This Valentine’s Day, I spent the day dating myself. First, I took myself to the movies (note to all you singles out there, try not to see Up In The Air alone), then stopped in a new-ish salon on State Street by Division for a $49.99 one-hour deep tissue massage (deal of a lifetime!), and then cooked myself a delicious meal of lamb chops and steamed broccoli.
All this auto-dating inevitably got me to thinking about actual couples and actual Valentine’s Day, and what you’re actually supposed to be doing on the hallmark holiday… ie, dating other people. But what people?
Specifically, what I wondered – and have been wondering for quite some time:
When you have a “type”, is it preference or prejudice?
For awhile, I’d been arguing that types are just preference. And what’s so bad about that? We have models of the opposite sex in our lives (our first loves, our brothers, sisters, parents, etc) and these help create what we’re attracted to. Of course, there are tons of other factors that go into the why of who we pick, but they’re almost too complicated to get in to.
Or are they?
A few days ago, I came across this neat article on Time.com that discusses dating sites and online personals listings, particularly focusing on users’ “looking for” race specifications. The article cites some startling statistics:
“… a study published last year in Social Science Research examined 1,558 profiles that white daters living in or near big U.S. cities placed on Yahoo! Personals, which, much like Match, lists 10 racial and ethnic groups users can select as preferred dates. Among the women, 73% stated a preference. Of these, 64% selected whites only, while fewer than 10% included East Indians, Middle Easterners, Asians or blacks. The story is a little different for the men, 59% of whom stated a racial preference. Of these, nearly half selected Asians, but fewer than 7% did for black women.”
Okay – I’m not going to totally hate on the White women for their overwhelming preference for White guys. That’s like condemning Jewish dating site JDate.com or BlackPeopleMeet.com – and I’m sure if the study did a tally of Black women’s race preferences they’d see a strong showing for Black men.
What really wigs me out here is the White guys’ preferences. Because – just a hunch – I highly doubt that the majority of these men based their preference on personal interactions. No, sweeping stereotypes put forth by media outlets (as the article states, “media's portrayal of Asian women as being hypersexual and black women as being bossy”) must have influenced the race boxes that these men checked when selecting their dating preferences. Actually, strike that. Dating prejudices.
But taking a step back, clearly we’re all guilty of it. I think that one reason people tend to date within their race is because they assume common beliefs and values. And yes, that’s stereotyping everyone within your race, assuming they’re just like you because they sport your same skin color.
Course I’m guilty of it, too. My prejudices tend to lead me towards a particular type: interracial, curly haired laugh-lovers who enjoy movies, massages, and lamb chops.
Consequently, Valentine’s Day turned out to be a home run.