There are always two things that come to mind whenever the topic turns to “yellow fever”.
Most would think of the tropical, mosquito-borne disease that literally turns patients to a sickly yellow. But go to Google — or just look around — and realize that some other kind of “yellow fever” is infecting people to an unsettling degree.
This yellow fever is the romantic and/or sexual obsession of non-Asian males to Asian females, as observed and portrayed in popular culture. Oftentimes, we see the picture of a white man going great lengths to win an Asian woman’s heart (or body), but there’s apparently more than meets the eye.
Dissecting the fetish, or what Elite Daily calls a social disease, is an arduous task that may be given justice only by extensive research. But in order to arrive at an acceptable hypothesis, the need to examine all possible variables surrounding the idea must not be overlooked.
Let’s take the account of Chinese writer Yuan Ren, who defined yellow fever as the “acute sexual preference” of Caucasian men for East Asian women. Writing for The Telegraph, Ren shared that East Asian friends and herself had their fair share of encountering men with tell-tale symptoms.
Ren said she had heard male Caucasian friends recommend to their single peers that they date “nice Chinese girls,” as well as an acquaintance who casually asked if she would be interested in a guy “who has been with Chinese girls and likes it.”
In addition to what appears like an innocent preference, Ren cited the belief that Chinese women, in particular, are way more sexually open-minded than Caucasian girls.
If word on the street is true, then that explains, albeit partially, the reason for the fetish.
But when exactly does preference become fetish? Sheridan Prasso, in her book “The Asian Mystique: Dragon Ladies, Geisha Girls, and our Fantasies of the Exotic Orient,” wrote:
“The issue of fetishism and preference is so prevalent, so pervasive in relations between East and West, that even healthy, normal relationships often are tarnished by the accusation.”
According to Nicolas Gattig, writing for The Japan Times, Prasso asserted that the line between preference and fixation is vague; ultimately, the individual must decide for oneself whether she or he feels objectified.
Despite this conundrum, it seems established that yellow fever is a widespread phenomenon. That’s exactly what Nian Hu wrote over The Crimson, citing data that show all men, except Asians, have an affinity for pursuing Asian women on a romantic level.
So why do white men like Asian women? Hu said the answer depends on whom you ask, and in essence, this is true. In as much as fetish is subjective, so does its lesser form called preference. The assumptions are endless—Asian women are prettier, more submissive, much smarter and so on.
There’s really no right or wrong answer, but the extent of one’s desire for each of these “desirable qualities” can probably tell when help is finally needed.