Sunday, January 31, 2010

Internet Dating, Attraction & Racist Stereotypes

I like using the internet—for social networking, research, reading my favourite blogs, and sometimes for more erotic reasons. I’ve also used the internet to get in touch with potential romantic partners. I met my current partner on the dating site OK Cupid (co-founded by Chris Coyne, Sam Yagan, Max Krohn, and Christian Rudder) after the website was listed in Bitch Magazine’s Bitchlist of favourite things. The interface is user-friendly, and assesses compatibility with other people based on your answers to a variety of quizzes. (The site isn’t perfect, though- the only “gender” options when registering are male and female, and you have to define yourself as either straight, gay, or bisexual). Despite these shortcomings, I had a good experience on the site; my partner and I have been together for over two years now.

Recently, OK Cupid released findings of how users’ race affects their experience on the site. OK Cupid found that ·

  • "Black women write back the most. Whether it’s due to talkativeness, loneliness, or a sense of plain decency, black women are by far the most likely to respond to a first contact attempt. In many cases, their response rate is one and a half times the average, and, overall, black women reply about a quarter more often that other women.
  • White men get more responses. Whatever it is, white males just get more replies from almost every group. We were careful to preselect our data pool so that physical attractiveness (as measured by our site picture-rating utility) was roughly even across all the race/gender slices. For guys, we did likewise with height.
  • White women prefer white men to the exclusion of everyone else—and Asian and Hispanic women prefer them even more exclusively. These three types of women only respond well to white men. More significantly, these groups’ reply rates to non-whites is terrible. Asian women write back non-white males at 21.9%, Hispanic women at 22.9%, and white women at 23.0%. It’s here where things get interesting, for white women in particular. . .
  • Men don’t write black women back. Or rather, they write them back far less often than they should. Black women reply the most, yet get by far the fewest replies. Essentially every race—including other blacks—singles them out for the cold shoulder.
  • White guys are shitty, but fairly even-handed about it. The average reply rate of non-white males is 48.1%, while white guys’ is only 40.5%. Basically, they write back about 20% less often. It’s ironic that white guys are worst responders, because as we saw above they get the most replies. That has apparently made them very self-absorbed. It’s interesting that white males do manage to reply to Middle Eastern women. Is there some kind of emergent fetish there? As Middle Easterners are becoming America’s next racial bogeyman, maybe there’s some kind of forbidden fruit thing going on. (Perhaps a reader more up-to-date on his or her Post-Colonial Theory can step in here? Just kidding. Don't.)"

Snarky’s Machine (who also writes regularly for the fat acceptance blog Shapely Prose) wrote about OK Cupid and race, citing a forum post which discussed attraction to black women. The forum responses are terrible and further emphasize that the idea of a “post-racial society” is a complete joke.

In a similar vein, Kia performed an “extremely flawed social experiment” on OK Cupid to see just how the online dating experience changes based on race alone. Kia posted the same profile twice; once, she used her own photograph ( she is African-American) and then used a white female friend’s. Her results are fascinating, not only based on the number of responses but on the quality and tone of those responses.

A quick browse through your local Craiglist postings will show you that race structures attraction in a myriad of ways:

"Indian Boys"

"jaime les asiatiques"

"cherche femme asiatique"

"Asian Only"


"21yo black guy, looking for ASIAN girl"

"Italian gal for Italian guy"

"older jewish funny rich jewish man"

"Ivory (blonde/fair/blue eyes) BBW seeks an awesome black man!"

"slim smooth chinese twink wanted"

"I am white and looking for asian"

We don't talk enough about race. I don't think that having particular racial preferences when it comes to sex and dating (/ being in interracial relationships) necessarily equals fetishism, but I do think that our patterns of attraction are constructed within the structures of a racist society in which racist stereotypes abound. Black studs, Japanese geishas, Middle Eastern harem girls, Pocahontas. Sex isn't free of what bell hooks calls "white supremacist capitalist patriarchy"; intimacy can be a site of struggle, and it's important to interrogate and examine all of these unquestioned tropes and scripts.


1 comment:

  1. Very interesting. I never would've guessed all those negative stats!