By Sam Louie
Psychotherapist & Diversity Speaker
“Me love you long time” is a phrase often used when referring to foreign Asian women and sex. It may or may not be explicitly associated with illicit sex but the clear underlying message is that the Asian woman’s role is to sexually serve the man. She is to be docile, unassuming, exotic and demure — yet wildly sexual and uninhibited. A woman with “slanted eyes and creamy yellow thighs” (lyrics from “Asian Girlz”) to be tamed and devoured by the White man.
If you ask anyone younger than 30 where the roots are from the line, “Me love you long time,” you’d probably get a blank stare. They may think it’s just broken English from an Asian women who is truly trying to express genuine affection to someone in English. The reality is that this phrase, “Me love you long time,” is not “I love you” coming out awkwardly in an Asian accent.
Instead, it’s a phrase popularized by Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 movie, “Full Metal Jacket,” (pictured left) where the line itself is taken from the scene where a Vietnamese woman propositions herself to two American GIs. The movie’s objective was in capturing the essence and impact of the Vietnam War based on the experiences of a U.S. Marines Corps platoon. The term has since become a popular part of American lexicon spoken with limited insight to the past and or a desire to ignore the realities of the present.
The scene, unfortunately, speaks the ugly truth about collateral damage in wars, especially U.S. military presence overseas in Asian countries. The first major American white sexual imperialism occurred during the Philippine-American War (1899-1902). The Filipinos fought from being colonized by the U.S. but 250,000 lost lives later, they succumbed to the might of America’s military. While the actual war only lasted three years, there were insurrections and rebellions along the way that kept a large number of American soldiers stationed on the island for more than a decade. Slash and burn techniques swept across villages as the country lay in waste. When the soldiers tired of wreaking havoc on the land, this same imperialistic mentality to conquer shifted to the local Filipina women who they referred to as, “little brown fucking machines powered by rice.” *
Filipino women were viewed so subservient and subordinate, not only to White men but also to White women, that U.S. soldiers sexually denigrated them in a way they would have never treated their spouses or other women back home. “Filipina sex workers, for example, frequently report ‘being treated like a toy or a pig by the American [soldiers] and being required to do ‘three holes’ oral, vaginal and anal sex.” *
It was this American colonization period during the turn of the 20th century that gave rise to today’s notorious sex entertainment industry in Asia. Sex and prostitution sprang up to cater to the American military amidst the backdrop of political and economic plight, despair, and poverty where a man could have “a girl for the price of a hamburger”.*
A few decades later, during the Vietnam War, this only intensified as the conflict took a long and brutal toll on the U.S. military and the American psyche back home. But on the battlefield, the mind of the fighting soldier must be protected and preserved at all costs, even at the cost of Vietnamese or Thai women and girls. Consequently, several military bases were stationed in Thailand to shelter up to 70,000 American GIs at any given time for “Rest and Recreation” (R&R). “With pervasive disregard for human rights, the military grimly accepts and recognizes access to indigenous women’s bodies as a ‘necessity’ for American GIs stationed overseas”. *
If the sexual oppression was to end with conclusion of the Vietnam War, it’d be relegated to an abomination from the past. But today’s flourishing sex tourism industry in Thailand (and other neighboring Asian and Southeast Asian countries), should be a reminder of the remnants of Western imperialism (American and European) and military presence overseas. It is “far from being a thing of the past, but is a lived experience of many”. *
Millions of tourists from Europe and the United States (65 percent were single men in one study), visit Thailand specifically for its sex industry alone.*
So while political Western colonization is absent in the Far East, it is still physically rampant in the pants of many Anglos. The desire to sexually possess, conquer, and at times humiliate a subservient Asian woman permeates our culture.
It may start off as an innocuous joke without much introspection or resistance from others; the joke then turns into a more pernicious modern-day imperialistic mentality of sexual conquest witnessed recently by the music video, “Asian Girlz” (pictured left) by the band Day Above Ground.
In their interview with TMZ and the NBC station in the Bay Area, they refused to acknowledge the racism inherent in their lyrics let alone how it could be perceived as such, “We didn’t expect it to be such a backlash.” Its lead singer says, “It comes from a good place” and “I don’t understand” of why this is inappropriate.
Beyond bewilderment, the band members were defensive saying, “We’ve all had close relationships with the Asian community, Asian people. There’s guys in the band with Asian women. It’s just, it’s hard to believe we’re getting this kind of backlash”. Northern California Attorney Sunny Woan and author of the abstract, “White Sexual Imperialism,” tells me how this is another example of how covert racism appears in mainstream America, even if it’s under the guise of music or other forms of entertainment.
“Here we have the irreverent trinity that is racism, sexism, and imperialism. The question to ask is why did the band decide on Asian women? What does it tell us about the underlying, prevailing politics of white male and Asian female relationships, even today in the 21st century?”
Woan is also the editor of Kartika Review, a national literary arts magazine that publishes Asian Pacific Islander American fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, and art. She has heard many people, particularly Asians tell her not to take a music video too seriously. But she says otherwise: “If we treat it like it’s nothing, then we are being complacent to racism, sexism, and here most pertinently, the repercussions of cultural imperialism.”
The video has since gone viral, receiving more than 1 million YouTube hits (video removed from YouTube Saturday night). Woan believes the song went from conception to post-production because no one spoke up against it; a cumulative consequence from men with a Eurocentric and narrow framework of relational dynamics between Asian women and white men.
“It probably started with one a-little-bit-offensive-but-not-awful quip one band member made, everyone laughed and said, ‘Ha-ha, that’s funny, probably no one, least of all the Asian female model involved or the supposed band mate of Asian descent spoke up and said, ‘Hey, look, that’s not funny’.”
In one word, she blames this music video on complacency. Intellectual complacency from the band members but also complacency in the form of aloofness and indifference from the greater Asian American community. If Asians truly want a voice in America, then they must learn to use it, otherwise complacency will one day lead to normalcy.
* all quotes taken from the abstract, “White Sexual Imperialism” written by Northern California attorney and editor of Kartika Review Sunny Woan.
(About the Author: Sam Louie, MA, LMHC, is a psychotherapist in private practice licensed in the state of Washington as a mental health counselor. He received his master’s degree in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in marriage & family therapy from Azusa Pacific University in Southern California. Sam is also a diversity speaker and commentator who offers seminars and presentations for schools, businesses, and other organizations to help foster better understanding, sensitivity, and awareness of issues related to Asian and ethnic cultures. You can find his website at samlouiemft.com)