Is Sexual Attraction Manufactured by Society / Media?

“Your physical and sexual attraction is socially constructed,” says Elaine Kim, Ph.D., professor of Asian American Studies at the University of California at Berkeley, “and it’s hard to escape from that.” If you’re Asian, the way you see yourself and the way you think about beauty, according to Kim, is very different if you went to high school in Monterey Park (a community in Los Angeles County with a large Asian population), where the kids voted most popular, the most beautiful were Asian, versus going to a high school where everyone is blonde-haired and blue-eyed.

Karen, a 32-year-old Korean American who has dated mostly white men, readily admits she’s been affected by her environment. Growing up in a predominantly white town in Southern California, the only Asian males in her life were either related to her (father, brothers, cousins) or were the men at church. “I didn’t see Asian guys in a sexual way when I was growing up,” she says. It didn’t help that the only images she saw of Asian males in the media were of cringe-inducing geeks like Long Duck Dong in the teen flick, Sixteen Candles, or the strangely asexual and decidedly unattractive David Carradine character in the television series, Kung Fu.

“I just don’t find Asian guys attractive,” Karen says. “They’re usually short and slight and don’t seem confident.”


3 responses to “Is Sexual Attraction Manufactured by Society / Media?

  1. Very interesting.
    I’ve just been thinking recently about how much the mass-media and the imbalance we get through that affects our sexuality.

    Look at how we view women, for example.

    Women are hugely sexualised by the media, in our visual culture. I’m talking about the thousands of images we see everyday in magazines and newspapers, on billboards in the street, on posters and on the internet and on tv.

    Men are not so often sexualised when a picture shown somewhere.

    So will this not hugely skewer our sexuality, and the way we think about women, in the same way as going to a mostly white school or a mostly asian school will?

  2. Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

  3. Fortunately I had a diverse upbringing. The high school that I went to had no majority when it came to race/ethnicity. The numbers were something like Asian: 25%, Black 20%, White: 25%, Hispanic/Latino: 25%, and the rest were mixed/other.

    Therefore I didn’t see any of this (or heard) of all this media bias to Asians until college. And I will admit it is true unfortunately. But I will point out that saying that the media/society manufacturing the bias is a little one sided.

    It’s like the difference between the shareholders and the managers of a “typical” company. The shareholders are who own and the managers are who run it. Media/Society are like the managers – they run the show but they don’t own it. We, the Asian American’s and our fellow Asian’s (the shareholders) are perpetuating the bias on our end too. That’s is why (or mostly) we can’t penetrate into mainstream society here in the states.

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