Thursday, December 4, 2014

Are Asian Men Not Sexy? What's an Asian-American Romance Writer to Do? #AMBW #AsianMenAreHot

Quick! Name a well-known American-published romance with an Asian male hero. Tick, tick, tick. Unless you’ve been reading my books, it’s going to take you a while to find one. No fair using half-Asian heroes or looking at K-dramas or animes.

What’s the big deal you say? Demeaning stereotypes, that’s what.

A few months ago, I entered a writing exercise with a group of female romance writers. The goal was to write a “western” romance novella that is steamy enough for “Westerners.” I was excited at the prospect and sent an outline to the organizers.

My story was going to feature a drool-worthy Korean-American soccer goalie. He’s big, tall, handsome and sensitive. What a winning combination. Imagine my dismay when I got shot down.
Here is the response from the organizer [herself an Asian woman]:
I totally love the plot. My only reservation is the fact that he's Korean-American. I did Japanese American before and except for American readers who are otaku themselves, the readers really didn't find my hero that hot. However, for another NA book, I tried another tack: my hero is European / Western in looks but adopted by Korean parents and even has a Korean name to boot. I would recommend (but of course Rachel has the last say since this is her story) that she does something similar. I'm not saying I'm certain her book won't sell - naturally I can't predict that - but based on my experience, some readers might not be able to relate to it. =D
I do understand the need to write characters we can relate to, but one thing I've learned is that you can still create characters that are Asian (in terms of personalities or even lifestyles) in every way but looks. :) But again, that's just MHO. I'd really love to see Rachelle have more readers outside PH (I think I bought Taming Romeo but haven't read it yet) so that's why I'm hoping she can - even if it's just for this particular book - aim to be more "mainstream" with her characters.
Take a DEEP breath folks. There are so many things wrong with this, I cannot even begin to elaborate. However, after I fumed and stomped my feet, I decided to investigate. Is it true that American females don’t like Asian men? Is it true that it would be better for a writer to use a Caucasian face with an Asian name to portray “Asian” male characters? Is this what “mainstream” females want? Are we, as Asian American writers, obligated to whitewash our candidates so that our supposed readers can relate to them?

Before I answer these questions, let me summarize the romances I’ve written with Asian male leads. [See my Unforgettable Heroes here -]

Taming Romeo – Filipino
Played by Love – Korean
Playing the Rookie – Korean
Claiming Carlos – Filipino
Roaring Hot! – ½ Filpino, ¼ Japanese, ¼ Greek

The first place I looked was a blog called The Love Life of an Asian Guy by Ranier Maningding, a gifted and observant social commentator who happens to be an Asian guy! The first page is chock full of every negative stereotype against Asian men. If you read this, you’d think, yes, it’s absolutely true. No one will buy a romance novel with an Asian man on the cover.

But is that really true? And what does it say about “American” women? Isn’t the attitude espoused by the writer who gave me well-meaning advice also degrading to American women? As if they are homogeneous and unwilling to open their minds and read compelling and sexy characters no matter what race or culture they come from?

If you scroll through Ranier’s blog, you’ll soon find some awfully swoon-worthy pictures of Asian men. Muscles, tattoos, hot men galore. You’ll start realizing that hey, we’re onto something. Asian men are like undervalued stock picks, the ones you buy before everyone else has discovered them. That the women who are digging them are laughing their way to the marriage altar with men who make great fathers, have steady jobs, and yes, if you believe the stereotypes, are smart and sensitive to boot. Shhh… let’s keep this a secret, right?

But, wait! The samurai cat is already out of the bag. Australia’s new Cleo Bachelor of the year is a 28-year-old Vietnamese personal trainer. He beat out Bondi Hipsters, soccer/football players, chefs, movie stars, surfers, and Aussie football stars. And he’s no pencil neck, but instead, muscular and tatted. Yum. [source:, Click to see Thien and all the hunks he beat.]

And it’s not just the Aussies who appreciate Asian men. Here are 17 Reasons why Asian Men make the best boyfriend. Oh, and I love #10. You never have to worry about gross back, butt or chest hair. In fact, you don’t have to worry about body odor, at least on clothes that have been worn once. [according to author Grace Mineta of My Japanese Husband Thinks I’m Crazy]

But is it all roses out there? Obviously not. Name a mainstream Asian movie star who’s not starring in a martial arts flick. How about Asian male models? Any come off the tip of your tongue? Didn’t think so.

And face it, you girls want pretty pictures worth a thousand words. And here it is. The Persuasion Project, conceived by two fashion photographers to portray Asian men as sexy, unabashedly masculine, and desirable. Feast your eyes, girls! [Click to see 15 stunning hot pics] And [Click for 21 Gorgeous Asian Men]

So, where does this leave me, the romance author? I appreciate men of all races and cultures, and I will continue to write romantic heroes whether they are white, black, Asian, Latino, or every combination in between. My books with Asian heroes sell just fine, and the reviews I get from “mainstream” readers is excellent. Here is a 5-star review from Playing the Rookie [FREE]. “Loved the story line. It had a different perspective reading it, since the main characters were both Asian. This didn't affect the storyline, but I was caught off guard when I realize that they were Asian. Love the story... and the twist. Great ending!”

Talk back to me! Tell me what you like to see in a romantic hero. Would you like to read romances with Asian males? Would you date an Asian man if given the opportunity? Do you think Asian men are HOT!!!

If you do, go to my Facebook page, Twitter, or Tumblr and post an Asian hottie today. Shout it out #AsianMenAreHot and let's start the Romance Revolution today!


  1. I LOVE your asian hottie characters. I've never dated an asian man, but I didn't have the opportunity and if I ad the chance when I was single I certainly would have. Sexy looks different in many situations, but the non-mainstream culture in your books honestly sets your work apart in a really wonderful way. I for one just love it. Carlos is my favorite of your characters, as you probably know since my last review, and the gorgeous cover image didn't hurt. *eyebrow waggle*
    (runs off to go post a picture!)

    1. woohoo thanks! Asian men look great with long hair too. so silky and smooth. Thanks for posting it on my Club page. :) and THANK you for loving on Carlos. I wouldn't mind eating off his abs. ha, ha!

  2. as you know i'm just starting to appreciate a good romance...
    asian men?
    yes, his name was young(not sure of the spelling anymore) a very handsome and sensitive vietnamese. a very good friend i would have loved to have as a boyfriend...but he was in love with another girl.
    beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder...

    1. those near misses are always cuter the further we look back, right? I love romance too so I write about them. :) thanks for commenting!