The Problem with Dating Preferences

I think I can say with almost absolute certainty that everyone has been asked “what’s your type?” at least once in their life. For me, I love people who are effortlessly funny, who have a contagious laugh or smile, and who love spending time outdoors. Others may like to date people who are creative and have a great sense of style, and other folks might prefer someone who loves music and has a lot of tattoos. These are all examples of preferences, and there is nothing inherently wrong with having some. 

The problem arises when your preferences are racist or colorist, fatphobic, biphobic, transphobic, or are in some way meant to exclude an entire group of people. Now don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean you can’t prefer someone who shares your ethnic background, or if you prefer someone with your same sexual orientation. But, if you sound like this when describing your preferences: “I don’t date Asian women, I only have partners who are skinny, I would never be with a bisexual man,” then your preferences are discriminatory, and they need to be unpacked.

Before getting into it, I think it’s important to define some of the terms I just used. Racism has been defined and discussed a lot in popular media, especially over the last five years, but the other terms are a little more nuanced. Colorism is prejudice against people with darker skin, and it typically occurs within a racial or ethnic group. Fatphobia, biphobia, and transphobia are defined as an irrational fear or aversion to people who are fat, bisexual, and transgender respectively.

Man in Brown Coat Hugging Woman in Black Coat Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels A common defense of the above mentioned preferences that I have heard on the internet and in real life goes something like this: “well I just don’t find [insert group of people] attractive, and I can’t be forced to be attracted to someone”, or “I’m not a racist/fatphobic/transphobic so my preferences aren’t these things either”, or the most frequently seen, “it’s not that deep, it’s just a preference.”

A couple standing in a brightly lit apartment drinking coffee. There is a table of fruit in front of them and they are in front of a window. Photo by Jack Sparrow from Pexels Content creator Tyra Blizzard, better known as @tblizzy on TikTok, made a series on her TikTok that perfectly explains why it’s not “just a preference.” In a series of videos originally meant to address biphobic preferences, Tyra explains how discriminatory preferences stem from standards society has embedded in us from a young age. Popular media is oversaturated with plenty of white women, but only recently has there been an effort to diversify our media to include black women and other women of color. Even still, women of color with lighter skin are more heavily represented than darker skinned women. This media is widely proliferated and conditions people to view white or light skinned women as the only desirable option, therefore forming a preference. This is just one example of how discriminatory preferences are formed, but I highly recommend watching Tyra’s TikTok series and delving deeper into this topic.

Couple kissing on forehead in bed Photo by Toa Heftiba from Unsplash Like I said, having preferences is not an inherently bad thing, and it’s unrealistic to say that you should like absolutely everyone. But if you find yourself agreeing with any of the preference defenses above, ask yourself why you feel that way. After enough why questions, you’ll find the root of the problem yourself.