Racism is alive and well when it comes to online dating habits, or so said OkCupid creator Christian Rudder back in 2009. He published data on his blog correlating response rate with ethnicity. A now defunct Facebook dating app called Are You Interested (AYI) riffed on these findings and ranked men and women from most to least dateable based on ethnicity. The idea that Asian women are “most dateable,” and Asian men are “least dateable,” has worked its way into our collective consciousness. Most people I’ve met even 7 years later are aware of this data and I hear it dropped into casual conversation about dating all the time.
I asked my friend Tiffany to share her experiences out there on the prowl as a “most datable” Asian female.
Sarah: How do you feel about me asking you questions about what it likes to date as an Asian woman?
Tiffany: First of all, I want to say that I do not speak to the experiences of all Asian women. As with any group of people, we cannot generalize the experiences of any individual to speak to the experiences of the whole. When I first thought about answering your questions, I took the exercise overly seriously and thought about discussing the nature of privilege and yadda yadda yadda. That’s the analytical side of me going off on a tangent. Taking that approach would turn into a dissertation. So now, I will try to be concise and answer within the context of online dating.
Sarah: Please describe yourself and what you’re looking for in a date.
Tiffany: I am a late-20s, female, fourth-generation Japanese-American (all grandparents born in CA), attorney living in the Bay Area. On a first date, I am primarily looking for someone that is interesting to talk to. I’m generally looking for a guy that is confident, assertive without being aggressive, a broad-thinker and fun.
I will admit that I have no shortage of would-be online suitors and the only thing that really restricts who I date is my own personal preferences. I’m not sure how common a phenomenon that is for women of the same general attractiveness as me (which I’m told is about a “7” on the caveman scale), who aren’t Asian. But beyond what I look like, I like to think people find other things about me that are attractive.
Sarah: What’s your favorite Internet dating site and why?
Tiffany: Right now I’m doing the dating app thing mostly. I feel like my matches on Hinge, Bumble and Coffee Meets Bagel are better, but the Tinder guys are the ones that want to meet up.
Sarah: Who messages you most, white guys?
Tiffany: It’s a super mixed bag. Because I have to match with a guy before he can message me (except on OkCupid), who messages me is based on my preferences as much as theirs. Looking through my Tinder messages it’s about 50% white guys, 15% black guys, 10% Latino, 10% East Asian, 15% mixed or something else.
Haha. So yeah, mostly white guys I guess.
Sarah: Are you concerned that someone might want to date you mostly because you’re Asian?
Tiffany: I think I need to separate this question into into two categories: 1) people who want to “collect” me and 2) people who might want a relationship with me.
As to the former group—yes, this is a legitimate concern. When I was living in a rural Midwest state it was a much bigger issue than it is here. But those farm boys didn’t really want to date me—from what I gathered, they were mostly just curious about what being with an Asian girl was like or wanted to check Asian-girl off their list. There were numerous times random dudes would run across a crowded bar just to ask me if I’d like to be their first Asian. No thank you. Seriously? Am I like, the only Asian person here? *looks around* Yep—I’m the only Asian person here. This doesn’t really happen in the East Bay since nearly 1/3 of the people are Asian.
As to the latter group– I have honestly never thought anyone wanted to date me mostly because I am Asian. I don’t think I really fit the stereotypical Asian-girl mold: firstly, because I am size standard-American rather than size extra-petite; secondly, my personality is pretty opinionated, assertive and independent, and finally, because I am just about as American as a person can be while still looking totally Asian.
I like to think that if someone wants to date me, it is because that person finds me to be generally attractive, or interesting, or accomplished, or fun, or just geographically desirable, or some combination of these normal suitability factors. Maybe someone would ask me out mostly because I am Asian but that doesn’t bother me because my Asian features are inextricably tied to whether someone finds me physically attractive. I also don’t think someone looking for standard-quiet-Asian-girl would want to date me in the long-term anyway since he would quickly realize I’m not that within about 3 minutes.
Sarah: How do you weed out those (creepy) guys?
Tiffany: I set a lot of filters! Haha. I am something of a serial rejecter of random men and I don’t feel compelled to respond to someone who messages me. I only interact with guys who fit what I am looking for and those guys are usually well-rounded, well-travelled, worldly people with a diverse group of friends.
Sarah: What do guys think they’re getting when they choose to date Asian women specifically?
Tiffany: I think some guys just aesthetically prefer Asian features—I can’t fault them for that. But when it goes beyond a superficial preference to projecting certain personality traits on Asian women is when it starts to get weird. I think there is a stereotype out there that Asian women are docile, subservient romantic partners who are eager to please. I think some insecure guys are hoping to find validation by looking for those characteristics in Asian women.
Sarah: What are some overtly racist things you hear on dates? Has a man ever said to your face that he has, “Yellow Fever?”
Tiffany: On dates? Hmm. Well guys like to tell me I’m “not like most Asian girls.” That’s kind of racist is it not? How often are white people told they’re not like most white people? It’s nice to hear, “you’re not like anyone I’ve ever met” but when it’s cloaked in you’re not what I expected given what you are, that’s less nice. If I’m on a date with a guy, the weeding out process hopefully kicks out the guys that are dumb enough to say they have yellow fever to my face, even if it’s true.
Most of the overtly racist things people say to me are from total strangers who think I need to hear what they have to say. This tends to happen a lot in bars and strangely frequently at gas stations.
Sarah: Describe the best or worst date you’ve been on lately.
Tiffany: The best date involved, food, drinks, musical theater, a dog, and hours of easy, deep conversation. The worst involved an egotistical guy without much to back it up, who didn’t ask me questions but told me what I thought, who then wanted me to pay for his food and drinks, and kept trying to get me in his car.
Sarah: Any advice for online daters?
Tiffany: Hah. No. Be kind to one another.