According to a recent The Guardian by Afua Hirsch, having a ‘fetish’ for black women has been going on for generations.
With the help of porn and race-based sexual fantasies, having a fetish for Black women has encouraged the misconception that all black women are “good in bed” or extra voracious. Exoticism and othering have a huge part to play with how women of colour are stereotyped.
In one article published in The Metro, Filomena Kaguako published an open letter to every Irish man she had the misfortune of encountering on the dating site, Plenty of Fish. Many of her would-be suitors admitted to being interested in her purely to “tick a box” and be able to say that they have “experienced” a black woman in bed. She says, “I’ve noticed that Irish men fetish-ise black women. I think this is because in Ireland interracial relationships aren’t as common as other places.” In her letter to Irish men she repeats the words “Stop sexualising us.”
On dating apps, Filomena estimates that maybe 70 to 80% of white men she has spoken to make reference to her being black and many women of colour have agreed with her.
In one interview with Vice, 21-year-old Charlie speaks up about men she matched on Tinder. “I’d love to have sex with a black girl,” read the message from David, 25, who had matched with me on Tinder. “I’ve never been with one before. You in?” She went on to say, “I unmatched with David immediately. And yet, the questions kept coming. “What are you?” asked Santy, 21, a student. “You look like you have a bit of oriental in you,” wrote Darren, 22, a musician. “I have a thing for black girls,” said George, 28, a banker. This is what it’s like to be a mixed-race girl on Tinder. Out of the hundreds of conversations I’ve had on the app, about half of them have involved a man tokenising me for my ethnicity.”
If you haven’t already caught Michaela Coel’s Chewing Gum, now available on Netflix, we urge you to binge watch the award-winning comedy. The life of Tracey (played by Michaela Coel) is a comedic interpretation of many racial and societal issues that are faced in the daily lives of many women. In one episode in the second season, Tracey (Coel), is wearing a make-shift African “tribal” inspired outfit. With her gobbledegook chants and “ritualistic” dancing, her new love interest Ash, and his “never been with a black girl” line, is something that is representative of many experiences of women of colour.
His response that his taste in black women counts as “positive discrimination” and the claim that he’s a “campaigner for ethnic minority power” because he “went to Kenya and the Gambia” for a gap year, highlights an unfortunately common mind-set that illustrates this topic.
Chinese actress Constance Wu was in the headlines recently in Huffington Post for calling out the fetishisation and exoticism of Asian women too. Where it’s often supposed to be “flattering” to be someone’s preference, it is instead a wider objectification of sexualised racism. Kristina Wong writes, “Men will defend their fetish for Asian women as an innocent preference. “I just like what I like” is really code for “I have sexualized my racism and bought into the stereotype of Asian women.” The objectification of Asian women as “exotic lotus blossoms” isn’t just confined to modern media depictions of Asian women saying “me so horny” to U.S. military men. It links to a longer, more problematic Western subjugation of Asian women that dates all the way back to the Silk Road.”
When a sexual preference is defined solely by race, it shows the entirety of “othering” women of colour and placing them all into a category without room for variation. As with racism, this is a standardised and institutionalised mind-set that needs to change.
Where it seems like a futile mission to overcome such stereotypes that are normalised within Western culture, education, representation and inclusion need to be entirely overhauled in order to stop black women and all women of colour being seen as fetishes and nothing other than “tick boxes.”