What's the Deal with Men's Rights Activists and Asian Fetishes?
Why do men like these so often lust after women like me?
Illustration by Dini Lestari
David Bond is busy telling me that everyone has it all wrong, that he’s not some kind of creep, when he decides it’s a good time to try his hand at some awkward attempt at flattery: "you have nice lips btw. very cute."
This is what it’s like to talk to Bond (real name: Steven Mapel), a self-described “digital nomad,” who’s made a career traveling across Asia, creeping on women, and posting the videos to YouTube. He goes to great lengths during our interview to defend himself from accusations that he’s a racist, a sexpat, and a trollish pick-up artist with an Asian fetish, then he ends up telling me about a video where he’s “jet skiing around with a girl with 700cc tits bouncing around.”
It’s like there’s a disconnect between his words and his actions. Bond is the kind of man who tells everyone he’s not a racist and then travels to Indonesia, takes a woman in a hijab on a date, and edits the footage to a soundtrack of explosions and shouts of “Allahu Akbar!” (This video has been removed from his YouTube page after it set off a firestorm of criticism in Indonesian media.)
But the thing is that Bond is just the tip of the iceberg here. And I'm not just talking about men with an Asian fetish. That shit's been going on forever. No, I'm talking about this intersecting venn diagram of men’s rights activists, incels, pick-up artists, and alt-right white nationalists that seem to have more than a thing for Asian women.
I reached out to Bond because I wanted to understand where this was all coming from. What is it about Asian women that makes the men who haunt the dark underbelly of the internet so obsessed with us? What could Bond, a man with a history of lusting after Asian women and a libertarian streak, tell me about why men like him keep trying to bed women like me?
“I don’t like white girls at all,” he tells me. “I make fun of Western women. I’m fucking Muslims [instead]... I’ve always been attracted to Asian/Latina [women] and the city I’m from has almost none. Plus, I was shy. I don’t think it’s that weird [to like Asian women]. Some girls like black guys...”
“Is there any specific reasons why?” I ask.
“A lot of Indian guys love white girls,” he responds. “There’s no reason. I love Muslim girls lately—hijab wearers only. I’ve never seen hijabs in the USA. It’s just kind of hot. Did you see the video where I went on a date with a girl in a full burqa? My heart was fuckin’ racing.”
I ask Bond how he sees himself. Is he a pick-up artist? A men's right's activist? A sexpat? Bond tells me that he's more of a big brother to men who can't get laid, the kind of bro who offers a helping hand to those struggling to attract the opposite sex. The whole YouTube thing just comes from an innate love of documenting his own life, he tells me.
“I’m just a guy who likes to document my life,” he says. “I was doing this before I even had a YouTube channel. I wore a GoPro on my head for Thanksgiving once. I like to document things. So the way I see myself is: a single guy who likes Asian girls, who also likes to record his life.”
But it’s a bit more complicated than that. Bond is also selling travel guides to aspiring pick-up artists and charging fans for premier access to private videos on his website. The whole venture is built around his own personal story, one that seems hand-crafted to appeal to the nebulous men’s rights crowd: at the age of 27, he was an unhappy, overweight guy in a relationship with a “chubby white girlfriend,” that left him feeling unsatisfied. So he lost the weight, quit his job, dumped his girlfriend, and moved to Asia where he branded himself as some kind of pick-up artist cum travel vlogger.
He was soon successful enough to stay in Asia, visiting new countries, hitting on Asian women, and selling it all to an eager audience of the kinds of lonely (and often misogynistic) guys who post on subreddits like r/incels, a forum for men who describe themselves as "involuntary celibates" that's full of a particularly toxic strain of masculinity that aims to cut down and degrade women at every turn.
“I know that I’m really attracted to incel guys,” Bond tells me. “Because I can relate a little bit with the guy who is clueless. I have an overwhelming desire to help him.”
Spend any time on subreddits like r/MensRights and you’re bound to learn two things: 1) these men love Asian women and 2) they hate “Western” women. Here’s an excerpt from r/incels where one guy tries to convince his fellow incels that their key to salvation lies in Southeast Asia:
In Thailand it's MUCH easier to find a non-hooker girl who is happy to be your girlfriend than it is back in the West. To give you an idea - if you download Tinder and swipe right until the app won't let you anymore, you might get one match in the West. If you're lucky. In Thailand you'll get an average of 10. I started arranging meetups with these girls, and in the end started to make progress. Had my first non-hooker kiss a month after landing in Thailand, and a month later my first non-hooker sex. And the girl in question was an 18 yr old virgin, so I sorta hit the jackpot there - but that would have NEVER happened back in the UK at all.
Basically, if you ever want your fortunes with women to change, GET THE FUCK OUT OF THE WEST. No other advice comes close to this, it's the single major thing every incel must do to really improve his chances. Forget all the bullshit self-help books and PUA strategy, it's totally useless. Get out of the West and it's 100x easier to get women.
This kind of shit is everywhere. It's on misogynist subreddits like r/TheRedPill, PUA ones like r/seduction, and from racist posters on r/InterracialDating. The general idea here is that these guys think there is something wrong with women in the West—especially white women. The Reddit user quoted above later goes on to capture this sentiment exactly, writing:
You know what I find really funny? When white girls arrive in Asia, and gradually get more and more desperate as THEY are not the ones worshipped. Really hilarious to see these girls who were previously top of the tree back home, suddenly having no men interested in them at all (as they're all going off with the local women instead).
These (usually white) fantasies of "dominating" Asian women have given rise to an entire industry of globe-trotting pick-up artists like Bond who make money off this same community of men by selling how-to guides and posting aspirational YouTube videos that tell other jaded, dateless men that they too can be living the good life in Asia, as long as they PayPal $20 USD for exclusive access to some website.
Take Mark Zolo, the author behind the travel and sex site Naughty Nomad. Zolo doesn't really fixate on Asia, he actually travels everywhere, but the focus is the same: travel to foreign countries and sleep with foreign women with his "guidance." His site offers city-specific guides that rank a place on metrics like "chance of hooking up," and "quality of girls."
Here's an excerpt from his Jakarta entry:
One day just walking down the street I gave my number to this AMAZING looking Muslim girl. I thought there was no chance she would contact me given how beautiful she was. Turns out she text me the day we were leaving! I told her I only had a few hours so she invited me straight to her room. After talking for a while I put the moves on her. She showed token resistance but soon caved. I had the best sex of my life – again and again and again. She was so into it and kept asking for more! She was my first Muslim and one of the sexiest women I’ve ever been with. Jakarta may be a bit of a shit hole but it sure has some gems.
All these sites sell the same thing—the promise that there's a world of attainable foreign women out there (Asian women being the “easiest”) just waiting for some masculine white dude to come along to sweep them off their feet and between the sheets. It’s all “expertise” that paint entire cities as dens of prostitution and "insight" that seems to have been gleaned from 20-year-old movies about the Vietnam War.
This obsession with Asian women has deep roots in the cultural stereotypes of the Asian female in the West, explains Sheridan Prasso, the author of The Asian Mystique: Dragon Ladies, Geisha Girls & Fantasies of the Exotic Orient. The issue here is that these men believe the stereotype that Asian women are subservient beings eager to date the first white man they lay their eyes on. So of course it’s here, in Southeast Asia, that they can reclaim a lost sense of masculinity that's seemingly less valued in the West today.
“What we can witness online is a proliferation of communities where men who feel disempowered in their lives can find empowerment through groups that aid the idea of re-masculinization through domination of women,” Prasso tells me. “Long-held stereotypes of Asian women as being submissive help fuel those fantasies and seek to enforce the role of men as ‘masculine’ by Western cultural definitions.”
The problem here is that a lot of these men peg their self-worth to the amount of sex they're having, says Rachel Kuo, a PhD candidate studying racial justice at New York University. And since so many of them think they aren't getting laid often enough, their confidence goes into a spiral and they tend to put the blame on hypergamy, feminism, or Western culture.
“I think there’s this broader landscape that the pick-up artist is situated in," Kuo tells me. "I think that it's embedded in a United States that is rooted in this history of white supremacy, misogyny, imperialism. That’s all in there in the soup of the US."
The solution, they think, is in this fabled land still untouched by feminism and the ill of the West. The solution is in Asia. But it's not based in any sense of reality and we've dealt with this kind of sexist, colonialist mentality for way too long. Don't forget that the reason Thailand is seen by so many as a giant red-light district is because of the fact that prostitution followed the US armed forces wherever they went, from Okinawa during the Korean War to Pattaya during Vietnam.
Taking the region's history into account, it's easy to see a through-line from wartime red-light districts to today's abundance of sex tourists and retired white sexpats spending their pensions away on young Asian girlfriends, Kuo explains.
"There’s this history of US military intervention in East and Southeast Asia," Kuo tells me. "Thailand was a resting recreation site for the US during the Vietnam war—[and you can see] how that has a historical link to now, with the sex tourism. So all of that is operating in the moment when someone is like, 'I want to go abroad to seek out these women.'"
I wanted to write this story because, in a lot of ways, it hit pretty close to home. Some quick background about myself: I'm an Indonesian woman who spent more than four years living in the United States. I know that I've probably dated men like Bond at some point in my life. I used to think I could suss out the suspect men from the crowd, but then I noticed that one of my exes ended up in Myanmar after we broke up, and is dating a local woman. So maybe I wasn't as good as I thought at figuring out who was looking at me and just seeing someone "exotic."
The reality is that there's no shortage of Western men who come out to my part of the world to try to sleep with "exotic women." This isn't a story that starts or ends with Bond. It's been happening well before YouTube, vloggers, and pick-up artists were a thing. From way back when toxic masculinity was just... you know... "masculinity."
And the bigger story here isn't even men like Bond. Sure they're the ones who proudly peacock their heads above the crowd, but the reason they're so popular is because there's a market for these kinds of ideas.
"They’re the ones in the spotlight but who is their market?” Kuo reminds me. There are plenty of men out there who think Asian women represent some kind of super patriarchal vision of a mate—a woman who is both subservient and hyper-sexual. And until we address that problem, there will be plenty of other men like Bond, and scores of fans willing to pay good money to learn how they too can fly to Asia and pick up women. Sigh.