Note: This post contains mention of hateful language, vulgarity, racial slurs, and instances of overt racism.
Sometimes, you have to put up with a lot of crap while dating before you find a solid partner. And when it comes to interracial dating, some of the things you have to look out for are fetishization and racist stereotypes. For Asian Americans (like myself), that typically means the hypersexualization of women and the emasculation of men.
So, to center Asian voices and use this platform to speak about their experiences, I asked Asian Americans to share the worst thing a non-Asian person has told them in a dating context.
It’s also important to consider them collectively to better understand the impact of anti-Asian racism in the US, rather than filter heavier stories (and the voices of those who shared) to avoid discomfort and downplay the reality.
More than 150 wrote in to share their story. Here are but a few:
Note: These stories are naturally limited to the responses we received by readers and are not reflective of the experience of all Asian Americans (a diverse identity that encompasses more than 20 ethnicities).
“This guy I was dating told me that his mom said she’d prefer he not date an Asian girl. I’m Chinese American, so he dumped me…and then later married a Japanese woman. This was in the ’70s.”
“I went to a completely white high school. There were no other Asian students, though there was one Black girl who I’m sure also did not enjoy her time in high school (but that’s just my opinion).”
—Arlene, 70, Female, California
“One night at a bar, a guy I had a crush on in college (and probably would have dated) told me, ‘I bet you’re WILD in bed.’ He knew nothing about me other than that I’m Asian. I’m sure he thought it was a compliment, but I remember feeling SO uncomfortable. In that moment, I was completely over him. From the moment puberty set in, I was deemed an ‘exotic’ object of white men’s pleasure, and for whatever reason, white men are VERY comfortable communicating this to me in lots of offensive ways.”
“I’ve had many, but there are two that definitely stand out: Once, in college, I was leaving the dining hall and had put on my headphones as I walked back to my dorm. There were two guys standing outside. I heard one of them say something, but I assumed they were talking to each other, so I didn’t react. He got offended and very loudly asked, ‘Do you speak English, bitch?’ I just shot him a look and walked away because I was so shocked. Another time, I was going to pick up a package from the off-campus mail center during a blizzard. I wore a huge, puffy winter coat and a scarf pulled halfway up my face. All you could see was my eyes, and I looked like a damn marshmallow. Still, a car full of guys slowed down, and one of them shouted, ‘Japanese women are my favorite.’ I screamed back that I’m not a fucking ice cream flavor.”
“‘Asian women make good wives because you’ll be submissive.'”
“I was talking to this guy, and we went on one date. He was really into me, but I just wasn’t into him as much, so I told him I wasn’t interested anymore (instead of ghosting him). He did not take it lightly and said, ‘Noted. Only Korean, Filipino, and Japanese women. Every Chinese and Taiwanese woman is the same, bipolar, and aren’t interested unless you have money.’ This is quoted directly from his text message. I went on ONE date with this guy and never spoke money to him. It made me want to punch this little boy in the face!”
“He was usually calm and soft spoken until, one day, when one of his kids had a tantrum. I told him that I didn’t know he had a mercurial temperament, and he responded, ‘How does a girl like you know a word like that!?'”
“During various arguments and debates, my (non-Asian) partner would rudely say that I’d be a better fit with a ‘submissive’ Asian woman ‘because that’s how they are.'”
—Anonymous, 50, Male, California
“As an opening line on a dating app, he asked me, ‘Where are you from?’ I answered with my home state (where I’ve lived my entire life), and he responded, ‘Where are your parents from?’ My parents are from the same state. He then asked about my grandparents. At this point, I just sent back his own questions, and he responded that he was white, as if it answered all of those questions. I told him, ‘This must be really important to you,’ and then sent him a link to a Reader’s Digest article on how asking someone where they are from is racist.”
“I was born in Indonesia but am a naturalized US citizen. My boyfriend at the time didn’t know until it came up in conversation, and he then told me that I was a second-class citizen.”
“Her first message to me on Tinder was: ‘I actually only added you because I’m recruiting a team to do my friend’s remedial math homework.’ In addition to being offensive, it seemed like an incredibly inefficient way to cheat.”
—Anonymous, Male, New York
“He said, ‘I can tell you’re Korean because you have a HUGE head.’ He then said it looks like I work out and squeezed my bicep so hard that he left a bruise. He also kept asking me to hang out and insisted on walking me to the BART station. I told him, ‘I’m good,’ and he responded, ‘Don’t be stupid. Let’s hang out.'”
“I had been dating this man for quite a while, and things were beginning to look serious, when he told me, ‘This wasn’t the way things were supposed to be.’ I asked him what he meant, and he said, ‘You were supposed to be blonde with blue eyes.’ I didn’t say anything because I was dumbfounded.”
“How do you think it made me feel?”
“While hitting on me, a guy said, ‘I love it when you get mad because you look even more Asian.'”
“Seriously, what the hell was wrong with him?”
“I was talking to white guy from a different state who constantly mentioned how he loved that I was Asian (red flag no. 1). He also always brought up that his area has no Asian people, but he loves ‘Asian food and culture.’ His idea of Asian food? Panda Express (red flag no. 2). One day, I shared that I was cooking chicken katsu curry for dinner. Without even attempting to learn what it was, he responded, ‘I don’t know what that is, but it sounds like one of them Asian dishes, so I probably wouldn’t like it.’ Um…okay? I tried to explain what it was and even sent him a picture, but he doubled down and said, ‘It just sounds so strange. It doesn’t sound like something I would try, but I know something else that’s Asian that I’d like to eat.’ I stopped talking to him after that.”
“My ex told me that us being a couple gave him a free pass to say racist things, and no one would think he was actually racist. I mean, he’s my ex for a reason.”
“I was dating a white guy and saw an email he’d written to a friend describing me (okay, yes, I was snooping): ‘She’s half Chinese but really pretty. … She looks more white than Asian.’ This happened almost 20 years ago, and clearly, this guy was a loser. However, I still get worked up when I think about this. I hate to admit that I didn’t break up with him on the spot (hello, low self-esteem and internalized racism) and that it took even more red flags before I finally cut him loose.”
“Nevertheless, I’m glad that I finally woke up, worked on my relationship with myself, and figured out what I will and won’t stand for. I’m a much better and healthier version of myself because of it.”
—Lisa, 41, Female, Florida
“I was on a FaceTime call with a Tinder match. We hadn’t met in person yet, and I like to have a call or two before meeting to make sure things feel okay. He asked me if I was his ‘little Asian slut.'”
To learn more about the historical framework around the construction of Asian American stereotypes and racism, see: