The Geopolitics of Desire

A comic strip in one of Tokyo’s English-language newspapers summed
it up perfectly. On the left, a ‘before’ portrait of Joe American
making $9,000 a year as a lonely street sweeper in Podunk, Indiana.
On the right, an ‘after’ shot of the same Joe earning $36,000 as a
love-laden English teacher with a harem of Japanese women at his
feet in Tokyo. The caption under the portrait simply read: ‘Go
east, young man.’

Hordes of male American college grads have heeded the call and
set up camp in East Asia over the past decade. Indeed, an entire
subculture of twentysomething Americans has evolved in urban
centers like Tokyo, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. Some are still drawn
by quixotic visions of spiritual enlightenment in a wise,
hospitable Asia. Far more are caught by the more recent allure of
striking it rich in the new land of opportunity. Few, however, go
prepared to deal with the culture shock that awaits them: The rapid
breakdown of tradition in Asia’s modern, boom-town landscape has
left a moral vacuum where few rules remain. As a result, the
reality for most of these Americans is an Asian experience
dominated by the ultimate cross-cultural tremor: sex.

Just call it the Oriental Girl Fixation Syndrome. An offensively
garish title, perhaps, but a concept well known to foreign

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