Look, a unicorn!

Wes invited me to explain why some Asian women prefer white men.   Unlike him, I am unable to rationalize my preferences.  I like what I like, and that’s that.  I am not dismissing that biology plays a factor in making me behave the way I do while choosing a mate, but I am not going to pretend to understand the chemical reactions in my body, or analyze  my preferences based on that.  However, I can take a crack at explaining my behaviour and preferences not from a biological point of view, but from a cultural one.

In his post, Wes pointed that though attractive neotenous East Asian women can satisfy his  limbic system, being with them does not always translate to his happiness.  His yellow fever places him at a great disadvantage because what his wants physically is not always well-matched for what he craves culturally, intellectually or emotionally.  He seems to imply that I have a counterpart affliction, since I have a history of dating exclusively Caucasian males.  However, I would argue that my affliction is less biological and more cultural, and like Wes’s yellow fever, satisfies one part of me while leaving another part greatly dissatisfied.

Wes stated that neoteny is what physically motivates him, but my argument is that I am motivated by more than just my biology- my behaviour is also very much affected by cultural norms and the way the media defines love.  I do have physical preferences when it comes to men, but I think the scope is wider- I do not let height, hair colour or other physical characteristics become the primary deciding factor when choosing a mate.  What I mostly look for (and I do this subconsciously), is the starry-eyed, sweep-me-off-the-feet kind of magic.   I am a unicorn hunter.

It seems ludicrous that as an educated and liberated woman, I would buy into the media portrayal of love.  Hollywood romantic comedies among other types of formulaic media poison show young people that when we  find the one person who truly loves us, our flaws will be understood and we will be redeemed.  I stopped consuming these barf-inducing films and TV shows at a relatively young age because rationally, I knew what they want us to believe in is not real.   However, the propaganda had already been deeply ingrained in my psyche; I was already, and still am, conditioned to want the magic, to find a man who will understand and redeem me.  The media is selling a fantasy, that true love will always prevail and cure all that ails us.  The reality is, a partnership is so much more practical than we are led to believe.  Romantic comedies are never about people choosing mates from a pool of people, and choosing the one we think is the best based on what is available.  They don’t make a movie about a woman evaluating potential mates based on practical factors such education and income, because these are relevant  when assessing someone’s ability to provide a certain kind of lifestyle we aspire to, whether that’s raising a family or living the double-income-no-kids lifestyle .  In fact, assessing a potential mate’s financial ability is considered superficial, and is frowned upon in romantic comedies.   According to the movies, we are supposed to wait for Cupid to strike to tell us when to fall in love with the right guy at the right moment.   The point is, the reality of choosing a mate is not magical or romantic, and it will not sell box office tickets or diamond rings.   I am fully aware of this, and though I am an independent and capable woman, I am not above it; I still succumb to the fantasy.  I am chasing after an idea, a mystical creature.  I do this even though it makes me greatly unhappy.  Even though I know that unicorns are not real, and don’t make me happy at the end of the day, I keep hoping that maybe this time things will be different.  Maybe this time, it will last.

Are we biologically and culturally programmed to do things that leave us dissatisfied?  I like to think that as humans, we have more autonomy, and we can control our own happiness.  Biology and culture influence our wants, but at the end of the day, it is up to us how we choose to be happy.

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Ain’t nothing logical about yellow fever…it’s BIO-logical.

My yellow fever wasn’t a choice.  I was born this way.

But I didn’t start out this way.  I used to date white women, be attracted to white women.  So far as I knew, I didn’t have any real racial sexual preference.  But 5 years ago I started dating an Asian-American woman, then I moved to Hong Kong.  By the end of the first year here, I found myself very rarely attracted to non-East Asian women.  So how did this happen?  And why do I say I was born this way when I didn’t manifest any yellow fever symptoms until my 30s?

My sexual orientation hasn’t changed since moving to Hong Kong.  What has changed is my environment.  As a straight man, I’ve always been attracted to neoteny.  East Asians have more of it than anyone else, and now I’m surrounded by East Asians.

Neoteny is “the retention by adults of traits previously seen only in the young.”  Neoteny has been a major driving force in human evolution, so much so that it’s fair to say that humans are basically neotenized chimps.  The list of neotenic traits in humans includes, “flattened face, broadened face,large brain, hairless body, hairless face, small nose, reduction of brow ridge, small teeth, small upper jaw, small lower jaw, thinness of skull bones, limbs proportionately short compared to torso length, longer leg than arm length, larger eyes, and upright stance.”  This list can describe the difference between humans and chimps, the difference between women and men, or the difference between East Asians and other humans.  East Asians are hyper-human, East Asian women (and Betty Boop) are hyper-feminine, and it’s all about neoteny.  chimps100px-Betty_Boop_patent_fig2

Who we find attractive is conditioned by who (and what images) we are surrounded by; this is known as the contrast effect.  The contrast effect is likely responsible for the high divorce rate among secondary school teachers and college professors.  Kanazawa and Still hypothesize that male college professors have a high divorce rate (and tend to stay unmarried) because they are subconsciously affected by being surrounded by women at the peak of their fertility.  Heterosexual men are programmed to choose the most fertile and otherwise high-quality mate they can find, and when their environment consists of a disproportionate number of young women, they will subconsciously downgrade the attractiveness of older women.  (This is why it’s probably a good idea for men to reduce their exposure to media images of impossibly attractive women.)  I think a similar phenomenon occurs with white men in Asia, which explains why so many of us become less attracted to white women when we move here.  It’s not that living in Asia has caused me to be unattracted to all white women, but there is something about being surrounded by women with that neotenous East Asian bone structure that makes the average white woman’s face appear more masculine to me than it did when I lived in the US.   What this means is that for the most part, the white women I’m attracted to are out of my league, but the Asian women I’m attracted to are closer to the mean, and therefore more likely to like me back.

So far as I can tell, my yellow fever primarily affects my limbic system (the more primitive, or “reptilian brain”), leaving my neocortex relatively unscathed.  In other words, it strongly influences who I find sexually attractive, but not who I find intellectually, culturally or emotionally appealing (when we say men are thinking with their penises, we really mean they are thinking with their limbic systems, rather than their cortexes).  The limbic system has a powerful impact on motivation, but it’s not subject to a great deal of conscious introspection.

This is all terribly unfortunate for me, and that’s the illogical part.  My genes programmed me to maximize my inclusive fitness, not to maximize my happiness.  I’d almost surely be happier with a partner who is more similar to me, something a gay friend of mine finds hilariously ironic.  But alas, I was never attracted to men, and now I’m not attracted to white women unless they’re way too hot for me.  Though I find neoteny physically attractive, I’m not a big fan of it as a cultural phenomenon, and cultural neoteny is much more prevalent in East Asia than elsewhere.  I don’t know if biological neoteny plays a role in Japan’s Kawaii culture, or East Asian adult’s disproportionate love of Disney and Hello Kitty, but it’s possible there may be some gene/culture coevolution going on here.  I guess I should learn to embrace the cultural cuteness of East Asia.  In China, even the bears are cute.  Maybe that’s why Hong Kong is so safe?

The Korean says that those of us who suffer from yellow fever are just racist, and he says the same thing about Asian women who are predominantly/exclusively attracted to white men.  It’s arguments like his that made me hesitant to post this; I certainly don’t want to be labelled a racist, or worse, a pedophile.  So let me be clear, I’m not into the infantilized China doll look.  I’m not into girls.  I’m into women.  I just prefer certain facial features that are indicators of youth (which is a proxy for fertility).  What it feels like is an infatuation with a particular facial bone structure.

If I could choose who I was attracted to, I might make a different choice, or at least a more inclusive one.  But this is the curse of the 21st century 30-something straight male (it’s just particularly acute for culturally Western men in Asia with yellow fever).  We’re surrounded by media images that make us less happy, if only slightly and subconsciously, with the women we’re with.  I guess we should just grow up, and stay away from the likes of Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, or Zhang Ziyi.

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The one saving grace of yellow fever is that many Asian women who I think are beautiful do seem to like me back, and some of them are culturally and intellectually appealing to me as well.  Since I’m not an Asian woman, I’m not going to try to explain why some Asian women prefer white men, but my fellow blogger here is quite qualified to comment on that phenomenon, since she’s one of the data points in it, just as I am in the yellow fever dataset.  I’ll leave that to her.

Plunge, Retake

Wes thinks we should blame Hong Kong’s lack of music/art scene and shitty dating on “women who consider the starving artist type undateable“.  Frankly, I disagree.

We can make these women public enemy #1, seek them out in Soho and throw rocks at them.  Actually, I also feel like throwing rocks at the douchy bankers these women sought after.   Now the question is, which came first, the douchy bankers or the women who find starving artist types undateable?

Hong Kong is one of the financial capitals in the world, expected to surpass London and New York in the very near future.  The city attracts and recruits the brightest and the shrewdest to work in its thriving financial sector.   As a result, it is a materialistically driven, superficial city.  People living and working in Hong Kong have high earning potential, they are able to afford luxury goods and have large, comfortable accommodations.  In this highly competitive environment, people have to demonstrate that they are the best of the best.    Men will flaunt their earning potential by wearing an expensive suit, driving a luxurious car, living in a penthouse of a fancy building in a trendy neighbourhood.  Women want men with high earning potential because walking around with expensive handbags and having the newest gadgets that you did not have to earn is high status.   Having a rich man provide for you, so you can sit around and look pretty, is high status.   To attract these men, women also need to play the part by conforming to the conventional standard of beauty.  In Asia, the golden standard of beauty is slenderness.  The mothers of daughters groom them to be submissive, uncritical, to dress and act conventionally in order to be pleasing to a man, with the dream that one day, their daughter will become a mute, beautiful trophy wife to some wealthy executive that will also look after them in their old age.   This is the Asian dream.

The worst thing that could happen to a woman in Hong Kong  is fall in love with a man with low status.   God forbid she might have to work so her artist husband can hopefully become the next Picasso.  An artist can only gain high status when his art sells for a lot of money, like Picasso.  Before an artist becomes famous and starts raking in millions, they are undateable.  (Note the galleries in Central and how expensive bad art cost.  It doesn’t matter if the art is bad as long as it fetches a lot of dough). Artists have poor earning potential and by default, low status in Hong Kong society.   As do people working in education and NGO sectors.  The “hipster” status, the idea of being “cool”, or the idea that you might be doing something with your career other than just making money, seems impractical in Hong Kong.  It might be desirable to have a “cool” job as a game designer because you make decent money but your career is also driven by passion or a geeky niche.    Being passionate, geeky, or cool is not practical, it does not make money, and therefore not valued in Hong Kong.  This is why the creative types in general are less likely to come to Hong Kong, and this is why the music and art scenes are rather pathetic here.

I don’t blame the women who find artist undateable.  I don’t really blame the douchy bankers either, but I find their vanity plate extremely distasteful.

'nuff said.

’nuff said.

My Take on Kayo’s Plunge

As an expat man, I sure wish Kayo was right when she said, ” many expat men, who may not amount to much back home, the ones women didn’t pay attention to, became gods when they arrive in Hong Kong. This town breeds toxic bachelors who don’t need to settle down or be accountable to the women they date because there are unlimited supply of attractive, young women who will throw themselves at them.”  I was totally one of the ones women didn’t pay much attention to back home, but I’m hardly a god in HK.

I’ve been here 4 years, and have definitely had better luck getting dates with attractive women since moving here.  But I’m still single, and not necessarily because “there are unlimited supply of attractive, young women who will throw themselves at” me.  I wish.  I’m a white man, and the myth is that all white men have it easy in Asia because Asian women like white men and we like them back.  Ok, it’s not totally a myth, but like all myths with a little bit of truth to them, reality is more complicated.

There are in fact a fair number of HK Chinese women who prefer to date white men.  Generally, these women like us because we are perceived as either more masculine, or wealthier, than HK men. The ones that like us because of our perceived masculinity prefer alpha males.  And I’m not an alpha male.  The ones who prefer us because of our perceived wealth like rich guys (naturally).  And I’m not rich.  Then there’s the fact that the vast majority of HK Chinese women prefer HK Chinese men.  And I’m not Chinese.  Hardly a dating paradise for a guy like me, particularly considering that many of the cultural characteristics of the typical HK Chinese woman are not qualities I find endearing (let’s just say that if shopping is your favorite leisure activity, we’re not gonna get along).  Of course, there are women who like white men for other reasons, and I’ve found a few…but…

Before I get too into feeling sorry for myself (or inadvertently admitting that I’m a “toxic bachelor”), let me say that I think the local men have it worse.  Kayo’s statement that most HK women are seeking “suitable husbands who will buy them a house and look after them” is a generalization with a lot of truth to it.  There’s not really anything wrong with women wanting that, but I think the end result is pretty hard on the men in this town, and it’s bad for the culture.  Women in HK seem to prefer a much higher income to IQ ratio than women in the West.  As evidence of this, I submit the insanely high number of magazines about watches, and the insanely low number of magazines about current events or anything thoughtful but not financial, available at HK bookstores.  (An obviously expensive watch is what biologists refer to as an “honest signal” of a high income to IQ ratio.)  I may have attracted fewer women back in the US, but the ones I attracted appreciated me for the things I like about myself.  Here, not so much.

Most everything a single straight man does is geared toward either attracting women or satisfying some addictive impulse (and often both).  So if all women want is “a suitable husband who will buy them a house and look after them,” millions of men will look for the shortest route to becoming that type of man.  And that type of man is an uncreative, emasculated, miserable middle-manager who forces his underlings to do pointless shit, kisses up to his many bosses, and is terrified to take risks.  So if you’re looking for an explanation for HK’s shitty art/music scene (for a world city, it’s pretty bad) blame the women who consider the starving artist type undateable.

Taking the plunge and talking about dating in Hong Kong

Wes and I have talked about starting a blog for ages.  And then we’ve had this blog for ages and either of us can get over this initial fear of posting something that is not perfect.  I am taking the plunge.  I am  going to talk about what I learned from dating in Hong Kong.  First, I will share an article from The Atlantic called “Hong Kong’s Troubling Shortage of Men”.

http://www.theatlantic.com/china/archive/2013/12/hong-kongs-troubling-shortage-of-men/281942/

This article discusses the skewed gender ratio in Hong Kong and how that is affecting educated, local Hong Kong women to find suitable husbands who will buy them a house and look after them.  Many women in Hong Kong seem to be panicking: “Asian men seem to be attracted to girls around 25 rather than girls over 30, so if we don’t find the right man soon, our chances of meeting a future partner will get slimmer.”  The last thing they want is to end up as a shengnü or “leftover women”.

Based on my observations and experience, it’s not just the local Hong Kong men who live this foot-loose lifestyle, where they are either focusing on their careers, or sleeping with as many women as they possibly can.  Not that anything is fundamentally wrong with exploring sexually, but men tend to play these games to get women to sleep with them, and sometimes these games aren’t very nice.   They play these games on the expense of the women’s emotional/psychological well-being and self-esteem.  This is not a phenomenon that is only applicable to Hong Kong men, but  with western expat men as well.  I have been on the Hong Kong dating scene on-and-off since moving here in April 2012.  I am a bit of a racist once it comes to dating- I exclusively date English speaking, western educated non-Asians.   I had a ball when I first came to Hong Kong, there are so many attractive, single, educated and fun-loving men in Hong Kong- I’ve had some great dates, some really shitty dates.  Some dates became some of my best friends, and others were duds and forgotten.   I also met men who literally had ripped me apart- it’s not completely their fault, I was a bit of a mess, but they certainly weren’t considerate of my feelings or needs.  Anyway, I found that many expat men, who may not amount to much back home, the ones women didn’t pay attention to, became gods when they arrive in Hong Kong. This town breeds toxic bachelors who don’t need to settle down or be accountable to the women they date because there are unlimited supply of attractive, young women who will throw themselves at them.  They get used to this, and they expect this, and they become spoiled and entitled.

When I first came to Hong Kong, I just ended a long-term relationship and was feeling lost and insecure.  It’s not easy being in Hong Kong when a woman is in that fragile state, especially since she was not 25 and weighed 120 pounds.   After a string of unsuccessful dates, where I was made to feel pretty awful about myself, I started to believe that I was too old and too fat for this town.   I’ve been given an array of advice from well-intended friends.  You have to play the game, you have to be coy, you can’t just give them what they want (but what if what they want is also what I want?!?).  You are too excited, tone it down.  You talk too much, you are too fast, too crazy, too weird.  Oh, here is a good quote from the article-  apparently, we should be “gazing at men while leaning forward at a 45 degree angle and avoiding showing excitement during any conversation.”  Really?  Is this what men really truly want?

Also, I have been told that as a 31-year-old, healthy and fit woman, I am too old and ‘big’ for the men in Hong Kong.  This must be true because according to the article, “27-year-old accountant Laura recently underwent her first liposuction procedure at the Life Clinic, one of the biggest centers in the city, and is planning a second early next year. She believes that she can only find her life partner once she achieves her own ideal of physical perfection.”  Wow.  Again, really?

Lately, I realized that I don’t want the men who want women who avoid showing any excitement, and get a liposuction because they are fearful that they won’t find a husband.  Fuck that.  No way I am putting myself through that misery.  Instead, I will eat and drink what I please, run my half-marathons, and say and do what I please.   I will continue to be excited, impulsive, and start dance parties wherever and whenever I can.   I will travel the world, go diving, be free as a bird and not have some stupid guy made me feel shitty because I have a brain, and self-worth.

I suppose I will be a shengnü , and a pretty hot and awesome one.