Continued thoughts on sexuality and race

So, for the first time in ages, I am totally smitten with a straight guy. We've been hanging out a lot lately and it's been great. I've been trying to figure out what exactly is going on, since I usually find heterosexuality a total turn off. It's got to be more than a killer smile and the world's sexiest ass :)

It took me awhile to realize, that I think it is ultimately about race. First and foremost it is about the conversations we have about race, which we talk a lot about. He is Uyghur, and therefore identifies simultaneously as ethnically unmixed but racially mixed (I've found this to be pretty common among Kazakhs as well). While as the previous post indicates, I know a few other Asian/European mixed men, but haven't really had a meaningful discussion about race with them. I have had some of the most in depth and meaningful discussions about race with this guy that I have ever had with anyone. Although our experiences are very different in some ways (he's lived his whole life in China), there is a striking amount of overlap and I feel like he gets me in a way that I have just come to expect that people will not get me.

What I have also come to realize, is that there is a distinct difference between my interest in this guy and my interest in the Korean/white-American guys in the previous post. This guy, like the Central Asian men I have dated makes me feel attractive in a way that American men (of any race, including both Asian and mixed-Asian) cannot. When I meet an American guy, I assume that he has internalized, been exposed to, or accepted the same racial bull shit that I have. That he also sees Asian(American) sexuality as at best suspect, at worst non-existent. That he too, regardless of his personal feelings, can at best see me as a "specialty food," outside of conventional beauty norms. Regardless of whether or not he fetishizes me, he has had to contend with the idea that my race makes me a fetish object. He has received messages about penis size (which of course for me is a moot point), libido, and sexual interest. That I must be either asexual or perverted.

When I meet a Central Asian man, I assume that he brings to the table a different set of assumptions. While he may also have internalized white supremacist beauty norms (which I assume would be more the case in Kazakhstan than in China), it is a different history of white supremacy. The assumptions about Asian men are fundamentally different. For instance, when I told a (female) Kazakh friend of mine that in the US Asian men are viewed as deficiently sexual, she laughed in disbelief. What this translates to is that Central Asian men make me feel sexy in a way that American men cannot because they read my body through a completely different lens. I rely on that difference in perspective to feel positively about myself. While my friend is obviously not interested in me as a sexual object, he is able to read me as a sexual being. When he tells me I'm attractive (which he has!:)!) I feel like I can believe him. I feel like to him, I am normal looking, complete person. He constantly reaffirms our sameness (often saying that we look alike) rather than our difference, and I am used to seeing myself through difference.

I'm sure that given a little time this crush will run it's course, but in the meantime it has brought home to me some of the complexities of what I need out of a relationship and who can (most easily) fulfill those needs.

Race and Sexuality

Hi, back again. I guess every few years I find the need to come back to this forum.

I'm thinking a lot about race and sexuality tonight.

This is a favorite topic in the last few years, but wasn't really on my radar in quite the same way when I used to post here.

About my racial background, to contextualize where I'm coming from:
I am German (5/8), Japanese (1/4), and Irish (1/8)
Until I started on testosterone (age 20) I was usually perceived as white or not quite white. I found out I was mixed race when I was 10 and from that point on had a somewhat uneasy relationship to it.
When I first visited Kazakhstan at age 19 people thought I was Kazakh.
As hormone therapy progressed I started being perceived more and more frequently as not white, sometimes, but not exclusively Asian or part Asian.
When I moved to Indiana (age 23) friends immediately embraced me as a POC and I eventually began to see myself this way as well.
I now tend to identify as Asian, mixed race, or not-white.
In Kazakhstan I'm still predominantly read as Kazakh.

So, I go on a lot about the desexualization of Asian men in America, and how this is ruining my life (jk -sort of).

And while I want to talk about that tonight, I also want to talk about the sexualization of race and racial difference.

First, things that bug me.
1 - the assumption that Asian men are asexual, less sexual, sexually undesirable.
2 - when Asian men are sexualized, it tends to be men who look like women/ embody stereotypes about Asian women's femininity.
3 - when people who are not Asian deny that Asian men are desexualized - often accompanied by "I think Asian men are sexy/ I have an Asian ex boyfriend"
4 - when people don't understand that this shit gets internalized ("you can't let other's opinions get you down, you should just own the fact that you are sexy", "why do you care what other people think?" "It's all in your head" "Just because X doesn't think you're sexy doesn't mean that no one thinks you're sexy"
5 - when people make it clear that the only reason I'm sexy is because I'm Asian

So, let's unpack these a little.
1) I'm not the only Asian American man who feels desexualized. In fact other Asian men cued me in to the idea (ok, so it was a Black man who first introduced the idea to me, but I didn't really recognize it until friends from Japan and Guam assured me that this is what I was experiencing). I felt invisible, especially to other gay men.

2) I'll return to 2 later.

3) I got this a lot from a friend who belongs to a racial group that tends to by hypersexualized, but I was also reading it all over the internet tonight. Asian men post things about being desexualized and other people have the gall to deny that this is a thing, which leads into:

4) Micro aggressions are real. You tell me something about myself every fucking day how do I not believe it eventually or at least have to contend with it. You may think I'm sexy, but I've learned to assume you do not. I've learned to believe I am not.

5) So here we get into the meat of what I have to say tonight. Where is that line between appreciation and fetish? When is it ok to like someone's racialized characteristics? When is your interest in me flattering and when is it creeptastic?

Let's start with question one. I really don't know the answer beyond I know it when I see it. I was into a guy for awhile who had an Asian ex boyfriend. Part of the reason I liked him was because I knew he could find Asian men sexy and at the same time I never felt fetishized (maybe because he wasn't that into me, but what the hell). This leads us to a bigger question - is it fetish to like someone outside your own group? and can you fetishize your own group?

I would like to think that appreciation of difference is not always linked to fetish. Or perhaps rather appreciation for things that happen to be different. I would like to think that fetishization is different from appreciation for non-normative or under valued characteristic. There is something sinister and dehumanizing in my mind about fetish.

So I was reading this post online tonight that was basically, "Help, my white husband loves Asian women and watches too much Asian porn" to which many responses were along the lines of is the problem that he watches porn or that he watches Asian porn? First, of course the problem is that it's Asian porn or the woman wouldn't be going on and on about Asian women. Of course, many of the responses were also along the lines of "him being into porn is not a problem, but Asian porn is a problem". I'm not sure what bothered me most about this scenario. Was it the husband's fetishization of Asian women? Was it the fact that the wife was threatened by Asian women? Was it that she felt Asians were somehow an inferior or perverse object of his affection? Was it the sheer volume of people who wrote in to commiserate?

So can the appreciation of racialized characteristics be ok? Can I love the hue of your skin or the shape of your eyes? Your nose, your hair, your cheeks? Can I love your dark skin without fetishizing your Blackness? Can I say you have beautiful eyes and mean the almond shape in addition to the color?
Can I love you because of your racial sensitivity, won only through a life time of walking around in a racially marked body?

Can I want you desire my racial body? Can I want you to love that I'm not white enough to be white and not Asian enough to be Asian? To love my eyes, my nose, my cheeks, my jaw? My fatness? My lack of facial hair? What about my journey and my relationship to race - can I ask you to love that as well?

No fats, no femmes, no Asians.

I was reading an article about this and another about camp phobia. Both talked about the idea that there is a difference between a preference and a prejudice. Is there? Am I allowed to like what I like and not like what I don't like. I feel uncomfortable with no femme, but I don't like masculine guys - is there a difference? Is the difference that people write no femme but don't write no masc?

So, what is all this really about - what am I struggling with tonight?

Not so much the desexualization of Asian men as with the sexualization of Asian men. (I'm getting to point 2 in a minute!)

Not just any sexualization of Asian men, but specifically my sexualization of Asian men.

I'm not going to say Asian men are sexy. I just find a disproportionate number of Asian men to be sexy.

Why is this? Do I expect them to get me? That's definitely part of it. That's not so much a struggle for me. And by finding other Asian men sexy I reclaim part of my own right to be sexy. It's empowering. Cool. So why do I feel guilty?

Because I love femmes. And the Asian men I tend to find attractive tend to be femme or nerdy or both. Which leads us back to the Asian stereotype of the effeminate, emasculated nerd. And I worry that I love Asian men because I love the stereotype. Which would mean that I fetishize Asian men.

So what prompted all of this?

This weekend I met two guys whom I was really into. Both were tall, thin, half white/half Korean. I joked with myself that I really had a type (and a very specific one at that!).

Tonight in expanding my porn repertoire I looked up Asian and Eurasian men and had trouble finding stuff in the list of actions I was looking for (I did however find a great blog that complained about the lack of Asian men with Black women porn and I felt less alone). I did, however, find a lot of problematic shit - including the white men with large cocks dominate Asian men site. Yeah.

So anyway, I struggle with the fact that I find Asian men attractive and I struggle with the fact that I struggle with it. The fact that I feel guilty for finding Asian men attractive is fucked up. There is some real deep seeded bullshit going on here. I don't feel the same problems with my attraction to white men, although it is also problematic for different reasons, and I don't feel the same way about my attractions to people of other races.

It's 2 AM and I should wrap this up. I'll revisit the issue again - maybe something less ranty.

Is it prostitution?

Some days I wish I could shut my brain off.

Today I was suckered into paying a ridiculous amount of money for face cream. At least that's what it looks like on the surface. Part of me is kicking myself about it. I'd promised myself I wasn't going to get talked into buying something from the kiosk vendors at the mall. Last time it was a nail buffer that would make a great present for my mom - until I remembered that my sister got her one 2 years ago and she never used it. Or a great present for my sister - but let's face it - if she got it for my mom, she probably already has one. So, in retrospect, I convinced myself that I like the way it made my nails feel and will use it - eventually. Which, I guess kind of ties into the face cream.

Let's face it. My attention to my appearance is minimal - at best, and that's a major improvement. I've spent most of my life HATING the way I look, and having a totally dysfunctional relationship with my body, which translates to me all but literally cutting off my nose to spite my face. So not really caring so much is much better than actively trying to look like crap, eat like crap, etc. etc.

But, lately, I'm feeling like maybe, just maybe, I want to put a little effort into my appearance. There's several levels to this (including going back to Kazakhstan) but I'm getting off topic so more on that later (maybe). So, maybe it's justified that I bought the face cream (I did use it tonight). Of course, I probably could have gotten something that would have gotten the job done for a fraction of the price. Maybe not - I don't really understand cosmetics and it's something that I put so little money into that maybe I didn't get ripped off. But this is not about whether or not I got ripped off or whether or not I should have bought the face cream.

This is about the fact that what I paid for really wasn't the face cream at all.

What did I pay for?

I paid for a few minutes of attention from a gorgeous young man. I paid for him to smile at me and ask me questions and touch my hands and flirt a little and just for a moment remember that intoxicating feeling of a guy who is way out of my league not only noticing my existence but actually wanting my attention (god I miss Kazakhstan!).

Of course, even if he never made the sale, I probably would have gotten pretty much the same thing (except maybe for him chatting with me when I passed by the second time), but we all know that once I sales person acknowledges I'm alive I have to buy something or else I feel guilty (of course, this may in part be the result of growing up somewhere where sales people seem to go out of their way to avoid customers and act a little pissed if you decide to trouble them with trying to make a purchase).

So, back to the title question.
1) Am a really that desperate that I'm willing to pay for a little human interaction?
(Maybe only if that human is a petite guy with a sweet face and a sexy Israeli accent ;) )

2) What are they really selling at these kiosks? Is it face cream? A dream of beauty? A little pampering? Or just a few minutes of small talk and a little bit of touching?

Do I have an answer - of course not (whose blog do you think you're reading?)

However, I've stopped at these kiosks enough times to notice that it's not always quite the same approach. And why did it work today? With the nail buffer, I was actively gift shopping for my sister and was willing to momentarily buy into the line of "a special woman in your life needs this essential beauty product". Today, that was not the case. Today, for the first time, the sales person (and yes, both men and women work the kiosks and I've gotten the spiel from both) did not ask me if there was a woman in my life, did not suggest that my girlfriend, mother, sister... must have this. Today, it was just man to man.

Sexual Identities

I'm pasting in part of an informal response paper I'm writing in response to "Made in Indiana: Decolonizations, Queer Sexualities, Tran/national Projects" by Suparna Bhaskaran:

Also of interest was the idea that sexual identity is a privilege of the upper classes, which opens up questions of what counts as sexual identities. Is “wife (or husband)”? How about “mother (or father)”? Is “virgin”? Is “respectable”? All of these identities imply a certain form of sexuality, but are they sexual identities? What about “woman” and “man”? Gender categories do tend to be invoked to imply (usually heterosexually oriented) sexual identities.
This leads back to the beginning of Bhaskaran’s book and the discussion of queer. Is it problematic that queer is invoked alternately or simultaneously (not necessarily by Bhaskaran, but just in general) as a catch all term, a specific identity, a political stance, and a theoretical framework? For instance it seems all gays are queers but no queers are gays. This uses both the definition of queer as encompassing all sexual minorities and queer as reactionary identity category specifically opposed to the category of gay.

Sexology - a grounding - or this sounds like its going somewhere steamy, but its me, so its not.

I went to the Bakehouse tonight to work on my paper for E500 - topic, the role of ethnography in early German sexology. For once, I allowed myself the indulgence of checking out guys. There were two visibly gay (and extremely atractive!) young men who I have not seen there (or anywhere else before). I found a free table not too far from their's, and after some debate as to whether or not to sit so I could see them, decided, hell, why not. I was afraid it would distract me from my work, but instead found quite the opposite to be true. Watching them out of the corner of my eye whilst reading articles on Magnus Hirschfeld and Ferdinand Karsch-Haack, I was reminded of the real life human element of the study of sexuality. When you strip away statistics and biological speculation and queer political analysis and all that crap that I get so caught up in, what you're left with is two gay guys chatting and third sitting at the next table checking them out- way too timid to make a move. Suddenly, the motivation behind it all made sense again. Not because I think my work will impact the lives of these guys or anyone else for that matter in any real or meaningful way, but because I felt connected to researchers I was studying, reminded of that sweet little sensation that forms the core of homosexuality.

I was reading Ulrichs the other night, and he was describing the contact between two men (or rather between an Urning and a man if you want to get technical) as a sensation fo taste but not taste, like smell is taste but not taste, but still sense that is not smell, but somewhere between taste and touch. He described it further as warm and salty and nourishing like bowl of hot broth tastes to a famished man. As I read this, I was reminded how far I am from the visceral side of sexuality - something that on some level my descision to study sexuality has perhaps inadvertantly, perhaps purposely influenced. The age-old (or rather not so old) notion that to study something (especially sex) one must be removed, detatched, and objective in order to maintain both respecability and legitimacy. Or perhaps, simply put, sometimes I wish I was more Ulrichs and less Hirschfeld (other times its the other way around, which may be why I'm shying away from trans studies - in otherwords the hesitation to draw too heavily on the personal).

Wow, if were working on my paper right now, just think how much closer I'd be to finished.

The count down's begun

Well, less than 2 weeks before I leave for Indiana.

I've been sorting through boxes, bought a computer, and have been worrying like crazy.

I still need to pack and to get together at least once more with Steph, Heather, and Ken.

Working on getting the car fixed.

Been sick the last few days, so that's held things up a little.