About Pet Sins Webzine
Skip navigation and go to main content
Pet Sins March 2004

Cultural factors for the discrepancy between East Asian male and female outmarriage

Some of the previous discussions concerning the numerical inbalance between Asian woman-white man and white woman-Asian man couples have been attributed to racial politics playing themselves out in the sexual realm - Asian women believing in media images of white male superiority, and white women not finding the media image of the geeky Asian male appealing.

I do not dispute the existence of the individual racist preferences that drive this trend. Most Asians are conscious of the racial prejudices of their friends and family members, spoken loudly among Asians, but hidden from non-Asians.

However, I do believe there are other factors spurring the outmarriage differences between Asian men and women, at least for the East Asian community, to which I belong. The disproportionately high number of AWWM vs AMWW can be attributed to racial-sexual preferences, but the higher number of BMAW compared to BWAM cannot be attributed to racial preferences in the same degree. After all, many Asian families are prejudiced against blacks. Still, there are more BMAW than BWAM. Asian female worship of white men is irrelevant to the factors driving black-Asian unions, so what explains the higher numbers of BMAW compared to BWAM?

We can go back to the media, which usually presents Asian women in a more attractive light than Asian men, making Asian women more attractive to non-Asians. Black men also figure more prominently in media images than black women, which may explain in part their wider acceptance in interracial unions.

I believe there is one other factor - the difference in social conditioning between East Asian men and women. I am making a very broad generalization here, so please bear with me, and understand that I am not stereotyping all East Asians or all Americans, but only establishing a context for discussion:

East Asians, both men and women, are taught that toleration is a virtue, and we place a lot of value on getting along with people, smooth trouble-free interactions even on the most superficial level. The "good" side of this is that East Asians make "committed" friends, to each other as well as to non-East Asians. The "bad" side is that some East Asians just don't know when to quit a friendship or a relationship. This is especially true of the women. The men also try to compromise and get along, but sometimes when they feel the other party is not compromising as much or trying as hard to get along, they will push back and maybe eventually quit the friendship. The women, for some obscure reason, often put up with loads of crap the average American won't stand for.

I used to date a black American woman. Whenever we had a disagreement, my first approach was to compromise and back down a little. By the rules of East Asian social protocol, when someone gives way in an argument, you should *reciprocate* and compromise to the *same degree*, even if you don't totally agree - reciprocity is very important in Chinese and Japanese social interactions. So I was expecting her to give way a little because I first gave way, and eventually reach a compromise. But her way was the 'American' way - if she thinks she is right, she insists on it. And my backing down in a disagreement only gave her the signal to push her point and drive her argument forward. That was the opposite of what I am used to expecting in a "give-and-take" exchange of the East Asian variety.

She is a fine person, but we went our separate ways because I felt that I could never get from her what I was putting in - I was always the one apologizing and compromising, but she wasn't inclined to do the same for me. (Yes, East Asians sometimes apologize to 'keep the peace', even if they don't think they are wrong. It is expected that the other party will understand that an apology is not necessarily an admission of fault, but rather a gesture of peace.)

It is not her fault - or mine - it is just that our protocols were too different. I talked to a South Asian man who used to date white American women, and he had similar perceptions.

Herein lies the difference between East Asian men and East Asian women - the men expect reciprocity in courtesy and respect from their friends/partners, but some of the East Asian women are less likely to insist on reciprocity. The fact is, intercultural relationships are difficult, and disagreements abound. An East Asian male in an intercultural relationship is more likely to quit if he perceives the relationship to be 'unequal' e.g. he is backing down/giving in more often than the other party, but an East Asian woman is more likely to put up with doing more things her husband's way than having her husband do more things her way as part of the package. From youth, we were taught that those who cannot 'tolerate' are weak, and in the past, women had few other avenues for proving that they are strong. The Chinese even have a saying, "if you ('you' being a woman) marry a dog, you follow the dog, if you marry a chicken, you follow the chicken" but there is no such expectation for men. Things are changing now, but some of the old culture still lingers in our psyches.

I will give you a personal example of how the level of commitment to the "getting along" mantra differs for East Asian men and women. East Asian woman M and I had mutual friends B and C (also East Asian women). I discovered B had deceived and betrayed C on various occasions. So I decided I wasn't interested in keeping in touch with B anymore, not because I was on C's side, but because cheats don't make good friends. But M doesn't feel the same way. She knows as well as I do that B is a dishonest person, but she still takes the initiative to hang out with her. Part of it is M feels since B did not hurt her in person, she had no reason to dump her. M even said what I did (I simply did nothing to further my "friendship" with B. I did not confront her) was "extreme". Some East Asians who stick with "friends" whom they know have seriously flawed characters, which explains why some of them stick with partners who don't treat them right, white or not.

2001