“I’m into/not into [insert race here]” is racist.

Yes, yes, yes.

From The Question of Fetishization, by Natalie Reed (via Lisa Millbank at A Radical TransFeminist)

Clearly, people have all kinds of different idiosyncratic attractions. Red hair, dark hair, blond hair, curly hair, straight hair, particularly large or particularly small breasts, lean body-types, curvier or heavier body types, muscle (in many different proportions), hairiness or smoothness, freckles, beards, blue eyes, green eyes, brown eyes, hazel eyes, ivory skin or ebony skin or any of the positions between, big strong hands, slender fingers, nice smile, tight butt, big butt, and pretty much an infinite number of little quirks a body can have. If it’s a phenotype trait a human being can have, someone somewhere is turned on by it. And that’s completely okay. The last thing I want to do is start arbitrarily policing people’s sexuality.

But where things get problematic is when we get overlaps between the phenotypes and social categories. When it goes from “I think long, dark, straight hair and smaller than average breasts are sexy” to “I’m into Asian girls”, it starts getting murky and difficult and linked to categorism. For one thing, not all women of East Asian descent are going to have that kind of hair or breasts. But perhaps more strikingly, are you attracted to the actual characteristics, or are you attracted to the concept? Where does your attraction to specific kinds of bodies end and where does the way you conceptualize the Exotic Other begin? Is this an innocent sexual attraction that happens to be connected to race, or is it Orientalism expressed through sexuality? And where does the individual fit into this? Are you interested in a given woman because of who she is, or are you interested in her just because she happens to fit into a racial category you’ve fetishized and desire?

If you talk to people with a sexual preference for a specific race, you’ll often notice right away that a considerable amount of that preference is linked to the cultural constructs, conceptions and representations surrounding that race, rather than any grounded particulars. You’ll hear talk of how Asian women are more “feminine” (an often useful but extremely vague and relative term that means nothing when removed from our cultural codes of gender), how black women are more “soulful” or “down-to-earth”, how black men are more “dominant”, “strong”, “laid-back”, and so forth.

Don’t you love it when you read something you’ve always known, but only attempted to half-explain before to people who strongly and incorrectly believe that they are not racist, articulated so perfectly right there in front of you?

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