To Lust or not to Lust? Could it be Love?

Finger Rings- Quote begins 4 lines down

Last week, we traveled back in time to a more defined, more segregated, Emory. We all discovered the influential power of a particular Korean student and how he identified the 1890’s as a time hugely influenced by whites. Yun Ch’i-ho documented his experiences in the United States and his experiences on our beloved Emory campus during the 19th century. He carefully details his everyday relationships with the students of Emory and most intriguing of all, were his documented feelings of attraction to the lovely ladies of Atlanta and Miss Janice.

What I found most interesting from Yun’s writings was his sexual attraction to the white females of The South. The Caucasian female was and, perhaps still, can be fundamentally described as pure- in character and beauty. Their golden blond hair and soft eyes caught the attention of Yun as he studied at Emory during the 1890’s. I think that this fundamental “stereotype” of white females is most interesting in Yun’s case because then I wonder…is it love? Is this attraction to Miss Janice pure love or is there something else we can decode from his scriptures in his diary. Could his profound feeling be lust? Lust to obtain something he couldn’t “have.”

The dynamics between what one truly loves versus lust is something to be considered when reading these documents. Most of my colleagues and I can be defined as two kinds of people; those of us who like to be “chased” by lovers and those of us who live for the chase. What I have found in my experience is that if not sometimes, most of the time, the chase and fight are far more pleasurable than no chase at all. There is a sense of accomplishment once we obtain the unattainable won by our sweat and blood. Whether the strategy of the chasers includes romantic letters or mariachi serenades on a veranda; the struggle feeds sexual appetite.

Where am I going with this, you might ask? Well, if we take this notion that Yun is an outsider- an alien to the Emory females during the 1890’s and if you give him this fundamental idea that white females are the “best” of all women then, do you think that his sexual attraction to Miss Janice is valid for this time? Or do you think that he was a chaser and went against the notions that told him that he couldn’t have a white women so he sought out to prove everyone and himself wrong…. that yes, it was obtainable?

What I am struggling to believe is whether or not Yun was in love with Miss Janice for being Miss Janice or was it lust- to have that which he couldn’t have? Yun was unquestionably smitten with Miss Janice but was it more than that? Sprinkled throughout his section of dairy that I reviewed were romantic quotes to Miss Janice. My favorite quote from Yun’s dairy reads, “I wish I were one of her finger rings, so that I may be with her always.” Sweet huh?

Using Yun’s writings can we ask ourselves if this “love story” could have been avoided if the time period allowed for a more diverse campus? Would Miss Janice go against her social norms and consider Yun as a possible mate? Is Yun’s ideology of the white women enough to explain why he was so attracted to them? If Yun were to live on the Emory campus today, would he still strive to obtain the love of a southern belle?


A short description of Miss Janice. Last paragraph reads "She is so pretty (I think) so modest that it is simply impossible not to love her."