Fu: I see you drooling over Asian men now…


Illustration by Katrina Pham

This is “Rice Purity,” a column covering all things gaysian America, sex and scandal.

Yiming Fu, Assistant Opinion Editor

Content warning: This story includes mentions of body dysmorphia.

Asian men are trending!

During the 2022 FIFA World Cup, South Korean soccer player Cho Gue-sung garnered the unofficial title of “World’s Sexiest Player.” His Instagram following shot up from 20,000 to more than 2 million, marriage proposals flooded his comment sections and thirst TikToks of him went mega-viral. He ascended to international stardom overnight and has since graced the covers of Vogue Korea and Elle Man Korea.

The lust for Asian men doesn’t stop there. K-pop group BTS has been the largest musical act in the world since 2020, with billions of streams and legions of horny fans. Most K-pop companies forbid their idols from dating to present them as the ideal love interest and strengthen parasocial relationships with fans. People aren’t just simping for Asian men in the flesh; anime also has the world in a chokehold. I have many friends who say they would never be caught dead simping for any man — except anime men. And in 2022, “hentai” overtook “twink” as the most searched gay porn term on Pornhub.  

Maybe the rise of sexy Asian men is cause for celebration. A couple years ago, if you told me a Korean player was dominating “sexiest World Cup player” lists all across the internet, I would have laughed at you. A wide berth of sociological research shows Asian men at the bottom of the dating totem pole, and young Asian American men are the least likely group of young adults to currently be in a relationship. While Asian women are hypersexualized and fetishized, Asian men are emasculated. 

I would like to add another dimension to that truth. 

According to a 2018 American Sociological Association paper, comedian Steve Harvey has joked about a book titled “How to Date a White Woman: A Practical Guide for Asian Men.” He claimed no one could possibly like Asian men. He said, “You like Asian men?… I don’t even like Chinese food, boy … I don’t eat what I can’t pronounce.”

The study also reports that gay men on Grindr often hear about how their Asianness makes them undesirable and unattractive.

I think this is true. I get less attention from men on Grindr than white men do: fewer taps, likes, messages and encounters. But recently, phrases like “Asian ++” and “Asian and younger preferred” or “Asian twinks to the front” dominate the Grindr bios I see.

I’ve had a man ask me if I have other Chinese friends he can have sex with because Chinese boys are his favorite. I’ve had a man ask me if he can give me head in the parking lot of a Chinese restaurant after picking up his takeout. “Eating double Chinese tonight,” he said. I’m unsure if he could properly say “Sze Chuan,” but then again, I doubt he could pronounce my name either. 

Yes, I acknowledge that part of this is selection bias. Of course I’m going to get messages from people who are obsessed with Asian men. And I probably won’t see profiles that don’t like Asians because they may simply have blocked me.

But the fanbase for Asian men — both queer and straight —  is definitely there. And I don’t know how to take it. 

Growing up, I wanted so badly to be sexy. And as a gay man, this looked like wanting to be white, toned and over 6-feet-tall. I told myself the day I got a six-pack would be the day I finally make it as a gay. I ran — and I ran marathons to stay skinny. I used to do 20 minutes of ab workouts four times a week, hoping it would finally allow my rite of passage into the twink hall of fame. 

I think it’s great that the general public is starting to find more Asian men sexy. For starters, it means people are growing a pair of eyes. Asian men are stunning. And I believe the media strongly influences the way we see others and ourselves, especially for young people. I’m glad we’re shifting away from a tired, eurocentric beauty standard and moving toward something else. But, I would also hesitate to call “Asian sexy” revolutionary in any way, since it still mandates being tall, light-skinned, fit and able-bodied. 

I have gotten pretty close to feeling “sexy” as I had previously defined it. Two years ago, I was skinny, basically had abs and was finally tall enough to lie about being 6 feet tall. But I didn’t feel sexy. And I’m sure if I did more crunches, ate better, literally got plastic surgery, had the most perfect body I could ever achieve, I still wouldn’t have been happy with my body. I would always feel like I would have to change one more thing to be accepted. I was chasing an impossible ideal. It’s like the American Dream of being good-looking. And maybe that means being sexy, fundamentally, is also just a scam. 

Yiming Fu is a Medill junior. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.