A Hypersexual Afternoon Delight

March 16, 2008

Ever wonder what it's like to watch grainy 1920s silent porn in a room full of strangers?

Well, when accompanied by Professor of Asian American Studies (UC Santa Barbara) Celine Parreñas Shimizu’s accessible (and often hilarious) analysis of racialized sexual imagery and the various expressions of sexuality through performance, it's actually not that awkward.
This past Saturday at a SFIAAFF panel, Parreñas Shimizu gave a breakdown of her book The Hypersexuality of Race: Performing Asian/American Women on Screen and Scene (Duke University Press, 2007) in which she is “arguing for a more nuanced approach to the mysterious mix of pleasure, pain, and power in performances of sexuality.”

She emphasized the need to move beyond binaries when it comes to Asian/American females in cinema, that they cannot be labeled as strictly “good” or “bad” women, especially if the bad label is slapped on women that want to express themselves sexually in ways that ruffle conventional society’s feathers.

The discussion was accompanied by rare film clips: scenes of Anna May Wong in a silent film, an experimental film by an Asian American female artist, and vintage pornography, the latter from the archives of the Kinsey Institute, the motherland of American sexuality studies at Indiana University.

She also looked at three famous Asian American actresses (Anna May Wong, The World of Suzie Wong’s Nancy Kwan, and Lucy Liu) from different eras and their varying approaches to addressing the casting limitations of Asians in Hollywood, as well as the well-known Asian American porn stars Asia Carrera and Annabel Chong as they transitioned from smart model minorities to women explicitly asserting their sexuality.

Pornography is a huge part of Parreñas Shimizu’s research, from the obscure homemade “stag” films to gonzo pornography in addition to documentary work on prostitution and the sex tourism industry in Southeast Asia.

If you missed this excellent panel you can still check out Parreñas Shimizu’s book, available now.

Or at the very least, rent some Asian porn with your buddies and discuss.

This blog entry is graciously sponsored by Toyota Matrix, check out
their website devoted to the best in Asian American film.

Toyota Matrix


Sylvie Kim

contributing editor & blogger

Sylvie Kim is a contributing editor at Hyphen. She previously served as Hyphen's blog coeditor with erin Khue Ninh, film editor, and blog columnist.

She writes about gender, race, class and privilege in pop culture and media (fun fun fun!) at www.sylvie-kim.com and at SF Weekly's The Exhibitionist blog. Her work has also appeared on Racialicious and Salon.



Shimuzu's book, The Hypersexuality of Race, with regard to the chapter 6 "Little Brown xxx Machines" is offensive, inaccurate, and potentially libelous. Without fact checking, or investigation, in a complete disregard for the tradition of scholarship, she defames and misinforms readers on the motivations of myself, the creator of 101 Asian Débutantes, as well as the award winning filmmaker and creator of The Good Women of Bangkok. Shimizu's need to bend the unchecked "facts" towards her personal agenda have resulted in her branding myself, a completely non white male that comes from a matriarchal, non European, traditional society and culture, as a white male misogynist. This epithet and the implied characterization is the antithesis of everything I believe in, and the opposite of my code of conduct. I found it ironic that , out of the hundreds and thousands of Asian "porn" films available to her which more suit her biased needs, Shimizu choose works by two men who are in personality, the exact opposite of the stereotype that she has tried to perpetuate. My academic adviser in Anthropology at Columbia was non less than Margaret Meade who's adviser was the father of Anthropology in the U.S., Franz Boas. I hold graduate degrees in the fields of interest that led me to do my research and work. It should also be noted that I have collaborated with Asian women in every step of my process of creation, from the initial idea to the finished works. Shimizu and her academic mentors at Stanford and other schools, have made a inexcusable and unconscionable choice to disregard the rigors of the scholarly tradition, in order to portray through bad scholarship, a biased and ultimately wrong and libelous account of the scope and motivation of the work of myself and the other gentleman discussed in chapter 6. Her somewhat perverse fascination with explicit sexuality, while feigning academic interest and a prudish shock in witnessing it all, makes it clear that her career is more based on the economic and political exploitation of the subject matter as it will be popularly received, rather than the scholarly pursuit of knowledge and truth. In the presentation of this faux research for serious consideration, using obfuscatory, pretentious, and convoluted prose, The Hypersexuality of Race is revealed to be an exercise in self indulgent perversity, and as such exposes the complicated and troubled morality and sexuality of the author, revealing a need to publish for profit as well as academic position. It thus, fails as scholarly insight into the premise of the book . Truth be damned and not even cared about, Shimizu proves that maintaining tenure, book and lecture benefits are more important than keeping true to the traditions of academic excellence and the scholarly tradition. I can only ask, if she gets chapter six completely wrong, if she has manipulated the chapter to fit her fantasies, how can anyone seriously see her work and professorship as deserving intellectual consideration as a whole, and under what light does this cast all her previous academic work?Jean Marc Roc
See link on my name... all I can think of is 6.02*10^23!