We all have certain preferences about appearance, certain characteristics we find attractive in others. It might be the age, height, body shape, hair or eye colour, complexion, muscle tone, hair length or facial hair, the prominence of certain body parts (abs, breasts, buttocks, etc.). People have a “type”, some more than others, more specific than others, and more non-negotiable than others. This has always been thus, and conversely has always been the bane of existence for those possessing the less desired traits, whatever those happened to be at a particular point in history and in a particular society (weight and body shape, for example, have varied widely and to extremes in their desirability).
All this might seem uncontroversial, but of course nowadays hardly anything still is.
The authors of a new book are arguing for race-blind dating apps — and the removal of filters for race and ethnicity.
Finding love, they say, isn’t so black-and-white.
In a new book, “The Dating Divide: Race and Desire in the Era of Online Romance,” sociologists Jennifer Lundquist, Celeste Vaughan Curington and Ken Hou-Lin show how online dating sites exacerbate racial divisions.
They found that race-related “preference” filters on digital dating platforms help foster racist attitudes — especially toward black women.
“Filtering out people based on race is a normal practice on dating apps,” Lundquist told The Post.
“The idea of having racial preferences is unacceptable and illegal in any other arena,” she added. “But it’s literally built into the structure of these dating apps.”
Are you a racist if you don’t want to find partners from outside of your “race”? And should you be made – somehow – to be attracted to people you are not attracted to, for whatever reason, good or bad?
Racial preferences are outlawed in provision of public and private goods and services in the name of equity and equal access. The people who exhibit racial preferences in online dating are only withholding selves from access by others. Do others have a right to me or to be considered by me in a romantic context? It would seem a ridiculous proposition in any other context. You might complain about the superficial or unrealistic way someone excludes potential partners (too old, too fat, too short, too – or not sufficiently – whatever) but no one considers it a moral or legal issue demanding a state intervention. At least not yet. Of course, racial filters might be actually outlawed tomorrow and no one would be particularly surprised that the US Congress concerns itself with such a crucial public policy matter, but this would not affect the behaviour of online dating apps’ users who would still choose or not choose potential matches based on existing preferences. I’ve never used such filter and I’ve dated women of all possible racial and ethnic backgrounds, but I also don’t consider “openness to all” to be superior or more commendable than any other, more circumscribed, approach to selecting potential mates. The only person who might be missing out on something is you, and that’s your choice and your loss. Coincidentally, filters on dating apps allow you to “discriminate” on any number of other grounds, some of which, like religion or age, are also illegal in the United States (at least in the context of employment). Height, like race, is something you are born with and cannot change, yet it continues to be one of the most socially acceptable dating preferences.
The article continues:
A 2014 study about dating preferences along racial lines on OKCupid came to a similar conclusion: Black women had a hard time matching on dating apps, as did black and Asian men.
(The 2014 study also found that preferring to date within one’s race was fairly common. For instance, black women preferred to date black men at a rate surpassed only by Asian women’s preference for Asian men.)
This is pretty much the gist of it – the minorities are the least open to dating outside their groups, yet the narrative of the book, and the article, boils down to “minority women hardest hit” when men of other ethnicities – who they’re by and large not interested in – are not interested in dating them.
The truth of the matter is that far from the last refuge of Jim Crow, online dating has been one of the biggest breaker of interracial barriers. Forget some users resorting to racial filtering; far more important is the fact that apps like Tinder and Bumble and OKCupid allow people to reach out to others far beyond their normal friendship, work and social circles, which for whatever reason – local demographics, family background – might be more mono-cultural and -ethnic than average. One recent study I cited previously, in fact predicts a complete racial integration in the future resulting from online dating.
And what of the book?
The authors suggest doing away with racial filters on apps in order to eliminate the perpetuation of racial stereotyping and discrimination.
However, they note that their objective isn’t to bash people for having a dating “type,” nor is it to browbeat folks into dating outside of their race.
“We’re not dumping on dating apps or people’s individual choices,” Curington told The Post. “We just want everyone to be aware of the long-standing societal issues being exacerbated on this platform.”
Even if they are not.