Yellow fever ≠ all interracial relationships

by quadshock

I have written about this before so some of my friends might find this a tired topic. I feel like this blog wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t formally share my thoughts though.

There is a phenomenon, particularly in the US, called yellow fever. I am not sure where the term started to refer to the fetish more than the actual disease, but it was most likely popularized by Wong Fu Productions’ video. Today the term is used to describe a person’s sexual preference for Asians. In America it generally refers to a non-Asian man’s obsession with Asian or Asian American women.


Those of us who have taken an Asian American studies course or two can tell you that yellow fever more often than not is due to stereotypes about Asian women. The stereotypes themselves came about due partly to the military connection the US has had to the Philippines, Vietnam, and Korea. Movies didn’t help. Of course, the fact that a lot of Asian countries like Thailand are popular stops for sex tourists really didn’t help. Couple that with the stereotype that Asian men are not assertive, sexual, or wealthy, and the result is yellow fever. It’s not that simple, but that is the basic idea.

As an Asian American man myself, I have witnessed yellow fever in action everywhere. Taking that ASA course opened my eyes to things I didn’t see before. I find myself noticing interracial couples when they enter the room or walk by. I don’t judge, but I notice it. And just by observation it is easy to see that there is a greater number of wmaf (white male, asian female) couples than amwf couples out there.

Let’s get one thing straight. I think yellow fever is disgusting. It’s racist and it damages the progress that Asian Americans make as a people. Does this make me racist? No. Even some of my close friends have come to the conclusion that my interest in Asian American masculinity/femininity necessarily means that I am against interracial couples, and this is simply not the case. Some of my best friends are in interracial relationships, and wmaf ones at that. It doesn’t bother me, because it is not yellow fever.

Having that said, I also do not immediately dislike all people who do have yellow fever. I am against the idea, but I also understand that it is not always a choice to feel the way some people do. So what am I trying to accomplish here? What is there to be done about yellow fever? I have had a friend tell me that worrying about these issues are pointless, as I have no way of changing the course or outcome. Stereotypes will be around for decades. They might outlive me. What is the point?

The point is we need to change the cause of yellow fever, not the fetish itself. There are things that we see in movies that, intentionally or not, promote stereotypes. I haven’t seen the Social Network yet, and I expect it to be a great film, but the roles of the female Asian cast are promoting the stereotypes. I doubt that they decided that all these girls needed to be Asian, but that’s how it ended up. And in the back of viewers’ minds–particularly those who have had little interaction with Asian girls, might refer to these roles when they think of Asians. The fact that Asian men are still struggling to be in any sort of romantic role in mainstream media also contributes to it. Ken Jeong will still have a tiny penis in The Hangover 2 (which, by the way, will be set in Thailand… expect the worst).

If we can take gradual steps to change things like this the general perception of Asians will be different, and yellow fever will start to go away. There is always the counterpoint that people just have their preferences, and that it is not a problem. But I also have an idea that is impossible to back up, and I really believe it. If we all grew up understanding and tolerating everyone’s culture, then shouldn’t we be able to find any race or ethnicity to be attractive?