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Sexual Racism

Understanding How Racial Biases Present Themselves in our Sexual Fantasies – by Tia Freeman

Racial Fetishisation

            In a book titled, Asian American Sexual Politics: The Construction of Race, Gender, and Sexuality the author narrates an experience she had in a bar where upon entering, the bartender sees her and greets her “with mock Asian language and accent, delivering a statement about female anatomy that was reminiscent of early media portrayals of Asian prostitutes in war-torn countries soliciting soldiers”. The racialised image of Asian women in our heads is often that of docile, subservient women who cater to every wanton desire that a man might possess. The issue with this stereotype is that it strips away the vastness of human sexuality and Asian women’s body autonomy. ‘Yellow fever’ is the sexual attraction and fetishisation of Asian people. It diminishes a human being’s personhood to their race. It’s not being sexually attracted to someone because of their characteristics, but solely because of the racist stereotypes associated with their skin colour. It is a racist projection of lust-filled domination. 

            Of course, sexual racism isn’t limited to just Asian women. It crosses all marginalised genders, sexual orientations, and ethnicities. Conversely, Asian men are often ridiculed for the stereotype of having a small penis. Consequently, feeling emasculated and not seen as sexually attractive.  

            The “spicy” Latina fetish has bred an enormous boom in sex tourism in all of Latin America. For nearly a decade Brazil has surpassed Thailand as the world’s top sex tourism destination. Erica Lorraine Williams in her book, Sex Tourism in Bahia: Ambiguous Entanglements, details the illicit industry and its origin story. People are travelling from around the world to experience Brazilian women just as people travel to Thailand for the Kathoey or ‘Ladyboy’. ‘Sex Tourism’ is travelling for the sole purpose of engaging in sexual acts. In many places, it is often to fulfil an underlying racial fantasy. The reason behind these stereotypes is usually attributed to Hollywood representation. In 1933 when Franklin Roosevelt announced his foreign policy plan, Hollywood took notes. They began featuring more Latina women in their pictures but only exotic, ‘sassy’ women often paired with food. The “Brazilian Bombshell” came from the Brazilian dancer, Carmen Miranda who was famous for her ‘exotic accent’ and fruit-laden hat.

            Role-playing as Pocahontas or Native American women is not new. People dressing up as Native Americans has led to the over-sexualisation of indigenous people as they are 2.5 times more likely to be raped than non-indigenous women. It is easier to dehumanise someone you only see as a costume. Native American’s have had their personhood diminished to adulterated versions of the American Wild West fantasy.

            Black people have a long relationship with being overly sexualised. Black men have been stigmatised in the BBC/ Cuckold fetish. For those who aren’t aware, cuckolding is when typically, a man enjoys the humiliation that comes from watching his girlfriend/ wife have sex with another man. A major sub-genre of the fetish is a large, black man (playing the role of the BBC or big black cock) sexually dominating a white woman in front of her white husband. This stereotype goes hand in hand with the perception of the black man’s lusty appetite to only bed white women. 

            Furthermore, black women are equally as sexualised however, it is normally framed in terms of familial planning. Black women received the epithet, ‘Jezebel’ from slave owners attempting to justify the rape of black women by labelling them as their hyper-sexual property. This ‘Jezebel’ caricature in modern representation is a “welfare queen”. She is a promiscuous woman unable to “keep her legs closed” and continues having babies that the state has to support. Even the opposite “Mammy” figure is a stereotypical black woman whose sexual agency has been stolen. She is considered an asexual figure without her own desires and autonomy. During slavery, the mammy was typically an older, more rotund black woman supposedly content with her role as inferior who did the child-rearing for her white owners. The most famous mammy was played by Hattie McDaniels (first black Oscar winner) in the hit Gone With the Wind. The “Mammy” figure continued after emancipation, with black women only being able to find domestic jobs in white people’s homes. Her sole reason for existing is to cater to the whims of middle and upper-class white people and she is entirely devoid of her own autonomy and sexual desires.

Race & Porn

            Porn is where many of us go to explore our sexuality. It can amplify our deepest desires. Porn sites target our cultural norms and taboos. Just like any other market, it thrives off of what we choose to engage with. Many of us are all too aware of the prejudices that taint our everyday lives, but most never realise how insidious it can be. Our sexuality is not exempt from our racial biases and porn highlights that. Under the much broader category of BDSM falls raceplay. Raceplay is the sexual practice where the racial background of one or more of the participants is used to create a power-imbalance, through the use of slurs, narratives and objects laden with racial history. It comes under the BDSM umbrella for its usage of power dynamics i.e. dominants and submissive. Click here for this HuffPost article which details a gay, black man’s unintentional experience with raceplay, as well as, how prevalent the category is in porn and pay-to-play sites. The genre also features current events; such as white men dressed as law enforcement officers beating and even “raping” (consensual rape play) unassuming black men. 

            After doing my own search into the world of raceplay (something that I would not recommend— yikes) it would appear that the genre was basically just black and white people. However, I didn’t have to go far to find other racial dynamics. For the most part, the white partner(s) were, more often than not, the dominant leaving the marginalised participant(s) to act as the submissive. According to PornHub’s Year in Review, ‘ebony’ was the second most popular search, right behind lesbian.

Racial Fantasies & Historical Events

            2016 was the year that Donald Trump gained notoriety with his campaign chant “Build the Wall.” Consequently, that same year “big booty Latina” became more searched for in the United States than anywhere else in the world. The U.S. is no stranger to sexualising the very people that it discriminates against. This is a part of its untold legacy. During the War on Terror, romance novels featuring Middle Eastern men or “sheik” characters increased in popularity. As you can imagine porn also saw more usage of the tags “al-Qaeda” and “weapons of mass destruction”. 

            The systems and cultures we live in shapes us. They shape our realities and fantasies. We cannot exclude ourselves from the world around us because we do not live in a bubble. Neither do our sexual desires and fetishes. Some may label it ‘sexual preference’ but racism is a better word for it. Fetishisation may seem like flattery to the unreflective or wilfully ignorant, however to the marginalised people on the receiving end it is just another manifestation of casual racism we experience all too often. 

About the Author:

My name is Tia Freeman and I am behind the sex-based Instagram page @Slipp3ryWhenWet. The page features posts about sexual health and wellness, pleasure activism, education and disparities in sexuality and resources based on prejudices. New to the blogging world but experienced with sex themes and social justice, I want to curate a safe-space for questions you wanted to have answered at 16 and things you still didn’t understand at 27. I want to centre voices often left out of conversation.

Resources:

Native American Sexual Assault Resources (USA)

https://www.niwrc.org/document-type/sexual-assault

https://www.tribal-institute.org/lists/assault.htm

Sexual Assault Resource (USA)

https://www.rainn.org

Article to read  on the “Spicy Latina” Stereotype:

https://www.latinainstitute.org/es/10-myths-about-latinas-just-wont-die

Recommended Books:

Sex Tourism in Bahia – Erica Lorraine Williams

Killing the Black Body – Dorothy Roberts

The Construction of Race, Gender, and Sexuality Asian American Sexual Politics – Rosalind S. Chou

Going to Meet The Man – James Baldwin

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