Tag Archives: dating

[Thursday Throwback] Craigslist Personals: Desperately Seeking Diversity Training

by Racialicious special correspondent Wendi Muse (originally posted 5-17-07)

I’ve always liked reading personal ads. Even when I was a little girl, I would check out the back of the paper in hopes of finding a boyfriend for my widowed mom, and in the meantime, made an attempt to figure out what was going on in the minds of grown-ups as they searched for someone with whom to live “happily ever after.” There were certain acronyms and terms used in the ads that I didn’t quite understand at a young age (i.e. NSA: no strings attached or BBW: big beautiful woman), but for the most part, I thought I had a handle on what I was taking in at my elementary school reading level. It wasn’t until I became a bit older that I began to notice an interesting trend: personal ads are riddled with messages, some more subtle than others, on how people feel about race, ethnicity, and nationality.

With the emergence of the internet, I abandoned the paper and began perusing online ads, some of which read more like military code than personal descriptions: “SWF BBW in NYC seeks 30 – 35 y.o. D&D free S or D H/W/B/A/M for NSA BSDM ASAP in area codes 10003, 100019, and 10011. You must host. Pics? STR.” While these types of ads make virtual bulletin boards appear cluttered, others are well-written, funny, romantic, and/or so outlandish that they are hard to ignore. Sites like Craigslist became popular resources for finding any and every thing, from apartments and pets to jobs and vacation rentals. The personal ads were no different. Considering the privacy feature of anonymous posting in order to protect one’s identity, the personal ads serve as e-snapshots of candid thought—inside peaks into what the people I encounter on a daily basis may think of themselves, but, more importantly, how they view the world around them.

I checked the CL personals about as often as I checked for apartments, or, in other words, every five seconds, even though I wasn’t really looking for anything heavy duty in the love department and happened to be quite satisfied with my Brooklyn 2-bedroom and its 14 month lease. Reading the personals was a perfect way to find a little piece of reality TV-esque drama without all the heavy editing, good lighting, and stage makeup. The ads were frank, the boards were frequently updated, and the content never failed to amuse me, but behind all the fun, there was an underbelly of racism. This came as a bit of a surprise considering that so many of the CL posters were young, educated, and lived in diverse and densely populated urban environments—all oft-cited demographic factors in the commonly held belief that racism is on its way out. Though politicians, institutions of higher learning, and Ward Connerly would like for us to believe that the United States is on its way to becoming a colorblind utopia, a simple examination of Craigslist personal ads proves quite the opposite.

In the world of online dating, where a user name, masked email address, and optional photo sharing means freedom to speak ones mind in complete anonymity, users frequently abandon political correctness and resort to exotification, stereotypes, and blatant racism when referring to racial/ethnic “others” in their attempts to choose a mate. While some ads include the user’s thoughts on race in more subtle ways, for example, simply stating a racial “preference” (still, arguably, a sign of prejudice), others are more obvious in their descriptions—ranging from the utilization of explicitly racist phrases or terms to describe his/her own background and/or the background of the person being sought to downright exclusion a la Jim Crow style (“No -insert race here- need apply”).

I examined New York Craigslist personals for a week straight, mainly focusing on the basic m4m, f4m, m4m, and f4f ads as the prevalence of racist epithets/hate speech was so common in the “casual encounters” and “rants and raves” sections that I’d have to write an entirely separate article to cover them. In order to find data, I simply typed in a group (i.e. “Asian,” “white,” “black”) in the search box and let the magic happen. Here were some of my favorites (organized by search term) from my early set of results (please ignore the typos…I have left them in their original form):

  • WHITE: “I’m looking for a nice all American woman…Tell me about yourself and what you do, etc. I’m not picky about age, older is fine with me. White Irish or Italian is my preference, not into Latin women. . .”

Hmmm . . . an “All-American” woman who is of Irish or Italian background. . . Can anyone say “contradiction”? Is he not just saying that “All-American” equates to white, and that “Latin women” are nowhere close? Continue reading

Online Dating Shows Us The Cold Hard Facts About Race in America

By Jenny L. Davis, PhD; originally published at Sociological Images

Quartz, a business and marketing website, recently released data on the Facebook dating app Are You Interested, which connects single people with others within the confines of their Facebook networks. Quartz’ data are based on a series of yes-or-no questions about who users are interested in, as well as response rates between users, once notified of a potential suitor. The data show that white men and Asian women receive the most interest, whereas black men and women receive the least amount of interest. The writers at Quartz summarize the findings as follows:

Unfortunately the data reveal winners and losers. All men except Asians preferred Asian women, while all except black women preferred white men. And both black men and black women got the lowest response rates for their respective genders.

Here’s what the data looks like:

1

As a sociologist, I am entirely unsurprised that race matters, especially in such a personal process like dating/mating. However, these findings may come as a surprise to the (quite significant) segments of the population who identify as color-blind; those who label contemporary society post-racial.

And this is why dating sites are so cool. Social psychologists know that what people say and what they do have little empirical connection. Dating sites capture what we do, and play it back for us. They expose who we are, who we want, and of course, who we don’t want. As shown by Quartz, “we” fetishize Asian women while devaluing black people.

With a schism between what people say and what they do; between what they say and what the unconsciously think,  surveys of racial attitudes are always already quite limited.  People can say whatever they want — that race doesn’t matter, that they don’t see color — but when it comes to selecting a partner, and the selection criteria are formalized through profiles and response decisions, we, as individuals and a society, can no longer hide from ourselves. The numbers blare back at us, forcing us to prosume uncomfortable cultural and identity meanings both personally and collectively.

Indeed, before anyone has answered anything, the architecture of online dating sites say a lot.  Namely, by defining what can be preferences at all, they tell us which characteristics are the ones about which we are likely to care; about which we should care.

Both the user data and the presence of racial identification and preference in the first place are revealing, demolishing arguments about colorblindness and post-racial culture.

Jenny L. Davis, PhD, is in the department of sociology at James Madison University. She studies social psychology, experimental research methods, and new and social media. She is also a contributing author and editor at Cyborgology.  You can follow her at @Jenny_L_Davis.

Dating White Vs. Dating Light?

by Guest Contributor Danielle Small

black-couple-holding-handsI always thought relationships would get easier as I got older.

Back when I was in high school, I lived in a small Wisconsin town where white people were 95% of the population. Obviously, my high school boyfriend was white. Every time we went out in public we grew accustomed to the stares, the pointed fingers, the gasps, and the whispers. And that was the every day racism. There were also the not so subtle instances, like when a boy in his high school (we went to different high schools) went out of his way to get Taco Bell’s special Halloween black taco shells and put it in my boyfriend’s locker with a note that said, “Eat this, bitch.”

Needless to say, when I moved to New York for college, I was hopeful at the opportunity to somewhat escape the prominent role of racism in any future relationships.

But life is never that simple.

I’ve been with my current boyfriend for three years. He is mixed race, specifically German and Haitian and has light brown skin and wavy black hair. He identifies as black. I never really thought much of his physiognomy until I saw how other people perceived our relationship. Some of the troubling instances were all too familiar.

The first differences I noticed happened when I would hang out with any dark-skinned black male friend of mine. I noticed that most of the time my friends and I were together in public, someone would come up to us and say, “You’re such a cute couple” or “I can tell you’re in love.” They assumed we were together because we looked like we belonged together.

But when I’m out with my light-skinned wavy-haired man who I’m very much in love with, most people don’t assume we are together (unless we are engaging in hardcore PDA), let alone comment on how in love we are with each other. Unlike the times I was in the company of my dark-skinned male friends, people seemed to think there was a disconnect between our hues. My boyfriend and I did not look like we belonged together.

The most extreme example of people refusing to acknowledge our relationship took place when I lived in my school’s dorms one summer. My boyfriend slept most nights in my room for three straight months and my black suite mates still assumed he was just a friend. I mean, what else could we have done to hint at the contrary? Have sex in the communal kitchen?! Continue reading

Walking the Tightrope: Good Indian Girls, Race, and Bad Sexuality

By Guest Contributor Chaya Babu; originally published at Feminist Wire

Image by xpgomes11 on Flickr

Image by xpgomes11 on Flickr

I was a few weeks into my freshman year at Duke when my sister, a senior at the time, said to me, “Indian girls who date black guys are sluts.” Just like that.

We were sitting in her car in the circular driveway behind my dorm. The night was warm and wet in the late North Carolina summer. I had just told her about the budding flirtation with a boy from Memphis who lived across the grassy quad. I would spy him coming back from class and get the jitters. He asked me to help him study Spanish. I got excited just talking about it. And her sisterly response? Indian girls who date black guys are sluts.

I think I was already mildly aware of this idea. It had lurked in the periphery of my consciousness in high school because of the way my family looked suspiciously upon my adolescent tryst with a lanky, dark-skinned boy from a neighboring town and even my interest at a young age in hip hop music. They didn’t say anything, but they didn’t have to. The unspoken messages about how they viewed blackness and sexuality and the intersection of these two things – and how I was attaching myself to it – were successfully transmitted. And lately, at 30 years old, I wonder if I’m still working through them somewhere deep beneath the surface as I finally try to reclaim and redefine this part of my identity as my own.

Continue reading

Awkward: When Your Friends Make Racist Assumptions About Your Dating/Sex Life

So, as I am wont to do, I found myself doing chores and catching up on reality TV.

I had heard about Nicole Murphy/Andrea Kelly’s new show, but I also set myself up for disappointment by reading the title as “Hollywood Execs” not “Hollywood Exes.” Here I was excited to hear all about these new women fronted development projects, and the show is actually about moving on from your famous spouse. Oh well. I decided to give it another chance. During a routine conversation about vaginal lasering and rejuvenation, this exchange happens:

Sheree Fletcher: Wait a minute, let me ask you this. It’s my understanding that men really don’t care what it looks like -

Jessica Canseco: Well, that’s ’cause you datin’ a black guy, honey!

*record scratch*

Sheree Fletcher: Now wait a minute…

Other women: What do you mean, what do you mean?

Jessica Canseco: From what I hear, black guys don’t go [down.]

*gasps*

Nicole Murphy: (in confessional mode) That’s garbage. That’s not true. At all.

Jessica Canseco: Black guys are like “eep eep eep” (makes chicken fingers). They do, I swear to God. They talk about black girl’s vaginas. It’s true.

Sheree Fletcher: (swoons) Our vaginas?

Jessica Canseco: You want me to get into all of this?

Sheree Fletcher: They complain about our vaginas to white girls? Continue reading

Awkward Interracial Dating: High Hopes for Season 2 of Awkward Black Girl

By Guest Contributor Tracey Ross

(Note: Spoilers if you did not watch episode 7.)

I’m the kind of girl who walks down the street and doesn’t realize I’ve been singing out loud. Or offers a pregnant lady a seat on the metro only to find out she’s not pregnant. I’m awkward. And black. This is why I love the web series Awkward Black Girl and, like many ABG fans, am counting down to the premiere of season two.

Towards the end of the first season, the audience was left with a cliffhanger episode where the star “J” (played by show creator Issa Rae) finds her two love interests “Fred” and “White Jay” at her doorstep. If it’s not obvious, White Jay is white. And Fred is black. Given the choice before J, the show created an unlikely platform for conversations about interracial dating, and spurred much debate over whether it is OK to date outside one’s race. We can expect season two to highlight J’s new relationship with White Jay, but it would be a mistake to allow the characters to fall into the familiar tropes used to depict interracial dating.

Typically, there are two ways television and movies handle interracial dating. The first is the traditional approach where the family has a problem with the relationship. From the 1967 classic “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” to the 2005 role reversal of “Guess Who.” The second is the imaginary, post-racial approach where no one seems to notice that the happy pair is an interracial couple. Not even the couple themselves, as seen on many new sitcoms. Continue reading

Suddenly Sapphic: A First Time Story [Love, Anonymously]

By Guest Contributor Katrina Pavela

Bette and Tina L WordOn paper, we shouldn’t fit: a same sex, interracial, transnational couple with nearly a quarter century age-gap.

Added to this neither of us had previously been with a woman, nor desired being with one.

New York City. The juxtaposition Mecca of fame and anonymity. I had taken a four- hour bus ride from DC to NYC. The entire way there I tried to remain calm. I was 20 before I welcomed guest contributors to my sex life. After six years and two men—one of whom I almost married—I met Julie. Within a month of our unintentional online acquaintance, we had arranged to rendezvous in NYC five months later. Sure Julie and I had knocked boots via Skype numerous times, microphone headsets our only strap-ons. With a five-hour time divide between Washington and the UK, Julie left her marital bed nearly every night (or morning) so that we could cuddle virtually. It felt real physically but emotionally it left me empty wondering what I was getting myself into. The fact that she was currently in a marriage lasting more than 30 years, with three adult children, left me wondering when—not if—I would wind up with egg on my face.

Passing through New Jersey Turnpike, I wondered if the sex would be as great as the fictionally wonderful sex Bette and Tina seemed to have on The L Word. Mostly I wondered if she would make me come. Would I feel relaxed enough and unself-conscious enough about being with a woman to let my body and mind enjoy themselves. Would Julie go through with it when my pants were pooling around my ankles? We never called it adultery, but a rose by any other name is still, um, adultery. Continue reading

Dr. Laura, interracial relationships, and the challenge of anti-racist responses

by Guest Contributor Ope Bukola, originally published at Zora & Alice

Some of you may have read/heard the latest episode in  racist rants that inexplicably affect our “post-racial” society. For those who haven’t, it happened last week when Dr. Laura Schlessinger took a call from a listener. The listener, a black woman married to a white man, called to express her frustration with racist comments made by her husband’s friend and family, and in the particular with her husband’s ignoring the comments.

Here’s a clip of the exchange from Media Matters:

Basically, Dr.Laura asks her for an example of an offensive situation then tells the call to stop being uptight. The doc then goes to prove to the caller how “down” she is with black folks by using the n-word multiple times. Of course, like any “non-racist” with black friends to prove it, Dr.Laura has since “apologized” both on her radio show and her blog. While some folks argue over whether Dr.Laura’s comments were racist or just in poor taste, I’m more interested in the caller’s initial dilemma.

What do you do when you’re in an interracial relationship and your partner ignores racist comments? Continue reading