Written by Rosie Ofori-Ward.
Art by Lena Gray .
One way or another, every woman or non-binary individual attracted to men, aware of inequality, gendered violence and the patriarchal structure of society has a desire to fuck their oppressors. Has a desire for, or an attraction to a group whose position in society exists explicitly at the subjugation of others.
This paradox is identified in media, books, around brunch tables and now even has its own term. We call it “hetero-pessism”. We laugh at memes which assert that heterosexuality is proof alone that sexual desire isn’t a choice. But how and whom we desire is informed by colonial ideals. There is a hierarchy of desire out there and we need to talk about it.
In 2014 an OKCupid study (replicated across multiple other dating sites) found that white men get the most matches of any group, that same study found that black women were among the least.
As a black woman whose dating history reads: tall, blonde, white, heterosexual, ‘traditionally’ attractive, generally mediocre, yet operating at the top of all of the societal hierarchies, I am currently on a process of decolonising my desire, but it is not as simple as I would have hoped. As a minority living in a predominantly white society, I always thought this was more of an act of convenience than anything else but interrogating my former relationships, hook-ups, even crushes, I found something else. That pesky white supremacy rearing its ugly head, interfering with my own desire.
These men were held up as the pinnacle of ‘male attractiveness’ and my subconscious was influenced accordingly.
My adolescence was filled with lusting after Hugh Grant, Brad Pitt and Leo DiCaprio. These men were held up as the pinnacle of ‘male attractiveness’ and my subconscious was influenced accordingly. When telling friends my taste in men I would say ‘A guy who looks good in a cable knit sweater’. And I still forgive most things and ignore most red flags if they come attached to an English accent.
We find desire uncomfortable to speak about in terms of racism.
To ignore the effect of this training on every aspect of my life would be ignorant. As a teenager, indoctrinated by this great colonial nation, I can remember saying that for my children to be the most beautiful, successful and even happy, I would have to marry a tall, white, straight-haired man. I am fully aware of the historical and contemporary ramifications of my ‘type’. They are at odds almost daily with my own political opinions and disdain for colonial practices and white supremacy. But I grew up in a white centred culture and I aspired for what was positioned as the ‘best’ which in Australia, often just means ‘the whitest’. This is not to say that there haven’t been people in my past who do not fit into this mould, but there is a theme to my history.
My desire for this ‘norm’, ‘mainstream’ or even ‘powerful’ image of white masculinity is also a desire for acceptance. As a woman of colour dating white men has given me access to spaces I wouldn’t have been allowed into and garnered respect from those previously unwilling. I am ashamed of my continued pursuit of white spaces, white positions and especially white men. But I, like many people of colour in white countries, have found safety in a proximity to whiteness.
We find desire uncomfortable to speak about in terms of racism. We allow people to talk about ‘preferences and types’. But we need to acknowledge how sexual preference and desire cannot be separated from historic racial discriminatory practises.
I am readily exoticised, othered and racialized.
Dating in Australia, it is impossible not to be reminded of my blackness in every interaction. I am readily exoticised, othered and racialized. I couldn’t count the number of times I have been approached in a bar with the line ‘So where are you from?’ I often answer with something snarky, trying to expose the inherent racism in this remark. But without exception, they respond with the highly original “No, but like where are you really from’. I’m exhausted from this dance, of constantly being on the back foot, having to defend my position in my own country.
I conformed, and for what?
I am envious of these men’s ignorance, and their position in society which makes it negligible. I am envious of their power; and to date them, even to fuck them, is to envelop myself in that power. But I can’t ignore the damage it is doing to my own sense of self, my own cultural identity. My memories of past relationships are marred with the pain of having to hide, alter myself, perform the most chiselled down version of black womanhood. I conformed, and for what?
I want to date my oppressor. I am attracted to power. But I can no longer ignore the political and racial ramifications of this desire. I can no longer open myself up to patriarchal and racial oppression just for the sake of something that will always be just out of my grasp.
About the Author
Rosie is a freelance writer, intersectional feminist and postgrad student living in Narrm/Melbourne Australia. She is passionate about finding effective policy solutions to gender inequalities and keeping her houseplants alive. Her loves include cheap merlot, true crime podcasts and sad literary heroines. Find her gushing book reviews and general nattering on IG.