It was nighttime in Tokyo. I walking towards Shinjuku Ni-chōme, the gay district of the city. It was away from the bustle of Shinjuku, dispersed amongst several city blocks. When I got there, I turned onto a quiet side street and kept an eye out for the Eagle Tokyo, which had opened only a few months ago.

At a glance online, I found that there were countless gay bars in Ni-chōme, and a lot of them catered to bears. The bear scene seemed huge in the city, possibly even bigger than San Francisco’s.

The Eagle wasn’t as inconspicuous as some of the other bars in the area. It stood out right from the street, and was a lot more upscale than most other Eagle’s that I’ve been to. 

I went straight for the bar where a cute cub greeted me and laid a drinks menu out. I ordered a beer and we chatted a bit as he asked where I was from and what I was doing in the city. I realized what a cliché it was to crush on a bartender, but I’d been so deprived during my travels that I was quite shameless. 

While flirting with him, I noticed another guy standing at the back. He was more of a daddy bear, beefy, and around six-foot-three. I flirted with him too. But then I noticed another guy. And another guy. The place was a gold mine, packed with the motherlode of bears. 

Before even going to Shinjuku Ni-chōme, when I first realized how bear-ish the city was through my research online, I expressed my excitement to my friend, Jeremy, back home over text. To that, he said, “I could never sleep with an Asian guy.”

We’ve all seen people claim such things on hook-up apps, saying that they’re not into ‘Asians’, ‘femmes,’ etc. It’s become a modern debate at dinner parties too: Are such sentiments a crude way of expressing preference or just straight-up prejudice? 

“Why don’t you like Asian guys?” I’d asked.

“I’m just not attracted to them.”

“Yeah, but to say ‘never’?”

“I would never,” he repeated adamantly, somewhat disgusted. “I just know myself.” 

I’m a defender of political correctness and believe that it’s a form of decency and respect. At the same time, I understand that there’s nothing politically correct about sexual attraction. People simply like who they like. Sometimes they understand the root of this attraction and sometimes it’s a complete mystery. However, to say “never” is very different from saying, “I prefer white guys”, or “I prefer blondes.” So is that what differentiates a preference from prejudice? 

I definitely have a preference in men. I love guys in their late 40s to early 50s, who are beefy, hairy and are okay with being called “daddy.” I have no racial preferences so long as they fit within that daddy/beefy bear criteria. That said, my lover Ernan isn’t any of those things and I still find him extremely attractive. For me, nothing is set in stone, and chemistry trumps preference.

I think it’s immature and even ignorant to say that you’d “never” do this or that because who knows? And when applied to race, dating and sex, what I think it really means is that someone is saying that they find a whole race of people so unattractive that there isn’t even the slightest possibility, not even in the future, that you’d find anything sexual about any of them based on their looks alone, regardless of who they are as a person. Not only is that highly insulting but it is a prejudice. It’s not a preference, no matter how you slice it.

As the night went on, the Eagle became even more packed with beefy Japanese dudes, and I felt grateful to enjoy them all, unrestricted by absolute preferences. When you outright refuse to date or sleep with someone because of their ethnicity, like Jeremy, you risk missing opportunities to meet some wonderful people.

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