Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Race and Online Dating

Since I received so many comments on my post "Online Dating Experiment," I thought I'd write a new post responding to them all, rather than replying to the comments.

First, in the spirit of full-disclosure, I've now dated 16 guys from the dating site and all but one—who was Asian—were white. Given that whites are quickly becoming a minority in my area, this is, perhaps, a bit strange.

Second, from what I remember—as a reminder, it's been over two years now—I've received messages from a few Asian guys, a few Indian guys, and one or two black guys. However, as is true for all of the messages from white guys, I only respond if I'm interested.

Third, as Kia discovered in her experiment, relying heavily on pictures can be a bad thing. While the dating site that I'm on doesn't require users to post pictures, it is possible to choose to only be shown profiles of the people who have. I've made this choice because, as I've mentioned in previous posts, profiles without pictures could belong to absolutely anyone. (Of course people can post fake pictures or fake profile information—and they do—but it's harder to post a whole bunch of fake pictures.) Unfortunately, by choosing this option, it's all to easy to eliminate people from a search based solely on appearance. I've eliminated people with 90+% matches a number of times simply because I don't find them attractive. Am I a bad person for this? Probably to some degree.

All that said, don't people do this in real life too? As Ily pointed out in her comment about the movie "Medicine for Melancholy," people choose to hang out at places that have "their kind of people"—people with whom they expect to get along—and by doing that, they often end up ignoring large portions of the population.

Fourth, as Carolyn wrote, dating sites encourage people to list their race. Mine has a number of boxes one can check, but one doesn't have to specify one's race. I would wager that the vast majority do, based on what I've seen, but some don't. It's definitely possible to search profiles based on race, but then the people who don't select a race (or two or three) obviously don't show up in those searches.

I hope that you will all continue to comment on this topic and share your own experiences (if you feel comfortable doing so).


Anonymous said...

One time I met someone at a party when we were both pretty drunk and later agreed to go on a date with him. Only when he picked me up for the date did I realize he was a different race than I was. At the time it didn't mean anything, we ended up dating for just a few months, but it's kind of nice to think that for all the negatives of drunken party hook-ups, at least it makes you "colorblind."


Superquail said...

You talk about whether or not dating people who are white makes you "a bad person" and not only do I not think you are a bad person, I also don't think it is good to look at it that way. There is no "date for social justice!" movement because the idea of going out on a date with someone of a different race just to prove that you can is a bit repulsive. Who would want to be someone's ethnic quota?

If you don't feel an attraction or an interest, then you don't. There are any number of factors that play into that, and on-line dating does allow a certain amount of automated selection that would not be so easy to do in real life, the format doesn't create desires that weren't there in the first place.

The data OkCupid turned up shows an underlying problem in our culture in general, and to fix that might take generations.

Lanafactrix said...

Ever watch 30 Rock? There's a fantastic episode where Liz goes out with an extremely tedious black man. When she tries to tell him she doesn't want to see him again, he accuses her of racism, which results in her saying, frantically, "I just don't like you as a PERSON."

Superquail said...

That is an awesome episode! And the super-boring black guy is played by Wayne Brady. Though, to be fair, the character of Liz Lemon is generally characterized as being quite racist, and she gets called on it.

RB said...

Stumbled onto your blog. The dating site thing was interesting the various times I did it. I too, only go out with folks I'm interested in and I feel like my "standards" are pretty even across the board, but a lot of my choices were limited by where I lived and so forth, too.

On the attractiveness thing, I think it's natural to sometimes "feel bad" but I think you've got to feel like it'll work for you or else, it won't work. I've done the whole "maybe I can get past it" dating a few times in my life and it never works.

So I dunno. I think it's really about how people present themselves, as well as a contrast to the folks you meet in real life, which will determine how much you like (or don't) particular folks.

I have all sorts of frustrations about dating sites and while some of it certainly deals with race and perceptions (that is, only "certain" kinds of folks would get in touch with me, etc.) I think that I always wrote in a such a manner that if someone "gets it" they'll usually be trigged by what I say and how I say it and then we could see where it goes.

On the race thing, I went back and forth. Sometimes, I'd put nothing and other times I would. Given (again) where I live, I preferred not to target the majority of folks seeking sort of fetish experience with a guy like me, but on the flip side, wanted to be available to (few) women who might be in my area who share the same race and might be looking. I think, in the end, I kept it checked because it was obvious through my photos anyway...

I'll keep reading, but wanted to comment. Cheers.

Katie said...

Thanks for all of the comments! I've definitely thought a lot about this topic in the last week and your comments gave me even more to consider.

RB, thanks for your thoughtful words. I agree with you that checking one's race box(es) on dating sites is usually unnecessary—one's race is generally apparent from photographs. However, by not checking the box(es), one might not show up when someone is searching for one's own race; then again, the people who specify searches for particularly races might not be the people one wants to date.

The debate continues…