics that seem to characterize the race (6 foot height is normal so therefore White’s are normal and Asian’s are inferior). People label generalized Asian male characteristics as inferior because society and the media do. Much of peoples’ idea of what is superior is based on perception and society’s norms. Perhaps it would help to reevaluate or at least question the authenticity of these normalities.
It’s so easy for society to create binaries because it allows for quick evaluation and judgement. Although I feel that people are slowly realizing the harm of binaries and stereotypes, it still bothers many to see a tall Asian male stud with all the ladies because he can’t be categorized as the “typical Asian”. This relates to “The Bisexual Menace Revisited” or basically the breaking of binaries. Esterberg states that because bisexuals are neither only straight or only gay, they break the binary and threaten the preconceived image of these other binaries. This relates to Asians and other racial minorities. I’ve met people who “hate” Obama and when I asked them why, they would say something like “I don’t know” or “I just do”. Perhaps this idea of a Black President breaks a certain racial binary and creates a level of discomfort for some people. Binaries constrict our ability to expand our achievements and characteristics without judgement, and society would be better without them.
There is no denying that stereotypes and media representations can be harmful, but it also depends on how you look at it. Some stereotypes do have some truth to them, but it is important to accept and expect people to break these stereotypes. I have Asian male friends who are hypersexual and White friends who are still struggling to have any sexual experience and vise versa. Their sexual experiences have more to do with their morals, personality, image, and desire than it has to do with race; and, although race may influence these characteristics, it does not define them.
I believe that most Americans and Europeans understand the difference between the negative and stereotyped image of an Asian male in media and reality. That being said, most people can watch Sixteen Candles and laugh at Long Duk Dong not because he is an accurate depiction of the Asian male, but because his stereotypes are so exaggerated that we are laughing at its stupidity. Do most people in this society understand that the portrayal of the Asian male in media is largely skewed, or does media have a larger influence as Kong suggests? Is there truth to certain stereotypes? Why does society consider some characteristics superior and some inferior? Does this need to be fixed or is it fine the way it is?