A winsome anime North Korean leader?
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Receives Photos from Kim Yo Jong in Pyongyang, 2018. Photograph via US State Department
From Foreign Policy:
The outpouring of prurient interest in Kim Yo Jung represents an intersection of these erotic fantasies with the potent force of Orientalism—in which the Western audience projects fantasies onto the unknown East and at the same time seeks to render it intelligible with symbols and generalizations.
In East Asia, this hasn’t been just about female leaders but the combination of feminine appeal and societies deemed dangerous or mysterious. For instance, there has been little erotic interest from Western audiences in either former South Korean President Park Geun-hye or Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. Both states are secular democracies and staunch allies of the United States.
On the other hand, Western media spent many years fawning over the beauty of Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in 2007. Bhutto, an elegant University of Oxford graduate, represented the West’s hope that Pakistan would hold a bastion of democracy and secularism in a rapidly Islamizing region of the world. An obituary after Bhutto’s death in the American Prospect reflected that Bhutto, “the first democratically-elected woman to lead a Muslim nation, looked like a Disney drawing of a beautiful fairytale princess from an animated fable set somewhere in the mysterious Orient.” In recent years, the glamorous Queen Rania of Jordan, a vocal advocate of women’s rights, has received a similar fawning media treatment.
Long before any of these women were born, the West had a fascination with a woman whose image mirrors Kim Yo Jong’s more closely than anyone else: Empress Dowager Cixi, the original “dragon lady.”
By the late 19th century, a genre of literary pornography had arisen devoted to imagining Cixi’s sexual escapades, starting from her origins as a concubine and extending to endless liaisons with court eunuchs and ministers. Sir Edmund Trelawny Backhouse, a British adventurer who haunted the bathhouses of Peking around the turn of the century, famously claimed in his so-called memoir Décadence Mandchoue to have conducted an affair with Cixi and that the empress dowager would routinely sodomize him with her oversized clitoris.