Something Everybody Needs to Know About Yellow Fever

Yellow Fever Personal Zones(Source, left: Kevin Jaako, CC BY-NC 2.0. Source, right: Isabel Santos Pilot, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0, edited)

Now, I’d be the last person in the world to victim-blame anyone who’s ever been the target of Yellow Fever. And I don’t doubt for a moment that the media is overwhelmingly responsible for creating and perpetuating the stereotypes that come with it. But for those men who bring those stereotypes with them to East Asia, there is one aspect of life here that is likely to further convince them of local women’s attraction to them. What’s more, it’s something so fundamental, so visceral, that frankly it completely fooled me too—even though I never shared those stereotypes, and definitely continued to treat Korean women as individuals. 

See here to learn what it is, and why it has impacts that go well beyond mere dating. While it’s really quite simple, and I think most people who deal with people from a foreign country or live in one are already aware of it on some level, I think it’s enormously helpful to have it spelt out—especially if you’re having a bad experience. Also, although again I stress it only plays a minor role in perpetuating Yellow Fever stereotypes, I think it’s one that tends to get neglected in most (English) discussions of those, which tend to focus on Asian-Americans.

I’d be very interested to learn if readers have had any similar experiences, and what you did about them. (Or if your students have; if mine are going overseas, I make sure to photocopy the relevant pages of this book for them!) Also, how does it play out with the sexes reversed?

Social ZonePersonal Zone Intimate Zone(Source: Ryan Somma; first, second. CC BY-SA 2.0)

Update: One thing that didn’t make it to the final article, is that the Korean gentleman mentioned proved to be enormously helpful once we arrived in Seoul, taking a good half hour out of his own time to make sure I got on my plane from Gimpo to Jinju. I was glad that I’d given him the benefit of the doubt when we first met.

Another is that the second university student I mentioned was so close that our crotches were touching (yes, really), which she too realized and was embarrassed about after noticing me flinching. Of course, I didn’t flatter myself for a moment that anything was meant by it. But if the same thing had happened to me in my first year here, when I was very young, very single, and incredibly naive, then I’m sure I would have misinterpreted it, as I did many other experiences like it.

How about you?

Update 2: Two interesting and relevant blog posts I forgot to mention are “No Personal Space and Consideration in Korea” on The Marmot’s Hole from back in 2008, and “Unawake and Korean” on Sorry, I was drunk last month.

29 thoughts on “Something Everybody Needs to Know About Yellow Fever

  1. That’s where having Asperger’s helps. I never noticed anything like personal space and never cared too much about it no matter where I went (well, maybe in some cases I should have but I was clueless). So I never had this issue and never considered it an issue.

    What was and still is an issue though is how Koreans don’t speak their mind and direct communication is rare. They love cancelling appointments in the last moment and “ghosting”. Korean women, in particular, do that a lot, so I’m very careful with them and just don’t trust them in general (who knows when they will disappear). It’s not just my experience.


    1. Thanks for your comment. I’m sorry to hear that you don’t trust Korean women (but I’m guessing you just mean when it comes to keeping appointments, right?), although now that I think about it, I find the last minute cancellations rarer as I and the other person(s) get older — or alternatively, I’m just more used to anticipating and dealing with them, so it doesn’t rile me up so much. I also don’t care for indirect communication either, but I’d imagine that if you’ve grown up with using it it would be much easier to make sense of. Related, it’s ridiculous how foreigners are kept out of the loop at most Korean companies and organizations, to the extent that they’re usually the last person to know something and, in the case of language institutes, schools, and universities, frequently learn it from their students (my present employer being a pleasant exception).


      1. Oh, I want to make Korean female friends and I’m still trying but I just don’t trust we are friends until they really prove it. In Korea, there’s just no way to know if someone is your real friend or not. A foreign friend here had some what she thought good Korean friends and they suddenly disappeared and found excuses not to come to her wedding! It applies to men too, they are just a bit more straightforward than women. A true meaningful friendship or relationship is kind of difficult to make and keep in Korea. I don’t have this problem with other nationalities and I’m now giving a few Korean girls a chance but I’m prepared they may disappear any time.

        I’ve noticed Korean girls do that to foreign guys a lot. I have many friends that thought they were dating a Korean girl but she just stopped receiving their calls, no explanation or anything. Many of them just want to try a foreign guy and then just ditch him. There are exceptions, of course, but that seems to be the rule.


        1. I mean no offense, and I can only speak to my own experience, but I still think you’re overgeneralizing about Koreans and their attitudes to friendships. It’s true I have had someone (a Korean woman) who I thought was a very good friend suddenly, inexplicably cut off all contact with me, which baffled me, and really hurt. But the same happened to me with a couple of (non-Asian) Kiwi friends back in New Zealand too (also women), and I have a couple of good Korean friends I met here that I’ve known for over 10 years (also women; I’m beginning to notice a trend here!). So I don’t think what you’ve experienced is particularly Korean.

          As for your foreign male friends and their disappearing girlfriends, then sure, I’ve heard of stories like that too. And I accept that it’s easier for Koreans to cut off all contact with a foreigner and live with the consequences than doing the same to another Korean, which would mean it happens more often than in Korean-Korean relationships. But the same logic applies to the foreigners too, who can easily just dump their girlfriends (or boyfriends) when they return to their home countries, and that the same dynamics operate in relationships between locals and foreigners in any country. So again, I don’t think what you’re describing is particularly Korean, and I completely disagree that Korean women suddenly leaving their boyfriends is the rule (quite the opposite). I just think these negative stories grow bigger and more numerous with the telling, whereas people in happy relationships (wherever they’re from) don’t tend to take to the internet to talk about them.

          Having said all that, I admit I wrote once that I was struck by a Korean woman I knew suddenly deciding it was time to get married, deciding her (very much in love with her) boyfriend of something like 8 years wasn’t marriage material, dumping him, and marrying a stranger from a marriage agency…all within 6 weeks (I wrote about here; the comments are also interesting). But it was just the one woman, so I shouldn’t generalize from just that experience (although meeting someone new and marrying them quickly is a thing; see here for why). Indeed, for all I know, he may have had it coming: she may have been hinting to him for years that they weren’t really suited for marriage, or there’s some things he had to change about himself if he wanted to marry her, and he didn’t. In which case, I guess I would have given up on him too.


          1. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I like Korea and Korean people. I’m sure there are many good and nice people here just like everywhere else. But it’s just much more difficult to know what’s on a Korean person’s mind I guess. With most foreigners, I know quickly whether we are friends or not, with Koreans… Well, they just won’t tell you if something is not right. Too much mind reading required.

            I agree we can’t generalize. There are certain trends though. Let’s say it’s like drinking. Korea is certainly not the only country in the world where people drink a lot and not everyone in Korea drinks. But drinking is a huge thing in Korea as you must know for sure. So of course that you can find good and meaningful relationships in Korea because Korean people are human just like everyone else after all. It’s just much more difficult to know for sure and it’s much more likely that a Korean will cut off contact suddenly than someone from Latin America or China, for instance, doing the same thing (I don’t know about Kiwis, the only Kiwi I’ve met was a drunk guy shouting how he hates Americans but I guess that’s a very small sample size). In the end, it all comes down to the individual.

            I think you may be giving too much credit to the girl who was dating a guy for 8 years and then just dumped him all of a sudden. She was obviously just using him. I don’t know their situation but let’s just say it’s not something I’ve never heard about here in Korea. Of course, foreigners dumping their Korean boyfriends/girlfriends is also a thing. I just don’t happen to hear such stories though, probably because I don’t hang out with people doing such things (I’m very tempted to call them shallow people, but that may be too judgmental).

            Oh, that was an interesting thread, thank you. I remember reading studies that arranged marriages are actually happier in the long run. I have friends from more traditional cultures and they do have arranged marriages. They are most definitely not unhappy. After all, when people are in love or just strongly emotionally involved, it is difficult to judge the situation correctly (Kahneman’s book Thinking, fast and Slow is very interesting). I think it’s a good idea that those who love you and care the most about you (like your parents) help you choose a spouse and it’s essential that you both do your best to make it work (some people expect a perfect relationship). I personally don’t have any problem with arranged marriages, however, using and discarding someone before you go for the “real thing” is just cruel. It seems to be a relatively new thing in Korean culture. I think the song that I now hear everywhere 지워 is about this phenomenon.


  2. Hello James. Happy New year! I do not know the particular of Korean’s zones but I can give you two examples. I was very surprised the first time I went to China, a while back now, to see girls walking holding hands or each other arms, tight. For me, as a French, this was at first hard to comprehend, if not shocking. Today, when I see in Paris Chinese girls holding hands, I know they’re right off the boat and, indeed, once they have been in France, and in Europe I guess, long enough, they don’t do it anymore. On the contrary, the way French people kiss themselves on the cheeks, even someone they’ve just met sometimes (the friend of a friend), even among guys, is often a source of misinterpretation by foreigners. An Iranien friend of mine was one day utterly offended until he understood that my brother, whom I had just introduced to him, was not hitting on him. So not only there are different confort zones (the words speak for themselves) according to where you are born and raised but it also does affect how you act within those zones.


    1. Yes, certainly. I did mention Koreans being touchy-feely in the article, but should have stressed that it’s combining that with closer social zones that makes their actions ripe for misinterpretation.

      The hand-holding amongst women is the same in Korea, and often mentioned in guidebooks as a result, but now that you’ve drawn my attention to it I don’t think I’ve ever noticed it amongst my female university students. I have noticed that the guys tend to be more physical, but of course they would draw the line at hand-holding.

      I’d heard from high-school teachers that their boys and girls are all over each other (with the same sex I mean), which is nice, but I’ve never asked about the hand-holding. Will do so.

      p.s. Happy New Year to you too!

      Liked by 1 person

        1. You mean this one? It was nice!

          I think it would resonate just as equally with Korean parents. The only difference is that, as I’m sure you know, Korean children tend to take public transport by themselves at much earlier ages than their Western counterparts (and in Japan too; I remember there were a few articles about that last year).

          Personally, I’m not sure at what age I’d let me daughters go to school by themselves. Definitely not at 8 or 9 so like my parents did my sister and I (times have changed), but then I don’t want to be a helicopter parent either. At the very earliest then, when they can demonstrate that they can cross roads properly, so I’m quite pedantic about checking that whenever we’re out together. Both Alice (8) and Elizabeth (6) know how to, but often they also treat it at a big game, virtually dancing across the road instead of taking it seriously. That may just be because I’m there with them, but sill, it means it’ll be at least another year or so before I let Alice do it herself.


          1. :-) I guess that’s why I was happy in a way that Alice took the matter in her own hands. A helicopter parent? I didn’t know that expression. It is interesting indeed to see the differences between East and West as far as raising children is concerned. Although times have changed indeed, I don’t think the danger is greater here or there but it’s the way danger, and which danger, is perceived here or there that seems to matter. Perception of danger? Maybe worth a post by the grand narrative?


      1. Haha, I remember how shocked I was when I saw all the physical affection between guys, guys wearing pink and going to the hairdressers for curling their hair. I swear it looked so gay to me. Now these things seem so normal I don’t notice them and I’m a bit surprised when a friend back home says something looks gay.

        It never ceases to amaze me though how Korean women apply makeup everywhere. Like in the restaurant, on the bus, on the street, everywhere, always amusing to watch how they constantly check themselves in the mirror. I’m still a bit too self conscious to even reapply my lipstick in public. I don’t know when the Korean nonchalant attitude about it will become a part of me.


  3. Fascinating stuff…thought I must admit that is the first time I’ve ever heard Kiwis referred to as “cold and unwelcoming”. Sad stuff though there is some apparent reluctance here to understand Asian cultures and, accordingly, interact in a genuine way. Stupid really when you consider that a lot of Chinese families have been here since the goldrush days and therefore much longer than a lot of the rest of our ‘white’ families!


    1. Just in case it’s not clear, I meant because, despite being warm and welcoming in reality, the Kiwis stood further away from my Taiwanese classmates than what they considered social and welcoming. That’s what led to the negative impression.

      Context may also be important: I don’t know about now, but back in the early-90s, rich Taiwanese businessmen paying for NZ citizenship for themselves and their families, dumping their children on local schools despite them not speaking any English, and then being out of the country for most of the year and paying taxes back in Taiwan was a big political issue (Howick, next to Macleans College, was known as “Chowick”), which the children would often receive a lot of flak for. It would be understandable if they were very sensitive to any real or perceived racism.


  4. Cultural differences in personal space aside, the solution to this problem is to not fetishize based on race, period. The reason why the discussion usually focuses on Asians and Asian-Americans is because those of Asian descent are the ones who are negatively impacted by yellow fever, not those who happen to think they’re getting hit on because they’re unfamiliar with the culture. I usually think your posts are pretty great but something about the way you put this together really missed the mark for me.


    1. I realize the reason why the (English) discussion usually focuses on Asian-Americans, and I don’t at all mean to imply that that focus is misplaced. But, like I say in the post, I genuinely believe that what I describe here plays a (minor) role in perpetuating Yellow Fever stereotypes, and as such the discussion here doesn’t diminish from but can only add to our understanding of their impact on Asians and Asian-Americans. So, I’m sorry to hear that this post missed the mark for you, but unless you’re more specific about why then I can’t really see what how I should have written it differently or where my thinking was misguided sorry.


      1. By saying that the cultural difference in personal space plays into perpetuating yellow fever you’re also implying that yellow fever is a burden that Asian people need to be responsible for rather than placing the blame where it belongs: racists. Even if every single Asian person stopped moving within personal spaces the way we do this very moment this will not eradicate yellow fever.


      2. Like, your language implies that you would rather have Asians police themselves rather than have racial fetishizers keep their ignorance in check. That’s my main problem with this article. You can discuss amongst other non-Asians/Koreans how there are differences in culture that supremely sick and ignorant people will misinterpret all you want but that doesn’t mean that the cultural differences in itself is what perpetuates negative stereotypes, which is what you are saying.


        1. Thank you for your clarification, but I completely disagree with your characterization of my argument.

          I’ve said twice now — once in the post, and again in my last comment — that what I’m describing only plays a very minor role in perpetuating Yellow Fever stereotypes. I also said in the post “But for those men who bring those stereotypes with them to East Asia, there is one aspect of life here that is likely to further convince them of local women’s attraction to them”, and in the article that “He may respond positively to her perceived advances, not helped by any ‘yellow fever’ stereotypes he has” (emphases added).

          That’s very different from saying that “the cultural difference in itself is what perpetuates negative stereotypes”. It’s also quite a leap to say that I would rather “have Asians police themselves rather than have racial fetishizers keep their ignorance in check”. Just because misunderstandings can occur, and that I think it’s helpful for both Asians and Westerners to be aware of the possibility in advance, doesn’t mean either are to blame for them, and that the racial fetishizers among the latter shouldn’t keep their ignorance in check.

          To illustrate how the misunderstandings can be a minor, possible contributing factor, but by no means the main cause, let me give my own case. When I came to Korea in 2000, those constant misunderstandings led me to believe that…well…very frankly speaking, that Korean women just loooved foreign men. I was really insufferable about it too, telling everyone from students (when we were socializing) to a New Zealand MP…until a very blunt Korean friend put me straight (for which I’m very grateful!). Even at my worst though, I never subscribed to stereotypes that Korean women were all sweet, docile, innocent geisha girls that were insatiable in bed; I was never attracted to any Korean woman just because she was Asian; and I never treated Korean women any differently to women from any other country. Because, crucially: I didn’t already have Yellow Fever; and second, I did have that friend who told me to just STFU about what I thought I knew about Korean women, and why. If I’d come to Korea already with Yellow Fever though, or didn’t have the friend I did, then probably I’d still have Yellow Fever today (or would have acquired it), or at the very least still be spouting off about how much Korean women love foreign guys…

          I hope that clears things up, and shows that victim-blaming couldn’t be further from my mind! :)


          1. I understand your intent, but again I’m pointing out your tone/language here, saying that it plays any role at all implies that those of Asian-descent should be responsible for yellow fever in some way or another. It is certainly may be a factor for racists or people who are yet ignorant of the culture in general, but what I am saying is that it is not part of the cause of yellow fever in any way and you saying such (i.e. “plays a minor role in perpetuating Yellow Fever stereotypes,” “plays a (minor) role in perpetuating Yellow Fever stereotypes,” “plays a very minor role in perpetuating Yellow Fever stereotypes,” “a minor, possible contributing factor, but by no means the main cause”) is (minorly) problematic.

            I understand your point that it may be a cause for misunderstandings, but like I said, even if Asians treated personal space the way most Western foreigners do yellow fever will still exist because it’s a racist asshole problem, not because it’s an Asian-personal-space-problem. Touchy-feely Asian culture in itself doesn’t play a role in perpetuating negative stereotypes, ignorant foreigners failing to understand the touchy-feely culture of their host country does, so saying that it plays any role at all in perpetuating yellow fever is pretty fucked up. While the people of your host country/culture should by all means educate visitors, any and all blame for fetishizing and objectifying any race lays solely on the objectifier.

            I’m not attacking your intent. I’m saying that the way you use your language here to discuss this issue is problematic and if it were me I would have presented this issue differently, but it’s your blog. I hope you understand what I’m getting at. The issue isn’t what you’re trying to say – you said yourself you’re trying to promote discussion – the issue is what many non-Asians who aren’t familiar with the issue would glean from reading how you said it. You represent the misunderstanding of touchy-feely culture as everyone’s fault, when it’s actually the fault of people entering that environment with no understanding of it, and a willingness to interpret it as sexual interest.

            I appreciate the attempt to dissect topics like this, which is why I’m a reader, but as a Korean, I’m saying this firsthand. That’s all I’ll say.


          2. Thank you for your further clarification, and I do understand what you’re saying.

            Yes, “even if Asians treated personal space the way most Western foreigners do, yellow fever will still exist because it’s a racist asshole problem”, and yes, “any and all blame for fetishizing and objectifying any race lays solely on the objectifier”.

            But still, some of those racist assholes go to Asia, and, whether through confirmation bias and/or willful misunderstandings of their interactions with women there, they find their beliefs about Asian women confirmed (or, even if they’re not racist assholes, they can become sympathetic to some of the associated stereotypes, like I did). Then, they tend go home (or stay and wax lyrical about Asian women on the internet), and their confirmed beliefs color their interactions with women of Asian descent there, and their (supposed) insider knowledge of Asian culture, customs, and women likely has a disproportionate influence on members of their peer group and so on who’ve never been to Asia. Some may even get jobs in the media and so on, and get Asia-related jobs because of the time they spent there, magnifying their influence.

            Hence it can have a minor, but still quite genuine role in perpetuating preexisting Yellow Fever stereotypes, and which is why I think it’s worthy of further discussion and study -– again, just simple awareness (of differing personal zones) by either party involved can have a huge, positive impact on avoiding misunderstandings that, among other things, could lead to foreign men coming away with Yellow Fever stereotypes. Either way, the effects of those misunderstandings are real, so I completely disagree that having that discussion on the role of those at all “is fucked up” because it “implies that those of Asian-descent should be responsible for yellow fever in some way or another.” Frankly, in saying that it just seems to me that you’re going to the opposite extreme, defending Asians (unnecessarily) by blaming everything on foreigners instead. I mean hey: I was young and naïve, I entered “that environment with no understanding of it”; I sometimes “[willingly] interpret[ed] [Korean women entering my intimate zone] as sexual interest” (which is only human, and nothing to do with Yellow Fever); and I completely misunderstood “the touchy-feely culture of [my] host country”, from which I took away the belief that Korean women disproportionately liked foreign men. Now, which approach would have been the more helpful in dissuading me of that or any similar notions? Just attributing my having it on me being an ignorant, racist, permanently-sexed, asshole foreigner? Or deconstructing my interactions with Korean women, and pin-pointing another factor which I may have completely misinterpreted, and for which I had no-one to blame but myself? How about educating other guys that have been to East Asia, and are now telling everyone how easy the women are? And how does any of that place the blame on East Asian women exactly?


          3. (Reply to your post on Reddit)

            Joan, I appreciate your continuing efforts to teach me the error of my ways, but I’ve already repeatedly pointed out that I absolutely don’t think Koreans are complicit in perpetuating yellow fever, and don’t see how my wording gives that impression. Again, all I do in the post and article is discuss a very real phenomenon by which many foreign guys can and do come to believe that Korean women are disproportionally interested in them, which guys already with Yellow Fever or predisposed towards it will just use to confirm their beliefs about Asian women. Knowing about the phenomenon of different personal zones though, which is the intention of my post and article, just might help those guys to avoid thinking like that.

            Like I say at the end of my last reply to you, how does any of that place the blame on the women exactly?

            But I’ve already said all of that repeatedly, so I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree. After all, I spent four hours yesterday thinking carefully about your comments and politely replying to them, but apparently I just ended up sounding like “some hetero white dude who thinks he knows better than [you] about [your] culture and how it affects [your] race”, right? So what’s the point in continuing the discussion?

            Seriously, venting or otherwise, I didn’t deserve that.


          4. “I’m a little bit more disturbed now that he mentioned this reddit post…what is he doing snooping around here? Creepy.”

            “I still wonder about the mentality of the kind of person who would seek out an Asian women specific subreddit to find mentions about himself, especially when its a white hetero male who considers himself to be an expert on korean feminism.”


            FYI, if my blog gets hits from a site, then I’m curious and I check it out — it takes a whole second or so to click on the link provided by WordPress. Every blogger does that.

            Maybe you didn’t know bloggers had that ability? Now that you do, do you still consider me creepy?

            Either way, I’ve got little time for someone who suddenly brings my race, sex, and sexuality into the discussion as pejoratives, so rest assured that I will no longer respond to any more of your comments.

            Also be aware though, that I’m always trying to educate myself about feminism and learn what women themselves think about various issues, so I’m just going to go on right ahead and continue “snooping around” whatever sites are useful for that. Including forums like AsianTwoX, which, BTW, explicitly state in the FAQ that “there are no restrictions on who can join” and that “all people (regardless of ethnicity or gender) with an interest…are welcome”, despite the prejudices of some of its members.


          5. Well, thanks to Joan’s Reddit post, I’m just reading this now. And dude! Are you kidding me? You write a public blog that asks for community interaction. That means people are going to link your discussions elsewhere. You don’t get to fence it in and say, “the discussion will stop here.” What’s “creepy” is that you mention this being discussed elsewhere in a disproportionately scandalized tone, as if talking about your blog outside of the confines of your comments section has broken some sacred rule when it absolutely hasn’t.

            And when you’re discussing race, and gender (you may not think it’s there, but it’s mainly Asian WOMEN who suffer the brunt of being creepily fetishized as docile and pliable to a non-asian guy’s will), how the hell does it not matter what your own race and gender are?

            Maybe Joan stopped responding to you because no matter what she said, you just didn’t get it. You bullishly maintain that your intent was A when she clearly says that it doesn’t matter that your intent was A, it came off like B.

            Think about what your premise contributes to the discussion of yellow fever. It is the same fucking bullshit as “women who get really inebriated ar parties may be perpetuating, in some minor way, their subsequent rape.” It may be the case that some men see a drunk woman at a party and target her over someone else as his victim for the night. But it’s a pointless entry to the discussion of rape because it once again puts the wrong person–the victim–in focus, while the rapist (or racist, in this case) is some nebulous baddie who will simply remain always as a constant of the chaotic universe. Like, what the hell does your point about Asian personal space contribute to the larger discussion of yellow fever? What do you think readers,whether Asian, white or otherwise, will take away from it? You don’t think a part of it will be, “Hmm, so maybe next time I’m feeling sick of racists fetishizing me, I should remember to simply not be so touchy-feely”? You are having the wrong discussion about racism here. It does nothing but guilt-trip Asians to constantly check themselves so they’re not “asking for it.”


          6. Thank you for taking the time to write your long and thoughtful comment Saehee. I really appreciate how you made such an effort to politely engage with me and to carefully read and consider everything I wrote, in spite of your strong feelings on this subject. Let me respond to your helpful points one by one.

            Well, thanks to Joan’s Reddit post, I’m just reading this now. And dude! Are you kidding me? You write a public blog that asks for community interaction. That means people are going to link your discussions elsewhere. You don’t get to fence it in and say, “the discussion will stop here.”

            Please forgive me, but I’ve looked and looked, and I’m really struggling to see where I said people can’t or shouldn’t link to and talk about my article and so on, which would actually be the exact opposite of my intention (and would make my editor angry!). Can you please tell me exactly where I say that, so I can clear it up?

            I do see though, where I specifically said I will not respond to Joan’s comments anymore, so don’t worry about finding that for me.

            What’s “creepy” is that you mention this being discussed elsewhere in a disproportionately scandalized tone, as if talking about your blog outside of the confines of your comments section has broken some sacred rule when it absolutely hasn’t.

            Sorry again for being so inept, but I just can’t find where I “mention this being discussed elsewhere in a disproportionately scandalized tone”. If anything, I thought it was Joan that was the more “scandalized” that I broke some sacred rule that says a white, heterosexual male can’t follow links to and discussions about his blog and comment on them in turn, even if they’re written in a public forum that explicitly says it’s welcome to all. But hey, what would I know, right?

            But sure, I was a little disappointed and upset — “scandalized” I guess you could call it — at what Joan actually said about me though, as I’ll explain in a moment.

            And when you’re discussing race, and gender (you may not think it’s there, but it’s mainly Asian WOMEN who suffer the brunt of being creepily fetishized as docile and pliable to a non-asian guy’s will), how the hell does it not matter what your own race and gender are?

            Thank you for educating me about who the main victims of Yellow Fever are, I genuinely had no idea. I thought though, that Joan unnecessarily raised my sex, race, and sexuality as pejoratives when calling me creepy for following a link she posted to my blog, which is why I mentioned them. My bad.

            Maybe Joan stopped responding to you because no matter what she said, you just didn’t get it. You bullishly maintain that your intent was A when she clearly says that it doesn’t matter that your intent was A, it came off like B.

            Oh really? I had no idea why she stopped responding to me, even though I told her we would just have to agree to disagree, and then later that I wouldn’t reply to any more of her comments, so thanks for clearing that up. And BTW, I totally see why I’m “bullish” when I carefully consider someone’s argument, but don’t change my mind, but how she’s not at all bullish for carefully considering my argument but not changing her mind.

            Think about what your premise contributes to the discussion of yellow fever…Like, what the hell does your point about Asian personal space contribute to the larger discussion of yellow fever? What do you think readers,whether Asian, white or otherwise, will take away from it?

            I repeatedly mention what I thought it contributes, but then you carefully read my post, article, and comments, so you would already know that right? So I guess you’re just joking with me now? Okay, cool.

            Same goes with me victim-blaming, which I explicitly said I’m not doing, would never want to do, and — despite all your thoughtful, helpful comments — still don’t think I contribute to at all. Thanks very much for educating me though, on what victim-blaming in the context of rape means.

            Sorry again then, that I’m still finding it really difficult to find where I wrote the things you said I did, so I’m really struggling to understand…well…just about your entire comment really (although again, I really appreciate the education!). I feel really bad in asking for more from you then, but, in your reply, if you could quote me where I said the things you claim I did, then I would be really grateful. Otherwise, I’m just not sure how to continue our conversation sorry, because I’m afraid I can’t really understand your arguments without them. Thank you!


          7. Omg, yes! Some white guys are indeed insufferable about how much Korean girls love them. The most ridiculous thing, though, is that many of them seem to think they are so much better than these “small penis” Korean guys and of course, that Korean men hate them because they are jealous of their size. Whenever the topic of a white girl married to a Korean guy comes up, they always chuckle and make fun of it. It’s amazing how some of them genuinely believe that size is what will satisfy a woman and of course, that’s the reason why Korean women love them so much.

            I never thought that many of them may think the Korean girls are into them because of personal space. So I think this is a very useful blog post.


          8. Thanks for understanding, and I’m glad it helped.

            About the penis size thing, here is a must-read (and see!) for anyone who hasn’t already (the comments are also very good). All I can add to it is that when I was teaching Korean 20-something men about to live and work in Australia, they were all (naturally) very worried that because of the stereotypes — which they themselves possessed — that Australian women wouldn’t even consider dating them. I did what I could, pointing them to blogs by Western women sleeping with, dating, or married to Korean guys and loving it (and so on); and, very privileged of me I know, telling them that yes, life sucks, there were stereotypes of Asian men in Western countries, and that it was up to them to teach Australian women that the stereotypes were wrong. But I’m not sure how persuaded they were, or how successful they were once they got to Brisbane.


  5. Personally, I’ve never cared for the usage nor existence of the term “yellow fever”. The phrase, unto itself, seems racist to me, a form of prejudice if you will. Seriously, why should anyone care if someone else has a general preference of dating one race or another? Why should it matter to anyone else if you happen to prefer asian, black, white, mexican, jewish, arab, etc. women in general? I know I certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable referring to a man who dates black women as having “jungle fever”, at least not in any serious context, and would consider it no less racist than the usage of “yellow fever” as its literally the same type of crass, stereotypical generalization.

    Implications of racism and prejudice aside, the usage of such a phrase seems to imply a false impression of stigma, or that there’s something inherently wrong with Asian women or those who date them, which quite frankly is utter bull shit.

    Unfortunate phrases aside, I don’t think it’s exactly fair to blame an entire culture for a general misunderstanding, which may not be as common or universal as the article seems to imply. On the other hand, it is probably expected there would be at least some mixed signals if your crotches were literally touching.. That’s a given, and probably one of the few exceptions to my contention with your overall argument, but again more of misunderstanding and not something I would blame for the existence of yet another unnecessary stereotype.


    1. One big problem in discussions of Yellow Fever I’ve found is that people can have very different conceptions of what it means, to the extent that they can argue bitterly about it even when they’re basically in agreement. So, for the record, when I use it I mean fetishizing Asian women based on stereotypes that they are all sweet and innocent, docile and meek, insatiable in bed, lust after White guys, and so on.

      I have absolutely no problem with a preference for dating one race or another, and have never described preferring to date Asians as Yellow Fever. So we’re in agreement there.

      As I’ve said many times in the comments above now though, I don’t blame Korean women for a general misunderstanding (let alone their entire culture), and in the post and article themselves I explicitly said that that misunderstanding only plays a very minor role in the perpetuation of Yellow Fever stereotypes. How on Earth are you getting the completely opposite impression?

      I’m not going to keep repeating myself. So, to you or anyone else reading, please understand why I’m just not going to respond to any more comments criticizing me for things I didn’t say.


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