Porn Again

Asians! Having Sex! With One Another?
(originally written for

Is there anything that screws with Asian American minds more than sex? This is not to trivialize other serious issues, but when it comes to the state of the API psyche, sex has been a thorn in the side of Asian women and men since they first arrived in America. For example, early anti-Asian immigration acts, such as the 1875 Page Law, were specifically targeted against Asian women, vilifying them as prostitutes and therefore, a moral danger to America’s purity.

In more modern times, issues around sex continue to plague Asian American women and men. For women, they have to deal with their alternating media images as either virginal ingenues or vampy dragon ladies. Men have to struggle with the negation of their sexuality, trying to define their manhood in a society that symbolically castrates them. UC Davis professor Darrell Hamamoto goes as far to claim that, "the denial of unalloyed sexual desire and carnal pleasure to Yellow people is coextensive with their social subordination" (translation: control a community’s sexuality and you control the community).


Hamamoto, writing in a new anthology on Asian American film criticism, Countervisions (Temple University Press: 2000), makes this controversial and extraordinary suggestion: "to take up the camera and turn it inward to capture the pleasures of the flesh as enjoyed by Yellow people: A ‘Joy F--- Club.’" In his article by the same name, "The Joy F--- Club: Prolegomenon to An Asian American Porno Practice", Hamamoto effectively encourages APIs to shed their clothes (and inhibitions), fire up the camcorder and shoot ourselves having wild, libidinous sex as a step towards the social liberation of Asian America.

Sit with that for a moment.

Sounds pretty crazy, right? Hamamoto already anticipates a spate of criticism, not the least of which is how the porn industry has historically exploited and debased Asian female sexualities (evidenced by the stunning number of "Oriental" porn videos and WWW sites). Realistically, the potential for a politically aware and responsible API porn industry is slim at best — for starters, it means that API men have to overcome their own sexism against API women and that API women can defuse their internalized racism against API men. No easy task in either direction but then again, if our community didn’t already suffer from these internal divisions, there may not be a need for an API porno practice to begin with. Either that or we’d already have one.

But as outrageous as Hamamoto’s suggestion sounds, there’s something to be said with his train of thought. He relates an anecdote from a class he taught where he asked his API students who they fantasized about in their sexual imagination. Ask yourself that question: who fill your fantasies about sex? Is it Asian faces or bodies? In the case of Hamamoto’s students, the few who responded indicated that they dreamt of everything but, i.e. white, black, and brown bodies enhanced their libidinal desires but rarely yellow ones.

Considering how intertwined Asian America’s sexuality and social status has been, it’s telling — and a little frightening — that so many of us (presumably) don’t imagine each other in our sexual thoughts. Part of it surely comes from a lifetime spent under the Eurocentric thumb of media imagery. Part of it probably comes out of the devaluation of our sexuality and self-worth. The two — as you might guess — are likely related.

Asian Pride Porn

If Hamamoto’s academic postulations are hard to take though, maybe humor is a better route. Filmmaker Greg Pak (Mouse, Fighting Grandpa), ironically, has assembled a three minute short called Asian Pride Porn where playwright David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly) hawks a new line of adult films called Asian Pride Porn. Over hilarious imagery of a muscular API stud squeezing hot mustard sauce on the eager body of his API partner, Hwang gushes, "smart Asian women…sexually empowered Asian men…now that’s good politics…and great porn."

It’s all a joke of course, a tongue-in-cheek (not to mention other potential orifices) take on the challenges of being both politically correct and sexually satiated. But even if Hamamoto and Pak are just putting you on about getting off, the issues they both raise are dead serious. Sex occupies so much of our minds — regardless of ethnicity — and for APIs to erase each other in our fantasies doesn’t just deny our sexual selves, it really denies ourselves, period.