We went through a whole slew of topics at tonight’s panel on Asian American women and sexuality. Some of the interesting points of discussion:
* The origin of sexual stereotypes: I attributed the image of the meek, submissive Asian woman to the history of Western colonization and occupation in the East, where forced and “voluntary” sex trade was rampant. Since the majority of encounters were transactional, women occupied subservient roles. Prostitution aside, interactions between Asian women and male foreigners nonetheless tended to be inherently unequal due to the economic privilege of the latter group.
* Campus social scene: The presence of MIT frats in Boston allows for a much more diverse social atmosphere. When I went out to Halloween parties with Christine, we danced alongside students from Emerson, Northeastern, and BU. Harvard is completely insular (a bad thing, in my opinion), and Harvard girls are wary of outsiders, especially if they’re Wellesley students, who are viewed as potential competition. I also pointed out that at Harvard, like at many colleges, people speak of a pervasive hook-up culture, even though the numbers don’t add up. (A 2003 survey by University Health Services found that half of Harvard students had never had vaginal sex.)
* Yellow fever and Asian fetishes: The panelists were in agreement that the large Asian populations in schools like Harvard and MIT meant that non-Asian guys would be more likely to come into contact with and date Asian women. We talked about the difference between a fetish and an aesthetic preference and discussed whether Asian women have reverse fetishes on White men. I imagine I’ll be discussing this topic more in-depth on Friday (see below).
* Family, parents, and sexual instruction: Christine aside, the rest of the panel and audience commenters indicated that their parents had told them very little about sex beyond saying that they should not have it under any circumstances until marriage. I told everyone that my mother was slow to come around, but once I moved away from home, she had to deal with the inevitable (and I wasn’t about to maintain an illusion for her sanity). Recently, I mentioned to her that the Pill was killing my sex drive and she expressed concern that Patrick would become dissatisfied. So, things change.
There was a great turnout and audience participation (always better than just letting speaker ramble). Since I already knew the other panelists, alum Vivien Wu and MIT’s Christine Yu, I felt a bit less of a super senior out of touch with the rest of Harvard. It also helped that my friends came — all, uh, five of them. At least they’re loyal.
This event was part of Asian American Awareness Week, which culminates with a charity dance on Saturday. There will be events throughout the week, and I’ll also be a panelist for Friday’s Interracial Dating Discussion happening at 4:30pm in Lowell House’s Junior Common Room. I’ve written about my thoughts on intra- and interracial dating in the past, but it’ll be interesting to share these ideas in the context of a conversation. Send me questions if you can’t make it!