A while back (like pre-pandemic times) I matched with an Australian guy on a dating app. We were maybe 2 or 3 lines into the chat, talking about him having moved to London from Australia. I asked him ‘Do you go back a lot?’ and he responded ‘No, I’ve never gone black, but I’ve always wanted to’. This was quickly followed by ‘Oh sh**! Did you say BACK, I thought you said black. Super hungover today, yeah I go back when I can.’ This is just one example of racial fetishising in dating. For those who don’t know, this means ‘fetishising a person or culture belonging to a race or ethnic group—therefore it involves racial/ethnic stereotyping and objectifying people whose bodies are stereotyped, and at times their cultural practice.’ (Wikipedia)
I have many other stories like this and I know my friends do too. It’s sadly all too common, to the point where it’s not even a surprise to people of colour at this point. You might have experienced it (or been part of the problem) and not even realised it’s a problem. So, let’s get into it, so you won’t be mistaken again. Here are 4 examples of racial fetishising in dating…
Are they a mango?! No, they’re a person. I don’t know who needs to hear this, but it’s not a compliment. It’s actually just a backhanded way of telling someone that they’re ‘other’ or not the norm. It’s just a way of enforcing the idea that there’s white people and then everyone else. It also perpetuates ideas of what the standard of beauty is, as well as having racist connotations. Throughout history, we’ve seen that ‘exotic’ stereotyping has been a way of referring to people of colour as savages (Pocahontasis an example of this in action) or primitive. So… no, not a compliment!
I say harmful, because they not only reduce someone
to just their race, but it can also make people feel
like they’ve failed somehow if they don’t have
certain features or skills.
Hmm, where to begin? Personally, I’ve heard everything from ‘I bet you have a big ass (heart eye emojis)’ to ‘I bet you can twerk’. There’s even the constant one I still get which is people arguing with me that I must be able to sing like Beyoncé. All of these are racial fetishising. Making assumptions about a person based on harmful stereotypes. I say harmful, because they not only reduce someone to just their race, but it can also make people feel like they’ve failed somehow if they don’t have certain features or skills. We’ve all heard some of the stereotypes before. There’s the assumption that all black men have big dicks and all Asian men have small ones. There’s the assumption that women of colour must be more sexual. They’re not ok, stop! If you want to make sure you and your date are on the same page on such issues, check out CLiKD.
The amount of times I have met someone at a party or wherever who has just been like ‘You know, I only date black girls’ out of nowhere. Did I ask them? No. Had anything we’d been talking about been related to dating? No. What are they expecting, a medal?! It’s always said the same way as well, like they’re doing you a favour for choosing to be into your race, because we all know no one else is, right?! So woke… NOT. Who wants to date someone who is only into them for their race? No one. Newsflash, you’re not woke because you only date black guys because you think it’s edgy or Asian girls because you think they’re more submissive. That’s definitely fetishism at play.
It’s a way of being like ‘you can’t really be from
the same place as me, look at your skin colour. God!’
Again, just like calling someone ‘exotic’, asking this question is the beginning of peak racial fetishising in dating. It’s a way of being like ‘you can’t really be from the same place as me, look at your skin colour. God!’ It’s one thing to ask people where they’re from. Fair enough, I don’t mind people asking and I, like many others, have no problem talking about my background and culture. However, what usually happens is that someone will ask where you’re from, you’ll answer and say the UK (for example) and they’ll be like ‘where did you grow up?’ They’ll get the same response, get frustrated and then ask where you’re really from, because they’ve decided your skin colour can’t possibly be from the same place as them. It’s on par with telling people of colour that ‘they speak really well’. Both a form of othering. Both rude!
So, there you have it! 4 examples of racial fetishising in dating. Look, dating is already hard. It’s bad enough having the usual worries like ‘are they going to ghost me? Will they cheat?’ and then having to think ‘are they fetishising my race?’ on top of that! Know that you don’t have to put up with it or fix them. Call them out, tell them to do one and then find someone who is with you for who you are as person and is also an actual ally for the causes that affect you. You’re not a stereotype to tick of someone’s list. Remember that!