Any observer of the dating scene will know that there is a wide array of people seeking inter-racial or inter-cultural relationships. The area is of quite some controversy, with some viewing mixed relationships as an attack on their culture or race, and others regarding it as the ultimate melting pot ideal. However, my view is that often it is more complicated than that and racism can live well in the minds of people who are seeking mixed relationships, and there are particular stereotypes that people have in mind. One case in particular is that of white men who are seeking ‘Asian’ women. This is a discussion of my findings on personal ads put out by white men in Asian press and Asian dating sites.
Clearly, Asian women are in quite some demand in the personal columns and the internet. In particular, personal ads, whether on the internet or in the press, often cost money which means people are prepared to put significant resources into finding a partner. The targeting of minority press indicates that there is a great deal of selection going on, and these advertisers are researching where would be the best place to reach a large number of Asian women.
This would further bear witness that those men who do not specify what sort of woman they were looking for know exactly what sort of woman they were looking for simply by advertising where they advertise. However, the research that these men undertake seems to be somewhat scanty and is based on a visual appreciation rather than anything deeper. Many minority press or dating sites are written by and for a specific community, but white male advertisers also occasionally include specifications such as Oriental, Chinese, or Asian/Black - quite different groups in terms of distinct cultures.
To discard these types of advertising as aberrations is to understand these patterns by ignoring them. There is clearly a conscious move by some white men to seek out specifically Asian women, and as some of the adverts would indicate, non-white ‘other’ women in a more general sense. I wonder why.
This is even more striking, when one compares this seeking out to the number of marriages between the Asian and white communities. The actuality of intermarriage between whites and Asians is low, and lower for Asian women than for Asian men. Thus, statistically speaking, the chances are low.
White male advertisers have a number of significant differences from Asian advertisers. They are older, are more likely to be homosexual, prefer above all “Asian” women (rather than a specific caste/religious/cultural background), and they place little importance on religion. Asian advertisers are far more likely to have a religious specification, and conversely, are less likely to state they were willing to take any race/religion.
White men in adverts specifically want Asian women, and not for their religious suitability or cultural compatibility. Few white men specify the woman they are looking for in terms of religion. Overall, the most common tag applied to the desired partner was “Asian” which indicates that white men were seeking a specific ‘race’, as opposed to religion, nation or language. The fact that the other advertisers used such descriptions such as Asian/Oriental or Asian/Black would also indicate a seeking out of merely ‘other’ non-white ‘races’.
This would indicate that there is a large amount of presupposition on the part of white men on the sort of qualities that Asian (and ‘other’) women may have, and what a white person could offer them. Asian (and ‘other) women are subject to a specific sexual racialisation. This was indicated in the text of some advertisements.
Most adverts from white men are fairly run-of-the-mill personal advertisements, apart from the insistence on “Asian”. For example, it is common to read “seeking attractive Asian lady” “seeks slim young pretty Asian female”, “seeks an attractive Asian girl” and so on. One advertiser declared that he “adores Indian/Pakistani females”, which would seem to conflate two countries. If one were to very broadly generalise, India may be more defined by Hinduism, and Pakistan by Islam, two very distinct religious and cultural backgrounds, indicating that the belief patterns of his prospective partners are wholly unimportant.
If advertisers specify an age of the respondent it was usually younger, sometimes many years so. Advertisers also tend to split into two groups, those who emphasise their financial status and others who emphasise their romantic nature. For example:
European mature white professional businessman / film executive lively personality, VGSOH, interesting lifestyle, kind caring, totally honest and genuine…
English boy, 33, longing for the love of an Indian girl. If you enjoy simple things, summer walks, winter cuddles, then you’re the one for I’m looking for. …
Another common feature was to emphasise their respect or interest in “Asian” or “eastern” cultures, including what music and food they liked. “Respects eastern cultures and religions”, “into travelling, music (e + w) …”, “Genuine [sic] respectful of Asian identity” “Interests include Asian culture…”, “Likes cinema, hot food, music”, “have a wide range of interests including Asian culture” and so on are common.
One advertiser — the 33 year-old “English boy” above — identifies religion and culture as a difficulty, saying “Don’t let religion and culture be barriers against two ordinary people who just want to enjoy themselves”, which indicates that enjoying oneself is more important than either religion or culture. One white man indicates the taboo nature of the relationship he was seeking and the disapproval it might get from the Asian community by writing “confidentiality assured” in his advert, which conversely might also imply that he himself would prefer to keep this relationship ‘under wraps’ too.
Another advertiser indicated that Asian women would not get “respect” unless it was from a white man: “If you are looking for a special someone who will treat you with the respect you deserve, please reply, telling me a little about yourself” he wrote, clearly meaning that Asian culture would not accord respect to its women. Another not so blatant advert “I am looking for someone who wants mutual respect…” seemed to touch on a similar theme.
Some adverts allude to the special ‘domestic’ nature of Asian women by indicating that Asian women would be more caring. One said “I’m an honest caring and gentle person ( an incurable romantic) who works to [sic] hard and needs an Asian girl to ease the stress!” and another 27-year-old advertiser stipulated his respondent should be a “nice, gentle intelligent woman 18 - 25”.
There is some transparent racialised and stereotypical thinking in the manner in which white men advertise for Asian (or ‘other’) women. Clearly the biggest single factor to support this case is that white men are clearly advertising in high proportions in Asian media. This preference is supported by some notions of what Asian women in general are like, and what each can offer in the marriage/romance trade-off. Taking all advertisements into consideration — which is not necessarily indicative of any one advertiser — the composite picture is that:
* The white man seeks out broadly ‘other’ (black, coloured, oriental, Indian/Pakistani) women. He is not seeking a specific religious, cultural, linguistic or national background. The defining feature is ‘race’ or ‘otherness’.
* The white man can offer either financial support or romance, either of which he assumes is wanted by the Asian woman.
* In addition, the white man will be respectful of the Asian woman’s heritage.
* The white man will treat Asian women with more respect than Asian men. Asian women are implicitly not satisfied with the deal they get from Asian men or culture.
* Asian women are more ‘caring’ than their white counterparts and have stress-relieving capabilities, clearly an allusion to a domestic role. Furthermore, this may have sexual particular connotations as stress-relief does come in many physical forms.
These assumed qualities are further evidence that colonial and racist representations of the ‘other’ are alive and well in the minds of some white men, and that the whole area of inter-racial relationships is not free of prejudice. Indeed, Roger Bastide wrote of interracial sex: “In those bodies finding each other, fusing, there are two races at each others throats.”