“I like to joke that San Francisco is the epicentre of the yellow fever phenomenon”, says Debbie, who describes a general awareness of being looked at by men because she’s Chinese.
But Debbie also believes that Asian American women are paying a price for “positive” stereotyping.
Elizabeth Chan, a British Chinese actress, says acting has offered an insight into how society sees Chinese women, calling parts on offer to her “massively stereotypical”.
Asian guys sleeping with white girls why dating
It’s as if the Chinese are so foreign it doesn't count.
In the UK, Sherry Fang, a 26-year-old British Chinese student, tells me she's had strangers say to her “you look just like his ex, she was also Chinese”, and argues it would be wholly inappropriate if she were black or Indian.
Take the 25th anniversary revival of Miss Saigon in the West End.
The tale of the tragic love story between a young Vietnamese woman and an American soldier paints a heartbroken and helpless image of Miss Saigon that remains one of the most poignant and visible depictions of Far Eastern women in popular culture.
She tells me how she was instantly associated with being quiet, analytical and nice when she started working in London, and describes fighting for opportunities to speak and chair meetings.
“It took me a long time to get over that," she says.
One acquaintance told me in wonderment that Chinese women are great in the bedroom – as if I wasn't one – to being casually asked if I’d be interested in a guy “who has been with Chinese girls and likes it”.
I’ve been left puzzled by the insensitivity, and the lack of awareness that such comments may cause offence.
She notes the sexy Geishas, femme fatales and Kung Fu fighting seductresses in place of what she calls “ethnically neutral roles”.
In the BBC’s official response to BEA’s letter, it stated its commitments to diversity (in a rather patronising, verbose manner). But Asian women are understandably in a rush to change the status quo.
A quick browse on the Internet for “yellow fever fetishes” brings up a host of websites, articles and videos, mostly from the US, that express humour, distaste and offence at the sexualised objectification of East Asian women, with some equating yellow fever to racism rooted in colonial ideas of power and submission.