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He was more of a gentleman toward me than any other man I had ever known.
He was Chinese, a man named Tian who grew up in Zhengzhou.
While she leans her head on his in perfect contentment, he has his cheek buried in her bosom while staring at it with a prurient curiosity that surely would have snapped the girl out of her reverie.
At the time I was only beginning to learn about negative stereotypes of Asian men that American TV, movies and the media had perpetuated over the years: effeminate, weak, nerdy and, worst of all, sexless and less endowed in a (ahem) certain department.
This Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences professor surveyed over 100 Western women from diverse countries including France, Germany and the USA via questionnaires, and then interviewed over 20 of them in a focus group in Shanghai.
As I continued to date the locals in China and eventually married a fellow from Hangzhou, I would come to realize that most expat women in China agreed with my Zhengzhou colleagues. A European woman I worked with in 2001 famously told me that, while she found all Chinese men completely repulsive, she considered Chinese children so adorable.
But some of my most fascinating and educative encounters with this idea of "Chinese men as undateable" happened online, when I came face-to-face with these opinions distilled into the cold, black-and-white reality of blog posts and expat forums.
When I thought about my burgeoning crush for Tian, I figured it was no different from that college semester when I studied in Spain.
All the American girls I knew liked flirting with the local Spaniards, and why not?