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February 01, 2003

White, Olive, and Different Shades of Yellow

I've had some weird experiences with multicultural diversity, such as being frequently mistaken for Arab, Pakistani, Greek etc. However, the most unexpected one is how attractive I am to a fair number of white computer guys who've spent most of their romantic lives with Oriental girls. As mentioned, I don't look very Irish, but people's most common guess is that I'm Italian. Since I'm too chicken to post my picture, let's just say I look as Oriental as a typical Italian girl.

This is an important distinction, because when white women talk about the white guys with Asian girls they seem to think such men have some sort of aesthetic or sexual aversion to white women. However, in my experience that's not true. Here is my laundry list for why some white nerds always go out with Asian girls.

A. HEIGHT. A lot of white computer guys seem to be a bit below the white mean, about 5'6 or 5'7. Since most men like women who make them feel like men, a 5'7 man would usually prefer a woman who was 5'2, rather than 5'5. I'm 5'1, and although that seems a fairly typical for Japanese women, fairly few white women are that short.

B. DARK EYES. In my mind's eye, one of the most annoying deficiencies of English is that we don't really have a word for the deep brown eyes common in Southern Europeans, Arabs, South Americans etc. Many Northern Europeans have pale brown eyes, sort of like wood panelling, but deep dark eyes are fairly uncommon. I suspect that a lot of white men who like Oriental women are drawn to dark eyes. Dark eyes were a constant theme in Marlon Brando's romantic life, hence the string of Latina, Oriental, and Polynesian women in his life. In my experience in the
increasingly stratified DC area, white men who like dark eyes usually go for Hispanic or Oriental women based on their socioeconomic class.

C. INTELLECTUAL TOLERANCE. This is the big one. Everyone says they want intelligence in a spouse or partner, but most people won't tolerate for the eccentricities that high intellectual abilities often produce. However, in my experience Orientals of both sexes are more willing to make allowances for this kind of thing. This may be a misreading on my part (Jason Soon can respond), but I suspect that the higher average IQs of Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans might induce them to take these personality quirks in stride. Since my father and brother are both socially functional, kind hearted versions of Ignatius Reilly I really don't mind if a guy fancies himself Prince Caspian. This also explains why few white computer guys date Hispanic women.

Hope this doesn't sound like some sort of personal ad. But I'm trying to make a point. There are some genuine Asiaphiles out there, most of whom are not shy about declaring their disgust of white American women. However, most white computer guys from middle-class homes do not have some sort of physical or psychological repulsion towards white women. Indeed, these white/Asian relationships aren't without their problems, e.g. she frequently has to hide him from her dad. Because like tends to attract like, most white computer guys would love to connect with a white girl who meets the above qualifications. But, as mentioned, we are few and far between.

Posted by duende at 04:48 PM

Well, that's interesting. I think you may have overlooked the fact that university educated white women show a rather leftward bias that some more conservative men find difficult to put up with. I certainly find Chinese women to be both bright and easygoing yet fundamentally pretty conservative which is one reason I like them.
I'm not sure about your point about white computer guys not dating Hispanic women. How does that follow?

Posted by: John Purdy at February 1, 2003 06:41 PM

Personally, all kinds of women appeal to me. Although, sometimes I find the mindset of Asian women to be a bit more my speed. They don't have as many Gloria Steinem hangups as many white women do.

I don't understand the point about Hipanic women either.

Posted by: Mantra at February 1, 2003 07:16 PM

Hmmm, I'm a white computer guy, and I lived with a Guatemalan girlfriend for over 2 years, and married (and divorced) a Mexican woman.

They both tolerated high-IQ wackiness, and were in many ways more culturally accepting of Strange Folks than most Americans...cultural traditions of weird Catholic and Indian mystics, bizarre artists, etc.

But I'm a California native who's lived their whole life either there, or New Mexico, Colorado or Arizona...of the "Mexican Food" type in Eric S. Raymonds taxonomy of hacker cuisine preferences.

But I had to give brown eyed women up, they were too confining of my wild blue eyed soul, and I've been with a wonderful German American (

Posted by: David Mercer at February 1, 2003 10:33 PM

Duende, you may have a point with the "intellectual tolerance" thing -- Oriental women can be more forgiving than white women tend to be, of the, shall we say, "eccentricities" of computer nerds.

About the "attraction to dark eyes" thing -- I don't know about that. What you as a woman have to understand, Duende, is that whereas women are often strongly attracted to things like a man's eyes, hands, and voice (while, admittedly, surprisingly many say they're attracted to men's butts), men are attracted first and foremost to the overall face (rather than specifically to the eyes considered apart from the rest of the face), the overall body, and the overall personality. Eyes, hands, and voice, CONSIDERED BY THEMSELVES, are not the big deal for men, in judging a woman's attractiveness, as they can be for women in judging a man's. There are exceptions, of course.

I suspect -- though I've been away from the (post-graduate) campus for over two decades now and am not certain of the conditions on today's campuses -- I'd bet that a significant part of what turns men away from white American college girls is what "Mantra" says in his comment: "All kinds of women appeal to me ... [but] Asian women ... don't have as many Gloria Steinem hangups as many white women do." What he's talking about are women's-lib-type attitudes found more often in white women than in Oriental or Indian women.

Yes, there are many men who are attracted to chip-on-the-shoulder "feminist" white college women who strive to appear feisty, in-control, mannish, even abrasive, in the absolutely deluded belief that that will bring them happiness. But the vast majority of men who like these qualities in women are defective in ways most women won't like if ever they take up with such men.

The vast majority of men whom most women would find palatable in long-term relationships find women's-lib-type women unattractive if not outright repulsive. (Of course, it goes without saying that there are exceptions. There are Petrucchios out there who can handle any sort of woman, provided there is something in it for them. But I'm talking about most.)

That fact should be taught in class, to women who are majoring in "women's studies," so that at least they'll know what they're letting themselves in for (the non-lesbians among them, at any rate).

You say, "[M]ost white computer guys from middle-class homes do not have some sort of physical or psychological repulsion towards white women. ... [M]ost white computer guys would love to connect with a white girl who meets the above qualifications [which amount simply to having a feminine personality]. But, as mentioned, we are few and far between."

Of COURSE they don't have a repulsion toward white women, Duende, and of COURSE they'd love to connect with a white girl who meets the qualifications you mention. What the sort of man you'd be attracted to wants, Duende, is basically a woman who is feminine (which, from your letters and blog entries, you certainly seem to be -- in spades ... you should have no trouble getting exactly what you want to fall right into your lap, if you haven't already).

Posted by: Unadorned at February 1, 2003 10:34 PM

white computer nerds can't get white women. But they can get asian women because they have (on average) more height, muscle, etc. than most asian men, and certainly more than most asian computer nerds. They're thus at a competitive advantage relative to similarly nerdy asian males.

Now - the kind of white women that white computer nerds go for (and that go for white computer nerds) are likely to be the kind of women passed over by white non-computer nerds. Conclude from that what you will...

Posted by: pointingouttheobvious at February 1, 2003 11:39 PM

Funny, 2 out of my 3 majors are Physics and EE, and dark eyes on a girl are the one thing that I don't like.

To me, there's nothing better than a brunette with blue or green eyes... like Aishwarya.

Right Razib? ;)

Posted by: Loweeel at February 2, 2003 12:50 AM

i think there is something to be said for the idea that typical unathletic computer guys can be pretty pathetic physically. as a computer guy, i can be hard to stay in shape. but no harder than most guys with desk jobs . i think not working around women is a big factor since we aren't preening all the time for them. i make it up by socializing around them all the time.

also, remember than east asian cultures, particularly the confucian ones (and here i mean china, korea and vietnam and less so japan) tend to value the scholar more than the warrior. the ruling elite of china for 2,000 years were mandarins. the confucians were amongst the most pacifistic of the hundred schools. even highly militaristic dynasties like the tang, with partially non-chinese origins, later exalted the man-of-letters and emperors were often scholars in their private life.

contrast this with the military aristocracy that was more prevalent in the west. the original roman republic was militaristic, but remember than they were politicians first and generals only when called to server. it was later in the late empire than soldiers & ruler became one & the same, and the rise of fuedalism the military caste became the ruling caste.

what i'm saying is that western culture has more of a predisposition to lionize aggressive hypermasculine men, while chinese culture might be more prone to accept the cultivated values of a literacy scholar. not saying that programmers are literary scholars, but the normals they spend their lives on esoterica....

and loweeel, i don't do the brown-no matter the phenotype. it's a matter of principle :) (easy to practice when the town i am currently living in has 20 brown people according to the last census)

Posted by: razib at February 2, 2003 01:17 AM

i nearly threw up laughing...

after all that intellectual masturbation, all she throws up are 1) height 2) dark eyes 3) tolerance for nerdiness....

you are so funny "duende"... LOL

i've seen plenty tall non-oriental guys with short asian women (yes, that includes big burly black men...)...

it sounds like self-fulfilling rationalization to me... ~the guys who like asian women are short geeks who aren't tolerated by normal white girls~....

jesus girl... oriental girls are cute, beautiful, sexy, smart and sophisticated... and they're cultured.. and they're not loaded with VD from fucking in the backseats of cars ever since they were 13 years old... that's why everyone likes them... and yes it helps that they are petite... 'cause its easier to cuddle them.... and they seem more vulnerable...

Posted by: throwinguponkeyboard at February 2, 2003 11:21 AM

There is one issue that has not been mentioned - children. Most women factor in how well a man will provide for his children when selecting a mate. In that case, a white guy has several factors in his favor. For one, there has been no major incidence of discrimination against hapas that are from one Asian and one white parent. A child born of two Asian parents may not have to face hostile prejudice, but would have to deal with the everyday annoyances that comes with being a visibly distinct minority, "Can you speak English?" "Where are you really from?" If the Asian woman found such questions too much trouble growing up herself, that could be a criteria in mate selection. A child born of one Asian parent and one black parent will most likely be considered black, and would experience a degree of prejudice and possible discrimination that is more troublesome than an Asian/Asian or Asian/White combo.

Secondly, since Asian households still tend to pool money together for family needs, an Asian woman realized that income earned from an Asian husband may also have to support in-laws, cousins, aunts and uncles, both within the US and possible overseas as well. She may believe that income derived from a white husband will be used solely for themselves and their children.

Third, since Asian families tend to take in elderly grandparents, this adds an additional strain on family finances. There may be less chance of a white mother-in law moving into the house than an Asian one.

Fourth, if an Asian woman is attracted to a white computer nerd, she may figure that he is not likely to stray. As the Chris Rock joke goes, "A man is as faithful as his options." So, rather than pursuing other women, he will more likely spend free time helping raise their children.

Fifth, because Asian men do face a degree of reverse discrimination, an Asian woman may conclude that an equally smart white male will experience less hassles in getting hired or promoted, which will aid in the raising of their children.

Posted by: KXB at February 2, 2003 11:37 AM

Asian women, like many non- White women, go for White guys a lot b/c they may have grown up in cultures (both here and abroad) that puts great value on 'White' featured characteristics.

Few women I have ever met think in detail about your 2nd, 3rd, or 5th reasons. Has anybody ever met anyone weighing which guy to date based on how much work place discrimination they will suffer? Women choose guys for a number of reasons (apart from what I just said above) like:
1) cool personality (ironically a lot of women go for the 'a hole' personality too b/c they think it's cool at the time)
2) high intelligence
3) money/ glamorous job (but not on specific things like potential for work place discrimination)
4) physical appearance(less of a factor than for men)

I'll grant some women might choose a man based on what type of children they'll end up having with him or whether he'll not stray- but probably most women don't analyze things that far.

Posted by: -R at February 2, 2003 12:41 PM

There are 2 sides to this equation, don't forget about all the asian gals who exclusively date white dudes.

If you're a white computer-type dude, having a gal population in front of you who's made an explicit, semi-intellectual commitment to your "kind" makes your odds at bat that much more attractive.

Posted by: Anon at February 2, 2003 12:42 PM

David Mercer,
The Southwest has a more educationally diverse Hispanic population due to its history. In the D.C. area, our Hispanic (mostly Central American) communities are about 20 years old. In my mind, their high teen fertility and high school drop out rates answer most questions about their cultural premium on education.

Posted by: at February 2, 2003 12:48 PM

That last, unsigned post was me. Sorry

Posted by: duende at February 2, 2003 12:52 PM

"R" what you are pointing out is the importance of proximate causes. what you bring up is that they might not be thinking of it in a conscious mode-but it might have the same long term consequences as KXB

Posted by: razib at February 2, 2003 12:55 PM

You are all obsessing about geeks and their choices. Here in NYC the white guy/asian chick thing is to be seen throughout the spectrum and is esp. marked in the arts (and arts-related) world. Some of the guys are quite attractive, tall, etc. What does that do to your theories?

Posted by: Diana at February 2, 2003 03:52 PM

I'm a white girl, and while I'm not much of a computer geek myself, I am something of a computer geek groupie, and I'm not a militant man-hating feminist. (I like men a lot, in fact!) I'm also single and live in Seattle if this is of interest to anyone. :)

Razib, when are you going to ad the personals section to the Gene Expression site, anyway? :)

Posted by: Jacqueline at February 3, 2003 10:06 PM

(for what I am about to write please add the words "in general" where I do not use them, b/c its necessary for us to think in trends if this is going to have any explanatory power at all.)


There's a lot of math that can be done with this but I'll just stick to some fairly safe generalizations and end with a link that deals with the topic in a much more convincing and stylistically enjoyable manner.

Men are attracted to feminity, and women are attracted to masculinity. But that doesn't necessarily mean that men are going to be the most attracted to the most feminine women or that women are going to be most attracted to the most masculine men. On an evenly gradiating scale from "masculinity" to "femininity", I think men prefer a femininity that is in a certain range on the scale from their masculinity. Maybe this could be calculated with a hypothetical GQ- gender quotient (ah, a masculinity/femininty index- the next IQ). And women prefer men in a certain range from their GQ.

If we look at bone density, muscle-fat ratio, height, androgen receptivity (testosterone), development of secondary sexual characteristics (deep voice/muscularity, etc. for men & breast development etc. for women)you will find that asian men and women are the most physically feminine while black men and women are the most masculine. In a multi-racial society this translates into black women and asian men generally being the least sexually desirable to the opposite sex. Asian women and white women seem to be about equally attractive to both white men and black men. Asian women tend to prefer more masculine white and black men over asian men, but probably feel most physically compatable with white men on the left side of the white guy GQ curve. White women too prefer white and black men, and sociological inequality confounds this, but if all things were made equal, I think white women would prefer black men on the left side of the black guy GQ curve. (asian women on the left side of the GQ and black men on the right side, are probably the most attractive to asian men and black women respectively).

So as for your observation, as someone in the art scene I completely agree that white guy/asian women combos are quite common. And, yes, many of the guys are tall, but overall I would rate them on the left-side of the white-guy GQ, in tandem with the theory.

Steve Sailer's essay Is Love Colorblind? is a much more intelligent treatment of the topic.


Whachoo talkin' bout girl? Razib added that "personals" section you requested, like the day after you joked about it.

Posted by: Jason M. at February 3, 2003 11:57 PM

Interesting theory about height - you say that man seek out shorter women because they prefer them that way, but I believe in reality the issue is that women prefer men that are tall or at least taller than they are, and men learn to accommodate this preference. By way of supporting evidence I point to any set of personals ads - if you look at the qualities that are being sought, you'll find that women generally seek taller men, while the men are looking for women that are attractive and/or slender, height almost never mentioned...

Posted by: bbartlog at February 4, 2003 02:22 PM

women prefer a 6 inch differential. men don't care. one of my friends has a mother taller than her father, and she mentioned how that is like 1 out 100 marriages (she gave an exact number, but i can't remember, but it was on the order of that magnitude).

Posted by: razib at February 5, 2003 01:27 AM

men don't care

Men like all kinds of women, but who they prefer is a different question. I think men do have a height they prefer and its probably a similar differential.

Also looking back, I want to add a couple more wild assertions.

Asian women tend to prefer more masculine white and black men over asian men

This probably isn't true. Asian women probably prefer all Asian men and the left half of white men, but Asian women/black men couples are actually pretty rare. (though in Japan [at least on Okinawa] there's a special kind of Afro-phile called "Kokujo")

Black men also do like black women (I think Sir-Mix-a-Lot made a persuasive case for this). In fact since interracial pair-bonding is still the exception rather than the rule, I might guess that people feel (if we are going to use the three race model) most compatible with the opposite gender within their own race and about half of the curve from the other race that 's within their prefered field of sexual dimorphism.

Posted by: Jason M. at February 5, 2003 07:54 AM

JasonM writes:
>Men like all kinds of women, but who they prefer >is a different question. I think men do have a >height they prefer and its probably a similar >differential.

To the extent that female height is important to men at all, I think any preference men have for a particular height difference (that is, a shorter woman) is balanced pretty well by an overall preference for tall women - so that a tall man might prefer a woman who was tall (though still shorter than he was), while a short man would prefer a taller woman, given the choice.

As regards the persistence of same-race couples, I think this results more from a preference for someone who shares the same cultural background, not to mention more opportunities in close proximity, than any overall preference for someone with the same physical racial characteristics. But I'm guessing.

Posted by: bbartlog at February 5, 2003 08:42 AM

As regards the persistence of same-race couples, I think this results more from a preference for someone who shares the same cultural background, not to mention more opportunities in close proximity, than any overall preference for someone with the same physical racial characteristics.

Well, this is certainly true to some degree. But black men and asian women aren't hooking up for more than "cultural" reasons.

I see several interesting lines of inquiry in this that I am neither qualified or intelligent enough to participate in:

1) GQ- I would like to see the development of an index to measure an individuals overall physical measures of masculinity and femininity, taking into account all of the things that define those qualities.

2) Sexual attraction as it relates to sexual dimorphism- I would like to see what range on the GQ that men and women prefer people of the opposite sex to be in as it relates to their own relative ranking.

3) Racial differences on the GQ- I would like to see what the curves look like for Asians, Blacks, and Whites. Men and Women.

4) I would like to know what the results of #3 evaluated under the knowledge of #2 can tell us about patterns of attraction between the races.

Does any of that sound silly? Am I missing something? Is the GQ theoretically flawed?


Posted by: Jason M. at February 5, 2003 12:31 PM

Well, Jason, maybe will get some data with Fox's upcoming "Am I Hot?" competition...

Posted by: jimbo at February 5, 2003 01:32 PM