Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
On April 7, Asian Heritage Month hosted a dialogue about Asians and sexuality, titled “Submissive Women and Small Men: Sexual Encounters While Asian.”
“I thought the topic was interesting,” said Josie Hung ‘19, who organized the event along with Vinita Davey ‘17. “I took an intro to gen/sex class last semester and I really wanted to explore how sexuality, sex, and gender intersect with race and ethnicity.”
The intersection between Asian and sexuality can be seen in media. However, Hung found the portrayal of Asians in general in Hollywood to be problematic. There is a lack of Asians in leading roles in films and a lack of complex character roles for Asians to fill. Meanwhile, the roles that are given to Asians are often defined by stereotypes.
“It’s interesting how, a lot of times, Asian women are presented as really submissive, but they are also presented as seductive and exotic,” Hung said. “There are also a lot of stereotypes revolving around Asian men like being the nerds or kung fu masters.”
Hung further noted that sex is often stigmatized in Asian communities. Even though Asian sexuality is portrayed openly in media, this topic is not usually explored at home.
“When it comes to the topic of sex, gender, and sexuality, a lot of Asian cultures tend to be quiet about it,” Hung said. “When it comes to healthy relationships, people don’t mention anything about it. It’s always sex after marriage or don’t talk about it at all.”
While she acknowledged that turnout for the event was lower than expected, Hung was pleased that the people who did attend were interested in talking about the subjects. However, he wished that there had been more male audience members.
“A lot of times, it is mostly girls who get into this stuff,” Hung said. “If the topic doesn’t concern you, if you don’t really fall outside of gender norms, then you don’t feel like you need to go there.”
Hung hopes that with future generations of Asians, there will be more communication between parents and children about sex, sexuality, and gender.
“I think it’s kind of a cycle,” Hung said. “If your parents don’t really talk to you about it and you don’t know much about it, it’s possible that when you have children you are not going to talk about it either.”
Featured image courtesy of Swarthmore Asian Heritage Month.