Written by Hal Bronson
People have often made the argument that the reason why they date certain people is based on personal preference. Watts (2012) states, “Just because someone isn’t sexually attracted to someone of Asian origin does not meant they wouldn’t want to work, live next to, or socialize with him or her, or that they believe they are somehow naturally superior to them.” While this argument is valid, it is hard to believe that in the current age of online dating, where diverse dating partners abound, that same-group dating prevails overall (U.S. Census Bureau 2012). Stember (1978) believed sexual racism was to blame for this phenomenon. He defined sexual racism as, “the sexual rejection of the racial minority, the conscious attempt on the part of the majority to prevent interracial cohabitation” (p. xi). This phenomenon is further investigated by Callander et al. (2015) in the context of gay and bisexual Australian men.
Online Prevalence of Sexual Racism
According to Callander et al. (2015), most sexual racism expression occurs online. A possible cause of this could be the disinhibition effect. The disinhibition effect occurs when someone can separate themselves from their real life, which makes it easier for them to reveal information about themselves or act out in ways that they would not if the interaction was in person (Suler, 2015). Because we are in the age where online dating is at an all-time high (Jin & Martin 2015), it is reasonable to think that sexual racism might be more prevalent due to this disconnect from the user’s identity. Although Callander et al. (2015) found that sexual racism is more likely to occur online, the question of whether sexual racism is actually racism, still remains.
Results of Callender et al.’s (2015) Study
To begin, Callander et al. (2015) states that there are similarities between sexual racism and racism, but there are additional things to consider. “While the majority of men we surveyed saw racism as a problem on sex and dating web services, over 70% disagreed with the idea that indicating a racial preference online is a form of racism” (2015). The people in the study seemed hesitant to label these behaviors as racist, possibly due to the strong negative connotation associated with this word. Participants in the study may have also engaged in behaviors, such as discriminating against partners and race-based attraction (Callander et al. 2015). Therefore, stating that racial preference is racism would mean that the participants were disclosing that they are racist, which many would not readily admit.
In conclusion, sexual racism has characteristics of typical racism. While people in Callander et al.’s (2015) study indicated that they did not believe that racial preference online was a form of racism, it is quite likely that most people did this because they did not want to be seen as racist. While personal preference may tend to be the excuse that is often used, I find it more likely that prejudice is really at play.
Callander, D., Newman, C. E., & Holt, M. (2015). Is sexual racism really racism? Archives of Social Behavior, 44, 1991-2000.
Jin, S. V., & Martin, C. (2015). 'A match made…online?' The effects of user-generated online dater profile types (free-spirited versus uptight) on other users' perception of trustworthiness, interpersonal attraction, and personality. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, And Social Networking, 18(6), 320-327.
Stember, C. (1978). Sexual racism: The emotional barrier to an integrated society. New York: Harper & Row.
Suler, J. (2004). The online disinhibition effect. Cyber Psychology & Behavior, 7, 321–326. doi:10.1089/1094931041291295.
U.S. Census Bureau (2012). Households and Families: 2010. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-14.pdf.
Watts, J. (2012, February 29). Gay men and women are not more racist. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/.
Dr. H. Colleen Sinclair
Social Psychologist, Relationships Researcher,
Ms. Chelsea Ellithorpe
Lab Manager of the Social Relations Collaborative and Blog Editor