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Racial Preferences in Dating

Racial Preferences in Dating: Fetishism or Not a Big Deal?

We all have our physical preferences when it comes to finding a romantic partner. Some women want men to be tall, broad shouldered, and dark haired. Men may want a big-breasted blonde. We objectify those we find attractive to some extent, but what are the implications of preferring someone of a different race?

After reading an article a friend sent me, A White Woman Explains Why She Prefers Black Men, I realized that there's a big implication: the desire could be based on racial assumptions and stereotypes that, just because they're "positive," don't make them any less pernicious, objectifying, or, to put it bluntly, racist. Want to find out about racial fetishism? Then


Whether you have "jungle fever" or "yellow fever" (you date blacks or Asians exclusively), you would be described, in the parlance of the day, as having a "fetish." One thoughtful person has explained a fetish this way:

Sexual fetishism in general is the sexual attraction to something which is not in itself a sexual object, such as feet or leather. Sexually fetishizing a person or group of people however means reducing them to objects, important only in their sexual function or interest to the fetishizer. Race fetishization means effectively reducing all members of a racial group to a monolithic whole, only valued in terms of their racial stereotypes. You are hearing racial fetishization when people talk about how black men have big penises, Asian women are exotic and submissive . . . just because a stereotyped characteristic is a "good" characteristic, that doesn't mean it's not racist.

So how does our White Woman (who is also a sex columnist) Who Prefers Black Men rate on the racial fetishizer scale? She's off the charts, a textbook case. Here are some salient bits from her essay.

That phrase, "Once you go black, you never go back'" is all about the feeling of the skin . . . Black men have more energy, style and edge than white men . . . something white guys don't have anymore: confidence in their masculinity, their sexuality . . . I am sure there must be some black men who aren't good in bed. Personally, I have not experienced one who isn't . . . They look better than white men, they touch and kiss and make love better than white men. Statistically, their penises are only a fraction of an inch bigger on average, but they seem bigger and harder . . .

Obviously, this white woman likes black men — a lot. It's all about sexualizing them, though, reducing all of them to their skin, to their presumed sexual prowess, their instinctual energy and innate masculinity. If racism is about assuming things about people based on their physical traits, how is this not racism? More disturbingly, her desire, conscious or not, participates in the kind of sexualization of black men that once justified their persecution and even murder.

So what to do about these nonpolitically correct desires? Censor them? Pretend they don't exist? One of my favorite sex columnists, Dan Savage from Savage Love, provides some intelligent advice. He never argues that we should police our desires, just that we be aware of where they're coming from and what they could mean in how we treat our partners. "There's nothing wrong," he tells one person seeking advice who has a fantasy of having a black man have sex with his wife, "with treating someone like a piece of meat during sex . . . some people enjoy being treated like pieces of meat . . . Consent is . . . always and everywhere the magic ingredient . . . As long as you understand the cultural forces that shaped your fantasy . . . there's nothing unethical about realizing your fantasy."

One wonders if these black men who Susan Bakos hooks up with know that she views them all the same way. (One wonders if she thinks viewing them this way is problematic at all.) The heart may want what it wants, Woody Allen said euphemistically about hooking up with his adopted daughter, but that desire can have ripple effects far beyond the couple in question, particularly when one woman's desire is presented, without any qualms or self-questioning, in an essay many people will read.

Image Source: Getty
Join The Conversation
tarynitup tarynitup 8 years
Wow! Some people are so threatened by the idea of racism existing that it seems like they haven't attempted to understand the point about what constitutes a fetish! Reread the article!!! It's just as racist and/or creepy when Black men fetishize White women, many times using arguments similar to Ms. Bakos (about superior sexual performance due to being physically made to have sex often). Seriously, that doesn't sound like a fetish or racist?!?! Part of the offense about generalizations like that is that the blanket statement includes your family and loved ones. I once heard a statement about the "visceral sexuality" Black men posses. I was totally creeped out that someone would look at my pimply faced 16 year old Black male cousin, or my 86 year old grandfather, or my middle aged Dad as a sex object. It's totally inappropriate and obviously inaccurate to blame ones sexual preferences on the ones they prefer. I'm a Black American Woman who was in a relationship with and married to a White American Man for over 10 years. When we split up people expected me to date White men exclusively. When I didn't some went so far as to say "Oh I thought you liked White men?!" I'd tell them I like some of them but I wasn't sure about the ones I don't know!
equestriennechic equestriennechic 8 years
I'd say that it's no different from someone preferring blondes over brunettes, or something along those lines - close-minded, but not a big deal.
Fallen85 Fallen85 8 years
I'm pretty offended by the author's comment "But in truth, black sisters, we're after the sex, not the ringand these guys aren't the marrying kind anyway." Basically she's telling everyone that if they see a white girl with a black guy then they are simply using each other for sex as the guys who date white chicks just "aren't the marrying kind anyway" Gosh... I better go tell my fiancee that we're just supposed to be f*cking and better stop planning our lives together. I think this author is ignorant for many other reasons then to just assume that all white men over 40 are the same. She's taken the ACTUAL progressive biracial relationships down another peg. Once again we will have to convince our friends, families and complete strangers that we actually love each other for our personalities... not our skin tones. Lame.
countchocula countchocula 8 years
I'm not sure if it's a fetish necessarily. I know that I repeatedly find myself attracted to pasty redheads even though I've never consciously set that up as a preference. Why can't we just accept that people are attracted to whoever they're attracted to without the need to justify patterns?
eckeltricity eckeltricity 8 years
@spacekatgal Almost every movie I see has an "Asian as the dashingly handsome lead".
lwimbush lwimbush 8 years
that article was just ignorant. i mean there's no problem dating someone outside of your race but when you make it clear that you "only" date guys based on physical reasons like soft skin (im sure not all black guys have soft skin. and there are plenty of white guys who do) then its not about the relationship at all. its about the body, the lust, the physical attraction--the fantasy. but she makes that clear herself, right? she's into the sex. i mean thirty minutes after meeting these guys she said she was hooking up with them. but anyway, it seems like more of a psychological issue to me. there has to be a different reason why she is so against white men.
Veka Veka 8 years
I think I disagree about it being a fetish. Everyone has their preferences, for one reason or another. I'm white. I've dated a majority of white guys, but I have also dated a latin guy and a middle-eastern guy. (I've heard the saying that Latin guys make better lovers, but I've yet to judge that myself.) I've never gone out with a black or asian guy, but that's just because I've never had the opportunity. I would never *not* go out with somebody because of their skin color. I happened to be physically attracted to each of these guys I've dated. Attraction is going to be different for everyone. Maybe some peoples' reasons are more shallow than others (like everyone is saying about this woman), but it's not the case for me, and I certainly don't think it's fetishism to go on a date with someone of a different race or skin color. It's called being open-minded.
Gdeeaz Gdeeaz 8 years
i am multiracial (Hispanic/white/black) and i have dated guys of each of those races and i tend to be more attracted to men who are multiracial like me. i think the reason for that is because they know what it is like to be influenced by different cultures and for the most part they are open to experiencing different cultures.
cg130 cg130 8 years
I've only ever really been attracted to white men (I'm white)...I don't know why. I guess it sounds kind of racist, but it's usually because I find we have similar interests and come from a similar socio-economic background.
GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 8 years
"But, I am talking about American culture specifically and American movies." Yes, I figured as much. :) I happen to watch non-American movies, too. In fact, in a recent movie festival (in America), I watched a Japanese movie with a charming male Asian lead. The audience were mainly non-Asian Americans, and we were all captivated. :)
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