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Is Sexual Racism Really Racism? Distinguishing Attitudes Toward Sexual Racism and Generic Racism Among Gay and Bisexual Men

Abstract

Sexual racism is a specific form of racial prejudice enacted in the context of sex or romance. Online, people use sex and dating profiles to describe racialized attraction through language such as "Not attracted to Asians." Among gay and bisexual men, sexual racism is a highly contentious issue. Although some characterize discrimination among partners on the basis of race as a form of racism, others present it as a matter of preference. In May 2011, 2177 gay and bisexual men in Australia participated in an online survey that assessed how acceptably they viewed online sexual racism. Although the men sampled displayed diverse attitudes, many were remarkably tolerant of sexual racism. We conducted two multiple linear regression analyses to compare factors related to men's attitudes toward sexual racism online and their racist attitudes more broadly. Almost every identified factor associated with men's racist attitudes was also related to their attitudes toward sexual racism. The only differences were between men who identified as Asian or Indian. Sexual racism, therefore, is closely associated with generic racist attitudes, which challenges the idea of racial attraction as solely a matter of personal preference.
ORIGINAL PAPER
Is Sexual Racism Really Racism? Distinguishing Attitudes Toward
Sexual Racism and Generic Racism Among Gay and Bisexual Men
Denton Callander
Christy E. Newman
Martin Holt
Received: 18 June 2014 / Revised: 12 January 2015 / Accepted: 16 January 2015
Ó Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015
Abstract Sexual racism is a specific form of racial prejudice
enacted in the context of sex or romance. Online, people use sex
and dating profiles to describe racialized attraction through lan-
guage suchas‘‘NotattractedtoAsians.’’Among gay and bisex-
ual men, sexual racism is a highly contentious issue. Although
some characterize discrimination among partners on the basis of
race as a form of racism, others present it as a matter of preference.
In May 2011, 2177 gay and bisexual men in Australia participated
in an online survey that assessed how acceptably they viewed
online sexual racism. Although the men sampled displayed diverse
attitudes, many were remarkably tolerant of sexual racism. We con-
ducted two multiple linear regression analyses to compare fac-
tors related to men’s attitudes toward sexual racism online and
their racist attitudes more broadly. Almost every identified fac-
tor associated with men’s racist attitudes was also related to their
attitudes toward sexual racism. The only differences were between
men who identified as Asian or Indian. Sexual racism, therefore, is
closely associated with generic racist attitudes, which challenges
the idea of racial attraction as solely a matter of personal prefer-
ence.
Keywords Sexual racism Gay men Online dating
Racialized attraction Racial prejudice Sexual orientation
Introduction
Discrimination between potential sexual or romantic partners
on the basis of perceived racial identity has been referred to as
‘sexual racism.’ Stember (1978) initially defined sexual
racism as,‘the sexual rejection of the racial minority, the con-
scious attempt on the part of the majority to prevent interracial
cohabitation’ (p. xi). Today,‘sexual racism’is popularly
employed in media and research settings as shorthand for
racial discrimination between sexual or romantic partners. There
is contention, however, about whether this is an appropriate
label when it comes to understanding something as complex
and personal as desired. Indeed, some commentators contend
that distinguishing among partners on the basis of perceived
race is not racism at all but a justifiable personal preference
(e.g., Matheson, 2012). Researchers have sought to unpack
the intersections of race and sexuality in our contemporary
(and increasingly digital) world (e.g., Lin & Lundquist, 2013;
Phua & Kaufman, 2003; Plummer, 2008) but very little is
understood about people’s attitudes toward sexual racism or
whether those attitudes differ from broader racist attitudes.
Early writing on sexual racism focused almost exclusively
on heterosexual relationships between Black and White people
living in the USA (Hernton, 1965;Stember,1978)butmore
recent work has focused on other populations. A study of profile
ads found that men looking for other men were more likely than
men seeking women to assess the racial characteristics of their
partners and that they were more likely to self-describe in racial
terms (Phua & Kaufman, 2003). This research also found that
men seeking men were more likely to assess other physical fea-
tures of prospective partners, such as eye and hair color. One
interpretation of these findings is that gay and bisexual men are
more explicit about the characteristics they desire in a partner,
but it is also important to consider how such forthrightness may
deliberately or inadvertently reproduce racial discrimination in
D. Callander
The Kirby Institute of Infection and Immunity in Society, UNSW
Australia, Sydney, Australia
D. Callander C. E. Newman M. Holt
Centre for Social Research in Health, UNSW Australia, Sydney,
Australia
D. Callander (&)
The Kirby Institute, Faculty of Medicine, UNSW Australia,
Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia
e-mail: dcallander@kirby.unsw.edu.au
123
Arch Sex Behav
DOI 10.1007/s10508-015-0487-3
partner-seeking behaviors. Questions about racial discrimina-
tion are especially complicated among gay and bisexual men
because inclusivity and diversity are values often attributed to
notions of‘gay community’(Holt, 2011;Holt&Grifn,2003;
Ridge, Hee, & Minichiello, 1999). Nevertheless, past work inves-
tigating the idea of sexual racism in White majority cultures has
revealed entrenched hierarchies of attraction that influence the
sexual (and non-sexual) livesof gay and bisexual men of White
and non-White racial backgrounds (Caluya, 2006; Han, 2008b;
McBride, 2005; Ridge et al., 1999). As some have pointed out,
popular understandings of‘gay culture’in many Western coun-
tries are often underpinned by unspoken assumptions of White-
ness (Han, 2007;Teunis,2007).
Some commentators in print and online media have chal-
lenged the idea that discrimination between partners on the basis
of race is racist. These arguments often make a case that there is a
difference between sexual (un)attraction and racism:
Just because someone isn’t sexually attracted to someone of
Asian origin does not mean they wouldn’t want to work,
live next to, or socialize with him or her, or that they believe
they are somehow naturally superior to them. (Watts, 2012)
Other critiques of sexual racism draw on the deeply held value
of sexual freedom—an individual’s right to select a partner of
their choice—to question the limits that the label‘racism’places
upon individual desire (Matheson, 2012). Similar defenses of
what some consider sexually racist behavior have been observed
in the discussions that take place among gay and bisexual
men through sex and dating web services (Callander, Holt, &
Newman, 2012). These arguments invoke the libertarian ideal of
choice, which is a key ideology of the Western democracies in
which these debates typically take place. Indeed, the freedom to
choose one’s sexual and romantic partners is especially poignant
for gay and bisexual men and other sexual minority groups, for
whom the repression, exclusion and marginalization of sex and
sexuality is both an historical and ongoing reality. The idea that an
individual should feel shame at their desire is in many ways a
challenge to the hard-won ideals of sexual freedom, which is
exactly what some have argued the concept of ‘sexual racism’
does. Indeed, the ongoing debate on this topic highlights the
complexities of race and sex and it reveals how different opinions
on this issue can be. This debate also raises important questions
about whether a label such as‘racist,’which is imbued with social
condemnation, can or should be applied in the context of our
desires.
Although sexual freedom may provide a compelling argu-
ment for the right to choose one’s partners irrespective of race,
research has highlighted the role that systems of colonialism,
prejudice and Whiteness can play when it comes to sex and
romance among gay and bisexual men in Europe, North
America,and Australasia.Caluya (2006), for example, offersa
compellingethnographicnarrativeof the waysin whichAsian-
identified men living in Australia are both marginalized and
fetishized within the diverse enactments and cultures of gay sex.
Racial fetishization, which relies on the construc tion of racial
identities as sexual‘types,’has featured prominently alongside
themes of marginalization in the experiences of gay and bisexual
men of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds in Australia and
the USA (Han, 2006a, b, 2007; McBride, 2005; Ridge et al.,
1999).
Much has been written about the sexual stereotypes associ-
ated with race, especially the characterization of Asian- iden-
tified gay men in White majority cultures as effeminate, sub-
missive, and docile (e.g., Chuang, 1999; Han,
2006a, b). Other
work has suggested that these stereotypes may influence sexual
practices, notably that Asian and Pacific Islander-identified gay
men are more likely than men from other racial backgrounds to
occupy the receptive role during anal sex (Wei & Raymond,
2010). Han (2008a) has also touched upon this idea, noting that
Asian and Pacific Islander-identified men may be at an elevated
risk of HIV and other STIs because of racialized assumptions
that they should take the receptive role during anal sex. Of course,
these assumptions about the sexual behaviors of different cul-
tural groups are not unique to men racialized as Asian, with other
work touching upon how sexua l stereotypes can play out for
Latino and Black gay and bisexual men (e.g., Ayala, Bing-
ham, Kim, Wheeler, & Millett, 2012; Bowleg, 2012; Malebranche,
Fields, Lawrence, & Harper, 2007).
Previous rese arch among gay and bisexual men in the USA
suggests that, compared with offline venues, sexual racism is more
commonly expressed and experienced in online spaces (Plummer,
2008; Smith, 2012). In many parts of the world, gay and bisexual
men’s sex and dating lives increasingly play out through online
channels. Survey data from Australia suggest that website and
mobile applications are the most popular ways that gay and
bisexual men meet sexual partners (Hull et al., 2014). In the UK
and Netherlands, research has found that the majority of gay and
bisexual men under 30 meet their first sexual partner online (Bold
ing, Davis, Hart, Sherr, & Elford, 2007; Franssens, Hospers, &
Kok, 2010).
The prominence of online sex and dating practices is signif-
icant because the way we behave online may be different from
other social contexts. The perception that the online domain is
anonymous, aphysical, and depersonalized may lead some to
demonstrate what Suler (2004) called the online disinhibition
effect. Such disinhibition may promote freer sharing of attitudes
or perceptions with respect to race and partner-seeking. The
nature of online interactions, which are predominantly text-
based and archival, also makes it easier than in offline settings to
identify and examine the mechanisms of racial interactions.
While people rarely proclaim in a public space that they are, for
example, not attracted to Asian men, they may be more com-
fortable about doing so via online sex and dating profiles. Thus,
not only will people more readily disclose racialized attraction
Arch Sex Behav
123
online but, from a research perspective, online spaces provide a
unique opportunity to explore a social phenomenon that is likely
relevant to the offline world as well.
Using the Internet as a domain through which to analyze prac-
tices and meanings relating to sexual racism among gay and bisex -
ual men has been employed in previous research. Researchers have
highlighted the diverse forms of language that men use to negotiate
race and racism through their sex and dating profiles (Callander
et al., 2012; Phua & Kaufman, 2003;Raj,2011;Riggs,2012),
while others have pointed to the potential harms that can be caused
by experiencing sexual racism online (Paul, Ayala, & Choi, 2010).
What is missing from this growing body of research are
accounts of the diverse attitudes that gay and bisexual men hold
toward the practice and idea of sexual racism. In particular, very
little is understood about whether they see sexual racism as prob-
lematic or justifiable. Interview data suggest that some men do
not view this practice as problematic and see race as an appropri-
ate category for discriminating between partners (Callander,
Holt, & Newman, 2015). Online debates range from those who
actively challenge sexual racism (Mansfield & Quan, 2013)to
those who reject the idea as an affront to individual sexual free-
dom (Matheson, 2012; Watts, 2012). These debates also play out,
to a lesser extent, through the profiles men maintain online. A
small proportion of gay and bisexual men online use their sex and
dating profiles to defend or critique sexual racism in these com-
munities, which adds another dimension to this discourse (Cal-
lander et al., 2012). Collectively, these sources provide hints
about the attitudes men hold toward race and partner discrimi-
nation but a more comprehensive approach is needed to inform
understandings and responses to sexual racism.
This article seeks to outline the attitudes gay and bisexual
men maintain toward the idea and practice of sexual racism. We
focusonsexualracismasitoccursinonlinespacesasawayto
contextualize and frame this issue. Using survey data, we explore
the following questions: What attitudes do gay and bisexual men
hold toward sexual racism as it is expressed online, and is there
any consensus among men about the acceptability of this prac-
tice? Further, given the ambiguity around whether or not sexual
racism should be considered a form of racism, are there differ-
ences between men’s attitudes toward this concept and their
racist attitudes more broadly? It was hypothesized that men’s
attitudes toward racism and sexual racism would be similar and
shaped by similar forces.
Method
Participants
Data were collected via an online survey during May 2011. Gay,
bisexual, and other same-sex attracted men across Australia were
recruited through paid advertising on a popular sex and dating
webservice for gay and bisexual men and through Facebook’s
free‘pages’promotional platform. Recruitment directed poten-
tial participants to a dedicated survey website (www.justa prefer
ence.com). Those not living in Australia, not identifying as male,
not maintaining a sex or dating profile, or under the age of 16 were
excluded from participation. As an incentive, participants who
completed the final survey item were offered an opportunity
to enter a raffle for movie passes.
Measures
The survey instrument consisted of 79 items cover ing demo-
graphics, the use of sex and dating web services, attitudes to race,
racism and partner discrimination, and sexual practices with male
partners. With respect to participantracialidentities, men were
able to select from a long list of options or describe themselves
using free-text. Using 10 labels taken from a popular sex and
dating web service, men were also asked to select how they
typically self-identify when faced with these options: Asian,
Black, Indian, Latino, Middle Eastern, mixed, Native Ameri-
can, South Asian, White. Participants could also select‘other’
or‘I leave this option blank.’
Part icipants completed part of the Quick Discrimination
Index (QDI) adapted for use in Australia, which assessed atti-
tudes toward racial diversity and multiculturalism wi th lower
scores indicating less tolerance toward racial diversity (Ponterotto
et al., 1995). Participants were asked to respond to items like‘My
friendship network is very multicultural’and‘It upsets (or
angers) me that a non-White/Anglo person has never been the
Prime Ministerof Australia.’ Each itemwas assessedon a five-
point Likert scale ranging from (1) strongly disagree to (5)
strongly agree. Participants also completed eight items assess-
ing the acceptability of online racial partner discrimination,
such as‘ Indicating a racial preference in a profile is a form of
racism’’and‘It is ok to indicate a racial preference when looking
for sex or dates online,’’each scored from (0) strongly disagree
to (4) strongly agree. As a new measure, internal reliability
was calculated and a factor analysis was conducted. Measure
scores for both scale s wer e calculated by summing item res-
ponses and the included items are detailed in Tables 3 and 4 .
We calculated the proportion of same-sex partnered house-
holds in each participant’s home neighborhood as defined by
postcode, which served as a proxy for the geographic concen-
tration of same-sex attracted people. Proportions were calcu-
lated by taking the number of reported male–male and female–
female couples divided by the total number of couples per post-
code, drawing on data from the 2011 Australian census (Aus-
tralian Bureau of Statistics, 2013). This technique of calculating
same-sex household density is the same used by the Australian
Bureau of Statistics.
Arch Sex Behav
123
Procedure
Pearson correlations and ANOVAs were used to assess rela-
tionships at the bivariate level. Variables identified as having a
significant relationship with either of the dependent variables
(online sexual racism acceptability and the QDI) were block
entered into multiple linear regressions to assess independent
relationships. Non-significant variables were removed from the
final models. The racial labels employed by many sex and dating
web services (e.g., White, Indian, Asian) were used as markers
for how men self-present online and, therefore, included in our
analyses of racial difference. All multiple level categorical vari-
ables, notably racial identity, were recoded into dichotomous
variables to facilitate interpretation. Because of their ambiguity,
the racial identities‘other’and‘‘mixed’were not recoded for the
multivariate analyses nor was the option‘I leave racial identity
blank.’ Men who selected these options, however, were not
excluded from multivariate analyses because of the comparative
dichotomous variables. Statistical significance was set at 0.05
and Stata Statistical Software version 12.1 (StataCorp, 2011)
was used for all analyses.
Results
A total of 2177 men were included in the final sample, ranging in
agefrom16to82(M = 32.0, SD = 10.2). Table 1 presents data
on participant demographics as well as their online sex and
dating practices. A total of 326 men (15 %) reported that their sex
and dating profile contained content that discriminated between
potential partners on the basis of race. Of the total sample, 252
men (12 %) reported that their profiles were inclusive on the basis
of race (i.e., expressed interest in a particular racial group or
groups) while 133 (6 %) reported that their profiles were exclu-
sive on the basis of race (i.e., expressed disinterest in a particular
racial group or groups). A small minority of men reported both
inclusive and exclusive discrimination on the basis of race (3 %).
Over half of the men surveyed (58 %) believed they had been
discriminated against on sex and dating web services because of
their race and nearly all men (96 %) recalled viewing a profile or
profiles that engaged in some form of racial discrimination
(Table 2).
Tables 3 and 4, respectively, report participant responses to
the attitudinal measures: QDI and online sexual racism accept-
Table 1 Participant
demographics (n = 2177)
Demographic Response n %
Racial identity
(using racial groups from online
sex and dating webservice)
Asian 301 13.8
Black 7 0.3
Indian 41 1.9
Latino 39 1.8
Middle Eastern 30 1.4
Mixed 135 6.2
Native American 3 0.1
South Asian 22 1.0
White 1,474 67.7
Other 35 1.6
Leave blank 90 4.1
Sexuality Gay 1,882 86.4
Heterosexual 11 0.5
Bisexual 284 13.0
HIV status HIV-positive 99 4.5
HIV-negative 1,969 90.4
Don’t know 109 5.0
Relationship status
(at time of survey)
Single 1,677 77.0
In a relationship 458 21.0
Other 42 1.9
Education experience Non-university 793 36.4
University 1,384 63.5
Proportion of neighborhood
households with same-sex partners
0–19.19 % (M = 3.67)
Arch Sex Behav
123
ability. While half of participants thought that racism was a
problem on sex and dating web services, 64 % agreed that it was
OK to indicate a racial preference online. Although 43 % of men
reportedbeingbotheredbyseeingracialexclusioninonline
profiles, a similar proportion (46 %) reported not being bothered.
When these proportions were stratified by men’s past experi-
ences of racial exclusion online, those who had not experienced
racial exclusion were less bothered by seeing it online than those
who had experienced it (32 % vs 51 %, p\0.001).
A principal axis factor analysis with a varimax rotation of the
eight items related to online sexual racism was conducted. An
analysis of sample adequacy for fact analysis suggested that our
sample was favorable for this type of analysis (Kaiser–Meyer–
Olkin value of 0.9). The factor analysis suggested that the items
were best considered as a single scale with all items loading at
C0.6 on a single factor. This scale demonstrated high internal
reliability for the sample (Cronbach’s a = 0.9), which was not
improved by removing any items. Accounting for reverse-scored
items, participants’ cumulative totals ranged from 0 (low accep-
tance of sexual racism online) to 32 (high acceptance) with a
mean of 18.5 (SD = 7.4). The QDI also demonstrated high
internal reliability for this survey sample (Cronbach’s a = 0.8)
and observed scores ranged from 15–70 (M = 49.7, SD = 7.8).
Scores on these two scales were highly negatively correlated but
not so high as to flag concerns about collinearity (r[2177] =-0.56,
p\0.001). Men with more positive attitudes toward racial
diversity and multiculturalism (on the QDI) tended to view
sexual racism less positively.
Bivariate analyses identified participant demographics and
behaviors used in subsequent multiple linear regressions, which
are detailed in Table 5. Only variables which demonstrated a
significant bivariate relationship with either dependent variable
were included in subsequent models. The constructed models
accounted for 10.7 % of the observed difference in scores on the
QDI and 14.4 % of the difference in attitudes toward online sexual
racism. Being university educated, having experienced sexual
racism in the past, identifying as gay/homosexual, and living in a
neighborhood with higher proportions of same-sex couple house-
holds was associated with viewing multiculturalism more posi-
tively and sexual racism less positively. By contrast, identifying as
White and visiting sex and dating web services more frequently
was associated with less positive views toward multiculturalism
and more positive attitudes toward online sexual racism. Notably,
the only difference between the models was that men who self-
identified as Asian tended to have lower scores on the QDI and
men who self-identified as Indian tended to view online sexual
racism as less acceptable when compared with participants of other
racial groups. These differences were relatively small com-
pared with the others observed in our model.
Discussion
Gay, bisexual, and other same-sex attracted men maintain diverse
but generally tolerant attitudes toward sexual racism online. Reflect-
ing some of the debate around this issue, it appears that many
men do not view racial discrimination between sexual part-
ners as an expression of racism. We found similarities between
attitudes toward sexual racism and attitudes toward multicul-
turalism generally. These similarities suggest that sexual racism
is closely related to more general patterns of racism, although
there are some distinctions to consider.
The way in which participants understand sexual racism appears
to be related to perceptions of offense or intentional expressions of
Table 2 Participant online sex
and dating practices (n = 2177)
a
These categories were not
mutually exclusive, i.e.,
participants could report both
inclusive and exclusive racial
discrimination
Demographic Response n %
Frequency accessing sex and dating web services Bonce/month 114 5.2
Weekly 639 29.4
Daily 1,112 51.1
[once/day 312 14.3
Frequency using online services
to organize sexual encounters
Never 156 7.2
1–2 times/year 624 28.7
Monthly 917 42.1
Weekly 446 20.5
Daily 34 1.6
Experienced online sexual racism Yes 1,261 57.9
No 916 42.1
Viewed racially discriminatory profile Yes 2,088 95.9
No 89 4.1
Own profile demonstrates racial discrimination Yes 326 15.0
Exclusive
a
133 6.1
Inclusive 252 11.6
No 1,851 85.0
Arch Sex Behav
123
racism. While the majority of men we surveyed saw racism as a
problem on sex and dating web services, over 70 % disagreed with
the idea that indicating a racial preference online is a form of
racism. Indeed, the majority of participants also agreed that racial
preferences save time. Even though two out of five participants
reported that they were bothered by encountering racial exclusion
online there appeared to be hesitation about labeling online sex and
dating behavior as racist.
What could be fueling this hesitation?‘Racist’is a strong label
imbued with heavy social condemnation, which could explain why
some men are unwilling to define partner discrimination in this
way. Men might also be particularly hesitant to label racial
Table 3 Gay and bisexual men’s
attitudes toward racial diversity
and multiculturalism (the Quick
Discrimination Index [QDI])
(n = 2177)
a
Responses have been
condensed to a three-point scale
b
Reverse scored
Response
a
n %
Quick Discrimination Index (Range; M; SD) 15–70; 49.7; 7.8
I feel I could develop an intimate relationship with someone from a
different ethnic group
Disagree 145 3.7
Neutral 252 11.6
Agree 1,780 81.8
My friendship network is very multicultural Disagree 320 14.7
Neutral 174 8.0
Agree 1,683 80.1
I would feel OK about my best friend having a relationship with
someone from a different ethnic group
Disagree 50 2.3
Neutral 49 2.3
Agree 2,078 95.5
In the past few years there has been too much attention directed
toward multicultural issues in education
b
Disagree 742 34.1
Neutral 787 36.2
Agree 648 29.8
Most of my close friends are from my own ethnic group Disagree 846 38.9
Neutral 144 6.6
Agree 1,187 54.5
I think that it is important for children to attend schools that are
ethnically diverse
Disagree 130 6.0
Neutral 181 8.3
Agree 1,866 85.7
In the past few years there has been too much attention directed
toward multicultural issues in business
b
Disagree 734 33.7
Neutral 909 41.8
Agree 534 24.5
Overall, I think minorities in Australia complain too much about
ethnic discrimination
b
Disagree 972 44.6
Neutral 460 21.1
Agree 972 44.6
I think White people’s racism toward ethnic minority groups still
constitutes a major problem in Australia
Disagree 439 20.2
Neutral 304 14.0
Agree 1,434 65.9
I think the school system, from primary school through University,
should encourage minority and immigrant children to learn and
fully adopt traditional Australian values
b
Disagree 514 23.6
Neutral 456 20.9
Agree 1,207 55.4
If I were to adopt a child, I would be happy to adopt a child of any
ethnic group
Disagree 323 14.8
Neutral 498 22.9
Agree 1,356 62.3
I think the school system, from primary school through University,
should promote values representative of diverse cultures
Disagree 143 6.6
Neutral 277 12.7
Agree 1,757 80.7
It upsets (or angers) me that a non-White/Anglo person has never
been the Prime Minister of Australia
Disagree 1,207 55.4
Neutral 595 27.3
Agree 375 17.2
I think it is better if people date within their own ethnic group
b
Disagree 1,824 83.8
Neutral 208 9.6
Agree 145 6.7
Arch Sex Behav
123
discrimination among partners as sexual racism because they them-
selves participate in some form of race-based attraction and dis-
crimination (inclusion or exclusion). As past research has explored,
people will sometimes use particular strategies—often unintention-
ally—to distance themselves from being labeled as racist (Rapley,
1998, 2001). Although results from this survey suggest that around
one in ten men post online content about their attraction to racial-
ized groups, some of our previous work has found that many more
men than that think about attraction along racial lines (Callander,
Holt, & Newman, 2013).
We identified a series of factors that appear to relate to the
attitudes men hold regarding sexual racism online and, more
broadly, multiculturalism and racial discrimination. The factors
associated with attitudes toward sexual racism and multicul-
turalism were similar. A higher degree of education was associ-
ated with more positive attitudes to multiculturalism, as has been
observed in previous research (Dunn, 2004; Dunn, Forrest, Burn-
ley, & McDonald, 2004; Oliver & Mendelberg 2000). Given that
a similar effect was also observed with respect to attitudes toward
sexual racism, it is possible that the types of experiences afforded
by higher education (i.e., exposure to diverse people and ideas) may
influence how men understand sexual racism as well. Similar
to US research that found that Black and Latino-identified gay and
bisexual men with higher levels of education were less likely to
conform to sexual behavior stereotypes (Jeffries, 2009), education
appears to be a key factor not only for influencing race and sexu-
ality-associated behaviors but attitudes as well.
Those who had experienced exclusion because of their race
while looking for partners online held less positive attitudes toward
sexual racism and more positive attitudes toward multiculturalism.
Interestingly, the observed relationships remained, even when
racial identity was controlled for in the model. It is feasible that
personal experiences of racial discrimination may foster less
tolerant attitudes to the practice, which may occur independent
of racial identity.
Men who identified as gay compared with those who identi-
fied as bisexual or heterosexual expressed more positive attitudes
toward multiculturalism and less positive attitudes toward sexual
racism. Men who lived in neighborhoods with greater concen-
trations of gay and lesbian households were also more positive
about multiculturalism and less tolerant of sexual racism. It is
possible that community attention to these issues (in the gay press,
for example) may have contributed to a greater awareness among
gay men about sexual racism as an issue. Living in proximity to
Table 4 Gay and bisexual men’s
attitudes toward online sexual
racism (n = 2177)
a
Responses have been
condensed to a three-point scale
b
Reverse scored
Response
a
n %
Online sexual racism acceptability (Range; M; SD) 0–32, 18.5, 7.4
It is OK to indicate a racial preference when looking for sex or
dates online
Disagree 493 22.6
Neutral 298 13.7
Agree 1,386 63.6
Indicating a racial preference in online profiles saves everybody
time and energy
Disagree 374 17.2
Neutral 263 12.1
Agree 1,540 70.7
Indicating a racial preference in a profile is a form of racism
b
Disagree 1,067 49.0
Neutral 317 14.6
Agree 793 36.4
People who indicate a racial preference in their profile are not
trying to offend anyone
Disagree 345 15.8
Neutral 545 25.0
Agree 1,287 59.2
I am bothered when I read a profile that excludes people because
of their race/ethnicity
b
Disagree 990 45.5
Neutral 249 11.4
Agree 938 43.1
As long as people are polite about it, I see no problem in
indicating a racial preference in an online profile
Disagree 371 17.1
Neutral 248 11.4
Agree 1,558 71.6
If I were attracted to a certain group of people, I would indicate
this on my profile (or already do)
Disagree 723 33.2
Neutral 347 15.9
Agree 1,107 50.9
Racism is not really a problem on Internet sex and dating sites Disagree 1,097 50.4
Neutral 533 24.5
Agree 547 25.1
Arch Sex Behav
123
geographic communities of other same-sex attracted people may
have exposed participants to critiques of sexual racism, which may
have influenced their associated attitudes.
Of all the sex and dating-related factors considered in our
analysis, only the frequency with which men visited sex and dating
web services was associated with their racism-related attitudes:
those who visited more regularly tended to view multicultur-
alism less positively and sexual racism as more acceptable.
This finding may speak of two important, and likely inter-
acting, aspects of sex and dating online. First, the nature of sex
and dating web services often encourages the use of simpli-
fied racial labels like‘Asian,’’‘‘Indian,’and‘Black,’both in
how men describe themselves and how they describe what
they are looking for. Many web services allow profile searches
and filtering using these categories. Using these categories
may encourage the belief that they are useful, natural or appro-
priate for defining individuals and sexual (dis)interest. Second,
participants of online cultures appear to encourage and defend
the use of racial discrimination in the context of sex and dating.
As mentioned earlier, some of the debate about sexual racism is
expressed in men’s online profiles but only a very small number
of users are willing to critique the practice (Callander et al.,
2012). Thus, men who frequently visit such web services may
find their beliefs confirmed and reinforced in an environment
that appears conducive to sexual racism. It is possible that this
would have a reinforcing effect on men’s broader ideas about
multiculturalism and racism.
Our findings showed that men racialized as White tended to view
sexual racism more positively and multiculturalism less positively
comparedwithmen of otherracialidentities.Here, Australia’s
Anglo-dominant national context becomes particularly important.
As many social theorists have argued,dominant groups tend to
defend their dominance and be suspicious of systems that might
undermine their control (e.g., Allport, 1979;Brown,2011). Writing
about Australia,Hage(1998)notes thatmulticulturalism,by its
nature, undermines White authority. This perhaps suggests why our
White participants tended to view multiculturalism more neg-
atively. Further, specific to sex and dating among gay and bisexual
men, previous research has found that White men tend to experience
the least racial discrimination while looking for partners and are
Table 5 Factors associated with participant attitudes toward racial discrimination/multiculturalism and acceptability of online sexual racism
Factor QDI OSR acceptability
Bivariate (F/r)
a
Multivariate (b) Bivariate (F/r)
a
Multivariate (b)
Demographics
Age (in years) 0.04 0.02
University educated (no/yes) 50.40** 0.09** 76.74** -0.10**
Identify as gay/homosexual (no/yes) 23.90** 0.09** 21.57** -0.08**
Proportion same-sex households in postcode 0.11** 0.06* -0.13** -0.07**
HIV status (negative or unsure/positive) 0.36 0.07
Relationship status (single/partnered or other) 6.93* 0.05 0.49 -0.01
Online behaviors and experiences
Experienced sexual racism (no/yes) 45.80** 0.08** 59.80** -0.05*
Viewed racially discriminatory profile (no/yes) 12.14* 0.05 0.02 0.01
Own profile demonstrates racial discrimination 44.49** -0.12** 164.75** 0.13**
Frequency using web services to organize sex -0.01 0.02
Frequency visiting sex and dating web services -0.11** -0.10** 0.09** 0.08**
Racial identity
b
Asian 10.51* -0.10** 95.22** -0.04
Black 0.75 2.35
Indian 5.23* -0.005 21.83** -0.05*
Latino 4.34* 0.002 2.02 0.003
Middle Eastern 1.10 0.23
Native American 0.29 0.45
South Asian 2.36 -0.01 7.17* -0.02
White 86.84** -0.21** 192.46** 0.20**
QDI = Quick Discrimination Index (R
2
= 0.109); OSR = Online Sexual Racism (R
2
= 0.145)
*p\0.05; **p\0.001
a
ANOVAs (F) were used to assess categorical variables; Pearson correlations (r) were used to assess continuous variables
b
Racial identities were recoded as dichotomous variables; 0 = not participant’s racial identity, 1 = participant’s racial identity;‘‘mixed,’‘other,’and
‘leave blank’ were excluded because of their ambiguous nature
Arch Sex Behav
123
consistently rated as the‘most attractive’racial group by their peers
(Callander et al., 2013). This may also explain more tolerant atti-
tudes toward sexual racism observed among White men.
Participants appeared to have a common set of influences over
their attitudes toward racism and sexual racism. We did, however,
identify two differences. First, men racialized as Asian tended to
view multiculturalism less positively than their peers. Second,
compared with men of other racial identities, men racialized as
Indian tended to view sexual racism less positively. Some of our
earlier work found that Asian and Indian men experience sexual
racism more than other racial groups in Australia (Callander et al.,
2013). These negative experiences may have influenced their
attitudes but it is difficult for us to say how. Further research in this
area seems warranted.
It is worth acknowledging the national context of this research.
As our sample was based exclusively in Australia, it may not be
possible to generalize these findings to other parts of the world.
Although Altman (2002) among others has argued that gay cultures
are, in many respects, globalized, the social construction of race and
racism is nationally specific and it may be that sexual racism as it is
expressed and experienced here is different from other settings.
Even in countries that share Australia’s generally positive attitude
toward multiculturalism, such as Canada and the UK (Dasko, 2003;
Dunn, 2004; Thalhammer, Zucha, Enzenhofer, Salfinger, &
Ogris, 2001), debates and expressions of racism can be quite
different. Future research should consider comparing and
contrasting attitudes toward sexual racism between gay and
bisexual men from different geographic regions.
This study is the first to quantify attitudes relating to online sex -
ual racism and the ways in which these attitudes relate to racism in
general. By working to understand the similarities and differences
between these concepts, our analysis may help to dispel some of
the attitudes and perceptions that surround racialized desire.
Our research is limited by several factors. First, given that atti-
tudes toward sexual racism have not been previously mea-
sured, we used a new and unvalidated scale. Should the items we
developed be of interest to other research ers, more work will be
required to assess their validity and reliability. Second, there are
likely to be many other factors beyond those considered here that
influence men’s attitudes and practices regarding racialized sex-
seeking practices. For example, although we included the degree
to which a local neighborhood accommodates same-sex couples,
we did not include a measure of neighborhoods’ cultural and
linguisticdiversity. Unfortunately, available census data in Australia
do not facilitate the reporting of racial or ethnic affiliation, which
prevented this type of analysis. Finally, the cross-sectional nature of
this project prevents us from making any claims of causality.
For the most part, gay and bisexual men’s attitudes toward
sexual racism online appear linked in significant ways to their
attitudes toward multiculturalism and racial diversity. This
finding challenges the contention that sexual racism is not an
expression of racism. In spite of this apparent relationship, many
gay and bisexual men seem to perceive sexual racism as an
acceptable practice and resist the idea that sexual or romantic inter
est can be considered racist. Nevertheless, many men continue to
experience racial discrimination in their search for love or sex.
More work is required to further explore sexual racism as a
concept and practice so that strategies can be identified to combat
it among gay, bisexual, and other same-sex attracted men.
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... News media such as National Public Radio (Invisibilia, 2019), NBC News (Truong, 2018) and Vox (Lopez, 2016) have all covered the topic of sexual racism by shining a spotlight on the pattern of racial exclusion of potential partners for dating and sex, bringing the academic topic into the mainstream. One of the most popular academic studies that has been cited in the sexual racism literature and featured in several mainstream news publications is the work of Callander et al. (2015). Callander et al.'s (2015) work was important; in that it furthered the discussion of sexual racism by tying it to societal racism. ...
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... Based on the significance of the Callander et al. (2015) study, we argue that there is value in replicating it both partially and/or entirely. Replication, although an often-undervalued practice, is extremely important to assuring the validity of scientific claims (Funder et al., 2014;Schmidt, 2009). ...
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In this article, the authors examine how race, gender, and education jointly shape interaction among heterosexual Internet daters. They find that racial homophily dominates mate-searching behavior for both men and women. A racial hierarchy emerges in the reciprocating process. Women respond only to men of similar or more dominant racial status, while nonblack men respond to all but black women. Significantly, the authors find that education does not mediate the observed racial preferences among white men and white women. White men and white women with a college degree are more likely to contact and to respond to white daters without a college degree than they are to black daters with a college degree.
Book
Why hate Abercrombie? In a world rife with human cruelty and oppression, why waste your scorn on a popular clothing retailer? The rationale, Dwight A. McBride argues, lies in "the banality of evil," or the quiet way discriminatory hiring practices and racist ad campaigns seep into and reflect malevolent undertones in American culture. McBride maintains that issues of race and sexuality are often subtle and always messy, and his compelling new book does not offer simple answers. Instead, in a collection of essays about such diverse topics as biased marketing strategies, black gay media representations, the role of African American studies in higher education, gay personal ads, and pornography, he offers the evolving insights of one black gay male scholar. As adept at analyzing affirmative action as dissecting Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, McBride employs a range of academic, journalistic, and autobiographical writing styles. Each chapter speaks a version of the truth about black gay male life, African American studies, and the black community. Original and astute, Why I Hate Abercrombie & Fitch is a powerful vision of a rapidly changing social landscape.
Article
There is a dearth of empirical evidence on the extent of racist attitudes, broadly defined, in Australia. A telephone survey of 5056 residents in Queensland and NSW examined attitudes to cultural difference, perceptions of the extent of racism, tolerance of specific groups, ideology of nation, perceptions of Anglo-Celtic cultural privilege, and belief in racialism, racial separatism and racial hierarchy. The research was conducted within a social constructivist understanding of racisms. Racist attitudes are positively associated with age, non-tertiary education, and to a slightly lesser extent with those who do not speak a language other than English, the Australia-born, and with males. Anti-Muslim sentiment is very strong, but there is also a persistence of some intolerance against Asian, Indigenous and Jewish Australians. Those who believe in racial hierarchy and separatism (old racisms) are a minority and are largely the same people who self-identify as being prejudiced. The 'new racisms' of cultural intolerance, denial of Anglo-privilege and narrow constructions of nation have a much stronger hold. Nonetheless, sociobiologically related understandings of race and nation remain linked to these new racisms. Narrow understandings of what constitutes a nation (and a community) are in tension with equally widely held liberal dispositions towards cultural diversity and dynamism. Encouragingly, most respondents recognise racism as a problem in Australian society and this is a solid basis for anti-racism initiatives.
Article
Sexual racism can be thought of as a specific form of racial prejudice enacted in the context of sex and dating. It is a contentious issue among gay and bisexual men looking for partners online. This study draws upon 14 in-depth interviews conducted between August and October 2012 with gay and bisexual men of colour in Australia. Data were thematically analysed to identify interpretations and experiences of, and reactions to sexual racism online. Understandings of online sexual racism were diverse, ranging from clear ideas about racist and non-racist practices to more ambiguous and contextual interpretations. Nevertheless, all participants described experiences of sexual racism while seeking partners online, which were, in some cases, largely indistinguishable from generic forms of racism. Most described experiences of subtle racism, but there were also cases of blatant and aggressive racial prejudice. Finally, men reacted in a range of ways when confronted with online sexual racism, with strategies ranging from disconnection to adaptation through to confrontation. Our findings highlight that sexual racism - as an expression of racism generally - is an ongoing issue for men who seek out other men online, and that men engage in a range of strategies for mitigating the negative effects of racial prejudice in this domain.