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  • Sydney Panikkar

EXOTICISM: FASCINATION OR FETISH

I was 3 years old when a stranger called me exotic for the first time. My parents were at a restaurant when another diner came over to comment on my appearance. Confused and offended, my mom pointed out that I wasn’t a bird or a flower.


I have dealt with micro-aggressions camouflaged as compliments throughout my life. Because I am mixed race, I am privileged from the dilution of my otherness. My appearance has inspired intrusion and hyper-sexualization. Since the age of 13, I’ve received unsolicited nudes and sexts from complete strangers and men I know. The focus on my “ambiguous” appearance and the assumption of promiscuity makes me feel like I am not recognized as a human being.


A manifestation of white supremacy designating something as ‘other’ but non-threatening, unfamiliar but tamable, bizarre but seductive, and seductive in its’ bizarreness.”

-Maya Gittelman 2019

Fascination

Exoticism was originally an artistic trend in 19th century Europe. Writers and artists would create pieces to create settings of foreign cultures. The fascination with the exotic attracted a larger audience.


Biracial Kids

Social media sites have accounts dedicated to posting photos of mixed race children. Accounts like @mixedracebabiesig and @beautifulmixedkids; preach the attractiveness of biracial children. Individuals obsessed with having mixed race babies because of their beautiful skin and hair fill the comment sections; objectifying these children. The expectation for light eyes, soft curls, and caramel skin is toxic. Biracial children are not dogs that are bred to have certain features.


Racial Fetishism Today

Modern dating apps encourage a "cherry picking" culture with the ease of swiping and lack of accountability. Having a preference for blond hair and blue eyes is normalized as "having a type." In a racially charged world, that "preference" can feel different when it is applied to skin tone.


The difference between having a racial "type" and a racial fetish is intent. Wanting to have a relationship is different than desiring sex for a stereotypical "benefit." Both being fetishized and "cherry picked" for my complexion has been extremely uncomfortable for me.


Fetishizing people of color stems from sexual prejudice and desire for power. Projecting fantasies based on media portrayal is dehumanizing. Racial fetishism is racism.


What you can do

  • Further educate yourself

  • Examine your own biases

  • Take an implicit bias exam

In this short piece, I focused on my experience as a biracial woman. Racial fetishism affects all people of color because of harmful stereotypes. Below, I have linked implicit bias tests as well as various thought provoking articles. I implore you to continue to learn about this topic and listen to the experiences of people of color.


Harvard's Implicit Bias Tests


Articles to read about this topic:


Article by Jean Namgung: How Racial Fetishism has Colored Online Dating


"He messages a woman that he loves how exotic she is and how he needs his yellow fever cured, that he’s never seen a brown p***y before, that she’s beautiful in bed but too dark to take home."


Article by Robin Zheng: Why Yellow Fever Isn't Flattering

"first, individuals’ racial fetishes always depend on racial stereotypes rather than pure aesthetic features, and second, explicit disavowals of the stereotypes provide no evidence against this fact because the origins of sexual preferences are not usually transparent to those who have them."


Article by Kyndall Cunningham: Is it Racist to Have a Racial Dating Preference?


"There's a fine line between thinking someone is cute or sexy as an individual and lusting after someone for their skin color and the attributes you assume come with it."


Article by Stella Harris: On Race, Fetish, and Objectification


"In case you don't know, BBC stands for big black cock, and it appears with alarming frequency on dating sites and hook-up ads."


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