Creepy White Guys in Asia: Myth or Fact?
by Jasmine Chen
When I first decided to study in Taiwan, I didn’t expect to have to heed any warnings I read from online discussion forums. One particularly scathing blog review referred to the stereotype of “scum of the barrel white dudes who came to Asia to boost their ego” as if this were a common but unspoken knowledge about some secret population. Rumors of the “creepy, white male” type were occasionally brought up in casual conversation among friends and relatives in the Asian American community.
I never thought much about these mentions of predatory behavior toward women in Asia (courtesy of European and American foreigners) and put it out of my mind, believing there was probably some exaggeration thrown in there. When I headed to Taipei for the summer to study Mandarin, I landed with a very open mind, excited to meet both local and international students if possible and resolved to put myself out there as much as my inner introvert would let me.
Growing up in the multicultural melting pot of America, I was surrounded by people of various skin colors, backgrounds, and beliefs; while there was always a flow of discourse on race- or gender-based prejudice, there was enough of a blend that my Asian heritage did not stand out to a white guy. It did make sense, then, that the male group that were fans of the fetishization of the Asian woman would be attracted to visiting Asia in general, therefore making up a larger percentage of the foreign population and leaving a strong enough impression of “the creepy, white, male foreigner” in throngs over there.
Apparently, I was outgoing enough to break the stereotype of a quiet Taiwanese girl, but simultaneously a bit too reserved to fit the expected mold of an extroverted American—as friends pointed out to me later on, I fit in my own ambivalent category, making me an approachable and questionable chameleon as perceived by creepy, white guys. It was during my short trip in Taipei that I experienced what it was like to be viewed as a submissive and easy target, standing at barely five feet tall and mistaken frequently for an oblivious Taiwanese girl who would blush at any English spoken and swoon at any basic Mandarin mustered.
My first evening on campus, I sat at a bench to take it all in, ready to start my adventures. A voice on my left startled me, asking me in Mandarin with a heavy accent, “How are you doing?” Flustered that I didn’t notice him—the first human being I met on campus—I was thrilled to have a potential friend. I responded excitedly in English, telling him that it was my first night here and that I was from the States. Appearing puzzled, he insisted on responding in basic Mandarin, and I kept replying in English until he gave up and changed languages, saying a bit disappointedly, “Oh, I thought you were probably a local student who just had good English practice.”
Nevertheless, the more our conversation progressed, the more I became wary of what he was saying. He had studied in China prior to Taiwan, and he described the women he met there as shallow money-grubbers who asked questions to figure out how much money he made in hopes of marrying a rich, white foreigner. He then started asking me questions about what type of guys I liked, and when I hesitated, he prompted as if knowingly, “Probably not nerdy, unromantic, unconfident Taiwanese guys like your mom wants?” This rubbed me the wrong way, but at the time, I couldn’t figure out why. Certainly, I had pondered before the cultural differences in which relationships were approached between Asians and Americans, but coming from him, this nonchalant comment seemed presumptuous and rather arrogant.
As the rest of the conversation continued, it only confirmed my suspicions that he was one of those egotistical males who felt entitled to Asian women. After trying hard to persuade me to grab dinner with him off campus, I politely refused and said I was tired, to which he responded a bit snarkily, “Come on, you don’t know how to live a little and take some risks?” A few weeks later, at a café for Language Exchange meet-up, I saw him settled snugly in his self-proclaimed throne, talking to two Taiwanese girls who seemed intrigued by him, an “international student.”
Unfortunately, the second white guy I happened to encounter did not redeem the first. Meeting him through a mutual friend, he proceeded to message me on Facebook in Chinese, asking if I had a boyfriend and saying he wanted to eat me. Baffled by his blatant disrespect, I double checked with my Taiwanese friend—it means the same thing in Chinese as it does in English. I ignored him, but he continued to send me messages asking if I wanted to get coffee or go clubbing. He responded to my “No, sorry campus curfew” with “Lol, nerd.” When I told our mutual friend, a white girl from Virginia who had not personally experienced his advances, her initial shock wore off enough for her to reflect and muse that she had noticed the way he addressed their Taiwanese waitress a few days ago was different from the way he treated her—it made sense.
Finally, toward the end of my trip, I had become more sensitive to this issue I was experiencing and witnessing. As my friends and I left a hotel bar, I saw a middle-aged, white businessman feeling up an Asian woman’s thighs in plain view. The few seconds of blatant, lecherous behavior I happened to see walking by made me cringe.
My experience that summer caused me to pay more personal attention to the scandals involving the pick-up artist group Real Social Dynamics when they came to light in November of 2014. The company consists of white males who call themselves “international leaders in dating advice,” and the controversy involved one of their members, Julien Blanc, whose arguably greatest offense was demonstrated in a video of him lecturing misogynistic and racist teachings to other males.
He was seen telling them that walking down the streets of Japan, one could literally thrust Japanese women toward one’s d**k while yelling “Pikachu,” and they would love it; this followed up by a short clip of him choking a woman with two other women laughing in the background. The situation got so out of hand that Julien Blanc became featured as the “Most Hated Man” in Time magazine. He was interviewed on CNN to publicly explain that the video was taken out of context as a bad attempt at humor and that he had helped countless insecure men find love, even bringing together marriages. A brief glance at Blanc’s Pimpin’ My Game website, which had undergone some remodeling post-scandal, still currently boasts mostly of banging hot women, as an excerpt here states: “Did some routines on a girl I knew of, boom fucked her. I felt like this was real for the first time. One week later, fucked my second girl. She had a boyfriend.” The hashtag #takedownjulienblanc was created by intersectional feminist Jennifer Li in an attempt to use Twitter to bring awareness to his actions, but despite efforts to ban RSD from giving lectures worldwide, only a handful of countries have actually taken action to do so.
The existence of “Julien Blancs” in Asia and other countries, I discovered, was all too real. This reality illuminates an entire set of disturbing issues, which can be traced back to the existing problems of double standards and lack of accountability for men. Julien Blancs might suffer slightly more in the modern day because of their misogynic and racist behavior, but there are endless cases in which Eurocentric chauvinism still continues to thrive: it is one of the reasons why Asian Americans, men in particular, are denied leading roles in Hollywood due to scarce but consistent portrayals as dorky, laughable men.
It is also the reason why sex trafficking is prevalent in certain areas and why men get away with mistreatment and abuse of women everywhere. Certainly, during my stay in Taiwan, there were other interactions with normal, friendly foreigners, but the fact that I encountered any Pimpin’ My Game fan club members at all was eye-opening, and quite alarming. The truth, as it turns out, is that there are quite a few more Julien Blancs than is acceptable.