In this article series, I will tell you a little bit about my own personal journey as a BL fan, and I will address some of the most common question and issues that I think fellow BL fans deal with. In Part 1, I will talk about what is a rice queen and what I think about the term. In Part 2, I will talk about why I started watching BL and what I like about BL. In Part 3, I will talk about the most common myth about Asian people and why they are not true. In Part 4, I will talk about what it is like to be married outside my culture, to an Asian man and what it is like to be married into an Southeast Asian family. In Part 5, I will talk about if/how being a BL fan has changed my life.
What is a Rice Queen?
Gay men use a lot of slang terms to describe racialized dating preference. Rice queen is used for non-Asian men (usually White men) who exclusively date Asian men. This is in direct opposition to “sticky rice”, which are Asian men who only date Asian men, and “Potato chaser”, which is an Asian man who dates White men exclusively. Other terms, such a “bean chaser” and “curry queen” are used to describe attraction to other ethnic groups. The terms are often use in a derogatory fashion. Besides being blatantly racist, they are also problematic because the use of the terms imply that the attraction to people outside your ethnic or racial group is abnormal and requires a special label. Heterosexual and homosexual man and woman also use the term yellow fever, to refer to someone with a recently acquired interest in Asian people, implying the person most have a disease.
The problem with the term Rice Queen
As an international BL fan, married to an Asian American, gay man label me as a Rice Queen. I am sure that I am not alone among the BL fanbase in this particular experience. The implication is that for us to be attracted to Asian men, something has to be wrong. We are labeled because we are an anomaly.
I am Latino. Before I married my husband, I dated Latino, White American, White European, and Asian men. I simply don’t have an obsession with a specific ethnicity. I live in the Midwest, which is as White as you can get, and I find myself checking out the local men every now and then (I am married but one can look!). I find the BL actors very attractive, but it doesn’t mean I am exclusively attracted to Asians. I am pretty sure that many BL fans are like me: they simply recognize beauty where beauty exists.
Another issue I have with the phrase “rice queen” is that by making the association between Asian people and rice, it further stereotypes and boxes Asians into a very narrow one-dimensional space. Asian culture is more than food, and Asian food is definitely more than rice. Analogous terms like Bean Chaser and Potato Queen are equally disparaging for the same reason.
Do Some BL fans Objectify Asian Men?
Some may defend the use of “rice queen” to label White men and other non-Asians who see Asian men as exotic and alluring. In Western media, Asians are portrayed as subservient. Rice queens are seen as men who see Asian men as sexual objects for the use of their own pleasure. Do BL fans like me, objectify Asian men? The answer to this is that, to some degree, yes we objectify Asian men. However, let’s be clear: In the West, the objectification of women is common across the entire mediascape. Similarly, in Western gay culture and in the Western media targeted for gay consumption, the objectification of the male body is common. I will also add, that as a minority myself, I think that objectification can be positive depending on context. When a guy sees a picture of me and tells me he thinks I am “hot”, he is indeed treating me as an object. He doesn’t know me, how can he tell if I am an attractive person? Yet, this is also a great self-esteem booster, so there is an upside to objectifying people we don’t know!
The problem of course is when we reduce people to their ethnicity. It is OK to tell a guy he is hot because you think he has a beautiful nose, a sexy stomach or delectable lips, but it is not OK to tell someone they are hot because they are Asian, nor is it OK to want to date someone solely based on their ethnicity. More than once, when I was on dating websites or at gay bars, I was appalled to see/hear someone tell me that they wanted to have sex with me because they had heard that Latinos are hot in bed. That is the kind of objectification that is wrong: you are reducing my entire self to a simple and narrow aspect of my identity.
I suspect some BL fans treat Asian men like sexual objects and I suspect that “rice queen” do exists. I remember this guy I met at a bar in Tacoma, Washington. The guy had an Asian boyfriend who he broke up with after only a year or so of dating. My husband, who is super chatty, kept talking to some other men at the bar and the guy kept trying to make me feel jealous about this. I can’t remember what he said but I remember being disgusted by the way he talked about my husband like he was an object or a possession. It was very disturbing. He was definitely someone who objectified men, particularly Asian men. This also explains why he was single.
Why I am not a “Rice Queen”?
Many would think I am obsessed with Asian culture. In my journey to becoming a BL fan, I have picked up several Asian languages. I currently study Japanese and I have been studying the Thai Abugida script for some time. I am familiar with some common phrases in both languages. I also understand some words in Tagalog. This is not because I spend any time studying the languages but because I listen to the songs of the shows I watch and because I watch a lot of shows. Common words like hello, goodbye, what, and phrases like I know, I love you, etc. are hard not to pick when you hear them over and over again.
I am not a sinophile, japanophile or weeb. I don’t read manga. I don’t really like cartoons that much. I simply watched a Japanese drama once, realized the phonology of Japanese is similar to Spanish and decided I could try to learn it. With Thai, I became very curious about the Abugida script and decided to give it a shot. I am still learning it. It is more difficult than the basic Japanese hiragana and katakana, but I will get there! I am not a polyglot but it is kind of fun to think about all the languages in which I can say I love you, thank you, or hello (I can also say “heart” in Spanish, English, French, Japanese, Thai and Tagalog. Why? It is another common word in love songs!). It can be a great conversation starter. 🙂
I married an Asian man simply because he was the right person. The story is a little bit more complicated than that and I hope to fill you on the details in Part 4. I will tell you that, as a Latino, I think Southeast Asian culture and Latin culture have a lot in common. I think that we are often draw to people who remind us of our friends or our family.
I am not a “rice queen”. I am someone who embraces diversity because life is more beautiful the more colorful our landscapes are. I married an Asian person and became slowly more familiar with Asian culture. I started watching BL many years later. I like BL for many reasons and yes, one of them is the fact that I find many of the BL actors to be pure eye candy. I think not finding other Asian men attractive would be weird, considering I am married to one.
In Part 2 of this article series, I will talk about how and why I started watching BLs.