Asian Men Making a Comeback in the Dating Scene, Thanks to Linsanity?


by Leeland Lee

The headline from the Huffington Post was grim: “Black People and Asian Men Have a Much Harder Time Dating on OKCupid.”

Reading this, I braced myself to be castigated, to be verbally castrated.

The article linked to a recent blog post by Christian Rudder, co-founder of OKCupid. Back in 2009, Rudder made waves with another blog post analyzing the racial dating preferences of the site’s members. His analysis was based on millions of data points culled from how men and women rated each other’s attractiveness.

And the verdict for Team Asian Dudes circa 2009? Not good. Women generally rated Asian men below average. Asian women rated Asian men 10% above the average male on the site, which was encouraging. However, while nearly all women preferred men of their own race, Asian women were the lone exception: They generally preferred white men, rating them 16% above average.

Depressing stuff for the average Asian male, right? The imposing shadow of Big Data seemed to confirm our gnawing suspicions that the growing AF/WM trend was here to stay. How could you argue against it?

Five years later, Rudder has returned, armed with new data from OKCupid. And has anything changed? “In some ways, no,” writes Rudder. “If anything, racial bias has intensified a bit.”

The data were broken down by year, from 2009-2014, like election results. And yes, Asian men were still getting pummeled by women in general. But what was not mentioned in the blog was the all-important comparison: In the eyes of Asian women, how did Asian men rate versus white men?

Starting in 2009, as mentioned above, Asian women preferred white men by a 6% margin. This differential continued to grow through 2011, a particularly rough year for Asian men, when Asian women cast their votes for white males by an overwhelming 19% margin.

Betrayed and bleeding from the heart, emasculated and ex-communicated to Permanent Friend status—that was the beaten-down Asian male just a few years back.

But guess what? Soon afterwards, a funny thing happened to Asian men on the way to dating purgatory.

Beginning in 2012, Asian women still preferred white versus Asian men, but the gap had now narrowed to just 3%. By 2013, Asian men pulled even with whites. And now, in 2014, Asian women for the first time actually preferred Asian men, by a 6% margin, over white guys. In other words, the tide had turned.

What gives? Did Asian men suddenly forget Nintendo Power and discover GQ in 2012? Did they collectively ditch their game controllers and pick up dumb bells? Or was it Asian women who had changed during that span? What was it?

You might recall that 2012 was, of course, the year of Linsanity. You know, those 2 months between January and February, when an unheralded Asian American point-guard from Harvard carried the Knicks to 7 straight victories. Who can forget Lin’s devastating game-winning 3-pointer with Jose Calderon in his face? Or the 38 points he dropped against Kobe? Beautiful stuff that made my eyes weep.

In the aftermath, a cadre of mostly-white male commentators huffed and puffed about how Lin had single-handedly brought mojo to Asian American men. Even some Asian female writers noticed.

Now, with statistics from OKCupid, we finally have some data to suggest that Linsanity might indeed have struck with sufficient force to rearrange our cultural bearings.

Of course, there are caveats. An association hardly equates with causation, as any scientist will tell you. In addition, the summer of 2012 also featured the debut of Psy’s Gangnam Style, which might have brought additional “respectability,” I mean exposure, to Asian males.

Regardless, Asian men still have a long way to go, be it in the dating scene, in entertainment, business and politics. Remember, most women on OKCupid rated Asian men as less attractive compared to men of other races. So, in a way, we are still picking at crumbs.

Nonetheless, progress is progress.

Image credit: Graph created by Leeland Lee

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Leeland Lee has previously written for about the lack of Asians in cinematic San Francisco.

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