Note: This post contains mention of hateful language, vulgarity, racial slurs, and instances of overt racism.
Nobody's ever said that dating is easy. In fact, you've probably heard more about red flags than "green flags" when it comes to finding a partner.
But another dating variable to consider is culture — and accordingly, race. When it comes to interracial dating, there is no shortage of fetishes, stereotypes, and racism to look out for. For Asian Americans (like myself), that usually includes the hypersexualization of women and the emasculation of men.
It's so normalized and common that it's expected at this point — and I don't mean that like, "You expect every non-Asian person to have a fetish if they're into you," but more like, "I've lost count how many times a friend and I have been messaging, and a quick, 'OMG and guess what this guy messaged me on Hinge,' has been brought up."
In an effort to center the voices of Asian Americans and offer them a platform to talk about their experiences, I asked Asian Americans to share the worst thing a non-Asian person has told them in a dating context. More than 150 people responded with their stories. It's important to consider them collectively to better understand the impact of anti-Asian racism in the US, rather than filter heavier stories (and the voices of those who shared) to avoid discomfort and downplay the reality. Here are some:
1. "When I was in college, I dated a white guy who said that he was 'going through an exotic phase.'"
2. "My ex told me that us being a couple gave him a free pass to say racist things and no one would think he was actually racist. I mean, he’s my ex for a reason."
3. "I have several, but this one takes the crown: This jerk told me that he was looking to date Asian women because American women are so bossy, in-your-face, demanding, and have no respect for men. He then proceeded to tell me that surely, a Filipina like me (I'm not Filipina) would be 'submissive,' listen, and do what a man tells me to do. I was rendered speechless. This wasn't even 10 minutes into the date! I guess he saw my disgusted face and had the audacity to tell me I must be into white men because otherwise, I wouldn't be here (we met via an app)."
"Needless to say, I ditched him and ran as fast as I could, uninstalled the app, blocked his number, etc. Never again!" —ditamaulidau
4. "This happened every time on dating apps: 'Not interested in Asian men.' I never used a non-Asian app ever again."
5. "I was freshly out of a long-term relationship and decided to give Tinder a shot. My first match told me that he 'never used to be into Asian girls, but the [military branch] showed [him] that [we] Asians can be obedient and wild at the same time.'"
6. "I’ve had many guys ask me early on in conversation, 'Are you the feather Indian or the dot Indian?' when they find out I’m Indian."
"They also say things like, 'Oh, wow, that’s so exotic,' which is crazy because there’s literally a billion of us." —Alexa, 30, Female, California
7. "I’m half Korean, half white. I grew up in a mostly white and rural area, so I was no stranger to guys saying I was their 'first Asian' (which was offensive enough). However, one guy literally told me, 'I like that you’re only half Asian. It’s just enough to get my toes wet and see if I like it.'"
"I was too stunned to really go in on how horrible of a thing that was to say. In looking back, it still shocks me that anyone found that to be an acceptable thing to say." —Sarah, 32, Female, Georgia
8. "TL;DR: My ex defended his racial preference for Chinese women by saying it was uncontrollable, like how horses like other horses. I was dating a slightly older, white man who I met in Taiwan (I know, red flags). At first, I thought it was nice to date someone who appreciated my culture. I deluded myself into thinking it wasn't yellow fever since I was his first Asian girlfriend. I let many things slide — like when he said he could only see himself with a Chinese woman, or how he dreamed of making dumplings with his future in-laws (News flash: That isn't normal in all parts of China; my family doesn't do that since we're from the South). On a double date, he and another white man debated why their 'preference' for Asian women was OK with me and another Asian woman. I wish I could say the red flags weren't obvious, but honestly, I was flattered that a 'smart,' older guy was interested in me and had a lot of internalized white worship."
9. "A guy I was seeing — as we were getting all hot and heavy — was shocked by my endowment. He, of course, said, 'I thought you all were small.' I told him, 'Well, surprise!'"
—Martin, 55, Male, California
10. "My ex-boyfriend, whom I met through Tinder, once revealed to me that he was 'mostly into Asian women,' which should have been my first red flag. Now, I'm known for my assertiveness, and while in an argument one evening, he — disheartened by his inability to flex his toxic masculinity — said to me, 'Next time, I’ll date a more Asian-y Asian.' I immigrated to the US when I was 6 years old and have assimilated to American culture, though I've since been criticized for being 'too American' by my Asian American peers. I'd almost gotten used to all the acts and comments of microaggressions from both other races and Asians. It’s deeply offensive to suggest to anyone that they are less than."
"Usually, when I hear that a man specifically selects Asian women as his 'type'; it’s an immediate 'no from me, dawg,' but I let it go with him for some reason.
It’s comedic to me because there are men out there that still believe all Asian women are 'exotic' and submissive. It’s comedic in a way that’s not funny at all — it's more like, 'Haha, the world is shit. Fuck it all, anyway,' kind of funny." —Jnx, 33, Female, Massachusetts
11. "He sent me a picture of him licking the cream filling out of a Twinkie and tagged me as the Twinkie."
—Deux, 41, Male
12. "He was my first serious college boyfriend. We'd been dating for over a year when he (a white guy) broke up with me and said that it was because he wanted kids who looked like him."
13. "An ex once said to me, 'I would never date you if you weren’t half white.' And every single time I had heavy eye makeup on, he'd also tell me, 'I can’t even tell you’re Korean right now, babe. You’re beautiful.' He also didn’t even bother to learn my middle name 'because it’s Korean.' We dated for six years."
"After, I dated a guy who fetishized everything about my mom (who is Korean) and the culture. I'm not sure which is worse, lol. I'm only speaking on serious relationships because strangers say the cringiest things about this all the time." —Anonymous, Female
14. "He told me, 'You're good looking...for an Indian.' I'm extremely sensitive in all areas, so I started crying. I grew up feeling hideous and still struggle with image issues all the time. Hearing things like that almost confirm that there's a level of beauty I have no chance of reaching."
"However, I ended up marrying him — just kidding." —Anonymous, Female
15. "This guy approached me while I was bartending and said, 'You're the cutest Chinaman I've ever seen.' I was so appalled by his ignorance but also strangely intrigued by his confidence. So, knowing there was more where that came from, I proceeded to watch the train wreck unfold in front of me. He began to casually greet me in miscellaneous (butchered) Eastern Asian languages and explained that he lived in Asia. At the end of the evening, he tipped me 10% — written in Chinese symbols on the slip."
16. "I was once told on a second date, 'Dating has been rough. My dad told me to just start dating Asian women instead of American women because they won't argue with you and do what they're told.' I almost choked on my wine. I then informed him that 1) I am American — Asian American, born and raised in the US, 2) I'm not a shrinking violet just because I'm Asian, and 3) both he and his dad needed to stop watching so many stereotypical Asian movies."
"I then grabbed my purse and walked out the restaurant!" —Anonymous, Female
17. "I'm half Japanese and half American. In college, I finally accepted a date with a football player who was very persistent. While on our date, he gazed across at me during dinner and said, 'You're beautiful, and I really like you. The only downfall to our relationship is my grandfather would blow you off the front porch before you got to his front door.' His grandfather fought in WWII."
18. "Women would always tell me that I look like Jackie Chan, assume I love Chinese food, or think I'm a millionaire with a small penis. On first dates, they'd often say that they're meeting up with me because they assume I'm polite and kind based on how I look. I'd just laugh it off and do some kung-fu-esque chop. Sometimes, I'd challenge them and ask if I really looked like Jackie Chan, then tell them they looked alike to me, as well."
"They'd also be surprised if I'd pick them up in my truck and after sex because they thought that Asian men have smaller-than-average penises." —Anonymous, Male
19. "I grew up in an area with a lot of Asian people, so I never thought I was different. When I went to college and came out, I started to go to local gay bars and make a lot of new friends. I would then get comments all the time like, 'Wow, you’re so exotic,' 'You’re tall for an Asian,' and 'I would never date an Asian, but you’re the exception' — all because I'm 6’ tall and built a little bigger. I thought it was flattering at first, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that those comments really suck. Those people didn’t care about who I was as a person, just my 'exotic' appearance."
20. "Once, someone I had been in a relationship with for TWO YEARS straight-up told me, out of the blue and with zero prompting, 'Haha, I think I have yellow fever.' When I got mad and explained why that wasn't OK to say, he proceeded to gaslight the living daylights out of me. He insisted that it was a compliment and that I was being overdramatic and sensitive."
"Reader, this relationship did not last." —Anonymous, Female
21. "When I was 18, I worked at a restaurant, and this older (white) waiter had asked me out. I declined. Well, after that he began to torment me. For reference, I'm half Korean and half white. When I'd get a table's order, he'd stop by and say, 'Be careful; she'll give you COVID.' He also insinuated that my mom must be a sex worker or a mail order bride. When I once dropped something in the kitchen, he loudly said, 'You should get a new job, maybe at a massage parlor.' He even made comments about my eyes to our co-worker, before implying that I only got the job because I'm a minority. I was so stressed out that I developed severe cystic acne, cried for 30 minutes in the bathroom at the end of every shift, and eventually quit."
22. "I'm half Asian, but I have a very Asian first name. Most of the girls I've dated were white, and whenever we'd start dating seriously, they'd say, 'I'm not usually attracted to Asian guys,' 'You're my first Asian,' 'You don't look Asian,' and, 'I never thought I would date an Asian guy.' They'd also ask, 'Is the Asian guy stereotype true?'"
—Kenji, 36, Male
23. "I'm half Filipina on my mom's side, and for the most part, I consider myself to be white-passing. In my 20s, I did a lot of dating and hooking up. Eventually, I'd mention that my mom is Filipina, and it'd be like I flipped a magical switch in literally EVERY guy I said it to. Comments ranged the gamut from the standard 'submissive in bed' comment to talking about how my mom was 'a mail-order bride.' The crown jewel of fucked up moments was when a guy I'd been talking to messaged me on Facebook, saying, 'Can't wait to feast on some Korean later!' in reference to going down on me (if we'd met up that night). Aside from the blatant objectifying, I hated that I was misidentified because to him, all Asians look the same or some shit like that. So, in one of my proudest moments, I responded (verbatim): 'First, I'm offended. Second, I'm not Korean; I'm fucking Filipina.'"
24. "During the first (and only) time we had sex, he asked me, 'How many white men have you f*cked?' I was surprised as he never came across as someone who has an Asian fetish, but I downplayed it by replying, 'I don't care about race. I date whomever I am attracted to.' I was totally turned off by him and regret not calling him out on it at that time. He's now dating a woman of mixed Asian ancestry — I believe she's of Chinese, Indian, and another Asian descent — and he's boasted to our mutual acquaintance that she has the best of all the different Asian blood mixed together."
25. "I posted a photo of me and two other girlfriends on my online dating profile. This guy commented, 'Please make room for me in this banh mi. 😅' (FYI, banh mi is Vietnamese sandwich.) Everyone in said photo is Asian, but there was nothing on my profile that implied I'm Vietnamese. I'm not offended that someone might think that, but this guy just had such poor judgment in his choice of pick up line, for real."
26. "I met a white guy on a dating app, and we started messaging like normal. Given the pandemic, we decided to video chat before meeting in person. We were having a good conversation before he hit me with, 'You know, a lot of Asian girls like me because I'm white, tall, and have a job.' He was fully proud to tell me that like I'd drop my panties because he's such cat nip for Asian women."
"Sorry, but I'm fairly sure we require more than that when it comes to the men we date. I hope he sees this and realizes what a tool he sounded like." —m426de7d9b
27. "I’m a cis-het woman and Chinese American adoptee. I grew up with white parents, speaking English, and celebrating Christmas/Easter, etc. Non-Asian and Asian men alike will sometimes seem disappointed that I’m not 'Chinese enough.' They’ve implied it and said it outright. If I explain that I’m adopted (which I often do when they ask if I speak Chinese), they will sometimes 'jokingly' ask if I have abandonment issues. I find it all quite disrespectful and sad that there's seemingly such a narrow definition of what it means to be Asian."
"With Caucasian men in particular, I’m wary of anime interests or pictures on dating app profiles because I’m afraid they’ll fetishize me and/or be disappointed that I’m not as 'Asian' as they assume." —Anonymous, 20, Female, Washington, DC
28. "I was visiting another state when a Bumble match asked me out. It was unfortunately my last day there, so I told him, and he responded, 'What?! How are we going to practice making our exotic half-babies?!' Yes, he went straight there, and we'd barely even had a conversation. I tried steering the conversation by commenting on his rugby player pictures, saying that I envied him because I had no athletic bone in my body. He then said, 'It’s OK. I can give our kids their athletic genes while you can give them their looks. 😉' Never thought I’d be on the receiving end of someone’s pregnancy kink."
29. "I'm an Asian woman and was born and raised in Canada. English is the only language I'm fluent in. I was educated in English-speaking schools, grew up with mostly white kids, and now work predominantly with white people. Naturally, I have white friends and have dated white guys. And I can tell you, it's a no-win situation. It's racist for white guys to take an interest in me because of yellow fever, but it's equally racist for people (white or otherwise) to assume that if I'm with a white guy, it MUST be because I prefer white guys and he has yellow fever. It might be different if I barely spoke English and had grown up in a different country with a different culture, therefore having little in common with my white, English-speaking husband; but me, I'm honestly likely to have more in common with men who, like me, grew up in Canada, regardless of their race."
"I have been surrounded by white people my whole life, but I can't date them without worrying that they have yellow fever, or that people will assume that he does, or that people will judge me for dating him.
Even when I dated a Black guy, someone told me that Black men like Asian girls. When I dated an Asian guy as Westernized as I am, people assumed we were together because we were both Westernized Asians, not because of anything else.
What can you do? The world is racist. No matter whom I date, people are going to notice first that I'm an Asian woman and draw conclusions about my relationship based on that (and his race), no matter what the reality may be. I cannot win." —Anonymous, Female, Canada
30. "This guy and I chatted online for a while before we decided to exchange numbers. We'd gotten to know one another, but race never came up. It was easy to figure out that he was white, but he had no clue about me given that I speak English as a first-generation Asian American. Anyway, I decided to ask him what his thoughts were on Asian women, and he said, 'Oh, they look great from 20–40, but then suddenly, what the hell happened? How come they age so fast? And they're kind of yellow.'"
"Like WTF?" —Anonymous, Female
31. "I met a nice guy at a mutual friend's Superbowl gathering. During the first half hour, we had a nice chat, mostly about football and how we knew the host. Then, it got a bit more personal, and he inquired about my nationality — at least, that's what I was hoping he was asking. He actually asked, 'So, what kind of Asian are you? I can't really tell. You have really big eyes.'"
32. "It's surprising how many white and Asian men have expectations of Asian women, including hypersexuality, submissive behavior, hyper-femininity, and speaking with an accent. One man I dated was 'surprised' that I didn't have an Asian accent and didn't like how 'deep' my voice was — he was actually expecting me to have a 'feminine' chipmunk voice. Another man asked me if there is any truth to Asian women having 'sideways' genitals. I tolerate all of this since it's been the norm for me since I was 13."
"I often get greeted with, 'Konnichiwa,' 'Ni Hao,' and conversation starters such as. 'Where are you from?' 'When did you come here?' and 'Your English is so good.'" —Liz, 38, Female, North Carolina
33. "My ex-boyfriend, after dating me, only dated Asian women, which I thought was sheer coincidence. Last year, while he was dating his now-fiancé/baby mama (who is Chinese), he confided in me that he liked Chinese women because they're 'shy and quiet with wittle eyes' (yes, with the 'w'). I was too shocked to respond, but I am and still absolutely grossed out. Now, he has a Chinese daughter."
"I hate this timeline." —Maddie, 19, Female, Massachusetts