Is This Petty? He’s White And Has Only Dated Black Women And I’m Worried I’m Being Fetishized
While a majority of my close friends (okay, pretty much all of them) are Black, I do have a Vietnamese friend from childhood who I was able to reconnect and have a pretty great relationship with. When I went back home to visit for the holidays a few years ago, I was able to meet her boyfriend, who is White. They’d met online and managed to really hit it off. While partaking in dinner, we sat together and chatted about the usual — work, interests, dating apps. It was nice. But I asked him what I’d been thinking about for quite some time, hoping it wouldn’t sound like a disrespectful question, but feeling like it was necessary to put it out there:
“So is __ the first Asian girl you’ve dated?”
You could tell her boyfriend was taken aback. More than an hour into dinner, I felt we were all comfortable enough to be honest, and as a minority, it’s not a random question. Also, for my friends’ sake, I wanted to make sure she wasn’t messing with someone who might be fetishizing her. You never know. His answer was no, but he also told me that he’d dated women of a variety of backgrounds, including Black ones. It was a little odd to me at the time, but I gave the guy the benefit of the doubt. He seemed really nice, he adored my friend, and he didn’t say anything that might be, you know, oddly racist. Fast forward to now and the pair are preparing to marry at the end of the year. Obviously, that worked out well.
But the “Am I a fetish?” question is something I know quite a few women worry about when entertaining the idea of dating someone of another race, particularly a White man. It’s what my girlfriends say when conversations come up about being flirted on by White men in the club and not knowing how to deal with it. It came up in a conversation in Season 2 of one of my favorite show’s, Master of None, when Dev goes on a date with a girl named Priya, also Indian. While sharing stories about the online dating app struggle, she says that the last guy she dated, who was White, dated four other Indian girls before her. Priya took it to mean that the guy wanted to be with Indian women for reasons that weren’t 100 percent pure.
It also came up as the topic of an old article I found on HelloGiggles called “As a black woman, I’m tired of being fetishized.” In it, she said that she’d received her first red flag about an ex-boyfriend, who was White, when he thought it was funny to tell her that he, along with his friends, often joked about him having “jungle fever.” And even when she moved on from him and dated other men, she had to deal with “racist, sexist language from white men over and over again,” including questions of whether or not she could twerk and being told that her skin is “exotic.”
But I also met a young woman on a recent press trip who told me she was skeptical about the guy she was currently entertaining because he told her that he “only” dates Black women. According to her, he said that he has a “thing” for them. Aside from that, she just wasn’t feeling much of a spark, but his affinity for Black women definitely made her feel some type of way. As it should.
I guess the question here is when should you be on alert and when are you being paranoid? Because the truth is, we all have preferences and there is nothing wrong with that. But there is something, let’s call it “interesting,” about having a preference for another race and there is something odd about saying you “only” date them. Still, I think it can be pretty clear when someone is interested in you for reasons that aren’t purely about beauty or personality.
For instance, I went to Brooklyn Bowl with a friend years ago when I first moved to New York. While there for a show, I was approached by a White guy. I had never been hit on by one before so I just assumed he was being friendly, as some people tend to get friendly when drinking in a crowd of people. My friend tried to put me on notice that he was flirting with me, but I didn’t know if I was interested. Still, I tried to be a little more open and warm. He seemed cool. But then, he started talking a lot about my hair and how he loved “afro hair (which I wore before locs).” It was a weird comment. And then, in similarly weird fashion, he took his hand, reached out and grabbed a fist full of my hair without asking, rubbing his greasy fingers through through and marveling at it. I jumped back with an “Ok! Dude, don’t touch my hair. For real, that’s f–ked up” and tried to steer clear of him for the rest of the night. I didn’t consider it a form of fetishism then. But looking back on it, his interest in my hair, more than me in general, definitely give me a fetish-y vibe.
I say all that to say that if someone truly seems into you for you, whatever their race, and you are just as into them then, you can feel it and will know it. In those cases, I don’t think who’ve they dated in the past and seem to have a preference for is something to run for the hills about. But if they make you feel objectified or unusual and say they “only” date women like you for reasons that are pretty much bullsh-t, you will also know. And if you’re not sure, any comments that include “jungle fever,” “exotic skin” and “afro hair” should be a dead giveaway…
But as always, that’s just my opinion. What say you? Is it petty to not want to date someone of another race who has only dated women like you?
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