Replies flooded in: “What is it about this man? Absolute hunk”; “Who needs PornHub Premium when you’ve got this level of content for free?”; “Great thirst trap chief.”
People on the internet find Sunak hot, which is hardly surprising: he is a good looking man in a powerful position, feeding the nation endless cash in the middle of a frightening pandemic.
But it got very weird when a number of notable journalists, most of whom are white women, started questioning their attraction to Rishi by posting long Twitter threads and penning entire essays on the matter. Flora Gill, the daughter of Amber Rudd, the former home secretary, wrote an article about her fascination in GQ. Days later, an almost identical article appeared in Vogue, titled “Admit It: You Fancy Rishi Sunak” as though finding this man attractive should somehow be considered a “dirty little secret.” The fact these writers went to such lengths to confess their uncontrollable and “unexpected” desire for the chancellor is at best odd; at worst, it’s rooted in sexual racism.
“Surely a white woman finding an Asian bloke attractive is the opposite of racism?” I can already see some of you furiously typing into the comment bar. But that’s the thing about sexual racism: it’s subtle, it’s about the way the attraction is framed. When your lust for someone is layered with shock and surprise, you’re perpetuating the idea that, under normal circumstances, you’d find this person undesirable.
Gill states in her article that although “Keir Starmer is, at a first glance, far more aesthetically pleasing”, Rishi is the man she’d rather self-isolate with. This distinction is perhaps more revealing than the writer realises – she inadvertently tells us that she finds a very average looking white man (no offence Keir) is far more attractive than the South Asian man she seems to have fallen for. An odd point of comparison to make where one isn’t even needed.
The backhanded compliments don’t stop there. “If you’re solo this isolation, there are worse people to flick your bean or stroke your sausage to than Dishy Rishi,” Gill continues. You’d think giving someone a pet name would be bad enough, but the writer simultaneously sexualises and objectifies the chancellor while saying that fancying him is a shameful act.
Yet it’s the final line of the article which really tops off the fetishising mess: “Tonight my boyfriend and I have just such a role-play planned complete with blazer, glasses and some fiscal stimulation. Oh, Dishy!” ... as though Sunak purely exists to sexually entertain a white couple.
There is, of course, the possibility that the scandal in finding this man attractive is simply because he’s a Tory. But you can’t ignore the fact that, historically, South Asian men have been desexualised and reduced to the “model minority” stereotype, often getting friend-zoned in films, TV programmes and reality shows.
Think of Raj in The Big Bang Theory; Apu in The Simpsons; Kevin Gnapoor in Mean Girls. Even perfectly good-looking Nas Majeed had a difficult time finding a partner on Love Island, the UK’s biggest dating show. Sadly, this is a regular occurrence for Asian men, who are often discriminated against within the dating scene. Statistics show that the group matches with far fewer women on dating apps than other men and undoubtedly the harmful popular culture stereotypes portraying Asian men as terrorists or unlucky virgins don’t help.
Though Phoebe Luckhurst, the writer of the Vogue article, spends less time having sexual fantasies about the chancellor, and more recounting his rise to the top within politics, the piece still falls into the trap of cliches. She writes: “Swotty Sunak reminds you of the medic you had a crush on in the first term of your first year: smart, focused and earnest, bright eyes twinkling with sincerity.” Ah yes, Sunak – who is nowhere near being a medical student, yet reminds you of the only stereotype that seems to exist when it comes to South Asian men.
Along with some of his party, I’m not a fan of Sunak. I can’t separate the man from his politics. He has consistently voted against a right to remain for EU nationals living in the UK, voted for a stricter asylum system and in favour of stronger immigration rules.
But I am tired of white women treating him, and other Asian men they deem “surprisingly” hot, like secret sex toys stashed under their bed.