Is preferring a sexual partner of a different race political?

Is swirling and sexual attraction across colour and culture lines a political issue?

‘So why did you never hit on me?’ I asked Rob, a skinny white boy from the ‘burbs and one of my favourite Jozi peeps. It seemed an appropriate question after a few drinks and years of a slow-burn flirt.

We’d hit that ‘it ain’t never gonna happen’ patch of our subsexual assessment of each other and it was time to draw a line under the whys and wherefores. Or at least, my fourth G&T told me so.

‘Well,’ he said. ‘I guess the truth is, I just … well, I just prefer black women. I mean, you’re attractive and everything, but yeah … you’re just really not my type.’

‘What!? All of this?’ I said, jazz-handsing all over myself.

He shrugged. ‘Yeah. What can I say? Get a tan?’

When it comes to race and sex and I tend to want to file it under Erotic Preferences, along with ‘tall, dark and handsome’, ‘kinkster’ or ‘big boobs’. A visual turn-on that is only skin deep. But skin colour is so loaded with culture and politics, especially in South Africa, it’s difficult not to feel the nudge of responsible self-reflection.

‘White boys want to get into my pants,’ she said. ‘But they would rather keep it secret.’

It reminded me of a conversation I’d had with a young black female student much earlier: ‘White boys want to get into my pants,’ she said. ‘But they would rather keep it secret. They wouldn’t take me to their parents. What’s that? I don’t like the idea of my blackness being fetishised.’

Fair point. But in erotica whiteness is also fetishised, as is being Latina or Asian. Or fat. Or young. (In case you’re wondering, fetishisation of bodies is where people become placeholders for particular stereotypes appreciated by the viewer. It’s not you that he’s into, it’s that you’re Latina, fat or blonde…)

Later as we paid up, the black owner of the bar came over and started making that owner-type small talk that always endears you and your patronage to a particular restaurant. He made a comment about me being Rob’s girlfriend and we all lolled until I blurted out, ‘No. Because he,’ I thumbed the skinny white man with a grin, ‘prefers black women.’

The owner raised his brows and shook his head in disbelief. ‘You prefer black women?’ he asked, scrunching up his nose. ‘Why? I’ll take her any day. White women are much nicer.’

But in erotica whiteness is also fetishised, as is being Latina or Asian. Or fat. Or young.

It would be simple to point fingers at the male of our species and smack lips at the objectification of women’s bodies and the inherent misogyny this supposes. But that would be a one-sided oversimplification.

I’ve been fascinated by the number of US-based swirling (mixed-race dating) sites dedicated to the topic of black women preferring and dating white guys. And I’ve met many local women of colour who just have a ‘thing’ for white boys, and white women who just have a ‘thing’ for men of colour.

So many things, you could almost throw a party.

When you zoom out and change your lens to be a bit more inclusive of people’s vast array of tastes in bodies, sounds, smells and textures, isn’t it possible that we could allow ourselves the glimmer of just liking what we like without being hauled over the coals for it politically? Or dissing the opposite?

I’ve been sad to see a number of South Africa’s own black ‘twitterati’ make a big stink over ‘black brothers’ who sell out and date white women

Some of those swirling sites go a long way to bad-mouthing black men and I’ve been sad to see a number of South Africa’s own black ‘twitterati’ make a big stink over ‘black brothers’ who sell out and date white women (my fave implication here is that the women had no say in the matter).

I wonder if all the other non-black-and-white mixed-race couples feel left out of the judgement loop.

It might be willfully ignorant to ignore the vast weight of history and how this plays out in our sex lives when discussing whether you prefer cocoa, cinnamon or vanilla. It would be disingenuous to say that fetishisation doesn’t happen. But does it really have any more to with how you ‘turn out’ than if you find yourself becoming a raging kinkster in some sort of psychosexual sublimation of your NG Kerk upbringing?

I am about as likely to date a very traditional African man as I am to date a very traditional Afrikaans man – not likely at all

Is it possible that calling foul on race politics in sex is just another way of keeping us all in our neatly defined boxes: white, black, straight, gay, us, them…

The biggest proclamation I’ll probably ever make about race, culture, politics and dating in South Africa is that I am about as likely to date a very traditional African man as I am to date a very traditional Afrikaans man – not likely at all. They’re two different-coloured peas, in the very same ‘women-are-less-than’ pod. Oh the irony.

As for Rob? I have a beautiful black New York friend visiting soon with a penchant for skinny white boys.

This column first appeared on Women24. Read the comments here [clickety click]

Six ways you’re acting out your bad relationship traits on Twitter

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I joined twitter in 2009 when friend and spit-sister @jeanbarker told me to stop being a chump and get in on the action.

god i loved twitter. i took to it like a moth to a flame, a bee to a flower, steve hofmeyr to to a neil diamond cover, david bullard to trolling…

wait. what? did you see how quickly it went vrot there?

well that’s how i feel about twitter this year. it was vrot and just got vrotter*.

this year everyone started acting out their worst bad relationships traits on a social media platform that acts more and more like a mirror than an info source.

Top bad relationship traits as seen on twitter.

1. Abusive
these are the trolls and the people who love them. they do not care for other people’s feelings and have clarified for the world that there are more psychopaths and sadists among us than is comfortable to acknowledge.

they break and hurt because it is fun to do so. they are playground bullies, the wife-beater with the drunk friends and people still applaud and follow them.

except a poop is good for you

except a poop is good for you

2. Shaming
think the same as us or you are devalued – not your idea, not your action, YOU. you are a worthless pile of offal and should be embarrassed for being different to ‘us’. have a different opinion? you’re WRONG.

i don’t care if you have something to add to the conversation on a PUBLIC PLATFORM, keep your straight/gay/man/black/white/female/fat/religious/atheist opinion to yourself douchebag.


as long as we're all the same we're all cool

as long as we’re all the same we’re all cool

3. Controlling
Think the same way or: be harrassed online, shouted down, petitioned, threatened, stalked, bulk bullied. toe the line that is being flouted by whatever voice is shouting the loudest.

just make sure your voice is the right race, sex, gender and orientation (handy tip: YOU’RE NEVER THE RIGHT RACE, SEX, GENDER OR ORIENTATION! HA HA!) before you venture expressing an opinion about something.

some of the worst examples of this are those who patrol The Issues with loud noises.


4. Manipulative
an important part of twars is drumming up support. support needs active tweets and angry, numbered diatribes by the right race/sex/gender and orientation that the diatribe involves.

this year there was a lot of ‘you’re either with us or against us’ bullshit.subtweets were rife with it. if you chose not to comment on every person’s personal bugbear you were with the enemy. Y U NO GO TO TWAR WITH ME AAAAARRGGH!!!!

‘you’re either with us or against us’

and then my favourite, when the usual twarers then roll their eyes when someone is ranting about a subject that doesn’t affect them: ‘just calm down everyone urgh so lame’ (read: ‘i need you to sustain your energy for my next twar’)



5. Narcissistic
social media has made little emperors of some. there is this assumption that personal opinions are sacrosanct, that personal views are all the world other people need to see and if they don’t agree they are clearly mad.

like little emperors, they build high, hard walls around their little opinions and defend them to the death, regardless of logic and fact, fairness or free speech.

the more their opinions are weighted towards race, the more frenetic their rambling.

you realise we’re just in a teeny tiny little fishbowl here right?

this is not you. promise.

this is not you. stop acting like it is.

6. Passive aggressive  
one of the most amusing negative relationship traits on twitter recently was this little passive aggressive gem: ‘if you need to ask, i’m not telling you.’

i read this thinking, oh my god, is this for real? constructive communication is about an exchange of ideas that work towards a solution. ‘well if you don’t know i’m not telling’ is something i expect to hear a 16-year-old say to their girl/boyfriend.

‘well if you don’t know i’m not telling’

places i’ve seen this include: ‘don’t expect me to explain my feminism/blackness/gayness/transness/womenness/straightness/whateverness TO YOU stupid NON ME. EDUCATE YOURSELF … just don’t ask me or the people involved THAT’S RUDE AND UNREAL AND IGNORANT (see the part about shaming). if you MUST ask questions go to google. that’s what google’s for.’

how is it that we can prefer GOOGLE to deal with the conversations of human difference with actual humans that can educate us?

'you are a big poopy head and if you don't know and i will not tell you, i will not hear you'

‘you are a big poopy head and if you don’t know and i will not tell you, i will not hear you’

i don’t expect strong communication skills by all the world, but let’s at least try to act like adults who can use words. let’s be open to accepting our differences and learning about these said differences.

and if you don’t like what someone is saying…

Some handy tips to deal with all twitter ‘bad relationship’ behaviour.

  • Use the BLOCK/MUTE function with wild abandon.
  • If you don’t like someone’s tweets or find them boring/racist/annoying/aggravating UNFOLLOW THEM.
  • If you don’t like what someone is saying, feel free to IGNORE THEM.
  • If you have an opinion, don’t expect everyone to have the same opinion.
  • ACCEPT that some people can be douchebags and MOVE ON.
  • DON’T TAKE SHIT PERSONALLY. Woolies, 5FM, coca cola, standard bank ARE BRANDS, they are not PEOPLE, you are not THE BRAND, they will survive without you and your defending/fighting them.
  • If you the need to rant for hours WRITE A BLOG/READER PIECE/COLUMN ABOUT IT. (i did this, see?)
  • CONVERSATIONS are not meant to be AMBUSHES


jesus christ people. get a hold of yourselves.

*vrot = rotten