Comedy Central did a bit a few weeks ago about sexual racism, that got me thinking about how it’s affected me and whether it’s something that can ever be fixed. So I did some research and it’s a pretty fascinating topic when you get into it. First, what is sexual racism? Sexual racism is prioritizing a person as a possible romantic interest on account of their race. . Some general statements you may have heard that could be considered sexual racism are: “He’s attractive for an Asian guy” or “I’m just not attracted to blacks”. I’m sure we’ve all heard or probably even said a statement similar to this. There are also facts that back up that there is a disparity in “attraction” between different races. Christian Rudder, the creator of OkCupid, published in his book Dataclysm, which reviewed metrics of multiple dating websites, that white users are more likely to be messaged or responded to than their nonwhite counterparts and that black women and Asian men are the least likely to be messaged or responded to. In fact, 82% of non-black men have some bias against black women. Asian men get the fewest messages and the worst ratings of any group of guys.
Here are some more interesting facts:
- “White women prefer white men to the exclusion of everyone else – and Asian and Hispanic women prefer them even more exclusively”
- “White women are less willing to date nonwhites than white men”
- “College students are more likely to exclude blacks as potential dates”
- “Whites are least likely to date outside of their race, and Asians and Latinos are least likely to date blacks”
- “Blacks were 10 times more likely to contact whites than whites were to contact blacks”
- “Controlling for appearance, Arabs suffered an ethnic penalty in one of Sweden’s largest online dating sites”
In regards to gay men:
- “Asian men are the least desired in a sample of online profiles of urban males seeking sex with men”
- “An ethnic hierarchy exists with whites and Latinos as the most desirable racial groups in the online gay male community”
- “Gay men of all races prefer to date whites over nonwhites”
- “Gay Asian men are often forced to take on the ‘submissive’ intimate role in competing for white men”
So is it sexual racism or sexual preference?
The theory behind calling it sexual racism is that if someone is specifically prioritizing or penalizing others solely on the basis of their race, then it just reinforces racial hierarchy and stereotypes. However, what about when people “discriminate” on the basis of height, weight, “attractiveness”? Does being heterosexual or homosexual mean that you are discriminating on the basis of gender? Everyone has a personal preference when it comes to what they are attracted to. However, what some people argue is that height, weight, hair color and other similar attributes don’t have the deep structure and history of discrimination and inequalities in the same way as race. Race is a much deeper issue that has been plaguing our country for centuries. But can we blame the past for our current preferences? Studies from Jakobsson & Lindholm (2014) and Robinson (2007) have found that using the same photo, and changing only the name to suggest a different race, or explicitly altering the stated racial category,g resulted in different results. This furthers the idea that sexual racism isn’t just about a physical attribute, but instead is correlated with pre-perceived notions about certain races.
Now what about the issue of heterosexual and homosexual preference? The theory is that it depends. A popular feminist theory is that there is a difference between sex (biologically are you male or female) and gender (which refers to perceived attributes: femininity, masculinity, etc). For those that prefer those of the same or opposite sex because of the certain biological attributes of men v. female, it wouldn’t be considered “gender discrimination”. While those that choose partners based on gender attributes do pose an issue from the perspective of preventing injustices and discrimination.
As someone that has tried online dating and failed miserably, I would talk to my friends (mainly white or white-ish) and ask why was I having such a problem, while they are all in happy relationships. Of course, there were the typical, “they just don’t see how amazing you are” responses (I roll my eyes everytime). Then one of my friends straight up said the thing I was thinking but too afraid to say out loud. Maybe it’s because you’re black. Even if it isn’t sexual racism and is just sexual preference, that’s just a shitty preference. Being black doesn’t define who I am. It’s a part of me and I’m proud of it. But I hate being put in a box. Being judged just because there may be some random stereotype that doesn’t actually apply to me.
Is this something that can even be fixed?
I’m a firm believer that our attractions are based on our circumstances and environment. If we’re being honest, I’m sure we all grew up in an environment that had some racist preconceived notions and these inevitably sneak into our subconscious. Now for something that deep, we can’t just switch it on and off, but we can start by just being aware of our preconceived notions and trying to eliminate them where possible. Additionally, while the numbers are highly depressing for some of us, I do have hope that this is something that is slowly changing. In fact, National Geographic published a study that by 2050 the average American will look like me. Or as National Geographic put it, “multi-racial”. Which races those are, are to be determined. But it’s an encouraging start.
If you want to geek out on this topic, here are some of the sources I read when preparing this post.
- Bedi, Sonu – Sexual Racism: Intimacy as a Matter of Justice
- Rudder, Christian – Dataclysm
- Jakobsson, Niklas and Lindholm, Henrik – Ethnic Preferences in Internet Dating: A Field Experiment
- Robinson, Russell – Structural Dimensions of Romantic Preferences