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1 September 2010, 12:00 pm 11 Comments

DisOreinting Encounters: Where is my Penis?

This post was submitted by Cyrus

I love porn. I’ll admit it, I do. I think porn is an excellent way of understanding how one sees people as sexual objects and a great place where people negotiate identities and ideas of race. People forget it is still a film genre, the most watched film genre in many respects, I argue. So it is very telling when I watch porn for its ideas about race and how I nearly I find every queer Asian male as consistently the bottom- the sexually passive, anally penetrated member of a sexual encounter.

There is the story of Brandon Lee. No, not the actor Brandon Lee who is also known as Bruce Lee’s son but the gay porn actor and exclusive top Brandon Lee. As the story goes, Brandon was discovered while making a Chinese food delivery run at Catalina studios where Chi Chi LaRue discovered her egg roll was “larger “than expected. After an impromptu tryout, him and his “egg roll”, the rest as you would say is history. Whether this story is true, I am not all too concerned about. But the story itself is very indicative of the power and pleasure of porn and its interaction with race and desirability which usually works to the disadvantage of gay Asian man. It is also pinpoints the image of the gay Asian man has been eroticized and subsequently objectified in the context of power relations with other men. More often than not, representations of the gay Asian man focus on his submission and pleasure of a white top and more recently other racialized tops. It almost a rarity to find an Asian top in mainstream gay porn and when we do, many find the astonishment of an admirable sized Asian and a top as almost weird and almost inappropriate.

Hence, I ask where my penis is as a thoughtful question rather than a vulgarity is because queer Asian pornography portrays the Asian male as predominantly the bottom. Rarely will you find him being the top using his penis to penetrate another male. Relegated to the role of the bottom to receive the ultimate member of manhood in queer pornography provides the message of a passive sexual agent. It reifies the dominant view of Asian men in gay porn as forever bottoms. Take a look at many of the mainstream gay Asian pornography such as Asian Knights, Asian Persuasian, and With Sex You Get Egg Roll. The intended audience for many of these films are primarily gay Anglo males. The content does not bother me too much because I have seen it replayed over and over again. It is rather the message of power that is the most glaring and consistently played narrative in gay Asian porn which bothers me; that a gay Asian male body exists for the pleasure of a white male and other racialized tops rather than other Asian males.

Where is my Penis?

Aside from the anally receptive member of a sexual engagement, there have been some instances where an Asian male has topped another male. Brandon Lee has made substantial commercial success as a  well endowed Asian top. Representations of these males, in my opinion, should be taken with a word of caution. Though it may seem that Asian tops are the answer to the bottom-hood of Asian males and a “positive image” of gay Asians in gay porn, they are seen with the lens of not quite measuring up to their white counterpart; painted with the picture of emulating a role rather than acting a role. Though the Asian penis has been found, there are only a few inches to go around, and the gay Asian male body is still the racialized-other unable to compete, unable to match up in size and position. Thus, within this paradigm of being the positional bottom and the not exactly perceived as a top, the gay Asian male body in mainstream gay porn, his body is marked with sexually passiveness, an almost state perpetual bottomhood.

Where is my Penis?

I end this piece with a fantasy of my own from my position as a gay Asian male, traditionally a top and sex positive. In this fantasy sequence, a reincarnation of Bruce Lee as a porn star creates a scene where he performs a solo jerk on screen in the middle of a forest. His hard, rippling body-armor skin is impregnable, strong and invincible. He is watched carefully and for quite some time from a distance by a tiger, the keeper of the forest and disapproves of his acts and attacks him seemingly unprovoked. A few grunts and shrieks during the wrestle leaves his naked torso is scratched on his ribcage and mildly bleeding. He stops his solitary moment of self gratification and he acknowledges his body is clawed, hurt and suffering- the hardness of his body is finally penetrated. He touches and licks his own blood powerfully recirculating the blood to enter his body and reinvigorates his own physical strength. He triumphs over his pain and remasculates himself, recognizes the aggression of the tiger and he has now tasted blood. His body triumphs over the violation, his own sexual gratification unmet. The possibility to create our own desires must be met on our own standards and provides a new liberating point where one does not simply walk into a role that is created for him without his regards but to refashion his own role and recreate the world around him as he imagines for himself.

In the words of Reggie Cabico, a slam poet, “ I am not a bowl of soy sauce for you to dip your meat in”.

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  • Alex said:

    (So, first, caveats – a) I watch very little porn, and since I haven’t done any searching otherwise, most of it winds up being exclusively white, and b) me and my queer friends are all Big Weirdos, so the kind of “mainstream gay” that [it seems to me] mainstream gay porn is hyperbole of is pretty foreign to me. Apologies if I misunderstand =)

    I’m absolutely not arguing that Asian men aren’t seen as less manly, or that them being consistently typecast in porn is anything but racist. However –

    There is lot of receptive partner negativity in here – they are passive, they are submissive, being a bottom is something to which one is relegated (rather than a choice), they are inherently less manly, etc. Is this language meant to be reflective of how receptive partners are portrayed in porn (/in mainstream gay male culture), or how you view receptive partners, too?

    It seems like stigmatisation of receptive partners would play heavily into racially fueled power dynamics in porn. Do you think subversion of that (in, say, an active, dominant receptive partner) could contribute to challenging these racial tropes?

  • robin said:

    I rarely comment on this topic these days but for some reason I feel compelled.

    I used to work in gay porn for many years and one of my best selling niches was the gay Asian niche.

    First, porn is about playing up to fantasies and stereotypes of various sorts & 2nd but more importantly it’s about selling product and lots of it.

    You rarely see Asian guys in the “mainstream” part of the gay porn industry because of a few perceptions the producers have. 1. penis size or lack of. 2. Many of the guys scare producers because some of the Asian models look too young. 3. outright racism is some cases. Those are truths I battled with for years.

    The closest I ever came to finding a comparable stud to Brandon Lee was Gino Colbert’s find, Eric Hung. Eric is ginormous. By the time I left the industry he had done about 2 or 3 flicks for Colbert of the Asian/White Guy variety.

    Over the years there’s been a few Asian on Asian porn studios/flicks. Off hand I can’t remember the oldest studios but there’s been a couple that have been around forever pumping out strictly gay Asian porn. A few of the newer guys on the block include: Asianguys, (actually they’ve been around for quite some time) GayAsianAmateurs, JapanBoyz; (those 2 are produced by the same company), and ThaiTwink. I have no idea if any of these guys are still in business; I presume so. AEBN used to carry all of their stuff – it’s also probably all still available on DVD.

    Anyhoo that’s about all I have to say on the subject.

  • aaxxx said:

    The writer is attempting to make some point about race, but what comes across loud and clear is the contempt he has for bottoms.

    He has this idea that being a top is a “positive image” and that being a bottom is somehow degrading.

    What’s up with the bottom-bashing? There can be no top without a bottom.

  • Duke said:

    OK, so let me get this straight. The wonderful sexuality that pornography teaches us is one in which explicit power relations take place, in which the “top” is a penetrating, violating aggressor and the “bottom” is a passive, humiliated subordinate. “To fuck” is to aggress against somebody who is “fucked.”

    And the answer to this problem for gay, Asian men is to equally “flip-fuck” and penetrate, violate, and aggress just as good as the white man?

    Does anybody else see an abysmal view of gay male sexuality here?

    The denigration of receptive sex commented on above comes from the view of sexuality as a dominance/submission power play that, yes, is enthusiastically proffered in pornography. This dominance and submission is the result of a sexuality predicated on seeing each other as “sexual objects.” In order for there to be an object (some THING to be used) there must be a subject to use it. I completely fail to see how ANY equality can be achieved by swapping these roles. One person is still reduced to the subordinate thing, being used in a power play.

    As for the assertion that pornography teaches us anything that should be learned about race, I don’t see what you mean. Do you really find that only Asian men are stereotyped by race and placed in a humiliating role in the theatrics of hierarchy that is porn? Yes, Asian men are most likely to be presented as underage victims, but black men and Hispanic men rarely fair much better. Also, in a world view where pornography teaches sexuality–IS sexuality–the absence of racial diversity except as fetish actually does as much damage as the presence of the fetishized object. If we are to learn our sexual roles as objects from pornography, and someone does not see themselves objectified, they are therefore outside this definition of gay male sexuality.

    I for one, would like to imagine a gay male sexuality that is NOT predicated on objectification of each other or of racial and ethnic subordination. I for one would like to imagine a sexuality that is not taught in pornography’s dominance/submission masculinist hierarchy where hard and masculine top equals the penultimate gay male sexual expression. That’s my “fantasy.”

  • Brian (Vancouver) said:

    To Cyrus & Alex, Robin:

    Thank you both, Cyrus for writing, Alex for commenting kindly and politely. Robin, thanks for the insider info. Haha I wrote such a long response to you, Alex, answering your questions AND adding my personal experiences. Then my browser crashed. (Chrome! couldn’t believe it.) I just do not have the emotional energy to write it all again without just venting and being unproductive to the discourse. So thanks to you guys.

  • Jeremy said:

    Just want to put my two cents in here. I for one have noticed the rarity of asian men in more active, dominant roles in gay porn. More often than not they are seen as an object, and not just a man who just happens to be of a particular race. This scares me, since it does not seem to be changing at any rate. This is quite different than what happens in the real world, at least in my circle of friends. I am a white bottom, and though I have dated all races, I do prefer asian men and have had amazing relationships with them. These weren’t men who were object to me, and though I may prefer the look aesthetically, when I am in a relationship I am with a man, one who can comfort me and make me feel good, sexually and emotionally.

    These days I prefer to watch Japanese gay porn if I want to see Asian men. At least from there the wide variety of Asian men is on display, all ranging from the muscle guys to the skinny bottoms, to the bears. The level of confidence I see in those men is so much different than what I see in American pornography.

    I have talked to other white guys, and it does seem that often gay men who like the asian bottom object see it as something to get them off, something to use and discard. A lot of them seem to like the thin, hairless, very young looking type of asian male. Now I have to be honest, that for me I do not find this “type” sexual so much; as a bottom I prefer beefy older guys, what is referred to as the “asian bear” (something that is very niche, I understand, thought it has its own fans, both in the gay Asian community and non-Asian bottoms). As someone who loves being in the submissive role, and who loves Asian men, I do find it discouraging that the vast majority of people, both in the gay communities and otherwise, do not see Asian men of either type as worthy of a second glance.

    Now I did mention that in my circle of friends it is a little different. I do know other bottoms personally that have the same interest as me (part of what got us talking in the first place: common interest). I also have quite few straight girl friends who are dating Asian men. This might have to do with the fact that I spent a lot of my time outside of the States, where I think a lot of the asexual, feminine Asian stereotype comes from. In Japan, or Canada, where I have spent a lot of the past few years, the views on Asian male sexuality are different, though it is hard to argue that influence from the States doesn’t factor in sometimes.

    That’s just my two cents. I am hoping things chance. But yes, the masculine Asian male is out there, just not on camera for the most part.

  • Trevor said:

    It seems to me this entire article is a riff off of a 1991 academic piece by Richard Fung. The concepts contained in this article — Asians as forever bottoms; intended audience of porn being white; filtering Asian sexuality through white sexuality — are all contained in “Looking for My Penis.” Google it. Fung’s piece, though certainly dated by now, is an interesting read. Cyrus here appears to have updated it a bit by discussing different movies than Fung did, but his conclusions are similar if differently stated. Indeed, Cyrus’s “Where is my penis?” is a clear mirror of Fung’s “Looking for My Penis.”

  • Davey said:

    Hey i like this blog :) but dont worry the number of asian tops is growing my boyfriend is one and im white and submissive lol im also younger than him! X)

  • Ken N said:

    I often am an extra for kinkmen.com here in SF for BDSM shoots held throughout the city.

    The dom/top is always Van Darkholme, a Vietnamese-American porn guy. I love the shoots because, in my mind, they transcend race: from what I can tell, no one cares who is what – hot is hot!

  • Ray said:

    Asian top here. I love topping guys bigger than me. It is a switch of power. I love seeing porn where the bigger guyots topped by smaller guys.
    The fantasy for me is the exchange of power.

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