Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I want to be Black!

How the appropriation of black stereotypes rescued the sexual potency of white men.

I’ve always been fascinated with the way that stereotypes of Asian men have changed over the decades. Prior to the 1970’s, stereotypes of Asian men included a sexual dimension not present in today’s depictions. Throughout the mid-to-late 19th century and through to the first half of the 20th, Asian men were depicted as rapacious sexual deviants - Chinese men were stereotyped as craving white women and were considered a threat to their sexual purity. Filipino men were stereotyped as sexual powerhouses, irresistible to white women and preying on their innocence.

Over the past thirty years, these ideas of Asian men’s sexual potency have diminished whilst the stereotypes of Asian men as nerds, losers and sexual inferiors has increased. The shift has been dramatic and the apparent need to simultaneoulsy elevate the image of sexual primacy of white men has seemed almost pathological in its urgency. What then could be the cause of this shift and the almost hysterical manner that characterizes its social and cultural expression?

The first clue is the timing of this shift. The seventies saw the culmination of two decades of social upheaval in America and in particular three shifts in social paradigms that challenged the sexual confidence of the white males who dominated society. Women (white women specifically) became more empowered to demand their rights and asserted their control over their own sexuality. Civil Rights outlawed discrimination and along with it anti-miscegenation laws that forbade interracial relationships were repealed. Most importantly, the seventies saw the previously taboo notion of the hyper-sexualized black male come to the fore.

The combination of these three factors meant that the sexual primacy of white men was no longer guaranteed by racist laws and disempowered white women. Furthermore, the preference of many white women for black partners diminished confidence even further. It’s no wonder that we see such a dramatic reaction to this loss of sexual assuredness. Not content with the sloppy seconds of African-American men, the fight to reclaim sexual pride was on. For this to be achieved a new class of sexual "omega" was created that would divert attention away from the increasingly apparent flaccid potency of the white mainstream.

Almost in the blink of an eye, Asian men became asexual in the imagery of American culture and the process of appropriating the hyper-sexualized image of black men and applying it to white men had begun. The loss of power over the choices of white women and the sense of inadequacy this created was cushioned by the newly created myths of white male sexual hyper-potency. Simultaneously, stereotypes of Asian male sexual inadequacy increased. The rest is history.

Since the 1970’s popular cultural images of Asian men in America have become increasingly demeaning. The turn-around is so complete (and a necessary safeguard of the fragile white dick) that images of an empowered and sexually confident Asian man are anathema to this culture. The fear of Asian male sexual potency is so profound, that Asian men are even forbidden from taking roles in historical movies where the main character was an extremely powerful and sexually potent Asian (see here). In fact, non-demeaning images of Asian men are largely restricted in American society and media for this reason.

So to summarize, it's clear that social and cultural denigration of Asian men is an attempt to salvage the sexual pride of white men. In order to achieve this, the stereotype of black hyper-potency was appropriated and Asian men were assigned the role of the sexual underclass. Restrictions on positive images of Asian men reinforces the position of Asian men in this underclass. It just has to be remembered that these negative images of Asian men are part of a larger myth building process, the goal of which is to prop up the sexual self-image of the white mainstream.


  1. Hi, I enjoyed your post but I’m not sure if I’m getting your point. I'm attempting to sum it up as accurately as possible.
    Are you saying the reason Asian men lost their hyper-sexualized stereotype is because of 70’s women’s lib movement that empowered women (especially white women) to feel at ease to date outside their race (especially to satisfy their lust for black men), therefore making the white males feel inadequate and, not wanting anymore competition from other races to get the white women, made the stereotype that Asian men were asexual nerds?

    Am I getting it right?

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Hi Ebony Goddess

    Thanks for visting my blog, and thanks for your comment! I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

    I wouldn't say that derogatory sexual stereotypes of Asian men exist necessarily to stifle competition, but to offer a myth to white males that guarantees their sexual confidence. Just as in wolf packs, where the aggression toward the omega wolf helps to maintain the pecking order (no pun!), the stereotyping of Asian men establishes a sexual pecking order.

    Stereotypes, in general, exist to provide a neatly compartmentalized order that helps the people who create them to feel good about themselves. I believe the three factors that I mentioned in the post - women's lib, repeal of anti-miscegenation laws and civil rights empowerment, the hypersexualized black male stereotype - put a huge dent in the self image of the white male dominated mainstream. This was remedied in part by creating derogatory sexual stereotypes of Asian men and by hypersexualizing white men.

    For me, understanding the motives behind these restrictions on powerful and sexualized Asian male images is empowering.

  4. Respect ^_^

    I hope you don't mind, but I reposted your article on a friend of mine's website to get other people's reactions. If you'd like to check it out visit:

    Thanks for the clear up.

  5. No problem. I hope people enjoy reading it.