A few days ago, a social media lynch mob hounded into suicide a 24-year old porn actress who refused to have sex with a gay porn actor. As one of my favourite Twitter commentators wrote, “Seems like we went from ‘you better bake that cake’ to ‘you better bang that gay porn star’ pretty quick”. Apparently it’s only “your body, your choice” if your choice accords with the progressive preferences.
Today, in turn, I came across this News.com.au story, which identifies another new thoughtcrime:
Unlike dating in the real world, judging on appearances and listing preferences is encouraged, inhibitions are shed and it’s easy to think anything goes.
People embrace neat descriptions of what tribe they belong to, like “twink”, descriptions of “masculine” personalities, “toned” bodies and what sexual positions are enjoyed.
But as Denton Callander of UNSW’s Kirby Institute notes, it’s an approach that applies the same logic to dating as you would to a Google search.
“The structure seems to demand, and it’s a perception people have, that if they are really clear and concise about what they want … this will help them find the perfect partner,” Mr Callander said.
Not only is this rule-in/rule-out approach not always helpful but a study into Tinder users also found they were less happy with their faces and bodies, and men reported lower levels of self-esteem.
It has also given rise to what some call “sexual racism” — racism that appears to be justified as a “preference”.
Some may question if it’s really racism but Mr Callander believes it is.
Take note: it’s not a preference any more, it’s racism.
The story then quotes a 27-year old gay Asian male, who is troubled by all the instances in his four years on Grindr (a gay hook-up app, for those innocent among you) when he has been knocked back because his interlocutors were not interested in Asians.
“There are quite a lot of people who would not even consider dating you if you are Asian,” he said.
He acknowledged that some would justify their actions as a tactic to avoid wasting people’s time.
“I can understand that,” Mr Tang said. “But it doesn’t prevent me from saying you’re racist.
“You can be whatever you want to be, you can be Donald Trump but people are not necessarily happy with Donald Trump.”
Somehow everything always comes back to Donald Trump.
I have more experience than any one person deserves to have on internet dating websites and apps, laboriously acquired over 12 years for your education and entertainment. In that time I have come across plenty of all kinds of preferences, or as Mr Callander would say, sexual racism: whites wanting whites, whites not wanting Asians, whites wanting only Asians, Asians wanting whites, Asians wanting Asians, whites wanting Islanders, blacks wanting whites, whites wanting blacks, blacks wanting only blacks, etc. etc. etc. I look at it and see a wonderful variety of human attraction and desire; others look at it and see bigotry and discrimination.
I’m all for interracial dating (or any other activities ending with -ing). Contrary to the News.com.au anecdotes, a study by Josue Ortega at the University of Essex and Philipp Hergovich at the University of Vienna predicts “nearly complete racial integration” as a result of the emergence of online dating. In love as in most other human relations, like has tended to attract like, but now, internet-aided, we connect to more and more strangers from outside our usual circles. This is all happening quite naturally; this is why I don’t believe we need shaming or compulsion to somehow speed up the process.
But is there anything wrong with people wanting to date a particular ethnicity (which might or might not be their own)? Why is it any different to preferences or attractions people might have to other specific physical attributes, like height (If I had a dollar for every woman’s profile I’ve come across, which expresses a desire for someone “tall” or “6 ft plus”), body type or shape, age bracket, hair or eye colour? Or preferences for a partner who shares their lifestyle (sport, travel, exercise, party, outdoors), values (religious, political, environmental, ethical), or temperament (introverted, extroverted)? If it’s sexual racism to be attracted to a specific race and ethnicity but not other/s, then pretty much every internet (and real life) dater is guilty of all sorts of other bigotries and prejudices: sizeism, heightism, ageism, lookism, political and religious discrimination, etc. And what’s the alternative – some sort of a dating utopia, in which everyone has to be attracted to everyone else, and you are not allowed to have any criteria for making choices?
Note that we are not talking here about any institutional discrimination. Grindr doesn’t exclude Asians; no dating sites have a “No dogs or Irishmen allowed” policy (though all discriminate against canines, in accordance with the criminal laws of the land pertaining to these matters). Governments don’t ban interracial marriages (like many of them, shamefully, once used to) or relationships. No user advocates that everyone else should also shun Asians. What we have is a pure free market for love, with millions and millions of people exercising their own preferences and making their own choices. Which is probably why some on the progressive side of politics don’t like it.
I often quote one of my favourite pieces of political wisdom: the right believes that the left is wrong, the left believes that the right is evil. The left believes they have the monopoly on goodness and virtue; their beliefs are not only the only right ones, they are also the only moral ones. Hence the twisting of the meaning of tolerance by the self-described champions of it. Tolerance basically means tolerating things: it’s nothing to do with liking or approving, merely recognising the right to (co)exist unmolested. Because the left considers the right’s beliefs to be evil and immoral, they don’t have to be tolerated (“you can’t tolerate the [right-wing] intolerance”); instead they need to be fought and destroyed. Hence, tolerance extends only to the left’s beliefs, and by extension – because these beliefs are good, virtuous and moral – they deserve to be universally embraced and celebrated.
We saw this phenomenon around the recent same sex marriage plebiscite and debate in Australia. There was only one right and virtuous position to have: in favour. If you were against, you were against “love” and “equality”, you were a bigot and a homophobe. And when the majority of the Australians decided in favour of SSM, it was taken by many activists and advocates as an indication that the opponents (38 per cent of people) should shut up and get with the program. The few Senators and MPs who voted against the legislation or abstained were ridiculed and vilified, as if a majority opinion now requires a parliamentary unanimity (if the majority of Australians support tough border protection policy, why aren’t Labor and Green politicians toeing the line?). And if politicians should vote the way their electorates “tell” them to, why wasn’t there a pressure on all the Western Sydney Labor MPs to vote “no”? The message of the post-plebiscite celebrations was not only that everyone should accept the democratic decision but that everyone should also rejoice in it and celebrate it.
(Every knee shall bend…)
The same instinct pervades many other political and social phenomena, large and small. Thus, if a porn actress doesn’t want to have sex with a porn actor who has sex with other men, she is a vicious bigot and a homophobe and deserves to die (which she obligingly does). If you don’t want to have sex with an Asian man, this is not just a personal preference, it’s sexual racism. The left has spent most of its more recent history trying to get the state and the organised religion out of people’s lives and bedrooms (decriminalising homosexuality, “Get your rosary out of my ovary”, and all that); to give everyone the autonomy over their bodies, freedom to choose, the right to privacy, and an option to exercise personal preferences. That is no longer the case. Autonomy, freedom, rights, privacy are increasingly conditional on people making the “right” choice. Henry Ford famously said in regards to his classic T model: you can have any colour as long it’s black. The left’s preferences are the new black. You better accept, approve, and celebrate, you bigot.