Asians can be objects of desire. We had a screening of Arthur Dong’s documentary Forbidden City, U.S.A. Forbidden City was the first Chinese nightclub in San Francisco. It opened in December 1938, and was located about two blocks outside of Chinatown. The documentary illustrates how Asians were objects of desire. In particular, Chinese girls were considered different, exotic, mythical beings. Many questioned whether Chinese girls were sexually active, or if sex was different for them. Asians, in general, were perceived as wholly different from “white” or “black” people.
The Asian Americans interviewed in the documentary briefly discussed the topic of race and racial segregation between white and black people. Racial segregation was more prominent in the south, where public goods and services (restrooms, buses, etc.) were labeled either “white” or “black.” For instance, Toy Yat Mar, nicknamed the “Chinese Sophie Tucker,” traveled to southern states for a tour. She discussed how the bus was strictly segregated, with white people sitting at the front of the bus, and black people sitting at the back of the bus. Since she was neither white nor black, she sat in the middle of the bus. Fortunately (or unfortunately), no one else joined her. A possible reason may be because she was Asian, so neither white nor black people wanted to associate with her. Regardless of the reason, Asians were a different race, separate from white and black. Hence, this raises the issue of what Asians are – if Asians are not white or black, then what are they? How are Asians categorized? How should Asians be categorized?
Celine Shimizu’s Straitjacket Sexualities (introduction and chapter 1) discusses Asian masculinity and the lack thereof. Bruce Lee represented, and to an extent, still represents an ideal manhood. He redefined sexuality and masculinity: Lee possessed a macho-ness unlike most other Asian men; he also had “an unbridled libido,” as shown through many of his films. Lee’s martial arts skills also contributed to his masculinity. Overall, Lee illustrated masculinity and femininity, macho and feminism, and strength and vulnerability (80).
However, Asian men in pop culture today are often emasculated. Asian men are ridiculed and stereotyped, and deemed unworthy of sexuality and masculinity. This is mainly a result of “a definition of sexuality that centers sexual domination and prowess by men in the penis/phallus conflation” (80). Asian men, as shown in media, are usually more timid and shy, the person behind the scenes, the nice guy who cannot get the girl of his dreams. Unfortunately, media continues to portray Asian men as lacking sexuality and masculinity, even though these stereotypes are far from the truth.