‘’Look how long your fingers are, Imagine them inside of me’’ .
These were the many comments I used to receive growing up in a small town in Essex, at the time I definitely thought I was that guy when girls used to approach me and make such comments. I felt like a womaniser, growing up I can safely say I never really understood why these girls were so obsessed with my physical features, of course, I was aware of terms like kink and fetish but i never understood what they actually meant, it sounded like slang to me and that is what I really took from it.
The turning point was when I left school. I particularly remember watching the film, ‘Guess Who’, the movie is about a black American woman marrying a white man. For starters, there is a lot of humour to it so immediately I was hooked. Secondly, it addressed so many issues that came with dating, especially dating outside my race that I was never familiar with. Although I did date outside my race before this point, I never considered any issues that came with it until I started to watch films like this, and it opened up a whole new perspective in my thinking.
The term ‘fetish’ is often used to exaggerate a certain sexual desire or a feature. When discussing the culture that surrounds black men, Natalie Morris a writer/ Author, 34, defines the fetishisation culture as ‘the kind of prioritising of certain features whether that is skin tone or body type that is specifically related to race.’
These sets of preferences can often be uncomfortable for the individual especially when they are expressed in a way that can be devaluing.
So, when it came to the dating scene for me, it felt like there was a criteria that I had to pick especially when I was using dating apps. Because quite simply not everyone you meet on there would be on the same wavelength as you or looking for the same thing as you, and with that it made dating feel almost like a mission rather than an exciting journey. Especially going on dates with someone outside your race, you sometimes have small doubts in your mind about their intentions.
This is exactly what Maréva, 19 from Lyon experienced when she started using dating apps. She said: ‘sometimes it can be the worst feeling in the world when you meet a guy, and it goes well but at the back of your mind you question yourself.
“Especially for me as a black woman it is just as hard generally, I don’t date outside my race and when I do, I never fully commit to myself because I always think ‘is he dating me for me or for the fantasy?’”.
“This term only became prominent to me when I started to date more outside my race, at first my understanding and lack of experience meant that I was very unfamiliar with the difference between a fetish and a kink, and at times I would not even be able to differentiate between both the terms. With that, it meant that I was making a lot of poor dating decisions and also the friends I was surrounded with at the time made me change the way I dated.”
“For instance, when we discuss the dating market for black men, I can confidently say that the criteria that women look for when they are selecting their perfect man look slightly different compared to someone who is white.”
Jonathan Dakpou who has been on the dating scene in London said:
“For sure my experiences with dating in London compared to Edinburgh are very different. I feel like when I go outside my race there is an expectation to how I should act as a black man.
“There is of course that expectation that ‘all black men are just good in bed.’ These preferences are often not visible to the naked eye but often become apparent when you get to know the person on a deeper level.”
“But in other instances, I would see such a blatant comment placed on a Hinge profile, I remember one time I was scrolling through Hinge and i came across this one girl’s bio saying ‘only swipe right if you have a BBC’ .
I assume that readers would understand exactly what is meant by that statement, and this sexual obsession with black features is why for a long period I took a step back from the dating scene.”
The fetishisation of black people in general, stems from colonial roots. The dehumanisation of black people made it easier to defend slavery and other forms of abuse. Mrs Morris believes that the new dawn of social media has had a big influence on the way we view black men.
“You see a lot on social media how influencers talk particularly among white women. There is this hypersexualisation of black men, there are these old stereotypes even as far as the size of genitalia.”
“Ultimately where that stems from is the same kind of racist stereotypes where black men are perceived as being very much of the body and not of the mind and it always comes back to physicality.”
In sports, it is a very similar contrast, especially when discussing the game of a black person,emphasis is placed on his power and physicality, but with white sportsmen, the attention is often on his clever play. The same sort of analysis can be made in the dating scene too. Black men are sexualised in this way it all comes down to these misconceptions about their physicality and that is where all the strength of black men lies in the physical body.
These characteristics can often be avoided especially when approaching interracial dating Mrs Morris who has been in an interracial marriage said:
“The onus has to be on white people to do the work essentially. You cannot put the burden on the minority community to constantly have to explain why something is problematic or why you shouldn’t use that kind of language.”
She believes that there is a need to be open and understanding when it comes to the topic and most importantly communication from the start is key.
Making an effort to make your relationship a safer place is a good dating practice, Marèva encourages anyone who is dating outside their race to be more confident in having those uncomfortable conversations with their partner. She said:
“I think a lot of people are often put off by the topic because they might feel it is uncomfortable but at some point, it is going to have to happen.”
Listen: Floozy Talks: Racial Fetishes
Edited by Mmesoma Muogilim