The Difference Between Having Preferences and Being a Prejudiced Asshole in Online Dating

a craps table in a casino. Two dealers stand next to the table on opposite sides. There are appear to be two customers off to the right of the frame.
Image by Smoobs / CC BY

Yay! It’s guest blog post time again! Today’s piece is by Matthew Shadrake.

Matt is a polyamorous switch and a big ole softie. He has previously contributed 2 posts to Poly.Land:

  1. Twin Demons: How I Learned About Toxic Masculinity and Toxic Monogamy
  2. Firing a Gun Into a Dark Room: Strip Clubs, Sex Trafficking, and the Hidden Cost of Hedonism

In addition to being a hell of a writer, Matt is one of the best conversationalists I have ever met and may even be a bigger psych nerd than I am. He’s definitely geekier about kink and the philosophical implications of hedonism and sex-positive shenanigans.

Matt’s regular blog is Confessions of a Hedonist. And check out what he wrote this time around for Poly Land:

The Difference Between Having Preferences and Being a Prejudiced Asshole in Online Dating

I work at a casino, which is a place drowning in toxic masculinity. Doubly so the craps table, where four employees deal at one 14-foot long table to a variety of customers. One particular night, it’s me and three other male coworkers. And of course, the conversation has turned to women.

We have a code word in the industry… “crap game.” It’s what you say when an attractive woman has walked by, to alert your fellow employees. It’s designed to be confused with simply advertising the game — “come play at our crap game” — but to anyone that works there it’s unmistakable.

And as we’re all standing around on a not very busy Wednesday afternoon, a skinny white 20-something blonde in a dress walks by. The call is made, comically everyone turns their head and stands at attention.

The young lady passes by, the oldest man in the crew makes a suggestion that she get money from her “dad” to play (the guy in question is clearly around her age and likely her boyfriend). She smiles but keeps on walking past us. A smattering of conversation is had about her as soon as she is out of earshot.

I see a young black woman pass by, who is very conventionally attractive. I call out “crap game.”

“No, not me, man,” says one of my coworkers.

“I don’t go for that,” says the old man.

“Not really my thing,” says another

I have my own regrets about participating in such a thing to begin with. But the display of bias here — of outright prejudice when it comes to attractiveness — makes me uneasy. But hey, I choose to work here. I don’t think I really expect much inside a casino.

Standards and Practices

Of course, you’re not obligated to be attracted to anyone. Everyone has things that turn them on, things that don’t do much for them, etc. If you’re not attracted to black people, for instance, it’s also probably true that you wouldn’t be much of a good partner to one. You should probably do some introspection on why that is and if you need to change anything, but you can be fine not dating a black person.

I had a deeply religious friend who once confided in me an interest in a black man who she had considered dating. The interest was apparently mutual. She had concluded though that it was unwise to pursue that relationship because her mother had expressly forbid such a thing. As she then lived with that mother and was very close to that mother, she felt it wouldn’t be fair to date that black man. So she never let things develop.

I have a different friend who told me they didn’t date black people because black people tend to be more religious and Christian. Being an ex-Christian from a somewhat abusive Christian background, they wanted to avoid that. To me, that was a troubling assumption. I know quite a few awesome non-Christian black folk in our mutual area. To me, that was an assumption that should be challenged.

These sorts of standards pop up all the time in the dating world, especially in dating profiles.

Preferences Can Be Like Moats

Sometimes, these preferences are like moats. If you’re a poly person and state yourself as such, stating that you’re not looking for a monogamous partner is a fair way to keep out incompatible partners. The key here is that someone reading the profile is unlikely to feel ostracized by such a thing.

Whereas a profile that states “no black girls, sorry it’s just not my thing” sends a terrible message to black women. It tells them they are lesser because of your prejudices.

Just as “I only date guys 6’0 or taller” can make shorter guys feel less like a man. There’s a reason “no fat chicks” was satirized in Family Guy years ago – it’s a shitty opinion expressed to humiliate women based on their size, often by guys who are less than physical perfection themselves.

It’s why segregated dating sites exist. ChristianMingle exists because certain Christian folk found that they were excluded on other dating sites because of their faith. JDate for Jewish folk, BlackPeopleMeet for black folk. There’s dating sites for STI-positive folks, Vampersonals for self-identifying vampires and gothic folk.

If you think about the most reviled people in the world, almost universally associated with murder and worse, you won’t be surprised to find that they have their own dating site called ClownDate.

You Can Have Your Standards, Just Watch Your Practices

It’s not that you can’t have these sorts of preferences. You can’t help but be attracted to who you’re attracted to. But voicing them on dating sites, voicing them to your friends/coworkers tends to make that sort of prejudice more weaponized. Your dating preferences are your own personal business, but when you put them on a dating profile you are explicitly telling people that they are lesser just for being that.

You can have your standards, just watch your practices.

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