Monday, July 16, 2012

Race and sexy times...

There was a long conversation happening over at feministe in the comments section of a post called "Sex, Lies and Fetishizing Race" by Anna Lekas Miller. The primary focus of the conversation is, as you may guess, about the fetishizing of race and ethnicity. It's a very interesting conversation, and it's started to explore where the line between "harmless fetish" and "racist fetish" is.

Also, it reminds me of several conversations I've had with people in my life about race and sexual attraction. At some point, I think, a lot of white Americans run into someone who has some kind of fetish for people of another race. With the sort of people I hang out with--people heavily steeped in geek culture (including video games, comic books, and animation)--it's not particularly surprising, I'm sure, to learn that I've known people who have a particular fetish for Asian women. It's very much a geek cliche that college age white geeky guys have a "thing" for Asian woman. It's the sort of thing that I always found vaguely weird, but it took me a long time to put words to why.

I've also known people on the opposite side of the spectrum (is it a spectrum?); I know people who will say things like "I'm not interested in (insert race here) people" or "I just don't find (insert race here) people attractive."

Which... bothers me. A lot.

I've had long conversations about it with people, because saying something like "I'm just not attracted to black people" sure seems racist to me.

Because so much of sexual attraction isn't intentional, though, I've sometimes found it really hard to put to words what, exactly, bothers me about it. You don't really choose to be attracted to people or not. At least, I've certainly never found it to work that way. So, if you think back and you find that you've only ever been attracted to people of a particular race, or you find that you've never been attracted to a particular race... what does that mean?

That thread is helping me roll the thoughts around in my head, though. Obviously, you can't help who you're attracted to, but that doesn't mean that there's not value in thinking about the whys.


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Anonymous said...

I don't know how much you can get out of the "whys" though. I'm not attracted to blonde men that often. I have an open mind, but usually I prefer men with brown hair. I don't think this says too much about me, other than I like brown hair. I don't think it makes me racist towards Scandinavian people or anything.

Anonymous said...

Hey there Thought Police,

As you pointed out, we don't choose who we are attracted to. We all have inherent preferences, that doesn't make a person racist. Is a gay dude heterophobic? Hell no.

Really I find the motivations behind preferences of others less disturbing than the motivations of someone who wants to start labeling personal predeloctions as racist.

Roy said...

Hey there anonymous comment leaver,

I wonder what it is about my daring to even think about questioning why we are attracted to the types of people we are that leads you label me the thought police. Did you actually read the post or did you just zero in on that one line and leap to conclusions? The whole point of the post was that I'm not really sure what to make of those sorts of things, and that, while I (me, personally, not necessarily anyone else) am bothered by it, I don't really have a firm understanding of why or whether it's even right.

On the other hand, I don't actually think that all attraction is somehow inherent--who we find attractive and why changes dramatically over the course of our lives. We may not be making intentional choices about it, but it's not completely immutable and certainly parts of it seem to happen long after we're born.

As I said in the post, which perhaps you missed: "Obviously, you can't help who you're attracted to, but that doesn't mean that there's not value in thinking about the whys."

Anonymous said...

Some of the Chinese fellows at Berkeley's International House had a term for the fetishists you describe. Apparently it was so rude that they refused to translate it for the English speakers at the table.

The fact that one is often attracted to a certain coloring (red hair and green eyes, or olive skin, to take two examples) is not the same as a (sick, disgusting) racial fetish. One of the creepy date racists at I House (white, tall, handsome) actually bragged about how he had narrowed his dating pool to Chinese women--because Japanese women became "too Americanized." Another characteristic common to white date racists was a barely civil attitude towards white women. All right, so you're not interested in dating someone--does that mean you can't treat her with courtesy? I also wondered whether one of the reasons that those so-called men preferred "exotic" dates was that they hoped that a foreign woman wouldn't notice how socially inept they were.

Personally, I find "geeks" completely repulsive.