How does racism affect people’s sex lives? We sat down with queer black sex advocate Tara Michaela Jones where she discusses both her own, and common experiences of racism that can occur in the bedroom.
Racism and intersectional experiences can affect different aspects of life and this includes people’s sex lives.
“People downplay what that means in terms of your sex life and not just in terms of the relationship,” said Tara.
The sex educator shared her own experiences and issues she has dealt with in interracial sexual relationships.
Tara said that there were different kinds of negative experiences which happen to many people of minority groups.
“First, the fetishism,” she said. “I think that is maybe more obvious because it’s explicitly sexual.”
Racial fetishization means sexually fetishizing someone or a culture belonging to a specific race or ethnic group.
“The focal points of your attractiveness during a sexual interaction are based on stereotypes around your race,” explained Tara.
“If you’re Asian, you are assumed to be submissive and docile. Or if you are a black woman, you could be with someone who has “preferences” that might be rooted in certain stereotypes that they hold about racial groups.
“The first relationship I had where I felt fetishised was with a white boyfriend. I saw he was following all of these like ‘beautiful, black women, dark skin women’ accounts on Instagram.”
“It just so outwardly screams fetish to me.”
People of colour (POC) can also experience racism in their sex lives through feeling like they are being settled for.
“This can happen if somebody makes it abundantly clear to you that you are not the preference and that they are settling for you because of your race. That can obviously impact sexual interaction,” Tara explains. “Specifically, your sense of deservedness.”
“The insecurities can also completely cloud any ability to be intimate with somebody when you are feeling like you’re not good enough.”
“I used to be with somebody who had only dated white women. They were somebody who I had liked for a long time, and it became quite obvious that they were ‘settling’ for me.”
The third aspect is hearing opinions which hurt your identity or culture after building a relationship with somebody.
“I remember having a long-term boyfriend and things were fine,” said Tara. “And then we got into a conversation about how he thought reverse racism was real. I was like, ‘come on, like we’ve been dating for like six months and you didn’t want to express this at the beginning.'”
“It’s just an unwelcome surprise and a hurtful one.”
“It’s upsetting that you, as a person of colour, have to come to terms with the fact that you are going to be dating somebody who thinks so outside of what feels so clearly black and white, right and wrong to you.”
This can cause a lot of pain and often will end relationships that have been intimate.
An unnecessary obstacle
Racism is everywhere, and it is important to be aware of the past experiences which people hold that can still affect relationships (including intimate ones) today.
“It has everything to do with both relationships and sex and then sex being a huge part of most people’s relationships,” Tara said.
“In terms of sexual stereotypes that people of colour are already facing, in terms of the representation in porn.
“In terms of all of these things that are already barriers to our ability to experience pleasure and our right to experience pleasure in the same way that privileged people do. It is another sort of obstacle that is so unnecessary.”
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