A third of people experience 'racism and fetishisation' in online dating

One in three people have been the victim of racial discrimination, unsolicited fetishisation and microagressions in online dating, according to a new study.

Men and women with mixed racial heritage were most likely to experience unsolicited fetishisation, with half saying they have been a victim of this form of sexual racism.

According to the new research from dating app Bumble, over half (53%) of people in the UK don’t even have a clear understanding of what fetishisation is as it relates to identities, race, body type, profession and more.

Fetishisation is a sexual fascination with things not inherently sexual, like race, gender, sexuality or body type. Unsolicited fetishisation reduces people to a certain characteristic and can be profoundly dehumanising for those who experience it. 

Saying that you are attracted to a specific ethnic group, or that you find particular racialised features sexually appealing, is not a compliment or something positive. This is racial fetishisation and it is a form of racism.

The research also shows that racial discrimination in profiles disproportionately impacts those who are of Black or Arab ethnicities.

The study shows that 35% of Asian women and 33% of Black women have experienced fetishisation, nearly half (45%) of Asian men have experienced it too.

The research, which comes one year on from the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, also shows that a third of UK adults have re-evaluated the way they approach race and equality in their relationships.

While this reflection is encouraging, the occurrence of fetishisation continues to impact how people engage and interact with online spaces – and it can have a damaging psychological impact on daters of colour.

Bumble says it uses automated safeguards to detect comments and images of hate speech, hate symbols and harassment. The app has also made it easy for people to block and report anyone whose behaviour goes against the company’s guidelines.

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