Q&A: “do you think you could help me explain why sexuality is not the same as having a “racial preference”…?”
Hey, do you think you could help me explain why sexuality is not the same as having a “racial preference” for who you date? Like I know they’re different but I can’t seem to explain it very well. Thanks!!
hi anon! sorry for taking so long to reply.
in my humble opinion, “sexuality” is a very broad term that is used to describe a wide variety of things, including preferences that a person may have with regards to gender, number of partners, types of relationships, hair color/type/location, race, and a million other things.
racial preference is a thing that could be considered relevant to a person’s sexuality.
that doesn’t mean it isn’t or can’t be racist to have such a preference.
that said, i get the feeling that you’re looking to explain the difference between sexual orientation and racial preference rather than sexuality in general. that is a lot trickier to explain in a way that would make sense to a person who would disagree with you. hmm. this is going to be a tl;dr response. sorry.
when someone tries to assert that their attraction (or lack there of) to a specific race (or races) is nothing but preference, my biggest question for them is: why? preferences are not without reason. i ask them to elaborate on why they are only attracted to certain people based on race.
more often than not the harder they try to explain, the further they dig themselves into a hole. a hole that 100% of the time relates back to racial stigma, stereotypes, and assumptions.
the tendency to be attracted to people of a particular gender(s) or to not be attracted to anyone at all is something that is more often than not (even if not always) innate. it is something that occurs in people universally, irrespective of the culture, society, etc that a person is born into, even if later on social and cultural things influence it.
preference, on the other hand, involves comparing one thing to another and deciding that you like one thing more than the other. there is always some degree of mental involvement even without the person being aware of it, whereas there is no mental involvement when it comes to a person’s orientation.*
a heterosexual man does not compare men to women to agender people etc and then decide that he prefers women. his attraction to women and his lack of attraction to people of other genders is something that he does not control. it is something that he could not control even if he wanted to.
a bisexual non-binary person may have a preference in regards to the gender of the person(s) that they’d like to be in a relationship with (ie. they may have a gender preference), but this is not to be confused with their orientation. that bisexual non-binary person did not compile a list of genders and tick off which ones they feel like being attracted to. who they are and are not attracted to is beyond their control. it is something that they could not control even if they wanted to. they simply have a preference for (a) particular gender(s) among the genders that they are potentially attracted to.
either one of the above fictional people could be more apt to be attracted to people of a certain race. this racial inclination or preference does not erase nor replace their orientation, because it is simply a preference. a criteria on the list of things that they mentally (consciously or not) check off about a person when forming an opinion about that person.
people who argue that racial preference is no different than sexual orientation often argue that their racial preference is beyond their control. that they can’t help the fact that they’re exclusively attracted to people of X race any more than they can help the fact that they are attracted to people of X gender. the difference is this:
if that person suddenly became attracted to someone of Y gender, they might deny it based on internal or external homophobia, biphobia, etc.
however, if that person suddenly became attracted to someone of Y race, the only reason they would have to deny that attraction would be because of stigma, stereotypes and assumptions about that person’s race. it would be because they are making generalizations about an entire race of people.
there literally is no other reason why a person would exclude an entire race from the people that they could potentially be attracted to that does not boil down to racism.
…and now that it’s taken me this long to finally get at the heart of your question, i’ll leave it at that. sorry if this doesn’t actually make explaining the difference any easier for you, anon. :/
*there is no mental involvement when it comes to a person’s orientation beyond, of course, the word(s) that a person chooses to use to communicate their orientation to other people. two people can experience similar patterns of sexual attraction but identify as different sexual orientations. similarly, two people can experience sexual attraction differently but still identify as the same orientation.