I have noticed, as I’m sure practically everyone else has too, that on dating sites such as NZ Dating or Grindr, a lot of people state that they don’t want you to contact them if you’re a different race, or otherwise “undesirable”. “No Asians,” “No fatties,” “No fems,” the list goes on… On this front, Critic’s La Dida has beaten me to the post.
I’m going to deliberately take a slightly ambivalent approach, not only to avoid re-hashing what La Dida has written, but also because there’s a bit of complexity to the matter, and I’d like to try to spur people into thinking about the issue, rather than just passively reading my text.
There’s two fronts to this argument. The first is that deliberately excluding Asians because they’re Asian is, obviously, racism. (I’ll stick to racism at the moment, rather than dealing with fatphobia or ageism etc., for the sake of simplicity) As is excluding blacks, Maori or any other race. (For some reason, Asians seem to be the most discriminated against in this particular field).
The second front, is that you can’t very much help whom you’re attracted to. I’m attracted to men with facial hair, strong arms and a friendly disposition; I’m turned off by men more than a few years younger than me and guys who care more about maintaing back dimples than eating McDonalds. In this regard, race is another trait about a person that determines whether you’ll find them sexy or not — humans typically find most attractive those who are within their own tribe or race.
It is because of the second that the first has snuck in (or rather, why the first is so pernicious). But that second front isn’t set in stone.
We all have our tastes and preferences, but these bend and change depending on the culture we’re immersed in. I, for example, thought Hipsters were hot, until the sub-culture was ruined by Hipsters. Now I barely find it sexy at all. And the same is certainly true of ethnicity.
At the risk of delving into pop-evolutionary psychology, finding people of your own ethnic group sexually attractive and others not, makes sense from a survival perspective. But I think that it’s more of a “tribal” thing than a racial one. I believe that you find things within your own culture or subculture attractive, rather than ethnicity, and these things shift like the wind.
But on these sites, and especially on sex sites like Grindr, is it actually discrimination do preclude hookups from people due to their body shape, mannerisms or even ethnicity? When people are looking for sex, they’re looking for what they’re interested in, and what they’re interested in is not entirely a conscious thing, nor is it really anyone else’s business.
When you look up porn (don’t deny it) you look up whatever “genres” get you off. For some people, that means looking to specialist niches, for others it means broadly sweeping across the internet. Most of us have something specific, some trait or set of traits, that we innately consider sexy. Hooking up with people beyond the porn shoots is an extension of that. I happen to not do twinks, does that make me ageist?
But the problem with dating sites, is that you’re dealing with real people, not just porn personae (well… typically). Furthermore, our culture is increasingly being pushed onto these online media to meet people, be it for relationships or just sex. Our ability to challenge or warp our cultural preferences aren’t challenged if we can just block people that don’t fit into them before we’ve even given them a chance. Even today, our sexualities are still closeted — most of us struggle to pull without going to gay bars rather than mainstream ones, and public parks and toilets have given way to NZ Dating and Grindr. We’re still pushed into niche areas where we naturally form cliques.
This allows racism and bigotry to fester and grow.
We must be careful in our arguments. We must be careful in policing bigotry when it comes to people’s sex lives. We fought long and hard, and are still fighting, for the rights to own our sexualities — to be able to have (consensual) sex with whomever we will. Our sexual autonomy is sacred. If we are to fight bigotry in our communities, which I agree is something we must do, we must do it across the board, but not force ourselves into each other’s pants.
Yes, it is dehumanising to consistently see your traits listed as undesirable on everyone’s profiles, and we seriously need to shift our attitudes. But policing our sexuality is not the way to do it.
One thing I have to strongly disagree with in La Dida’s column is the line “The sad reality is that within the queer* community we often repeat the mistakes of our hetero cousins: Body and gender policing, ageism and racism to name a few.”
I’ve seen other things like this in his writings as well as in conversations I’ve had with him in person outside our nom de plumes. Heterosexuality is not the source of all the world’s ills. It’s not the source of sexism, ageism, racism or body policing.
I heard the same argument from a member of the once-noble International Socialists, except that capitalism was the source of all these ills. I take great umbrage at the diminishing of these problems by blaming them on our perceived enemies. That’s scapegoating, and it doesn’t recognise the actual sources of these problems that affect us all. By labelling racism and fatphobia as “hetero” things, and that we shouldn’t emulate them because they’re hetero things, denies our own hand in their perpetuation, and doesn’t actually look to the source.
We’re all humans. We’re all bound by, and fight against, human nature. It’s not the hetero’s fault, it’s all of our faults. And we have to own that if we’re going to have any honesty.