It is always shocking to me when a discriminated group discriminates against other marginalized segments of society. In university I took courses on queer history and queer culture, feminism, racial segregation and the civil rights movement in the US, and I was lucky enough to engulf myself in a program on the status of Aboriginal peoples in North America. I consider myself a feminist regardless of my male gender. I would consider myself a defender of racial minorites (indeed, this is a part of my actual job), and naturally I stand up for the GLBTQ community whenever needed.
Normally, I don't like to think of any one group having it more difficult or harder than any other. I don't want to create a discrimination heirarchy, that in itself would be discriminatory. As much as I long to avoid creating or fostering any further a divide among minorities; I find that within a larger minority this is commonplace. Perhaps it is the mindset that "I'm discriminated so what I do can not be discriminative." Or maybe because of the chip on the shoulder of a marginalized they feel they can get away with it or that it is somehow fair.
As a sort of social experiment, five friends and I all created five types of accounts on dating sites and chat sites within the gay community. Each user created a fictional character and used that character five times- but as five different races. The personality of the fictional characters were essentially just the personality of the user who made it. In short we had: an educated, serious, African American; an educated, serious, Asian American; an educated, serious Hispanic American, etc. Another user was more jovial and light with conversation so we had a jovial African American, a jovial American of Middle Eastern descent, etc.
Six fairly individual personality types repeated over the facade of being five different races. If this were truly a post racist world, one might think that each user had the same level of success making a connection with each account. They did not change their style of communication or the topics they discussed. They used the same sites for each of their fictional personas. But we each found startling inequities.
Sites which were most used among us included; silverdaddies.com, plentyoffish.com, squirt.org, manhunt.net, and the app grindr. We used these sites because they gave a good spread of what gay men are looking for; friendship, dating, hook ups, and long term relationships.
Our first observation was that there is a very clear heirarchy of what is desired by other gay men. This was disturbing for more than one reason. Not surprisingly, white men were at the top of the heap among all sites visited. What was surprising was that even among men of ethnic minority, white men were still the most desired. Why was this happening? Why was there a reluctance for gay Saudi Arabians living in American to be with other gay Saudi Arabians living in America? We'll expand on that theory later.
Our second observation was that thet next two highest races on the desirability heirarchy were there in a negative placement. They were there for fetish reasons more than anything. Black men were fetished and objectified predominantly by white men, who themselves identified as bottoms. Even on sites or with profiles which sought friendship and chat, black profiles were approached strictly for sexual purposes. Asian profiles were equally objectified by white men who identified as tops who wanted to dominate, use, and own the Asian men. In both cases, there was a general disregard for the ethnic minority's preferences, opinions, feelings, and a detachment from getting to know the gay person as a person.
What is interesting of the second finding was that in some cases the same exterior user messaged the same interior user's multiple accounts. Though the exterior user took time, moved slower (in most instances), and got to befriend the white persona, they would move faster, speak slightly more derrogatory, and spend less time getting to know the ethnic personas- even though they all had the exact same personality and interests.
Is being objectified and fetishized any better than being totally ignored?
The other two races used in this experiement (which took almost a year) were men of Middle Eastern descent, and men of Latino or Hispanic heritage. Latinos/Hispanics faired poorer than Asians but significantly better than Middle Eastern men. Latinos were not quite as fetishized as Blacks or Asians when they were finally contacted, but they went for longer periods of time without contact. In the vast majority of times, we had to make first contact with our Middle Eastern accounts (this was less true of accounts we set up stating that we lived in European countries).
Problems plague Middle Eastern men. What is the reluctance to commincute with one another? Fear of being discovered by heterosexual members of the same race and alienation from the group or harsher punishment? Whenever we spoke to a Middle Eastern gay male, there was an air of secrecy about them. They would sometimes confide that they were scared of family, friends, or their community discovering their sexuality. This problem inhibits their ability to seek love or sex among their own race. This is also true of first and second generation Asian Americans. We did not really find this confession or sentiment among any other race to any notable extent.
Handling racism on the internet is difficult. Most sites expect you to handle the racism yourself. Though the moderators of many websites will ban you for saying or implying anything else of an illegal manner, the illegality of racism is self controlled. Thankfully that is not the case with justusboys.com. The worst example we found (by a significant margin) was silverdaddies.com. Five out of the six of us used silverdaddies on a regular basis for this experiment. For those who do not know, silverdaddies has three live chat rooms with very strict and usually enforced rules of use. Moderators patrol the live chats to maintain order and "civility". You can get banned for entering more than one chat room at a time, posting links to other websites, or even repeating yourself. What we found on silverdaddies was the highest margin of openly racist and derrogatory remarks and the lowest margin of punishment for this behaviour. You can get banned for repeating the message, "29, gay, looking for a daddy type" four times within four minutes- but moderators were hesitant to ban anybody calling a Latino a "beaner". As late as today, I used three accounts and saw this behaviour repeated on silverdaddies with the moderator dismissing it and asking me to take it up with the webmaster if I couldn't satisfy myself with temporarily blocking said racist (silverdaddies has no permanant block feature despite paid membership).
The widest use of blatant racism remarks came from gay men of a certain age, 40 and up (I personnally thought it would have been older), and from certain geographical regions; South-East USA (sorry former slave states, you haven't ecolved as much as I would hoped) as well as the prarie provinces of Canada to a lesser extent. Sidenote- what is it with farming and racism that make them go hand in hand?
When I refer to blatant racism, I'm not referring to the racism that gets debated on justusboys as to whether or not it is racist, I mean literally having been called every variation of the n bomb that there is. One user was sent a private message to the effect of, "Hey Rice-Ni**er, get off this site." only minutes after creating the account. Source- squirt.org
This had to be the most disheartening experience of my life. For one year, I got to pretend that I was somethings that I am not. I got to be African-American. I got to be Latino (with my limited knowledge of the Spanish language), I got to be Japanese and Chinese, I got to be a Saudi Arabian! I also got to be treated like shit. I got objectified. I got fetishized for the perception that I might have a 12 inch cock because of my skin colour.
It should be noted that three of us did not use pictures with our various profiles. So whether or not we were more or less attractive was not an issue. Those who did use pictures typically used generic pictures of either biceps or abs. And only one user used pictures of faces. With faces, there is a chance of preference at play. But he did try to use pictures of guys who were not overly good looking nor unattractive.
I'll also note that only four of us are gay/bisexual. That's right. For almost one year we had two straight people (male and female) to chat online with gay men about relationships, sex, politics, and more sex. My husband took part in the experiment, which was fun. One of us is writing a PhD (that is not me), and is using our experiment as the base for his thesis so I can't really elaborate much more on our findings. But I thought it was a fun experience and something worth sharing.