March 11, 2010 Leave a comment
Many moons ago, I almost had a blind date. But when I e-mailed the guy saying “I’ll be the black girl in the red scarf” things came to a screeching halt. With seemingly very little hesitation, he e-mailed back that he wasn’t attracted to black girls but made an offer of friendship. How kind. Perhaps, not surprisingly, I declined. Generally, when I deal with men online, I try to get the race card out of the way as quickly as possible to avoid this very situation. Either I post a picture, if it’s on a conventional dating site, or I choose a user name that might be a tip off. The Star Trek inspired Uhura76 or the not so accurate nubianqueen794 have both been part of my repertoire.
I don’t wake up every morning, stare in the mirror and see my skin colour per se. I see the puffiness and dark circles under my eyes, I see the bad hair day I’m potentially about to have, I see that I need to floss, I see that I need to have my eyebrows done. I don’t wake up thinking to myself that the texture of my hair, the colour of my skin, with its range of tones throughout the year, the shape of my nose and the hue of my lips is going to make me unpalatable to a significant portion of the male population available to me. But that’s the reality. And I can’t tell you how shitty it makes me feel when this reality is thrown in my face.
If you were to ask my almost blind date whether or not he’s racist he would tell you unequivocally that he is not. He would say that he simply has “preferences.” This is what most people will say when they are about to declare an entire ethnic group unattractive to them. It’s a preference. I simultaneously accept and reject this claim.
I accept it as someone who found it hard to find men of specific ethnic groups attractive for a long time.
I reject it as someone who has finally bedded at least one person of just about every major ethnic group. After a point it starts to sound absurd that everyone on this planet couldn’t find at least one person of every other ethnic group that they find attractive. Probably more. After much reflection I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s all about familiarity.
I grew up in the super white bread suburbs outside Halifax, Nova Scotia. While Nova Scotia does have a significant population of blacks, that population does not reside in Lower Sackville where I mostly grew up. A quick survey of my class pictures from kindergarten through sixth grade shows that I was almost always the only visible minority in my class, apart from one or two Aboriginal kids. I remember when the one black boy came to my elementary school and we appropriately dated for an entire two weeks. He told me that his mother pointed me out at a spring concert later that year, long after he’d dumped me for my blond haired, blue eyed best friend, and asked him why he wasn’t hanging out with me. I don’t hold this against him.
Given what I had to choose from—one black boy and a school full of white boys—I became accustomed to white boys. I became accustomed to pale skin (the paler the better), Roman noses, silky hair, and thinner lips. This is not to say I didn’t find boys of other ethnic groups attractive; I did. But even when I got older and moved to a diverse city like Toronto, I picked out white men who were attractive to me faster than I did with any other ethnic group.
What I’ve found to be the game changer has been sex. While the majority of my sexual experiences have been with white men, there’s definitely been some variety. Once I’ve had one positive sexual experience with a particular ethnic group, I start noticing them more in general and, as a result, I become aware of a lot more of them that I find attractive. The first time I realized this was after a short term sexual relationship with a man who was half East Indian, half Filipino. After him I felt like every brown man on the subway just seemed a hell of a lot more interesting to me; I found myself noticing their presence much more and wanting to jump an exponentially higher number of them than I ever wanted to before.
Ironically, the one group of men that I have not yet managed to enjoy sex with is black men. Oh it’s happened, it just hasn’t been enjoyable. I was seeing someone when I wrote the rough draft of this post, but as I was unceremoniously dumped via e-mail two days ago (stay classy, dude), I am now able to put some effort toward my goal of finding a black man who can make me happy in the sack. I see no good reason not to broaden my horizons. In fact, I kind of think I should.
As much as I’ve tried to unpack this idea of preferences, I have to admit it’s still a concept that really pisses me off, especially when I’m handed the short end of the preferential stick. Knowing that people have such a propensity to gravitate towards the familiar, it freaks me out that I have that working against me when I’m looking for love. I feel like I’m going to have slim pickings if a significant portion of the population where I live can simply write me off, sight unseen, because I’m not like them. Recently, I heard someone describe an entire ethnic group as “disgusting” because he finds them unattractive. The more I’ve thought about that, the more it’s irked me. Somehow that seemed to cross the line of preference into something else entirely. But if so, what was it, and where does this line lie?
It simply strikes me as so much more productive and enlightened to try to work against these utterly inane preferences rather than just accepting them as unchangeable. I wonder how an offhand comment about preferences sounds to a child—do they make the distinction between a “preference” and what probably sounds like an arbitrary barrier between them and another group of people? I know this has the potential to sound like a screed for political correctness—and a vaguely hypocritical one at that, given my history with men—but I really do think there’s a real danger that preferences can morph into something else that isn’t so innocuous. Something less than racism, but more than just about who you do or don’t want to fuck. Personally, I’d prefer never to hear the term again.