Geopolitical realignments and socioeconomic forces are reducing the intense emotionalism that once distorted American perceptions of Asian male beauty.



Asian Men Under the American Beauty Standard

ome may find it counter-intuitive, but beauty may enhance a man's sexual attractiveness even more dramatically than it does a woman's. Not only do good-looking guys start having sex several years earlier than the average, he's more than twice as likely to have his sexual partner achieve orgasm than the average joe, according to a 1994 study by evolutionary biologist Randy Thornhill and psychologist Steven Gangestad. Despite all these bonuses, the hot guys are more likely to cheat on their mates while hot women aren't.

     Why so much action for handsome men? It turns out that symmetry, a central element of beauty, is an excellent indicator of lifelong health. Men with less symmetrical features suffer more from problems like insomnia and nasal congestion and more emotional turbulence like anger, jealousy and withdrawl, according to a University of Michigan study.

     Features that make men attractive signal their fitness to sire healthy offspring. Consider big jaws, a masculine feature that universally makes women swoon. Turns out big jaws take abundant levels of extra androgens (male hormones) like testosterone. High androgen levels compromise the immune system. Therefore, a man with square jaws signal high resistence to disease, a valuable survival trait.

     Other masculine features found to be universally attractive — to both men and women — include a straight strong nose, strong chin, rugged brows, prominent cheekbones and full lips. Under the prevailing American view white men are the embodiments of the masculine ideal while Asian men are relegated to off-brand status. However, as shown in Part I, the proportions of beautiful faces of all races converge toward a universal ideal. Comparisons of caucasian and Asian facial features against these standards (see chart below) don't support the view that caucasian men have a monopoly on the physical traits adding up to the masculine ideal.

Emotionalism Toward Asian Men

     The skew in favor of caucasian male features is a product of a social overlay that incorporates economic, cultural and political factors. Until recently, all three factors have favored caucasian features. White men have been generally seen as wealthier, more cultured and more considerate while Asian men have been seen as impoverished, uncouth and self-centered. To an even greater degree than with Asian women, the social overlay for Asian men is founded on ignorance rather than personal experience or knowledge of economic, cultural and political facts. For example, the perception that Asian men are sneaky and traitorous is founded entirely on wartime hysteria and jingoism following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. While perceptions of Asian female beauty tend to be colored by fantasies of easy access to exotic flesh, perceptions of Asian male beauty have traditionally been marred by a degree of emotionalism bordering on hysteria.

Inverting Masculine Ideals

     So how does this intense emotionalism translate into perceptions of Asian facial features? American society has traditionally inverted the values placed on Asian male facial features. For example, whereas a strong jawline is considered a highly attractive trait by Americans in assessing caucasian male beauty, it is seen as a threatening or even sinister and repulsive feature on an Asian male. Another example is the perception of narrow or even squinty eyes, especially when paired with prominent cheekbones. This is often considered a rugged or sexy trait in white men. The Marlboro Man is probably the best example of the attractively rugged aura surrounding sun-squinted eyes in a man. In Asian men, however, many Americans are more likely to see the mark of an unsavory, untrustworthy alien.


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Asian Women Under the American Beauty Standard

James Shigeta (shown in The Crimson Kimono) is the first Asian American star to be cast consistently in leading-man roles.

“Perceptions of Asian male beauty have traditionally been marred by a degree of emotionalism bordering on hysteria. ”

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Features Asian Discussion White
Jaws A big square jaw has always been associated with masculine strength. It is a feature that Americans have traditionally admired in men, as long as they weren't Asian. The historical perception of Asians as the alien enemy threatening the American way of life made it difficult for Americans to admire a strong Asian face that evoked that threat. A square jaw is found more commonly in northeastern Asians than in whites, though it is rarer among southeastern Asians.
Brow A protruding browline is suggestive of a dense and rugged skeletal structure conducive to success in the kinds of brutal physical combat that established survival and status in pre-historic and historic times. While caucasian men are more likely to possess the opposite trait — the bulbous forehead — they are also more likely to have deeper set eyes that play up the browbone.
Nose While many men from northern and southwestern Asia have straight noses, the majority of Asian men tend to have lower nose bridges that don't allow for the kind of strong straight nose that projects masculine confidence. On the other hand, a high proportion of caucasian men have noses that are too prominent.
Cheekbones Broad cheekbones project both a sense of sturdiness and an independence of spirit, qualities considered masculine. The vast majority of Asian faces possess high cheekbones while they are possessed by a minority of caucasian faces.
Lips Even in men full lips are seen as suggesting vitality and sensuality. Asian men tend to have fuller lips than white men. On the extremes, some Asian men have lips that are too thick and coarse while some white men have lips that are so thin as to look harsh and uncompromising.
Chin A strong chin projects assertiveness while a weak one suggests submissiveness. While weak chins are commonplace among both races, they occur at a somewhat higher rate among Asian men. On the other hand, Asian men are less likely to have chins that are too jutting.