From Hollywood films and chart-topping songs to pornography and casual conversations, hackneyed myths and jokes around Asian sexuality continue to spread from generation to generation. Stereotypes are dangerous because, while they might not be based in science, they do have real-life impact. Psychologically, sexualized racist myths can cause shame and insecurity in the bedroom. Socially, these stereotypes have led to objectification and fetishization that beget violence against Asian bodies.
This Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we’re dispelling sexual myths. Doing so is critical to Asian sexual wellness and physical safety. Here, we debunk some of the most pervasive and dangerous myths around Asian sexuality.
Asian people have tighter vaginas: false.
There’s an age-old myth that Asian people have tighter vaginas than those of other races or ethnicities. However, there has never been a large-scale study that compares vaginas, and medical professionals say there is no scientific basis for the stereotype. But that hasn’t stopped the myth from propagating. In a Healthline article from 2020, cis Asian women discussed how they’ve been objectified due to their presumed vaginal tightness. From dating apps to in-person sexual encounters, many of the respondents expressed being fetishized or approached solely to discern if the stereotype is true. In addition to being inaccurate as well as racist, the myth has been the source of violent misogyny. To start, the glamorization of tight vaginas centers on cis men’s pleasure at the expense of people with vagina’s discomfort. Even more, racialized sexist myths lead to festishization that has historically led to gender violence against Asian women, from the rape and sex trafficking that occurred during the Korean and Vietnam Wars to the Asian-American women killed at massage parlors in Atlanta this year.
Asian people have small penises: false.
The myth that cis Asian men have small penises is so pervasive that there have actually been university studies that measure the size of penises based on race and ethnicity. Like with vaginas, there is no evidence to support this stereotype. However, it continues to spread across pop culture and pornography, which has caused many cis Asian men in the Western world, especially those in interracial relationships, shame and anxiety. In Alex Tizon’s Big Little Man: In Search of My Asian Self, the author argues that this myth has survived generations because it both makes non-Asian cis men feel better about themselves and because it upholds white supremacy. The myth of the small Asian penis, which is problematically tied to ideas of weakness or passivity, combines with the myth of the big Black penis, which has historically carried with it harmful notions of danger and primitivity, to form a balanced, normal, beneficent imagining of the white penis.
Asian women are sexually submissive: false.
One of the most troubling sexual stereotypes is that Asian women are submissive, a myth that is at once untrue and dangerous. While it can be totally healthy (and fun!) to have kinky sex through dominance and submission roles, the fetishization of Asian woman because of their presumed docility emphasizes the physical, sexual, emotional and pschological control some cis men want, and are taught to desire, in romantic relationships. Even more, this racialized sexism, like the myth of vaginal tightness, can and has contributed to sexual violence against Asian women. According to the Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence, 21% to 55% of Asian women in the US report experiencing intimate physical and/or sexual violence during their lifetime, including rape, stalking and trafficking.