Is it Wrong to Prefer Dating Only People of a Specific Race?

Drew Bowling wonders if it’s possible to prefer dating people of a certain ethnicity without making assumptions about an entire race.

Originally appeared at Role/Reboot

For all the good value that comes with friendship, perhaps the most dubious quality is comfort. Someone who won’t judge you when you need to lean on them during difficult times, a companion who will have dinner or watch a movie with you, somebody willing to drive you to the airport: These are a few of the splendid benefits of having somebody in your corner.

This same level of comfort is also the point at which certain filters begin to dissolve, allowing us to speak candidly to each other in a way we might not in public. I will certainly attest that some of the things I say to my closest friends are so profane and ridiculous that I would never dare share it with unfamiliar company. While the comfort of being able to be yourself, as they say, around your familiars is something devoutly to be wished, it occasionally presents a quandary whenever a friend says something that troubles you.

I’ve been meditating on this dilemma lately because while I was among a group of friends recently, one member of the group, who happened to be Caucasian, shared a personal insight into why he is single: He desires to only date Asian women.

Sure not to miss their cue, other people attendant to the conversation mic-checked the requisite, “Uh-oh, you got the yellow fever!” I, however, did not reply, even though the admission exhumed a sociological problem that has perplexed and harassed me for years—the underlying implication of preferring to date a specific ethnicity that isn’t your own.

In the immediate case here, of a white man desiring to date only Asian women, I hesitate to dismiss this as simply a personal affectation because, at its basis, and most likely unintentionally, the choice smacks of sexual colonialism. In Western culture, non-white races have historically been indexed as “Other,” sometimes boiling down the non-white person into a token of what Westerners believe to be universally true about a given culture.

Within this perspective, a white man professing his ambition to only date Asian women resurrects the assumption that all Asian women must have the same fundamental attributes, owing to the fact that they come from the same continent—not even coming from the same country, mind you. Assuming that all Asian women, or all people of any race in general, share some inherent quality that makes them desirable is, frankly, racist..

That we have slang terms for the desire to only date other races is somewhat telling. Yellow Fever. Jungle Fever. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard one for Latinos before. Do we have one for Arabs? Has Cracker Fever been codified yet?

The white man/Asian woman dichotomy is by no means the only example of this type of inter-racial Other-ing. I mention the colonialism aspect simply within the historical lens of white male’s gaze. Although I won’t argue that such a colonial outlook is limited to Western Caucasians, in the interest of full disclosure, I can only speak personally of this particular experience because I’m white, American, and male.

More generally, regardless of your own race, preferring to only date within another ethnic group continues to drag behind it the assumption that the object of your desire possesses an innate, exotic characteristic that naturally runs through that entire race.

Whether it’s other cultures or self-driving cars or the color of ink you prefer to write with, people tend to project a token value on the new and unfamiliar. Heir to this projection, people are also intrigued and guided by their aesthetic desires. We choose cars because of how they look and perform. We live in apartments and houses because of how we imagine ourselves inside of them. We enjoy certain foods because of the pleasant tingle the taste brings to our palate. You pick out a TV because you like the big plasma screen and how the picture will look when paired with your surround sound.

The same process of curiosity, for better or worse, affects how we choose partners. Some people prefer redheads to blonds, short hair instead of long hair, tall people over short people, beards instead of a shorn face, lunch dates at Qdoba instead of Chipotle, etc. Some of those qualities are negotiable—can’t hate on the occasional late-night date to Taco Bell—while others might be more personal. I, for one, tend toward taller women simply because I am very tall and my posture already sucks so I don’t wanna make it worse by craning down to steal the occasional smooch (and I’d like to believe that smooching would happen on a regular basis).

Any of the above examples of personal preferences will limit the dating pool, not to mention that some of the attributes still maintain stereotypes about a person possessing specific characteristics. Yet, I imagine someone evoking the right to personal preference when defending a desire to exclusively date other races: “How is there any difference in saying I prefer to date black people as opposed to blond people? It’s simply a matter of preference.”

Theoretically, I suppose you shouldn’t single out blonds as the only viable dating options; in the end, it’s very superficial. However, a preference for blondes is less likely to be based on a cultural assumption (well, as long as you don’t consider Real Housewives of Orange County as a legitimate culture) the way said assumption exists when choosing to only date someone who is black.

That we have slang terms for the desire to only date other races is somewhat telling. Yellow Fever. Jungle Fever. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard one for Latinos before. Do we have one for Arabs? Has Cracker Fever been codified yet? At any rate, categorizing such a desire in a way that suggests a lustful rabidity isn’t exactly making a good argument for preferring one race over all others, to say nothing that most of these are typically only applied to white/non-white relationships.

Is it possible to exclusively desire someone of a certain race without rendering that person’s entire race and culture as an adventure into the exotic? I won’t definitively say that it isn’t possible, but in the meantime I’m not hearing any arguments for exclusively preferring someone of a specific race that aren’t steeped in reductive notions of exotic tokenism.


Drew Bowling writes about language, gender, and mental health, although other topics have been known to enter his orbit. When he’s not writing, he spends his time pretending to be a photographer. Follow his messy thought-trail on Twitter.


Image courtesy of Flickr/ssoosay

About Role/Reboot

Role/Reboot is a nonprofit created to navigate a world built on outdated assumptions about men and women's roles and to advocate ways to understand and embrace the changing reality of our day-to-day lives. Follow them @RoleReboot.


  1. @Mario 100% agree. I just don’t think its about racism-replace the word Asian with Polish in ‘I only date ….women’ and it already sounds less offensive right? I mean what are we really talking about? Is the person dating the person because of their race…i.e mainly what physical characteristics that brings?Or are they dating them because of the culture/cultural background? I speak French so naturally if a guy approaches me at bar who happens to be French (a rarity where I live) of course I’m going to preference him over another, I mean he speaks of the language of the culture I spent my school years falling in love with…is that racist? But I think the article is referencing more the physical attributes-are you racist if you exclusively date the ‘other’ or staunchly refuse to? No, in most cases it is not a conscious decision connected whatsoever with race. What attracts, you attracts you. Although most don’t voice their preferences I’d venture to guess a large majority of people inadvertently shun or favour a certain race in terms of romantic attachment.
    And yes I realise this was published Nov 16 but had to have my say 🙂

  2. The word ‘race’ is divisive. It assumes distinctions between human beings that do not exist except in our minds. Race, as we refer to it, is a social costruct used over the centuries by different peoples at different times to rationalize war, genocide and slavery. Our continued consciousness of ‘race’ (which is determined by a mere 00.01% — or 1/10,000 — of our total DNA) is the legacy of those abominations on our collective culture.

    That said: A cock doesn’t have a conscious. And perhaps we would be better off not over analyzing which form of human beauty most attracts us — and consequently urges us forward to Love.

  3. I don’t know if there is anything wrong about dating someone of a specfic race depending on your reasons. Someone who specficially only dates on particular race, and refuses to even give thought of dating another may want to do some self examination. In that case I think it goes a bit deeper than what you find attractive.

  4. I just don’t agree with the premise of this article. I’m a straight white male. My girlfriend is Arab, and I have a history of attraction to Arab women. Physically, I’m attracted to my girlfriend’s dark thick hair, large eyes, olive skin tone, and even her prominent nose. All stereotypical Arab features. And I love that she’s from another culture (she was born and raised in Saudi Arabia) because I find it so fascinating to experience the differences between our two cultures and cultural mindsets. All else being equal, I would date an Arab girl over a white girl every time. Does this mean I’m racist because I prefer someone from a different cultural background and I am attracted to Arab features? (By the way, the term I’ve heard for liking Arab girls is “desert fever”. Just saying.)

  5. “Within this perspective, a white man professing his ambition to only date Asian women resurrects the assumption that all Asian women must have the same fundamental attributes, ….”
    This is a logical fallacy. Correct would be:
    “a white man professing his ambition to only date Asian women resurrects the assumption that all non-Asian women must lack some fundamental attributes”

  6. A well thought out post. Very thought provoking.
    I am actually an Asian woman, but I am not a stereotype. My husband didn’t mail order me. He isn’t all about ‘Asian chicks’. I am very “western” because I am actually adopted and have grown up in a “white” Australian family. My husband and I are in the same age group (he’s only 2 years older than me). I am not of a submissive nature, but I am not some crazy sexpot porn star image either. I’m just feisty!
    Let me tell you this: Any guy who could not get past my assumed “ethnicity” or my “Asian” looks would never stand a chance with me. My husband won me over when NONE of that mattered to him. He saw ME. Not what I look like or how exotic I must obviously be. Also, I knew he was not pretending and just telling me that so I’d do him 😛

    He loves my eyes. My hair. My skin. My body (even after a pregnancy and C-section). He doesn’t see “Asian”. He sees me – like when I look in the mirror and see ‘me’ – not a race. He does like the look of an Asian woman sometimes – on the TV or in a magazine, but I’m flattered to say that it’s genuinely because some of these women remind him of me and I don’t mind that.

    I think if you choose to be that superficial – choosing someone only based on their racial appearance or perceived ethnicity – then shallow is what you will get. You will be very lucky if your connection with that person ever gets any deeper and more spiritually meaningful. But then, maybe that’s OK with some guys.

    • Do you find some people more attractive based on weight, grooming, n a multitude of other things? Why isn’t it shallow to only date non-abusive people for instance, you’re purposely making your potential matches smaller n thus more shallow right?:P

  7. My opinion is as such—race preference does NOT matter. You like the little things about a particular culture of people, that separate and define them from the others. It’s not just a “color” of people, because there is so much difference in ONE shade of skin tone. For instance, if you prefer “Asian” people, you could be defining Japanese-Brazilians or Chinese-Canadians as much as “Sumatrans” or “Laotians”. If you like more aspects of an inherent ethnicity/culture’s habits, customs, language, or looks, good for you. On a macro-scale, you’re diversifying the human race gene pool, in an effort to keep our species alive as long as possible. On a micro-scale, it’s showing that beauty or love has no barriers, perhaps hyper-romantically. Yes, I did just make up a damned word. It doesn’t matter in the long run. There are enough ways to live a great life with the privileges we have. You may have to defend your choices in this oft-barbaric landscape.

  8. The women I like the most are pale, white, redheads like Deborah Ann Woll on True Blood <3 <3
    Why would that make me racist though? I prefer white women, I am most physically attracted to white women, I am white. I am not attracted to men, does that make me sexist?

  9. The Wet One says:

    I betcha my post won’t pass moderation. Just letting you know in advance.

  10. The Wet One says:

    As a movie title went, they’re all pink on the inside (oh my, did I say that!), so does it really matter? As a comeback, I note that all men are dicks (sorry, have dicks! My bad… 😉

    For the record, I’ve dated women from the South Pacific, Europe and Africa. I’ve had sex with women from every continent, race and background. And yes, they were all pink on the inside.

    Good times were had by all!

    In these matters, personal choice rules so far as I’m concerned.

    And that’s all I have to say about that.

    The Wet One

  11. wellokaythen says:

    I’m not sure about some of the alternatives. Should a person try to date people of many races just to prove that he/she isn’t racist? Wouldn’t it be racist to date a Asian woman just because you’ve never dated an Asian woman before? She can then be a box you can check off in the “evidence I’m not racist” folder. “I’ve dated women of color, see the checkmark?”

  12. I honestly think a lot of it has to do with early experiences. I am not ONLY interested in Asian women, but I much prefer Asian women (mostly Korean and Japanese to be specific.) I feel a lot of this has to do with the fact that I went to a high school with a very high percentage of Asian students — approximately 75% — and I was exposed to Asian women a great deal. I love specific physical characteristics, their eyes, their noses, and that silky soft black hair. The fact that they are usually quite petite also appeals to me. As far as white women go, I have a thing for curly haired brunettes. I assume this is because my older sister’s best friend when I was a young boy was this really pretty curly haired brunette, and I had the biggest crush on her ever.

    As for others, I think may nerds have a thing for Asian women as a result of an interest in Anime and things of that nature. I think that the assumption that men have an interest in Asian women “because they know how to be subservient to men” or some other thing is kind of bullshit. What do you say to people who only date people of their own race?

    I think this demonizing of personal choice is kind of ridiculous. Who I choose to date and for what reason is really none of your business nor anyone else’s. I think it is ridiculous to extrapolate from a statement like “I only date Asian women” to turn these men into monsters with some sinister motive.

  13. Another issue may be wanting someone who understands your cultural or social background. For example, I am have a very mainstream white Anglo-Saxon Protestant background. There are going to be many things I don’t understand about the life experiences of a person of color. Those differences can create friction in a relationship. Or they can be envigorating. It’s really a double edged sword. Sometimes a person might just want someone who “gets” them. The NYT had a trend piece awhile back about Asian women who want to date Asian men (and visa versa). A lot of the people interviewed mentioned wanting to be understood by their partner and not seen as weird or exotic.

  14. Depends.

    Some people simply find particular physical characteristics more attractive, and if those characteristics are more common in a certain ethnicity. This doesn’t mean that, for example, your friend is attracted to each and every single asian, just that asians are more likely to have the features he finds attractive. In that case, I’m not sure there’s a problem.

    Now, if he’s attracted because of some cultural preconception he believes all asian women share or prejudice (say, asian women are more subservient), then yeah, let’s throw racism into the conversation.

    • My husband’s friend (English background) is crazy about Korean women…in fact, he married 3 of them…but each one was, of course, so different from the other….the first wife was so gorgeous, which hooked him onto Korean women….but I could see he would keep trying to mold each one into what he wanted…each woman would fight with him for more autonomy and independence….by contrast, his third wife seems more the quiet and submissive type (by our observation)….

      It seems like he fell in love with what he thought he could mold her into….not what was actually in front of him….

  15. wellokaythen says:

    I keep hearing over and over again that racism is everywhere and everyone is racist in some way. Everyone has internalized some of it.

    What this means is no matter what your dating preferences are, they’re racist.

    Only want to date people of one race? Racist.

    Have no racial preferences in dating? You are blind to the ways that racism has shaped your life and are naïve to think that racial differences don’t really matter. If you’re white and express no racial preference, it’s because of white privilege – only white people have the privilege of pretending that race doesn’t matter. If you’re a person of color and you have no racial preferences, it’s because colonialism has denied you a heritage of your own and you think just like the white man wants you to think, that race doesn’t matter. No preference? Racist

    I don’t know about “wrong,” but the realistic political answer to the question is, “it depends on what you are and what race you’re attracted to, according to an arbitrary, unofficial chart that we all carry in our heads but don’t speak about out loud.”

    I’m only attracted to women. Does that make me sexist?

    • This is probably the best, and most accurate explanation I’ve ever heard. There comes a point when our classifications and judgements become overly sensitive, to the point of ridiculousness.

    • Bay Area Guy says:

      @ wellokaythen

      Only want to date people of one race? Racist.
      Have no racial preferences in dating? You are blind to the ways that racism has shaped your life and are naïve to think that racial differences don’t really matter. If you’re white and express no racial preference, it’s because of white privilege – only white people have the privilege of pretending that race doesn’t matter.

      Yup. Pretty much.

      As a white person, I stopped giving a crap about cultural leftist accusations of racism a long time ago. You’re racist if you do, racist if you don’t (which is where the whole term “aversive racism” comes in). I freely admit to having certain racist tendencies, but as I said before, I no longer give a damn or feel bad about it. After all, as a white person, I’m automatically a racist anyway, right?

      Despite having gone through a temporary yellow fever phase (I went to a majority Asian UC, what do you expect?), I now prefer white women over all other races of women. The way I see it, dating/finding love for young men of my generation can be hard enough as it is. No need to further complicate things by dating someone of a different race.

      I guess that makes me a horrible racist. Oh well, I prefer being called a flat-out racist to being subjected to the whole elaborate “white male gaze/sexual colonialism/exoticized other/insert any other common cultural leftist trope” that would accompany me if I happened to like Asian women, or certain other non-white women.

      At least “racist” is just one simple word, LOL.

      • Bay Area Guy says:

        I suppose I could find a middle ground between preferring only women of my own race and having a fetish for women of other races, and just treat women as women.

        But oh no! As has already been pointed out, I would just be exercising my “white privilege,” as only whites have the luxury to see people as people and not factor in race.

        The beauty of charges of racism, sexism, homophobia, or any other accusations of bigotry is that it’s almost impossible to prove a negative. How WOULD you prove that you’re NOT a racist? In fact, trying to prove you’re not a racist only further highlights just how racist you are.

      • When you start going and throwing bullshit out there like “leftist” you lose half of the people who may support you.

        • Bay Area Guy says:

          @ Collin

          Why is it “bullshit” to use that term? In this specific instance, it is very much relevant to the discussion.

          Think about it. Who goes around using terms like “sexual colonialism,” “white male gaze,” “exoticized other,” etc? It’s certainly not average people, white or non-white alike. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that in all of my day-to-day interactions with people of different races, genders, etc, I haven’t heard terms such as “white privilege” or “male privilege” ONCE.

          The types of people who I hear use those terms tend to be those who identify with the far left, particularly those radical social justice circles that like to focus on cultural trends. I also distinguish between the economic left (which focuses more on issues of economic justice and the working clasS) and the cultural left (which focuses more on race, gender, sexual orientation, and other identity related issues, and is the primary force behind this whole “privilege” fetish).

          In this case, I am focusing specifically on the cultural left.

          What substitute term would you prefer I use?


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