“Linsanity” & Our Squicky Relationship With Asian-American Male Sexuality

Jeremy Lin is not just the basketball player who has launched a thousand bad “Lin” puns — and prompted a refresher course on why the word “chink” is unacceptable for an ESPN headline.

His sudden emergence in pop culture has also underscored how strangely acceptable it is in America to make make racial comments about Asians, whether they are considered complimentary (like “all Asians are good at math” or “all Asian women are hot”) or insulting (like “Asian men are not sexy.”)

The thing is, if you’ve never seen an attractive, sexy Asian man, you probably ought to check either your eyes or your prejudices — like all hot men, they’ve been all around us all along.

The idea that people apparently think Asian guys are all shy, have tiny penises, and sit in their dark bedrooms writing computer code all the time is preposterous. I’ve dated two different Asian-American guys — one for four months (who is still a good friend) and another for two years. The fact that we’re even discussing “what Asian men are like” is as ridiculous to me as the fact a GOP debate included the totally-serious question, “Do you believe in birth control?”

But it’s happening left and right.  Take, for instance, a piece by Chaweon Koo at Nerve.com:

I don’t expect you to understand exactly what Linsanity really means to the hordes of Asian-Americans who are saying, “Finally.” For me, “finally” comes in the form of relief that I can stop justifying why I’ve always liked/preferred Asian men. Most of my boyfriends have been Asian, and my current boyfriend (not Asian) gets jealous when I gush about Asian-American guys. I never did understand all the videos and stories about how Asian guys can’t get girls, aren’t good looking, etc. — stories that have been internalized by not only the Asian-American guys, but also the girls.

Now, it is true that if you do not personally know a hot Asian-American dude, then you shouldn’t look to pop culture for help.  There aren’t terribly many Asian-American male sex symbols in pop culture and the ones that exist epitomize the unsexy, goofy-awkward stereotype: Long Duk Dong from “Sixteen Candles”, Mr. Chow from “The Hangover” and Han Lee on “Two Broke Girls. I’m racking my brain right now to think of other Asians on TV shows or in movies and I’ll be damned if I can think of anyone other than John Cho from the “Harold & Kumar” movies and Daniel Dae Kim from “Lost.” (Both, by the way, are really cute.)

All that being said, I find questions, like the one Koo asked at at Nerve. com — “Is [Jeremy Lin] a new vanguard for Asian-American sex symbols?” — a little offensive. We have to be careful when we talk about race and sexuality in regards to what it actually is we are saying.  To me, the undertone I don’t like is that “oh, hey, Asian-American guys actually are more masculine than they get credit for in pop culture! They’re actually not effeminite!” While that might sound like an enlightened comment, it is predicated on the idea that Asian-American guys are good because they’re actually “masculine.” For one thing, from my experience, I can’t say Asian-American men are more or less masculine or feminine than any other race I’ve dated. But the idea that more non-Asian women should be attracted to Asians because they’re actually not the calculator-toting pussies we apparently thought they were is ridiculous. The reality is Asian-American guys have both masculine and feminine traits like any other race and they’re just great to date because they’re great to date

I don’t think Nerve.com intended to sound ignorant — they really were trying to say something positive about what Jeremy Lin could mean for Asian-American dudes in popular culture. And  I Am Yellow Peril blogger Justin Huang (who obviously knows a hell of a lot more about what it’s like being an Asian man than I ever will) seems to welcome all the new attention, on some level. “Linsanity could very well redefine the Asian American man as a sexually acknowledged being,” he wrote. “Frankly put, our basketball whiz kid has given the rest of us balls.” That is indeed fantastic — albeit somewhat perplexing to the rest of us who’ve always thought Asian-American dudes were hella bangable all along.


[Em & Lo via I Am Yellow Peril]

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Image via Getty