A diverse holiday

(Mostly an essay on American social practices and traditions, but with major helpings of manflesh and mansex, so not for kids or the sexually modest.)

St. Patrick’s Day is the holiday. In the US, where its celebration is especially significant, it has taken on something of a carnival character, so of course there are gay porn sales for the holiday; gay men are ever bent on putting the carnal back in carnival, after all.

Meanwhile, at least in America, the saying is that on St. Patrick’s Day everybody is Irish. And in the US, we conspicuously — though very erratically — celebrate our diversity. So it’s not entirely a surprise that a brand of gay porn (the playfully and crudely named Peter Fever) devoted to the “highest quality Asian men, pants down” should undertake a big sale for St. Patrick’s Day. A sale including a bdsm porn flick set in the world of Japanese gangsters.

Now, that is diversity: go green, kinky queer yakuza!

(#1) Suit and Tied: Yakuza Control (“Submission, Obedience, Love, Deception”), with bdsm furniture in the background: dom Duncan Ku, subs Caged Jock (CJ), Tyler Slater

The trio in action, in front of their St. Andrew’s Cross (the bdsm apparatus), celebrating St. Patrick’s Day according to the practices of their people:

(#2) Since this is a p.r. shot, they are gazing fixedly at us, rather than attending to their urgent business with each other

Crosses. The vexillary, rather than apparatus, St. Andrew’s:

(#3) St. Andrew’s of Scotland

And the vexillary St. Patrick’s:

(#4) St.Patrick’s of Ireland

Asian men 1. Of course, there was going to be a linguistic point. Not just a paean to peters (though in my world that’s always in order), but also some lingui-slinging. In this case over the interpretation of Asian men (in current American usage), involving the geographic adj./noun Asian as an ethnic designator (parallel to similar uses of Italian, Irish, etc.).

A start, the NOAD entry for Asian, with three items based on the noun Asia:

[0] noun Asia: the largest of the world’s continents… [the geographic noun Asia]

[1] adj. Asian: relating to Asia or its people, customs, or languages. [the geographic adjective]

[2] noun Asian: [a] a native of Asia [the nativity noun]

or [b] a person of Asian descent [the ethnicity noun, a semantic extension of the nativity noun in a]

0, 1, and 2 are sometimes morphologically distinct:

0 geographic noun Sweden, Turkey, Wales; 1 geographic adjective Swedish, Turkish, Welsh; 2 nativity/ethnicity noun Swede, Turk, Welshman

But 1 and 2 are usually identical, as for

Greece, Thailand; 1/2 Greek, Thai

The identity holds for all derivatives in –an, regardless of the relationship between 0 and 1/2:

Asia, Norway, Tibet, Canada, Europe; 1/2 Asian, Norwegian, Tibetan, Canadian, European

But then there’s a further complexity, not given in NOAD, a completely systematic category shift in which the adjective in 1 supplies an adjective corresponding to a noun in 2 (whether a or b). That gives us a nativity adjective and an ethnicity adjective:

noun: Kim is an Asian ‘a native of Asia or a person of Asian descent’, Kim is a Turk ‘a native of Turkey or a person of Turkish descent’

adjective: Kim is Asian ≈ Kim is an Asian, Kim is TurkishKim is a Turk

Many people have a strong feeling that the noun version predicates a property that’s more essential than the property predicated by the adjective version.

In what follows I’ll disregard the fairly subtle distinction between the noun and adjective formulations, so that I can focus on the cross-cutting distinction between nativity and ethnicity, which is often socially significant. And of immediate relevance to the guys in #1 and #2, who are certainly Asian in ethnicity, though probably not in nativity; that is, they are probably Asian American. These days, Asian gay porn — involving Asian Americans — is fairly easy to come by in the US, but if you have to have authentic, native-born Asians going at it, pants down, you’ll have to search harder (it does exist).

Along the same lines, there are a fair number of gay pornstars advertised as Italian stallions — they might have been billed as Italian studs or Italian hunks, but the rhyme is irresistible — but almost all of them are Italian Americans, hot guys who notably “look Italian”. Tony Stefano, Eric Manchester, Leo Giamani, Joe Cade. Some have Italian-sounding porn names, some don’t, but that look is important, because that counts as sexy in itself, and it’s even better if they can sound like hoods off the street: Italian Americans are stereotyped as  working-class toughs, high-macho, but also voracious lovers, just the ticket for gay porn. (There are native Italians working in gay porn, but they mostly don’t fit the Italian American stereotypes.)

Asian men 2. The other half of the story is the question “What do you mean by the Asia in Asian men?” In other words, what geographical category does Asia refer to here? NOAD‘s usage note in its adj./noun Asian entry is telling:

USAGE In North America, Asian refers to people from China, Japan, and other countries of East Asia [or also, by extension, those from the countries of Southeast Asia], while in Britain it is used to refer to people who come from (or whose parents came from) India, Pakistan, or elsewhere in South Asia.

So the category covered by Asia in the current usage of Asian referring to people is very far from the continent of geography textbooks — very much less than it. Among the people excluded:

Russians east of the Urals, all the way to the Pacific; Armenians; Turks; Israelis; Arabs from Palestine, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iraq, etc.; Pashtun; Kurds; Iranians / Persians

Many of these are now folded together as Middle Eastern.

Before I go on with remarks about the categories involved, the usual preliminary warnings about the categories of everyday life: they are not crisply defined (their boundaries are vague); they are incomplete (many things in the relevant domain don’t fall clearly into any of the relevant categories); many are unlabeled (by any generally known simple expression); there is usually significant variation from person to person as to the details of category membership and labeling. And: the names I give to categories (IN-ALL-CAPS) are ad hoc creations, not themselves definitions of anything; a category is instead defined by the conditions on its membership, which I only hint at here.

In any case, the central subcategory of the American category ASIAN-PERSON is EAST-ASIAN-PERSON, embracing people from China (both of them), Japan, and Korea (both of them), plus possibly Mongolia and Tibet. Very crudely, slants. (The actual defining characteristics that people use in assigning other people to this category, and the others here, are an amalgam of literal ethnicity, nationality, physical appearance, and sociocultural practices.)

Up from there is EAST-ASIAN-PERSON-WIDE, which adds people from Southeast Asia (Vietnamese, Filipino, etc.).

And then all of ASIAN-PERSON, taking in as well South Asians (from India, Bangladesh, Ceylon, and Pakistan), and possibly Central Asians (from Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, etc.) too.

Now, the way the label Asian is used of people in the US these days seems to vary considerably, and I’m often not sure what’s intended in specific contexts. I think I have a handle on how the label works in American gay porn, to refer to EAST-ASIAN-PERSON-WIDE: Cambodians, Vietnamese, Indonesians, and Filipinos welcome, in addition to CJKs (Chinese, Japanese, Koreans), but Indians not. (We’re dealing with matters of sexual attraction and desire here, and much of this isn’t especially rational or even humane, but there it is. A fair number of men are turned on by CJKs but off by Indians and Pakistanis. And vice versa.)

So I never know what to make of social groups for Asian gays or something similar, or guys who are cruising on-line for Asian twinks and the like. Would Rahul Patel be welcome? Even tolerated? I’ve looked at a website for Asians and Friends San Francisco Bay, which says it’s “a group where gay Asian men and their admirers meet up to socialize in the San Francisco Bay Area” — it was previously known as Gay Asian Men (GAM) and Admirers — without finding a clue about Rahul’s chances.

In any case, if you start with EAST-ASIAN-PERSON-WIDE and add in South Asians, you’ve got pretty much the Asian Americans of the Wikipedia entry:

Asian Americans are Americans of Asian ancestry. The term refers to a panethnic group that includes diverse populations, which have origins in East Asia, South Asia, or Southeast Asia, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau. This includes people who indicate their race(s) on the census as “Asian” or reported entries such as “Chinese, Indonesian, Filipino, Indian, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Other Asian”.

But this just scratches the surface.



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