Saturday, October 2, 2010

Invasion of Privacy

The Sexual Harassment of Asian Men.

Shaming of others through mockery, taunting or any other method will always be ugly and will often carry with it painful consequences. The suicide last week of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi is a tragic reminder of this. As readers may know, his decision to commit suicide is alleged to be the result of a "prank" by his roommate and an accomplice that exposed Clementi's apparently hidden homosexuality in a live online broadcast of the boy engaging in a sexual encounter with another male student. No doubt, defendants Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei may have thought that shaming a young man about his sexuality would be a great laugh! Both students now face charges of invasion of privacy with some gay rights activists calling the incident a hate crime which, if proven, would carry with it a harsher sentence.

Sadly, Clementi was the target of the mean-spirited spite with which Asian men may be familiar. Sexual shaming of Asian men is now such a common phenomenon in American culture that sexual inadequacy has become the normal mode of reference for Asian men. Sexual myths about Asian men are broadcast so routinely by many major institutions of popular culture that they have become commonly accepted truths. From big-budget movie productions to home-made YouTube videos the personal and private particulars of Asian men's sexuality are the subject of much public discourse - often carried out with the apparent intent to humiliate.

This is why the incident and subsequent reactions to it are so fascinating. When public sexual humiliation is directed at Asian men society sees no problem with it. If society were consistent then it should find reason to be outraged at the pervasive sexual denigration of Asian men. Yet, as we all appreciate, this is not the case. Perhaps it could be argued that Asian men don't commit suicide as a result of cultural shaming. This may be true (or not - who knows?) but that line of argument also legitimizes social sexual shaming of homosexuality as long as it remains directed at the entire community and not at individuals. This would make homophobia acceptable as long as it isn't directed at any particular individual. As most would agree, this is incoherent and of course unacceptable.

As I've outlined before, Asian male sexuality is feared.  The sexual denigration of Asian men serves to uphold the myth of white male sexual prowess. This is why society is so heavily invested in this phenomenon - Asian male sexual empowerment is the final straw that will break the back of western patriarchal self-confidence hence the vehement propaganda war to prevent this occurring.

Edit: Minor Word Edits For Clarity.


  1. I've been following your blog and reading everything on it so far. This is a truly enjoyable space. However, I don't agree with this post. That's not to say I don't agree with your comment on the effects of a white mainstream media publicly denigrating Asian male sexuality and finding comedy in that. Where I disagree is the contention that Asian male sexuality is something to be feared. If so, then why isn't Black male sexuality feared? Why isn't the sexuality of any other males of color denigrated in the same way as Asian male sexuality? There's more to the story, and I'd appreciate seeing an Asian male explore those other factors, rather than the direct and somewhat superficial, incomplete finger-pointing at White Male Privilege. Again, not crying foul on you; just wondering why the complete profile is rarely given when this issue is written on by an Asian male.

  2. Hi TZ

    Thanks for your comment and support - it's appreciated!

    I'm not really saying that Asian male sexuality is something to be feared - I think it is feared. This isn't our fault and I have no solutions to offer on how to make white male sexual egos less fragile!

    Even though I agree with you 100%that exploring an Asian-American male sexual identity involves many more facets than media attacks, the fact is that Asian men identify the media as the primary source of their sexual identity issues. For some Asian men this seems to be an extremely painful burden and many more feel as though this is the primary hurdle that holds them back.

    The solution to this belief is simple - understand the fear that makes mainstream culture so heavily invested in our sexual denigration, then laugh at it, then move on. Asian men have sexual power, they just don't realize it.

    You have bought up some good points which can't really be answered in this comment, but which I may explore in later posts. Suffice it to say that sex is power and power is sex. Who has the potential to usurp the western (economic and perhaps even military) power structures more than Asia? Maybe that's why Asian men's sexuality isn't tolerated.

  3. it's simple. get some of your white male friends to watch Margaret Duras' "the Lover" or "Hiroshima mon Amour" and see what the reactions are.

  4. @tz:

    There's a simple reason why AA male sexuality is feared.

    AA men are on the socioeconomic come up faster than any other ethnic minority group. That is a much more viable threat to the white hegemonic power structure of today.