Arts & Features writer
Alex Castillo-Lai, a 19-year-old sophomore, experienced the dangers of the hyper sexualization of Asian women firsthand at the age of 14 when she was groomed by an older man.
“It’s really dangerous because of younger kids being groomed and being treated like this kind of sexualized, like, loli type thing,” she said. “My race was a really large part of it.”
Before reaching the age of consent, Castillo-Lai was often told “you have really big tits for an Asian’ and ‘you look like an anime girl.”
“It was very victim blaming and like, ‘Well you were into, because you were into all of this stuff and you’re into these Asian things where girls are portrayed like this, you were putting yourself out there,’” she said.
Karuna Li, a 19-year-old sophomore, said the media either infantilizes or over sexualizes Asian women.
“Those are two adjectives that should never be in the same sentence together,” she said.
Li said the media depicts Asian women as either timid, weak, shy pushovers or as tough, exotic and hard to tame.
“Asian women will be doing martial arts moves like Kung Fu and beating up bad guys, but they’re also overly sexualized in that way, so they’re seen as a sexual conquest,” she said.
Li said some anime, like Lucy from the show Fairy Tail, perpetuate the infantilization of Asian women.
“They often act very childlike, very needy, very in need of a white male figure to help them who also is kind of like, sexually predatory,” she said.
Li said she does not condone the way Asian women are depicted in anime due to the expectations they place on Asian women.
“Consumption of anime by non-Asian people who don’t understand Asian culture and begin to construct expectations within their own mind of Asian women based on anime can be damaging,” she said.
Gillian Chiang, a 20-year-old sophomore, said the resulting infatuation with Japanese culture that occurs is problematic, specifically weebs. A weeb is a non-Japanese or western person who has an infatuation with the portrayal of Japanese culture through anime and who often uses romanized Japanese words like kawaii.
“It’s really problematic because they’re like “I like Japanese culture,” I’m like ‘no you like anime,’” she said. “You think everyone walks around in a kimono or yukata and bows to you.”
Chiang said the resulting generalization that people subconsciously learn from watching certain depictions of Asian women from anime contributes to the belief that Asian women are submissive.
“We don’t necessarily need to be subservient to them, but we need to listen to other people and value their opinions and stuff above ours,” she said.
In high school, a boy approached Chiang, sexually harassing and cornered her as he spoke in a condescending tone.
“I can never tell if somethings happening because I’m Asian because I’m always afraid that I’m being paranoid,” she said. “He did touch me at one point on my leg.”
Chiang said the most damaging anime trope is the loli which paints young prepubescent girls in a sexual manner.
“It’s literally viewing them as children even if they’re not and if they are that’s even worse,” she said.
Li said the infantilization trope affects her the most because she looks young for her age.
“I have to watch out for possible pedophiles because I look young for my age. Are the people that I’m dating think that I’m younger than I am and is that why they’re dating me,” she said.
Li said the white beauty standard has been so ingrained in her that she found herself hating her features and questioning whether she should conform to the fetishized stereotypes.
“That still continues to be a hurdle for me to accept me for being an Asian woman and not having to feel like I need to fit in with the white beauty standard or the fetishized Asian beauty standard,” she said.
Castillo-Lai said the increasing trend of Asian fishing, when a person of non-Asian descent uses makeup, typically the fox eye look, to accentuate common eastern Asian features, adds to the over sexualization of actual Asian women due to its use as a seductive aesthetic.
“A lot of people do it as a makeup look. That’s one thing, but a lot of women who do it try to hide their actual race when it’s very clear that they’re white and they try to tailor to this and sexualize themselves in that role,” she said. “To them it’s just a costume. At the end of the day they wipe off all the eyeliner and they take off the wig and it’s back to white privilege. We don’t get to do that.”
Some like Belle Delphine even doan ahegao face, which is an exaggerated face of satisfaction or ecstasy used in hentai and erotic manga during an orgasm.
“People got super die hard about her and it spawned this entire resurgence of white girls who were Asian fishing and trying to look like these cute anime characters,” she said. “You’re egging these guys on, you’re adding to it, you’re leading them on and being like ‘It’s okay to fetishize Asian people.’”
Chiang said ‘uwu’ girls are also problematic because of the generalization of Japanese culture. An ‘uwu’ girl is a girl who dresses and acts cute and childlike, but also seductive, similar to some portrayals of anime girls.
“I’m really thinking about cosplay girls who really get into ‘Japanese culture’ and act super cutesy in a characterized way of Asian women that they would probably see in anime or something,” she said.
After realizing more Instagram filters specifically slanted the user’s eyes, she wrote about it in an Instagram story post on Dec. 28.
“Stop trying to mimic facial features from races that are not your own and especially stop trying to use them in a way that reinforces the fetishization of Asians or in a way where you profit off of the fetishization of Asians,” part of her post read.
Castillo-Lai and Li both said they have problems with dating due to stereotypes that fetishize Asian women.
“One of my tests is asking the guy if he watches anime. Like, if he watches anime, it’s kind of a red flag for me because then I have to start thinking about is he into me because I’m Asian and he’s fetishizing me, or is he into me for me,” Li said.
Castillo-Lai said she’s suffered a lot of emotional abuse in relationships due to people’s expectations of her being a pretty anime girl.
“No, I’m not going to be your freaking sex slave, shut up,” she said. “I’ve had to deal with a lot of abuse with people just trying to emotionally break me into these roles.”
While trying to find a cheongsam, a traditional Chinese dress for ASIA’s night market event, Castillo-Lai noticed how traditional Chinese clothing became over sexualized.
“The name for it is ‘sexy women’s light blue floral long Chinese dress.’ And the slit, the slits on them usually they come up a little bit to where you can walk around. No, it had like, the Chung Li slit that’s all the way up to the hip,” she said.
Castillo-Lai said there is no respect toward Asians for their traditional clothing because it gets hyper sexualized.
“In other cultures you respect that idea, but there’s just no respect towards Asians in that sense,” she said.
Chiang said she faced similar problems after looking for a cheongsam for Lunar new year. She said she noticed a lot of non-Asian people selling them.
“It would be a really big keyhole top and it would be like a crop top, there would be cut outs and stuff. It would be almost like lingerie,” she said.
Castillo-Lai also said the over sexualization of Asian women and resulting stereotypes pushed by the media played a part in the Atlanta area shootings that took the lives of six Asian women on March 6.
“It’s very clear that this idea of what Asian women are has become so normalized that he’s linking massage parlors to that and it’s very clear
that Asian women were the targets there because he saw them in a sexual manner and thought, ‘oh gotta kill them to try and cleanse myself,’” she said.
Castillo-Lai criticized the coverage of the shootings because of the shift from the issue being about the fetishization of Asian women to COVID-19 hate crimes, which she said were both minimized events.
“People try to act more like it was a COVID thing, but when you really look at it and what he said and how he was trying to cleanse himself of sexual temptation and specifically was targeting massage parlors,” she said.
Chiang also said the objectification and sexualization of Asian women were influences for the shooting.
“He did say that they were too tempting and he wanted to get rid of the temptation,” she said. “One you’re objectifying them and you’re only seeing them as sexual objects so you don’t think there’s anything wrong with getting rid of that or killing that because you don’t think they’re people.”