According to a new study, it is.
The study published in Archives of Sexual Behavior entitled “Is Sexual Racism Really Racism?” took a look at gay and bisexual men and their dating preferences and found results that could have implications for the general public.
The researchers asked over 2,000 gay and bisexual Australian men how they felt about race and dating through an online survey. These men also completed a region-specific version of the Quick Discrimination Index (QDI), a standard survey instrument that measures attitudes on race and diversity. After putting these two data sets together the authors concluded: “Sexual racism… is closely associated with generic racist attitudes, which challenges the idea of racial attraction as solely a matter of personal preference.”
The Daily Beast breaks down these findings and applies them to common phrases seen on dating websites and apps, phrases that are often prefaced by some variation on “I’m not a racist, but…”
If you’re a gay man, phrases like “no blacks” and “no Asians” aren’t just words that you’d find on old signs in a civil rights museum, they are an unavoidable and current feature of your online dating experience. On gay dating apps like Grindr and Scruff, some men post blunt and often offensive disclaimers on their profiles such as “no oldies,” “no fems,” and “no fatties.” Among the most ubiquitous are racial disclaimers like “no blacks” and “no Asians,” which are most frequently posted by white men but, as Edwards’s case proves, not always.
Sometimes, men even use foods as metaphors for entire ethnic groups: “No rice” to deter Asian men, “no spice” to keep the Latinos away, and “no curry” to tell Indians they don’t have a shot.
Those who deploy these disclaimers defend themselves from accusations of “racism” by claiming that they merely have “preferences” for certain races over others. Wrote one gay blogger, “Don’t tell me I can’t have a preference! I don’t want to have sex with women. No hard feelings. Does that make me a misogynist?” Others have argued that it is impossible to separate the language of so-called sexual racism from racism in other spheres of life. There is a reason, they insist, that men of color are most often pushed to the sexual wayside. “No whites” is a much less popular slogan.
Though the study focuses on gay and bisexual men looking for male partners, the researchers aren’t suggesting that gay or bisexual men engage in more racial discrimination than their heterosexual counterparts or lesbians for that matter. Rather, they suggest that the behavior is just racism disguised in the language of desire, which theoretically a person of any sexual orientation could be afflicted with. From the author of the study:
“While it may feel like our desires are our own, in reality they are influenced heavily by social norms,” explained Callander. “For me, the findings of this study are a reminder that even though society and individuals may actively reject racism, racial prejudices are increasingly subtle and they can find their way into even the most private and personal corners of our lives.”
We’re very interested in seeing whether heterosexuals seeking partners use the same phrases – no spice, no rice – or whether their sexual racism takes a different form.