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Fetish or Preference

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Dear 4-Way,

I am an Asian-American woman who has encountered a lot of guys who have “orifechi” (from Oriental fetish). What gives? When I confront them with it, they get very pissed off and say it’s just an “aesthetic preference.” I call it bullshit. What do you say, and why does this exist?—NP, New York, New York

The straight man’s perspective: Chris Kennedy

Why are you trying to classify someone’s attraction to you as a fetish? The only time we should really be concerned about fetishes is if the fetishes of a mate cause us to do things we aren’t comfortable with or interested in doing (i.e., whips, gag balls, peanut butter … don’t ask.) In your case, the “fetish” requirements upon you are that you be of your own race. Does this make you uncomfortable?

We’re attracted to people for many, many reasons—some complex, some simple—and we all have our preferences. While it’s not necessarily a hard and fast rule, most of us have a “type.” For some it’s specific: tall, blonde, curvy, athletic, wants kids, into career, but not obsessed. For others the requirements may be more open: anyone who says yes. Either way, you have preferences and types, too.  So I side with your male suitors on this one—their attraction to you is a preference. You’re Asian and the men who are attracted to you probably are attracted to Asian women. And be happy that people are attracted to you. There are worse problems to have.

Now, if they’re attracted to ALL Asian women without much discrimination then there’s a problem. But the problem isn’t that they fixate on Asian women, it’s that they aren’t making you feel special as an individual. That’s not acceptable. If that’s the case, you say goodbye … and perhaps in an Asian language to drive the point home to these orifechi-ists. Here are a few options: Japanese, sayonara; Chinese, zài jiàn; Korean, ahn nyung hee ke se yo.  Get rid of your own Asian fixation and you’ll be better able to see if your suitors have one.

The gay woman’s perspective: Jody Fischer

NP, I’m so sorry that you even have to hear things like that. I think that those guys have a lot to learn; about sensitivity, issues of race, and what they like. I’d never heard this term until I read your letter and I find it hard to grasp. I don’t know if these guys are being honest with themselves and I wonder if they’re self-aware enough to even know what they’re attracted to. Implicit in the “aesthetic preference” comment is that all Asians look the same, which is ridiculous. Dig deeper into cultural stereotypes and you’ll find that there’s this myth out there of the submissive Asian woman. I know many men who are turned on by submissive women. It seems to me that these guys are assuming that all Asian women will be this way. Nothing could be further from the truth.

As I see it, you have two options:

Option 1: Tell them that you have a preference too—for men that are not limited, unkind, and insensitive. Call it your “sensa-kindfechi.” My guess is that these guys will not get what they think they’re looking for. You would do well to kick their ’fechi asses.

Option 2: Instead of confronting the boys, educate them. When people feel confronted or attacked, they get all self-protective and attack back, regardless of whether they’re right or wrong. If you really want them to understand that their comments are racist and unkind, you have to find a way to do it without attacking. So maybe don’t kick their asses; just try to open their minds.

The gay man’s perspective: Darren Maddox

First of all, I say be grateful for all you have! Next, I think while some people do actually have a preference in the type of person they date, others are more evolved and date someone matching their personality preference. The tone of your question makes me wonder if you meant to say you think men with orifechi (which I must say I say is a new term for me) are actually dating you because they view women of Asian descent as generally submissive based on stereotypes. You, however, don’t seem to fall anywhere near this category, hence your frustration.

While you’re looking for someone who can appreciate you for what you have to offer, don’t forget that you’re also secretly examining what these men can or cannot bring to your own life. Orifechi aside, when you find the person who loves every part of you, it simply won’t matter that you’re Asian, though it might be an added bonus to him. But I encourage you to test your theory and get this out of your system. Meet a variety of guys from a variety of backgrounds. Is orifechi a universal diagnosis or is it localized? Then write back to us and tell us about your findings. I would love to hear more about what you discover.

The straight woman’s perspective: Rebecca Brown

Well, NP, I’m a white girl from the South, and I can’t tell you how many surprised “Oh, you have teeth and haven’t slept with your brothers”-type comments I get when I meet people—men and women. To assume that I’m an incestual, gumming idiot because of where I’m from drives me absolutely bonkers—98 percent of the people who make those comments have never even driven through my home state of Kentucky, let alone actually visited. They base their comments on knowledge learned from The Beverly Hillbillies, for the love of god.

So what I try to remember when dealing with these people is a little saying we have in the South—“Bless his heart,” which can also easily be interchanged with “god love her.” Both mean roughly the same thing—he can’t help it that he’s a complete idiot so we must take pity on his sorry ass and do our very best to change the way he thinks.  I completely understand why it’s annoying to garner a man’s interest simply because of your physical attributes and some notion he has about how an Asian woman should act.

But I would ask you this: are you sure that they’re all orifechi freaks? Maybe some of them just think you’re hot, and maybe that has nothing to do with being Asian-American. Try not to get so immediately fired up and defensive about it if you can. Give each man a chance on a case-by-case basis until you know for sure he’s one of the freaks. I don’t think there’s anything thing wrong with someone who’s interested in a certain physical look. I prefer dark hair to blonde hair, but that doesn’t mean I’m anti-Swedish and want an Italian man feeding me tiramisu and espresso in bed. (Though now that I think about it, that doesn’t sound so bad.) But if I never took the time to actually get to know my dark-haired men and insisted that they drive a Vespa, drape themselves in the Italian flag, call me bella, and slather pomodoro sauce all over me when we had sex, then yes, that would be supremely annoying (not to mention creepy).

Let people appreciate your physical beauty; bask in the attention, even. Slather that attention all over you, I say, until it crosses a line and becomes weird, or worse yet, racist. If your gut tells you a man’s not interested in anything but your physical beauty and your origins, give him his walking papers and move on.

 

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