But ______ people are just so exotic!
Is it racist to be particularly attracted to people of a particular race which is not your own? For example, if I analyzed the people who I was attracted to and found that those I am attracted to are disproportionately Asian, is this racist?
This question has been on my mind a lot lately, and I haven’t been able to completely work it out yet. On the one hand, I could answer a simple “Yes, of course it is. Race fetishization is the term you are looking for, and it is always racist.” On the other hand, though, is it bigoted if I am particularly attracted to short people? Brunettes?
I have asked this question to most of my friends, and I get quite varied answers. I had a friend tell me that it’s only bigoted if the assertion is negative. So, saying that Asian people are naturally great at math is not racist. Similarly, saying that women are naturally nurturers is not sexist. I had another friend argue that physical characteristics should have no bearing on our attraction – we should all be totally colourblind. Most of my friends came down somewhere in the middle, they got uncomfortable and refused to choose on one side or the other.
I guess a good place to start is with the idea of race fetishization. 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, South American women are hypersexual, or any number of other stereotypes. Let’s be clear about this: just because a stereotyped characteristic is a “good” characteristic, that doesn’t mean it’s not racist.
Feministing dealt with the concept of Asian fetishization recently, explaining that:
Myths such as Asian women are hotter, or they are more docile and therefore better wives, are not only mythical and generalizing, but they hinge on essentialist stereotypes that silence the voices of Asian women and Asian feminists that have been shouting for years about how they are not your fantasy.
Dan Savage also addressed the issue, talking to a reader who fantasized about watching his wife get fucked by a Black man
You bet your cracker ass your fantasy is racist. For centuries, white men—not all white men, mind you, but enough that all white men should be embarrassed for all time—have obsessed about the supposed sexual superiority of black men. […]
To sum up: As long as you understand the cultural forces that shaped your fantasy, as long as you don’t assume that all black men wanna bust up your wife’s chifforobe, and as long as you treat any black man who does bust up her chifforobe like a human being—and, what the hell, as long as you vote Democratic and donate $100 to the United Negro College Fund for every inch of black cock that gets slipped into your wife’s chifforobe—there’s nothing unethical about realizing your fantasy.
But is being attracted to a particular race really the same as race fetishization? There seems to be a bit of a continuum here, with Mandingo fantasies at one end, followed closely by white guys who only want to date Asian women (like this bullshit: “The Asians, without exception, are sleek, well-groomed, and dressed with an understated sexiness that never pushes trashy. Further, the Asians are what were once called “ladies,” a thought repellant to feminists but very so refreshing to men.”)
The other end might be more like the short/brunette attraction. Maybe I am attracted to short people, dark hair and dark eyes. Since Japanese or Chinese people tend to be shorter on average than Canadian, and since dark hair and eyes are typical of Japanese and Chinese people, I often find myself attracted to people of those ethnic heritages. Maybe I really like the look of dark skin, or almond eyes. Is is possible to be attracted to race-typical physical features without fetishizing the wearers of those features? I think so, but I might just be rationalizing my own prejudices. In fact, the more websites I read about “asiaphilia” which use this exact argument, the more I think I am just rationalizing my prejudice. I don’t know what exactly to do about that.