Despite the popularity of online dating apps, black women are at a disadvantage, receiving fewer messages and swipes and more abuse than white women. Racial stereotyping also means that single black daters are sought out for sex rather than love on dating apps such as ‘Tinder’.
FOR OVER 60 YEARS SINCE the Second World War, finding love through friends was the most common way that heterosexual couples met — but since 2009 this has been in rapid decline. In America today online dating is now by far the most common way people now find each other. In the UK the figures show the same trend. A 2018 study of 2,000 people by the BBC reported that 45 per cent of 16-34-year-olds had used online dating at some point, and that only 18 per cent of them met their current partner through friends, family or on a blind date.
ONLINE DATING FOR BLACK WOMEN
Nevertheless, the new online dating experience differs greatly according to race, as I outline in my new guide to Internet dating. A blog post by dating app ‘OkCupid’s co-founder, Christian Rudder, noted that data collected from heterosexual users showed that the strongest biases were against black women and East Asian men. Most males on the site rated black women as less attractive than women of other ethnicities. It also reported that they received 25 per cent fewer first messages on the ‘OkCupid’ app than women of all other ethnicities. This comes on the back of research revealing the black women are already the most abused group within social media generally.
BLACK NOT BEAUTIFUL ONLINE
The overall statistics on who swipes who overwhelmingly conclude that most white people choose other white people within online dating apps. Research conducted by Gerald Mendelsohn, Professor of Psychology at the University of California, revealed that over 80 per cent of the online contacts initiated by white members were to other white members, with only three per cent to black members. By definition, blacks within online dating apps are at an inherent disadvantage to whites.
On the occasions when black women are actually contacted by online dating’s mainly white audience, the motivation is often sexual rather than emotional. They often find themselves on the receiving end of post-colonial stereotypes about possessing a more voracious sexual appetite or outlandish sexual preferences. Black writer Stephanie Yeboah came up against these sexual stereotypes during her time online dating. “Some blatantly exclaim that they would want to be in a relationship [with me] to ‘get a taste of jungle fever’ and to see whether black women are ‘as aggressive in bed as they’ve heard,’” she said.
Online dating is very effective at revealing how stereotypes about the sexuality of people of African descent are still very much alive and kicking. The concept of ‘black sex’, or ‘African sex’ — the assertion that members of this ethnic group are sexually and biologically different from whites, and with a more developed sexuality, dates back to the early 1600s, as the English first began exploring Africa. They focused on the sexuality of the locals, as they often wore no clothes, many tribes were polygamous, and their matrimonial practices differed from those of Christians — all of which European travellers found provocative, if not uncivilised. In today’s online dating world, with the remnants of this past still in play, black women in search of love find themselves having to be additionally mindful of white men with a sexual fetish for their ethnicity.
TINDER BURNS FOR BLACKS
The stereotype that sex with a black person will yield a more heightened experience from that with a white person continues to drive many hook-ups and one-night-stands on dating apps like ‘Tinder’, the market leader. The majority of its massive user base is white and male, and so black women who sign up may attract those who only see their blackness sexually, and in line with racial stereotypes. The sexual overtures of this group inevitably expose black female online daters to insulting or abusive behaviour, which prematurely erode their tolerance for online dating as a whole, often driving them away from the platforms altogether. Therefore, no black woman who seeks a long-term relationship should ever use ‘Tinder’. A better option for women of colour is to explore the apps that are less overtly sexual. No dating apps are completely free of sex pests and abusers, although others may have smaller numbers.
As a result of their downgraded status online, black women have to work harder and be more resilient than whites females in order to find appropriate matches within online dating apps — and this takes its toll upon them. Their disappointments and disillusionments go some way toward explaining why they are the least prevalent demographic across online dating apps. After Yeboah’s experience, she went through phases of quitting and rejoining, until she finally quit altogether. “I don’t see any point,” she lamented.
It is easy to extrapolate, on the basis of all these conditions, how a black woman can end up feeling more angry, more sad, more cynical and more disillusioned than a white person about the online dating experience. This is driving the growth of “splinter apps” catering to specific ethnic and cultural niches unsatisfied with mainstream offerings, and which attempt to create a safe space where communities can find each other and where women can escape discrimination. But dating apps generally have a long way to go in eliminating abuses of all kinds.
Author BenArogundade recounts his journey as an online dater, during which time he was stood up, verbally abused, propositioned for sex and asked to be a father to an unborn child. Along the way he offers singles the secrets and best practices they need to know to boost the quality of their matches, and presents the latest strategies, research-based guidelines and innovations to take their online profiles to new levels of excellence. Get it now at Amazon, £9.99/$12.99.