A View from the Bottom

Asian American Masculinity and Sexual Representation

A View from the Bottom

Book Pages: 304 Illustrations: 39 photographs Published: August 2014

Asian American Studies, Gender and Sexuality > LGBTQ Studies, Media Studies > Film

A View from the Bottom offers a major critical reassessment of male effeminacy and its racialization in visual culture. Examining portrayals of Asian and Asian American men in Hollywood cinema, European art film, gay pornography, and experimental documentary, Nguyen Tan Hoang explores the cultural meanings that accrue to sexual positions. He shows how cultural fantasies around the position of the sexual "bottom" overdetermine and refract the meanings of race, gender, sexuality, and nationality in American culture in ways that both enable and constrain Asian masculinity. Challenging the association of bottoming with passivity and abjection, Nguyen suggests ways of thinking about the bottom position that afford agency and pleasure. A more capacious conception of bottomhood—as a sexual position, a social alliance, an affective bond, and an aesthetic form—has the potential to destabilize sexual, gender, and racial norms, suggesting an ethical mode of relation organized not around dominance and mastery but around the risk of vulnerability and shame. Thus reconceived, bottomhood as a critical category creates new possibilities for arousal, receptiveness, and recognition, and offers a new framework for analyzing sexual representations in cinema as well as understanding their relation to oppositional political projects.


"Little or none of the scholarship around the sexual position of the bottom has accurately articulated it as a sexual practice with the capacity to rewrite both shame and vulnerability... [Nguyen] sets himself a part from today’s contemporary queer canon of scholars." — John Erickson, Lambda Literary Review

“Using tools not of the master's house, Nguyen offers a pioneering study of Asian American gender and sexuality with reverberating tools that transform our theory and praxis.” — Margaret Rhee, Amerasia Journal

"Communication researchers who are interested in critical racial studies, cultural studies, and queer theory should find [A View from the Bottom] relevant and inspiring." — Lik Sam Chan, International Journal of Communication

"The book is written with nuance and theoretical sophistication, in a clear and lively style that is at once personable and playful.... A View from the Bottom is certainly well positioned to provoke new conversations—even realignments of boundary—between gay studies and trans studies." — Helen Hok-Sze Leung, TSQ

"A View from the Bottom... provokes a political recalibration that aligns bottomhood, femininity, and race in tender union.... Nguyen bravely models a praxis of vulnerability that we rarely encounter in academic writing, especially around the fraught and fragile imbrications of race, desire, and power" — Uri McMillan, GLQ

"...the author offers many fresh and novel insights in his analysis, and his arguments are thoughtful, nuanced, and complex. A View from the Bottom is a valuable piece of cultural criticism about a topic that has received very little attention." — Jim Nawrocki, Gay & Lesbian Review

"Nguyen’s insights allow us to view the bottom as an opportunity for creativity, a position of receptiveness that affords agency and pleasure, and an occasion to build a queer utopic space that offers unbounded social relations with others." — Christopher B. Patterson, MELUS

"A View from the Bottom offers us a new position from which to critique the ideologies of top/bottom and subject/object in sexual representation." — John Paul Stadler, Reviews in Cultural Theory

"This monograph is a generative work for scholars who center comparative racialization and queer diaspora, as well as gender, sexuality, and media representation more broadly. Nguyen deftly engages numerous conversations in queer studies, film studies, Asian American studies, and queer of color critique." — Jonathan Branfman, Sexualities

"A View from the Bottom is a critical and insightful read for anyone interested in media studies, particularly for people interested in the performance and representation of sexual and racial minorities." — Min Joo Lee, Liminalities

"Bottomhood’s precariousness, out from the acquisition of potentially debauched performances and politics, is a conversation not fleshed out and therefore worthy of future consideration. Though Nguyen and those in agreement with him would, and should, do well in critically extending bottomhood through its opportunities and failures, A View from the Bottom nonetheless deconstructs the gender binary in hope for a more inclusive, queer worldview." — Albert Rintrona III, QED

“Nguyen’s book is a welcomed effort to deal with the thorny contradictions that arise when scholarship of advocacy meets the unwieldy reality of sexual desire. Future projects dealing with race and sexual representations, particularly those of gay Asian and Asian American subjectivities, must confront this question and reckon with the insights in Nguyen’s study.” — Hao Jun Tam, Journal of Asian American Studies

"Nguyen Tan Hoang's exciting book is a compelling account of the aesthetic, political, and queer possibilities of racialized forms of 'bottomhood.' As someone who has been writing about masochism and passivity in relation to queer feminisms for a while, I realize that this is the book I have needed in sorting through the complex forms of personhood, pleasure, and power that bottomhood braids into the meanings of race, nation, and sexuality." — Jack Halberstam, author of The Queer Art of Failure

"Artist-scholar Nguyen Tan Hoang's dexterous unpacking of a Hollywood classic, the oeuvre of a gay Asian American porn star, an international art house film, videos by gay Asian artists and the self-representation of online sex sites challenged me to radically rethink the terms and stakes for reconsidering the representation of Asian American masculinity. A profoundly insightful and provocative book." — Richard Fung


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Price: $27.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Nguyen Tan Hoang is Assistant Professor of English and Film Studies at Bryn Mawr College. He is also a videomaker whose works include K.I.P, Forever Bottom!, PIRATED! and look_im_azn.  His videos have been screened at the Museum of Modern Art, The Getty Center, and the Centre Pompidou.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface ix

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction 1

1. The Rise, and Fall, of a Gay Asian American Porn Star 29

2. Relfections on an Asian Bottom 71

3. The Lover's "Gorgeous Ass" 111

4. The Politics of Starch 151

Conclusion 193

Notes 207

Bibliography 253

Videography 271

Index 275
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5684-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5672-1
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