Friends are once again teasing me for having “yellow fever,” and as far as facts are concerned, I can’t argue with the designation: My current partner is Chinese-American, while my most recent ex-girlfriend is Vietnamese-Canadian. I can dismiss their playful ribbing the same way I dismissed most name-calling during elementary school—after all, there’s nothing wrong with dating women of Asian descent—but “yellow fever” isn’t an innocuous, empty label. Friends may just be having fun, but to my ears, I’m being called a deviant. Google “yellow fever,” and you’ll see that many Asian women have taken back the term to shame white men who fetishize them based on racial stereotypes.Such men believe all Asian women are docile and hypersexual, and happily project these qualities onto potential romantic partners.To me, it was just another form of teasing that I threw into my sizable trashcan of forgotten terms, lying dormant all these years—until now.After spending half of my twenties living and working in Hong Kong and South Korea, I returned to North America last summer, at 30, with a reputation as a White Guy Who Dates Asian Girls.We decided to see which hook up apps designed specifically for gay men are used most around the world, based on the number of downloads in different countries. The data is based on the number of downloaded apps through the i OS App Store and Google Play in August, a month chosen to keep the comparisons standardized.(App Annie considers that the best way, in this particular case, to independently measure an app's market penetration.) We only list the top-rated app for August, but your favorite app may have been a close second or come out on, um, top in another month, since the competition is fierce.
But it’s the equivalent of standing on a mountaintop, and shouting: Isn’t the reverse true, though?
Back then, the term was shorthand for someone white who had a crush on someone Asian, and at our school, it applied to the girls as much as it did the boys.
I didn’t think much about yellow fever at the time, though, because my 12-year-old brain was a veritable encyclopedia of crude lingo.
But I wrote this essay because the term is becoming more popular.
We should absolutely bring greater awareness to the ugly fetishization of Asian women, but by liberally using “yellow fever” to describe deviant behavior, it continues thriving as a loaded way to describe healthy interracial relationships.