Opinion: Asian-American men can be sexy, too
Writer Michael Hung says that media portrayals like William Hung (no relation) on American Idol limit images of Asian-American men.
February 20th, 2013
12:30 PM ET

Opinion: Asian-American men can be sexy, too

Editor's note: Michael Hung is a chef and writer living in San Francisco.

By Michael Hung , Special to CNN

(CNN) - I've had three long-term relationships in my life, all with Asian-American women.

It was never a conscious decision to date solely within my race. In most ways, those relationships were serendipitous. I'd met intelligent, loving, beautiful girls who happened to look like me. But this idea of happy coincidence, in retrospect, was only partially true.

While I never sought to date within my race exclusively, it was, admittedly, easier.

Easier in that she automatically removed her shoes at the door. Easier in that I could slurp noodles and gnaw at chicken feet unabashed. And easier on my ego, because when I asked an Asian-American girl for her phone number, she would give it. I would not be dismissed, or snickered at, or overhear, "But he's Asian," from a friend on the wing.

I attributed the difficulties of dating outside my race to external factors, social forces I'd learned about in college classes. I was subject to the model minority myth: How sexy can a calculator toting conformist be? I was castrated by the Chinese Exclusion Acts,  where my own government once declared it illegal for my ancestors to enter the country I call home.

Those laws, in existence until 1943, surely pervaded public consciousness, and as such affected my love life, didn't they?

Mainstream media portrayals of Asian males -Mr. Yunioshi in "Breakfast at Tiffany's," William Hung on "American Idol," Hiro Nakamura, the Japanese computer engineer turned supermutant on "Heroes" - consistently cast me as a socially deficient, sexless jester.

Even the Korean pop music phenom, PSY, is known for his clownish giddy-up dance rather than his ability to croon to the ladies like Frank Sinatra.

Under these influences, how can the American public see a young Asian-American man as an object of desire? How can a young Asian-American man see himself as a sexual creature?

What did I see when I looked in a mirror? I saw more than my genetics, more than my socially accepted role.

I saw a boy who'd once dreamed of growing up to be a chef. I saw a child who'd loved to read and had ambitions to write stories of his own. I saw that, in my early adult life, worrying about things like identity, I'd forgotten that I'd once known who I was.

And so, I left a corporate career to pursue a life in cooking. While working as a full-time chef, I completed a master's  program in creative writing. My weeks had no end. Nights had little sleep. My mind and heart hadn't the space for romance as I pursued my childhood aspirations.

The paradox has been that when I developed these other identities, my romantic life blossomed. I now date more women and women from all racial backgrounds. Perhaps it is my sure sense of direction, or status that comes with hard work and success, or confidence that arises from achieving goals that women find attractive.

All these traits derive from my strong sense of self-identity developed after many years of hustle, self-reflection and commitment.

I gained an identity that set me apart from the masses in general, but especially apart from the stereotype of the  soft, slant-eyed eunuch in particular.

Cook, writer, thinker, instigator - these are parts of me that I don't question.

I found another piece of myself one night, when I was 28 years old, seated beside a young woman on the polished hardwood floor of her apartment. I grasped in one hand a tangle of her sandy blond hair. My other hand rested upon her cream colored throat, my fingers gently pressed on her jugular so that I could feel her quickened pulse.

She looked at me, eyes wet and expectant, lips slightly parted. I drew my face close to hers. She strained toward me and whined when I pulled away. She grabbed the collar of my shirt, tried to pull me in, but I held fast and kept my lips just out of reach. The warmth of her breath washed over my face. Her body arched into mine. "Stop teasing, sexy man," she said. "You're a lover, aren't you?"

A lover?

Yes. That, too.

In that moment, I knew I would never question it again.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Michael Hung.

soundoff (46 Responses)
  1. Disappointed asian american woman

    I googled asian american men who love asian american women. I got this on the first line. I feel jipped by google to say the least.

    March 24, 2013 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
  2. Some Thai Guy


    While I admire your atypical choice to follow your dreams and learning how those choices have led to your greater self-confidence and while I fully appreciate you telling the plight of the Asian-American male faces when encountering societal norms, I felt your conclusory paragraphs undermined your purpose. We can't ask to be respected yet act as if we've reached some promised land. You don't kiss and tell; it's uncool. I would have loved to hear more constructive suggestions and less Fifty Shades of Grey.

    February 21, 2013 at 4:41 am | Report abuse |
  3. bvilleyellowdog

    Sorry – go check out those campuses yourself – my numbers are correct.
    Then interview the gals – I'm just quoting them.
    Sorry you object to facts.

    February 20, 2013 at 9:10 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Lila

    If this somehow goes through: Russell Wong, John Cho, and I can think of many more btw I HATE InAmerica, they barely let any of the comments through. Get off the front page you bunch of babies

    February 20, 2013 at 8:19 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Gobsmacked

    Oh, yeah! I have always been attracted to Asian males. Even back when I was 14 and just beginning to notice guys, I was drawn to the Asian guys. I thought Jin on LOST (played by Daniel Dae Kim) was super hot!

    February 20, 2013 at 7:35 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Sol Tran

    Why is William Hung the cover photo? They should have a photo of the asian-american man.

    February 20, 2013 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sol Tran

      I mean of the author

      February 20, 2013 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sol Tran

      It's so annoying. When I link this article to friends, the cover photo they see is William Hung. Why couldn't it be MIchael Hung or Mike Lam or somebody like that.

      February 20, 2013 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Angela

    That's cool, Anne, you go ahead and think that all asian men are less endowed... leaves more for women like me who just adore asian men... and who know for a fact that the fallacy of the asian man's phallus is just that – fallacy.

    February 20, 2013 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
  8. AsianMan

    You must be blown away by an Asian student in a math class!

    February 20, 2013 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Evan

      You criticize an Asian, he will steer the topic to math. You criticize an Indian, he will steer the topic to engineering. Quite funny.

      February 21, 2013 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jasmine

    Anne Stewart, speak for yourself. It could just be that yours is gaping open and needs something bigger to fill it.

    February 20, 2013 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
  10. dah00

    I'm an Asian male who has only dated white women, not intentionally but because I am mostly surrounded by white women. A tip to others of my color: Canadian and European women are much more open to Asian men than American women. I married one and am very happy about it.

    Oh, Mr. Hung, the pulse is better felt over the carotid artery, not the jugular.

    February 20, 2013 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Angela

    AMWF... Hotttt...

    February 20, 2013 at 6:58 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Sky

    Proportionally, Asian-American women are the most likely to date outside their race.

    February 20, 2013 at 6:58 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Cindi

    Not sure why the "American" attachment is there since it just represents citizenship on paper and has nothing to do with looks. Asians look like Asians, them living in America or being citizens do not change their looks unless they have mixed blood. If they were a mixed race, then it would be appropriate to attach the name of that race next to Asian. There is no such race as "American", that's a nationality.

    February 20, 2013 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
  14. wrm

    Uh.. okay.

    February 20, 2013 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
  15. tk729

    It's really just a matter of perceptions and stereotypes and this clouds their reality. Unfortunately, Asian-American males have to deal with the negative portrayal of Asian men and have to prove otherwise.

    February 20, 2013 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Daniel

    until they get into the bedroom..and he is reminded of why

    February 20, 2013 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
  17. ohsnap

    Michael, take it from this African American woman from the 1950s whose mother taught her the beauty of men from all races, you are one fine man!

    February 20, 2013 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Brenda

    Michael, you are very attractive. Maybe you're subconsciously attracted to catty women and that's why you get that reaction.

    February 20, 2013 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
  19. rick

    Sure they can be, and are, about 1 in a million is I'd estimate. And if you don't believe me just ask the loads of Asian women I see everywhere dating/marrying white guys in my area. Guess to be fair you could ask the white girls dating/marrying Asian guys what they think too, but it might take you a month to find one.

    February 20, 2013 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
  20. Bo

    I think Asian-Americans are probably the most beautiful people in the world. It's the most incredible mix of DNA and culture i've ever seen. But that's how i feel, i don't speak for anyone but myself.

    February 20, 2013 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gobsmacked

      I think they have the BEST skin tone – gorgeous!

      February 20, 2013 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
  21. AnAsianMale

    It's called BWAM – look it up!

    February 20, 2013 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
  22. SARAH

    They look like zoombies to me ! yuk !!

    February 20, 2013 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
  23. Michael

    B. D. Wong was dee-lish back in the 90's. I always wanted to see his character make out with one of the inmates on Oz.

    February 20, 2013 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
  24. Whokebe

    white girls with asian guys man

    February 20, 2013 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
  25. RapidOne

    I usually forget I'm not just a white guy who is really good at math and gets out socially WAY too much until I look in the mirror and see that I am, indeed, Asian.

    February 20, 2013 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
  26. Kristen

    Daniel Dae-Kim, 'nuf said.

    February 20, 2013 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • ohsnap

      A BIG AMEN to that!

      February 20, 2013 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gobsmacked

      YUP! Glad to see another Kim fan or 2!

      February 20, 2013 at 7:40 pm | Report abuse |
  27. Marek

    Very small percentage of non-Asians like Asians. Perhaps comparable to the percentage of people that like younger or elderly people or animals. There are always people that will like anything. But, good looking Asians are one in a thousand if they are 5% among other people in the US and perhaps 20% among Europeans.

    February 20, 2013 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Peter

      There are more Asians in the world than any other race.

      You say that "5% of Asians are good looking" vs "20% of those of European descent".

      1) Where the heck did you get those statistics?

      2) Everyone has a different metric in regards to "good looking".

      3) 5% of those Asia population easily out numbers the 20% of Europeans. Therefore, by your logic, there are more "good looking" Asians than there are "good looking" people of European descent.

      Logic is not your forte unfortunately.

      February 20, 2013 at 7:12 pm | Report abuse |
  28. t3chsupport

    Sure, they *can* be, just like anyone else. Author is pretty hot.

    February 20, 2013 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
  29. tk729

    Excuse me? When you consider all the nationalities that full under "Asian" you're talking about over half of the world's population. You might as well say humans are ugly in general and I wouldn't disagree.

    February 20, 2013 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
  30. Ella

    Asians are NOT ugly. Some hottest/best looking guys I know are asians. Whether they're a celebrity or an average person, I've met handsome ones. Especially Koreans are kind of appealing for me.

    February 20, 2013 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • RapidOne

      Thanks, Ella. Good balance to 'Adrian' above. Can't wait for hybrids (hapas) to take over the world so the racists like Adrian can disappear into history.

      February 20, 2013 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • drk

      Forget PSY. He wouldn't be considered handsome in Korea, either. Thus he makes a career as a comic. Happens to white folks, too.

      Has the author never seen K-POP? Those are some beautiful Asian boys, says this old white lady-mother of two smart, talented and gorgeous children by an Asian-American man. Hollywood just hasn't caught up with us yet.

      February 20, 2013 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
  31. Kal

    Majority of the women I have dated in my 35 years of existence have been caucasian, latin, or black. I've been on dates with 3 Asian women and do find them reall attractive. All 3 Asian women said I was different from other Asian guys and that I was white washed????... That really irritated me being judged and basically reversed stereotyped by someone who has similar or same ethnic background. I'm not sure what I'm doing differently but I get approached by all sorts of women except Asian women...

    February 20, 2013 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jasmine

      That's funny, because as an Asian female, non-Asian guys tend to like me more.

      February 20, 2013 at 7:16 pm | Report abuse |
  32. jayjay


    February 20, 2013 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
  33. james

    Struggling to understand why this was even written...

    February 20, 2013 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  34. jayjay

    proportionally speaking since asian men average shorter heights and smaller bodies in general... proportionally speaking that would be true

    February 20, 2013 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  35. Asian American Dude

    This is just creepy. He brags about putting his hands around a woman's throat? Even to "feel her pulse" sounds bizarre.

    February 20, 2013 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • bluegillonthefly

      I totally agree. Up until that part, the piece was a combination of self-important puffery and self-obsessed whining, the bottom line of which (apparently unseen by the author) was that he went out and became successful at what he wanted to be, just like everybody else. Nothing to see here, folks, move along, move along.

      Then he came up with that creepy, sounds-like-violence-against-women moment with his hand around a woman's throat and his other hand grabbing her by the hair. Weirdo.

      February 20, 2013 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |