When I think about what kind of woman I want to date, I immediately start contemplating a lot of things. I think about our heights. I like to be the short one, I don’t know why. I also think about how I dress and how she dresses.
If she’s femme, I’ll throw on some trousers and a loose fitting shirt. If she’s more masc, I’ll dust off a skirt and put on lipstick. All of these things don’t really mean anything. They’re non-problems I create to settle pre-date jitters, almost like a game. However, when the woman I’m going out with is white, there’s a central looming question that haunts the date, “am I her fetish?”
It’s true that sometimes I project my own insecurities onto dates, as most people do. However, I’ve experienced enough awkward encounters, that I’ve had to step out of myself and my insecurities, and really look at the situation.
Race fetishism isn’t specific to the queer community — but it is a little different. Sometimes, cis straight people fetishize interracial relationships because of the potential children, which is creepy in its own right. But with queer people, especially in places like LA, being the black girlfriend can feel more like being an “accessory.”
So I’ve compiled a short list of ways to identify red flags that point that you’re being likened to a pair of red bottom pumps in Stacey’s mind.
1. She’s a little too into PDA
Public displays of affection are tricky for queer people in general. We’re only beginning to feel safe walking down the street holding our significant other’s hand. Even in California, which is supposed to be this wonderful gay utopia where being gay gives you free healthcare and copious amounts of weed, some places still don’t garner a complete amount of safety and comfort.
But whether it’s on a crowded dance floor or at your local dog park, if you’re seeing a white woman that uses your body as a crutch every time you’re in public, it might be cause for concern. I’m not trying to alarm you; it could also very well be that the honeymoon phase is still going strong!
However, I think it’s safe to say that you can quickly sense when someone is wearing you like designer clothing versus genuinely being enamored by you. It’s a very different kind of affection.
2. She makes weird comments about your skin tone
I can’t begin to list the weird things white women have called my skin, in both romantic and non-romantic settings. Sometimes it’s a compliment, misguided but well-intentioned. I was once on a date with a white woman and she started off her “compliment” by saying “Can I talk about race for a second?”
I was about ready to head out at that point because I had a gut feeling that what was coming next was going to be wrong, but I stayed. She went on to say that she doesn’t think black women need to wear makeup because they’re naturally beautiful. I took it with a grain of salt but I took it in, nonetheless, as it was a good sentiment.
Now if she had said that black women were beautiful chocolate Nubian queens… that would have been a surefire red flag. Any time your skin is compared to food, it’s a little alarming, but throw in a weird racial epithet–and that’s a full-fledged fetish.
3. She’s in a hurry to introduce you to her friends and family
To be fair, this is a problem that lesbians have had and continue to have for eons, the U-HAUL joke is not at all a joke, it’s a historical truth. I know way too many lesbians who started raising their girlfriend’s child two months into a relationship and too many lesbians who moved across the country to be with a three-month girlfriend to pretend that we don’t all get a little too attached a lot too quickly.
That being said, there is a minor discrepancy in the language used by seasoned fetishizers. If she talks about how you and her mom would get on along really well because you both love Sigourney Weaver in Alien, first of all, her mom might also be gay. Second of all, it’s clearly based on a common bond.
However, if she says that you and her friend Rachel would get along because Rachel dug wells in Africa, or she says things like “My parents would love you, they’re super liberal,” you might very well be in a Get Out type situation and I suggest you keep your keys on you at all times.
4. She asks a lot about your hair
This one is a little more specific to Black women, but I have got hair stories for days. Some of them involve people my friends were seeing that I just casually met, but boy do I have hair stories. A white woman that my friend was going out with once asked me if I thought she could “rock box braids” upon meeting me for the first time. I said “no comment” and vanished into thin air because I was dying of both second-hand embarrassment and sheer discomfort.
That, however, is just a slight case cultural ignorance that could easily be rectified with a simple google search. The woman I once went out with that damn near had a mood board of all my hairstyles, past and future, watched dread retwist tutorials and suggested getting fades as a fun date idea–Definite red flag.
Despite this very helpful guide, you alone can assess how someone else is perceiving you. As women of color, we’ve had to single-handedly redefine what it means to be beautiful. When you’re gay and not white in LA, it’s hard to not get overwhelmed by the Eurocentric standards of beauty that flood the dancefloor of all the queer spaces you enter. It’s hard not to look for validation from the women you’ve been conditioned to find beautiful, the women that don’t look like you. It becomes easy to ignore the little moments that should really make you side eye.
The insecurities that are branded on us by the society we live in don’t just disappear when we decide we’re done with them. Unlearning toxic cycles of validation is long and arduous.
Whether or not you want to be someone’s caramel macchiato is up to you. Just remember that you’re not a toy. It is possible to be treated like delicate art without becoming less than human.