Can dating preferences be racist?

A quick scroll through the Melbourne-based Facebook university dating pages like Unimelb Love Letters and Monash Love Letters and you’ll find people advertising themselves or their “friends” to look for love. It’s often endearing and surprisingly wholesome where they choose to reveal their insignificantly intimate traits, like their love for “To All The Boys I Loved Before” or their disdain for olives. Yet on many occasions, trapped between these beguiling quirks are often terms of constraint and restriction as racial preferences come into play.

“White girls only (just a preference)”

“Looking for Hindi marriage-ready girls”

“Asian guys only. Preferably an LB 🤭”

When it comes to making friends, race is rarely an issue so why the double standard when it comes to relationships? Perhaps the familiarity is much more appealing than the precarious exploration of new cultures, especially so when it comes to romantic relationships. For many of us, the implications and consequences of dating someone outside of your ethnicity go beyond simple physical preferences.

The cultural and social response may be a factor that consistently deters interracial relationships; not to mention the subtle, lingering judgments from those dear to us and complete strangers as well. The reality is that while interracial relationships are more common now than ever, the stigma behind it is rarely explored.

No one wants to be seen as a racist. In my attempts to prod my friends for their views on this with regards to physical traits, I’ve gotten replies ranging from, “White people are too tall for me” to “Black wom[e]n make me feel small.”

As for culturally and emotionally, they mention reasons such as, “My parents would kill me if I dated someone who wasn’t Asian” or “I can’t even speak English well, how am I supposed to get a White girl?”

Such reasons are especially prevalent with international students in Australia who come from a different cultural background than the locals. In an attempt to make them talk more openly about racial dating preferences, students were questioned about their specific inclinations but were not able to share why they exist.

Often, the conversation becomes diverted or too uncomfortable for them to willingly share more. However, even with these brief answers, a commonality between them is the tendency to hide why they have a racial preference, instead attributing it to external factors.

Many of us grew up around people of our own race and culture and our experience of others are limited to their representations through media. So after years of ingrained media influence of how certain ethnic groups supposedly act and look, it creates a problematic caricature that carries over into the values we place on potential dating partners. So for many international students that are thrust into ethnically diverse environments, the challenge to get over their prior prejudices turns into an uphill climb.

Montana Alier is an 18-year-old Australian nursing student that is fairly involved in the online dating scene. She is heavily invested in all things Korean and has a preference for hot Korean guys. Her daily consumption of Kpop and its surrounding media along with her improving proficiency in the language scored her multiple dates through Tinder and Bumble. While the first dates were always cute and sweet, there was nearly always never a second date. She believes it could be because of her Black skin.

“Most guys would just go for me because I’m ‘exotic’. They don’t want to date and just want sex.” All of which she would humbly refuse, but even for those that are on dating apps for genuine relationships seem apprehensive to start anything with her.

An avid Snapchat user, Montana had posted a number of snaps with a guy that she felt extremely comfortable within the recent weeks. As she waited for him to make a move, days turned to weeks and weeks into months, still, nothing came of it. She never asked him why he didn’t want to make it official, cause in the back of her mind, she knew.

It’s an ironic cycle. On one hand, she was infatuated with the idea of falling in love with a Korean man but by the same token, she was already upset by the racial bias she faced herself.

In an age where we have greater access to people outside our social and cultural circles, why are we retreating back to the familiar? In 2016, a third of registered marriages in Australia were between people that were born in different countries. But dating apps like and Eastmeeteast suggest that preferences are still largely at play.

Perhaps preferences are simply just an unexplainable inclination but scholar Denton Calladar from the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales believes otherwise.

His research showed that compared to heterosexual men, gay and bisexual men tend to omit a preference in dating. He attributes this to racial hierarchies established by society. In the data he collected, men who were rated the lowest mostly belong to historically marginalised groups such as Asians and Black people.

“That to me represents really compelling evidence that this is not a matter of preference because if this was a matter of preference you would expect a degree of randomness,” he stated in an interview with ABC news.

Adhering to this racial hierarchy then may mean some races are fetishised over others. Society today champions inclusion. We strive to celebrate diversity and we’d very much like to see it reflected in our daily lives. Though despite these noble ideals, it is a far-fetched notion when it comes to relationships as it’s hypocritical to tell someone who they can or can’t love.

Having racial preferences while dating is very much a conscious choice that every person would make, as to whether it is wrong or right would be up to how everyone justifies it to themselves. It isn’t inherently racist to do so and forcing certain standards on how people should choose a partner defeats the purpose of interracial dating in the first place. So leave the moral grandstanding aside and let people love whoever they want to love.

Do you have any racial preferences when dating? Tell us how you feel about it down below.

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