The idea of emasculation is usually associated with Asian guys, predominantly eastern Asians guys, and it is most evident on dating websites or in real-life experiences. Many of us attempt to resist this stereotype and try to be “masculine”, however, I argue that emasculation is a toxic idea in itself, and what is most problematic is when Asian men look at themselves in such way. I want to point out that my opinion does not represent all Asian cis-men, and I fully understand that differing family and socio-economical backgrounds significantly influence on the way a man defines masculinity in his own social context. As such, my opinion is grounded in my own observations and experiences.
The commonly held definition of masculinity is absolutely anglo-centric, and therefore inaccessible for Asian men. Masculinity can be understood as a highly apparent expression of male gender in different social contexts. When we imagine masculinity, the figure that comes to mind will usually be a white cis-man with a full-on but well-trimmed beard, muscular build and a relatively aggressive manner. Let’s take Hugh Jackman and Chris Hemsworth for example, both of them play sexually or physically aggressive roles in their movies, and coincidentally, they fit the Western idea of masculinity. I am not trying to analyze racial politics in Hollywood, rather what I am trying to say is that the conception of Western masculinity is very much biased towards white cis-men who have an ability to grow a beard and are born with a relatively bigger bone structure. The adoption of this stereotype in the media plays an important role in than perpetuating the idea into the public space, consolidating the privileged position of white cis-men. On the contrary, the idea of emasculation is targeted at Asian men to encourage them to believe that the single, Western and Anglo interpretation of masculinity is not compatible with their ethnicity. Ultimately, we are doomed – we are not white enough to fit the stereotype.
To achieve “masculinity”, Asian men are urged to excessively adopt the qualities that come with it, such as sexual aggressiveness, heterosexuality and strong physical strength. Why excessive? It is because they are seen as not having been born with masculine traits, and therefore have to “work on it” to hold up the Anglo-centric standard.
The erasure of queer Asian sexuality that comes with perpetuating heterosexuality in the discourse of masculinity, increases general homophobia and enhances the marginalization of queer Asian men. This is often evident in high schools when Asian males are bullied because they are queer, or just because people think they are. More than this, queer Asian men also find it difficult to talk about their sexuality within the queer community. The emasculation model assumes that Asian men are less masculine, and encourages people to jump straight to the conclusion that they are inherently sexual submissive in bed. There are two consequences of this stereotype: firstly, it totally erases and marginalizes the sexualities of the queer Asian men who desire to take control in the bedroom, regardless of the race of their partners, and secondly, certain groups within queer Asian communities marginalized in the pursuit of masculinity. Asian queer men are relatively more judgmental of the body shapes of other Asian men. There are different components to these views, and I am not saying that all Asian queer men hold the same standards, however, it is interesting to see how many Asian queer men talk about masculinity, especially their excessive fetish over muscles (not necessary physical strength) and facial hair (there are even beard-growing medicines in Asian countries). Many of them work their butt off to be more “masculine”. Therefore, heterosexualisation takes place when “straight-acting” or “traditionally masculine traits” are praised and perpetuated within the community. This Anglo-centric ideal defines what is sexually attractive within the Asian queer community. Since the conception of emasculation applies whether you are masculine or not, those queer Asian men who do not hold up the standard are usually ignored, and their sexualities are not discussed because they are broadly considered to not have sexual attractive bodies.
Excessively resisting the emasculation framework, however, can also result in misogyny and in the worst case, sexual abuse. Emasculation becomes an insult for Asian men. The use of language such as “man up” and “don’t be a pussy” suggest that having feminine traits is degrading. This is problematic because femininity is not held up to the same scrutiny as masculinity – what is wrong with being feminine? The notion of emasculation has stigmatised femininity.
Let’s push the argument further: because Asian men are presumed to be born with emasculated bodies, they need to act masculine and reject all feminine traits. Since the emasculation framework encourages the gender binary, where femininity is opposite to masculinity, heterosexual Asian men who believe in such framework will see their partner as more feminine than them. But since the quality of feminism is unvalued, their opinion of their partners will be lesser than their opinion of themselves. As such, the gender relation will not be equal.
An aggressive manner is also encouraged in the discourse of masculinity. Let’s have a hypothetical situation; an Asian man has a fight with his female partner because she does not want to practice anal sex. If he believes in the emasculation framework, he will see his body as emasculated and will want to “man up” in the situation. He only has two options, a) do it, and that’s rape, or b) beat her, which is domestic abuse. Neither are the best options. As such, the emasculation framework is misogynic and leads to detrimental effects.
To conclude, emasculation is a framework that urges Asian men to be more masculine. Asian men who adhere to such framework assume their body has been emasculated and therefore perform the qualities of masculinity so that they can resist the discourse of emasculation. However, the method of doing it can be problematic; firstly because it marginalizes queer Asian men, and secondly, because it encourages misogyny and may result in sexual abuse because such a framework is patriarchal in essence. In my opinion, love who you are and be who you are. Masculinity is too fragile for us.