Real Attraction or Fetish? How Black Gay Men Can Tell the Difference in Interracial Relationships
There are two very different sides of the coin for black, gay men. On one side, we’re openly discriminated against. Any one of us has encountered racism disguised as sexual preference. No blacks, no chocolate, sorry just not into black guys. They stop just short of saying the n-word but the intent is clear. On the other side is an intense fascination with blackness. There’s the assumption that all black men are well-endowed. That we dance well, possess a wild aggression and play basketball as well as Lebron James. On the surface, these might sound like stereotypes. But when they primarily fuel the reason a person is interested in you, they become part of a fetish. At times, it can be difficult to decipher real attraction and interest based purely on a fetish.
Jeremy Helligar explored this issue in a 2014 essay for the Advocate. He questioned whether it was possible to exist in the relationship as a gay man and not a black, gay man. Could people see you as anything other than the black guy? Was it your color that attracted your partner or was it you? Helligar details how “chocolate queens” always weaved his race into the reasons they were attracted to him. Whether he was in Melbourne, Bangkok, Buenos Aires or Hong Kong, he was always considered hot, tall and black.
And thus lies the truest indication of whether your relationship is based on fetish or genuine interest. Can your partner describe what makes you attractive without incorporating your skin tone?
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Writer Brandon Small dove into this in great detail for Very Smart Brothas in 2015. Upon first connecting with non-black men, they’d say “I’ve never hooked up with a Black guy” or they’d ask to touch his hair. On Grindr, they’d be more forward, asking to see his big, black you know what. It was clear to him that he was a fetish, and it was happening frequently.
Though his experience is unfortunate, it’s not uncommon and it serves as a guide to navigating the gay dating world. You’re not a bad person for allowing it to happen. It can feel great to connect with someone who loves your ethnicity and sees it as a welcome mat into your life. In a community where your skin tone is often the barrier to romance, it can be exciting to find someone who celebrates it.
But beware of being the fetish. Your skin tone might be a welcome mat but welcome mats get stepped on. The physical trait that invites him in could be the only reason he stays. It could prevent him from getting to know anything else about you. When you become the subject of someone’s black fetish, true intimacy is impossible and you’ll still end up feeling empty.
It’s tough to find, but there’s someone out there who sees you as a person first and a black person second, third or fourth. Look for the guy who can describe what he likes about you without mentioning that you’re black. When you do find him, hold onto him. He’s a keeper.
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