Sex & Racism
The taboos of inter-racial dating have long been a hot topic of debate in social circles and pop culture. But where is the line drawn between love and obsession? Or passion versus fetish? Desi K. Robinson taps into the racial connotations of our most intimate desires.
In an episode of the television series Sex and the City, the four ladies meet for their regular breakfast diner chat while Samantha (Kim Catrall) begins to share all of the salacious details of a hot night with a New York City fireman she picked up the night before. After all the explicit details, she closes by telling them that he was every bit the fantasy that she dreamed of. The vastly more conservative of the bunch, Charlotte, chimes in, telling her, “It’s wrong to sleep with someone just to fulfill a fantasy.” Samantha replies by revealing, “Everyone we sleep with fulfills some fantasy that we have. You fantasize about a man with a Park Avenue address and nice big stock portfolio and I fantasize about a guy with a nice big hose!”
Is it OK to have sex with someone to fulfill a personal fantasy? Does the ideal partner, for the night or for a lifetime, speak to and satisfy our pleasures, desires, fantasies, fetishes and weaknesses? Most of us have a preference: tall, short, thin, voluptuous, athletic, blonde, and so on. When does preference turn into fetish? Does a listing of “fun, petite, girl of Asian decent” on getadatenow.com really translate to “dark-haired Asian nymph to do my bidding”?
Clearly, geographic and cultural differences play into how we partner and interact with each other, but does this transfer to the bedroom? When it comes down to it, don't the skin, follicles, pores and DNA long for the same sweaty, vivid, back-scratching, tumultuous journey to pleasure? Be it a one-night stand, a visit from the ‘maintenance man,’ a fantasy fling, or the love of your life, don't you just want to get yours in the rightest of ways? The question is, have we attached that kind of pleasure to race? And who sparked and illuminated these images of the black Mandingo sex stallion, Indian Kama Sutra princesses, obedient 'me-love-you-long time' Asian mail-order brides, and the pure, untouchable white goddess? Do they stem from a culture that would rather mystify and objectify minorities rather than empower them? Is it not a placebo to pursue our fantasy and then feel a (maybe) false sense of satisfaction after we've conquered it? If you turned out the lights, or used a blindfold, (no judgment) and slept with five women of all the same height, weight, and length of hair, but they all came from different countries, might they all be the same experience? Could you not feel the same sense of passion or even love? They could, of course, be different depending on, say their accent or their level of skill and agility. But does skill and agility know any race in particular?
In the past, there had been a climate of white hysteria about black sexuality, where in the 1800s, black men accused of crimes would not only meet the fate of lynching but castration was common practice, particularly in southern U.S., where an eight-year old African-American boy could be made a ward of the state for playing a “kissing game” with little white girls and the flirtatious crack of a fourteen-year-old boy could become a death sentence, as it did for 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955, brutally shot, beaten and dumped in the river with a 75-pound cotton gin fan wrapped around his neck with barbed wire, after whistling at a white shop owner's wife. In 1954, Walter C. Givhan, an Alabama state senator, asked about the Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education decision to allow integrated schools, replied “What is the real purpose of this campaign? To open the bedroom doors of our white women to Negro men.”
Somewhere between heaven and earth, or perhaps hell, is the sexual fetish. Is the sex fantasy thrust upon the minority to imply a savage, unreal, inhuman or unearthly image? What does this say about us as a society who subscribe to the fantasies? That we allow ourselves to be driven by sex, reverie, folklore and stereotypes? We surrender to political correctness with the ‘love has no color’ banner. And that is true. Love has no color, but we’ve clearly attached race and color to sexual satisfaction. We maintain the parallel of fetish with the clandestine because it’s really rooted in racism and we don’t want to align ourselves with racism.
Pornography, one of the biggest purveyors of sex fantasy, has dedicated websites and categories to the niche of inter-racial sex. “Blacks on Blondes,” “My Daughter's Fucking a Black Dude,” and “Arab Street Hookers” display not inter-racial love, but hot inter-racial sex. Common types of ethnic pornography distributed in the U.S. and Europe show scenes like multiple black men having sex with one white woman. These scenarios, as does most porn, allow for a variety of sexual fantasies to be played out on the part of the viewer. Race fetish has also found its way into the bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, sadism/masochism (BDSM) realm. “Race play” or “racial play” is getting aroused by intentionally using racial epithets like “nigger,” or racist scenarios, like a white master seeking out a black slave at an auction. Race play is being enjoyed in the privacy of bedrooms and publicly at BDSM parties, and also includes “playing out” Nazi interrogations of Jews.
As with other euphemisms and stereotypes that are rooted in the negative, some take on the images as title-holders. Many blacks have taken on the word “nigger” to have brotherly connotations; Ana-Nicole Smith, Jessica Simpson, and Hugh Hefner’s ‘Girls Next Door,’ have taken being a buxom not-so-bright blonde straight to the bank. “Yellow Cab” is an ethnic stereotype of Japanese women, suggesting that they are sexually available to foreign men. The term combines the use of “yellow” to refer to Asians and the image of a yellow taxicab which can be “ridden at any time.” It specifically refers to women who travel overseas or to foreign enclaves in Japan seeking to meet foreign men. Amy Yamada, Japanese author of Bungei Prize-winning, Bedroom Eyes, is controversial and notorious for using her work to flaunt her image as a “yellow cab,” and Japanese hip-hop artist Hime, the self-described voice of the “Japanese Doll,” also turns the stereotype on its head, stating that being a yellow cab means that the woman is in the “driver's seat.” Some authors describe the women’s taking-on of foreign partners, especially black men, as socially, economically, and politically liberating. Lil‘ Kim, often accused of setting women back because of her sex-kitten persona, has also argued that using the sexuality that makes men weak is the way to stay on top, so to speak. We all give into fantasy and quite frankly, why wouldn't we? We all want to spend our lives demystifying and exploring. And sex is often a satisfying and carb-burning way to do it. I knew a guy in college who had a thing for girls with braces. Does this then put the “Ugly Betty’s” of the world at risk of being objectified? Perhaps. But if we lived in a world where we defined the ideals of beauty less narrowly, perhaps the people who are marginalized won't be seen as obscure and exotic, but more as real and human and for who they are as people: people who are capable of fulfilling pleasure, and not the perceptions of the culture from which they come.