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“How can you tell if someone has a fetish for Asian women? But it is important to interrogate it.” At Penn, many Asian students say they can trace their first experiences with feeling objectified to their first year at Penn.During Emily Vo’s (E ‘19) freshman year, she was studying on her laptop in the Hill Library when she was approached by some male students who also lived in Hill, two of them white and one Asian.Sarah feels that her experience with harassment was clearly motivated by her race.But racialized motives are often blurrier in romantic settings.Mid–conversation, they told her that she was ranked on their list of “hottest Asian girls.” They phrased it as a compliment, and she took it as one at the time.
Anshuman, a Mathematical Econ major from Tarrytown, New York who identifies as a gay Indian man, posted the pictures on a private Instagram with the caption: “Fetishization: A Saga.” Some students have developed makeshift social tests to assess whether their potential suitors are fixated on their race.Ashna Bhatia (W ’17) says boys in middle school wouldn’t reciprocate her feelings because they considered her “too Indian.” Then, upon coming to Penn, she noticed that boys suddenly became interested in her racial background.“You come to college and it’s like, ‘teach me Kama Sutra,’” she says.After comments like this, Ashna says she has a hard time trusting the intentions of the white men who flirt with her.She is wary to date them, and actively puts up a “protective layer.” This racial dynamic exists in the queer community as well, students say. so I know a lot of Asian men who are queer who make it a point to be the dominant one in relationships, especially when it’s a white partner,” says Luke (C ‘19), a student who identifies as a half–white, half–Asian man and requested his last name be omitted.