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POC Students on Racism and Fetishism They Face on Dating Apps

By on August 13, 2021 0


For many students, joining a dating app like Tinder or Bumble is a normal experience. It is even considered a rite of passage upon joining the university. But for POC students, showing up on a dating app invites not only potential mates, but harassment in the form of racism and acts of fetishization as well.

These range from weird comments about their background to name calling and other downright offensive remarks about their appearance. But POC students have been going through this since the start of dating apps, and even in 2021, it’s still happening and it’s exhausting.

So what exactly is the best way to deal with it? The Tab spoke to three POC students about their experiences dealing with racism and fetishization on dating apps.

* Serena, 21, King’s College London

Can you tell us a bit about your experience with racist or fetishistic comments on dating apps?

“In the short time I spent on Hinge, I had some weird comments about my race and ethnicity (I’m half European, half East Asian),” said Student Serena * at King’s College London. “I have received several messages assuming my knowledge of East Asian culture, asking me how much I love K-pop, what is my favorite K drama, or even if I know any members of BTS. These messages come out of nowhere, without even a conversation about where I’m from.

“I have received messages expressing shock at my ability to conduct conversations because it is ‘surprising that I am not more shy or shy’, or conforms to other racist stereotypes about Asian women. Most often these posts come from white men whose profiles blatantly conform to the stereotype of someone who is only interested in dating based on fetishized preferences, ”she said.

She added: “I have also received messages from men who think they are more awake saying things like, ‘Don’t worry, I don’t fetish Asian women, you are the first one I have with me. am. as if it was a compliment. Even then, I consider myself lucky that I haven’t received worse comments.

“The fixation on my race and ethnicity is dehumanizing, like I’m not a person, but a prop used to draw closer to a different culture,” she said. “I’m on dating apps for fun and excitement, not for teaching these men to unlearn their racial prejudices.”

How have your experiences changed the way you use dating apps?

Serena said she now has a process to screen out men who might fetishize her, stating: “If their profile indicates that this is clearly someone who is only interested in me. because of my race, I try to avoid any interaction with them. Many of these profiles will have photos of them traveling across Asia, wearing traditionally Asian clothing and / or messages saying how much they love aspects of East Asian culture such as boba, Studio Ghibli, K-dramas, K-pop, K-barbecue, sushi. I must be vigilant. “

“If they make racist comments in a conversation, I absolutely call them or explain why what they said is wrong. It’s exhausting. But I guess there is a silver lining – now the weird comments have turned to red flags I’m looking for. They serve as my guide on who to avoid on dating apps.

Do you feel like dating apps have provisions to protect POC students from racist harassment?

“Based on my experience with Hinge, I’m not really sure the app has done anything to make it safer to protect POCs from racism or fetishization. I think you can put racial “preferences” to dictate what kind of people appear on your feed, but I wonder how much an algorithm could actually help prevent POC fetishism, “she added.

“Where do you draw the line between racial / sexual preferences and fetishization? Even then, how healthy are these “preferences”? Because uncomfortable comments are often implied rather than explicit, pointing out someone for something they’ve said may seem dramatic or may not be taken seriously, ”Serena said.

* Priya, 20, University of Warwick


Can you tell us a bit about your experience with racist or fetishistic comments on dating apps?

“Having a South Asian name and looking ethnically ambiguous has been a nightmare combination for me on Tinder,” Priya said. “Often the first message I get is a crazy guess about my race or ethnicity. My skin tone, the language I speak and aspects of my culture in general are not elements that can be used for racist lines. “

How do you handle these comments?

“I do my best to call out every racist message I get. It takes time, but I feel like I’m not giving in to these negative experiences. Someone needs to stand up to these men and let them know that their comments do not go unnoticed, ”she said.

“I usually explain the problem with their comment and sternly ask them to inquire, then block or report their profile. Sometimes calling them is energizing, but other times it’s just tiring. While I am incredibly proud of my race and ethnicity, I can’t help but feel that they are preventing me from having a normal dating experience due to racist harassment, ”Priya said.

* Isabelle, 20, King’s College London

What is your strategy for dealing with racist or fetishistic comments?

Isabelle thinks ignoring messages is the best option for her. “I just ignore racist messages. I leave them all for reading. I believe there are only a limited number of battles you can fight, and I don’t want to hurt my peace of mind, ”she said.

“There are only two options for responding to racist or fetishistic comments,” she added. “Either you can ignore the comments and block the individual or have a discussion to educate them. However, the level of tolerance for these comments varies from person to person and is based on their experiences. that someone’s insecurities affect how they handle these kinds of situations.

She added, “Personally, I’m not worried about my appearance, so if anyone comments on my skin tone, facial features, or crop, I probably won’t be affected. But I know and understand that this is not the case for everyone.

What can dating apps do better to protect POC students?

“While ignoring messages can be an effective strategy in the short term, in the long term, everyone on a dating app needs to be responsive to what they are saying and correct their racist behavior. Additionally, there is no provision to protect POC students from harassment beyond blocking, and harassment can follow other apps like Instagram. Dating apps should have a more comprehensive complaints system where students can report racist messages and actually see the action taken, ”Isabelle said.

* Names changed for anonymity

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• “It terrified me”: a student of Black Lincoln receives a racist message on Tinder

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• Had to come home early from college because of the coronavirus racism I endured

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