Interethnic Sexuality.

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Interethnic sexuality and International loves : hot problem ?

Laurent D. FAURE.

 Interracial sex.


Interracial sex 2.


Interracial sex 3.


Interracial sex 4.



Interethnic sexuality and International loves : hot problem ?

We are pleased to present the translation and adaptation of the texts concerning interracial sexuality by the English Canadian, of Italian and Irish descent, inhabitant of Toronto (Ontario, Canada), Emily MONROY.

To have sexual intercourse with someone who is not of his/her ethnic group doesn't provide the same “feeling” that we can feel with a people, that, without having his/her nationality, or, even having it, doesn't have his/her color of skin. Indeed, there is a special sexual excitation, as good as for the white that for the people of color, which doesn't exist in the international relations. An American survey of 1998 proves that these relations are motivated for 14,5% by sexual excitation. It is more than love (9%) but less than neglect of ethnic question (83%) that is important in such relation.

Even if we avoid to say it for “politically correct” reasons, there is fantasy concerning interethnic sexuality and the most known is the big virility of black men and the weak virility of Asian men. But interethnic attraction is not important for 10% and 80% of people say that they would not hesitate to enter in interethnic relation if they would have opportunity.

Concerning Asian women, regarding as submissive, this characteristic is underlined by advertisement made around the Geisha and by philosophy of the westernized Tantrism, providing the highest sexual pleasure. Characteristic underlined, also, by “sellers of wives”, wives who will make all to share a more exciting life with a western husband. This is not interethnic which is important in this case, but the duality poor/rich that puts a problem, because we don't buy love.

Emily shows the idea of “sexuality” that every ethnic group has about the other groups, whatever we are inter-fertile.

So, all depends what we think about “mixed relations”: international, interethnic, the both?

If “interracial sexuality” is a problem in French, it is probably because it has a link with “race”, however there is only one (race) human species on earth, and several ethnic groups. We will keep “interethnic sexuality”, but “interracial sexuality” in the English text of Emily.

In countries of immigration, like Canada and the United States of America, the question of “crossings” exists since a long time, but we accept them in Europe, even if the way to accept them is not probably the same, even if we less often find cosmetic products allowing women of color to have “straight hairs” like hairs of white women in Europe and in America. Emily will explain what is the matter concerning this question.

Fifty percent of people don't feel anything when they see an interethnic couple, 30% are happy, 3% feel envy and 6% are angry. 

But there is also a borderline. When the Council of Europe published for its campaign “All Different. All Equals” a picture showing a black man and a white woman, naked, going to bathe in the sea, this kind of thing was a bad taste provocation for some people and the result was bad too.

Finally, today, the interethnic sex is accepted. First, because only 53% of people prefer to live with a people of their own ethnic group; and then, because if homosexual and transsexual are accepted it would be strange that we couldn’t accept interethnic sex. Obviously, there is a difference between what we could tolerate and what we could accept, because in South Africa, it was necessary to wait 1985 for abrogation of “Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act” of 1949 (prohibition of interethnic weddings) and of “Immorality Act” of 1957 (prohibition of interethnic sexuality and of immoral relations in general). South-African Constitution was the one to protect homosexual, concerned by “Immorality Act” too. But Apartheid is always in mind, and we don’t criminalize interethnic (and gay) sexuality, but we don’t accept it. As said a South-African black “a black with a white must be better than a white with a white, because he will have to get forgiven of his color.” Readers of Emily will see that things don't have really changed.

If words of Emily are sometimes sharp, they have advantage to show a large scale of behaviors attached to interethnic sex despite legalization, after all, recent, in some countries, and illegality in others, particularly under religious principles.

Interethnic relations are not however still international. International relations can be also interethnic. But a relation between American and European white, will shock nobody and will be a good thing in the mind of most families that will become “ international”. And in the young generations, nothing is more “in” that “to live with a stranger.” It is clear that, the European unification helping, internationalization contributing, Internet spreading, and the wish to find his/her ideal, here or elsewhere, being a powerful catalyst, relations, even with a link with socioeconomic criteria, will change. We are not to shelters of our borders, guards of the purity of our ethnic group anymore but on the contrary, open on an inter-cultural brewing, not simple, but which is a good thing concerning mentally, physically (them mixed parents have, in general, beautiful children) and genetically (in particular concerning genetic diseases) point of view. One of my regrets will be to have only French nationality.

April 2002.


Interracial Sex.

In a hilarious article entitled “White Sex,” sexual politics author Susie Bright discusses stereotypes about the sexual behavior of White Americans. These include the GWM (Gay White Male), Yankee Whore, Scary White Guys and more. One stereotype that particularly struck me was the White Bitch in Heat. It refers to the White woman who flouts society’s moral standards to seek sexual satisfaction in the arms of Black men. Such a woman naturally falls from the good graces of other White folk, but the pedestal is a small price to pay for her hard-won sexual fulfillment.

White female-minority male sex continues to be a burning issue in Caucasian America, much more so than sex the other way around. A look at the entertainment industry confirms this. Spike Lee’s film Jungle Fever about an affair between an African-American architect and his Italian secretary was talked about for ages, whereas Zebrahead, in which a White man dates a Black woman, raised much less discussion. Similarly, it’s hard to imagine the movie Star Maps receiving the same amount of attention if it had dealt with a White man chasing after Mexican girls instead of a White woman pursuing Mexican boys. Most on-screen/stage romances between women of color and Caucasian men are soppy sentimental tearjerkers (Miss Saigon, Pocahontas) that don’t cause a great deal of controversy in mainstream society.

Interracial sex has generated its own set of stereotypes. Men of color who sleep with women of European descent tend to be slotted into a single category, that of the “Other” male who lusts dangerously after White (or White Christian) women. This designation was assigned variously to Black men in the Old South, Filipino men in the Western United States during the Depression, and Jewish men in Nazi Germany. Stereotypes of miscegenous White women, though, don’t fall into one category. Some - the political activist, for example - have a grain of truth to them, while others - the slut - are based more on society’s fear of White female sexuality than on reality. What these archetypes basically represent is a way for people to understand behavior that they condemn and in a certain sense fear.

Here are the three most common stereotypes of White women who sleep with men of color:

The Slut

A variant of Susie Bright’s White Bitch in Heat. A White girl who willingly sleeps with a man of color is a slut, or so goes the conventional wisdom. It therefore follows that she lacks any sexual restraint whatsoever. In places like the Old South, such a woman faced public whipping, indentured servitude, rejection from her family and community, and violence from the Ku Klux Klan. Though now the legal consequences of the slut’s behavior have disappeared and the social ones diminished somewhat, the stereotype remains. For instance, while in the company of an African-American male friend feminist writer Gloria Steinem was leered at by a White man who assumed that any White woman with a Black man was fair game.

As with fornication, adultery, and promiscuity, a double standard exists around interracial sex. A White woman involved with a man of color commits the cardinal sin of allowing an “Other” male to enter her vagina, whereas a White man who sticks his private parts into those of non-White women draws little criticism as long as his relationships don’t get too serious. White society’s outrage over miscegenation has less to do with the purity of the European gene pool than that of the Caucasian female reproductive system.

Several theories have been offered to account for this racial/sexual disparity. The authors of the book The Color Complex, when discussing Black-White relations in the days of American slavery, state that “mulattoes in the slave quarters [i.e. the children of White men and Black women] were an economic asset, in the form of slave property” whereas those “in the big house [i.e. the offspring of White women and Black men]... disrupted the patriarchy.” With regard to more modern times, Susie Bright puts forth another viewpoint: “When a white woman is called a ‘nigger-lover’, it means that she puts her sexual satisfaction before her racial unity. The crucial thing about this little notion is that white women aren’t supposed to put their sexual satisfaction before anything.”

The Political Activist

The political activist stereotype, unlike the slut, can apply to both White males and females, though here I’ll use it in reference to women. The political activist is a left-wing, socially conscious woman who views involvement with a non-White man (especially a Black) as an act of solidarity with an oppressed group and perhaps as a means of thumbing her nose at society and rebelling against her family. If she and her partner have children, she is further praised in some circles for holding the key to the future of race relations.

But many minorities and left-wingers are skeptical of her actions. People of color rightly doubt whether miscegenation will really sound the death knell for racism, given that five hundred years of race mixing on this continent and others hasn’t achieved that goal yet. As a White person who has dated interracially for the past decade, I would add that the desire to strike a blow against discrimination, while noble, isn’t by itself a very sound basis for a relationship. After all, you’re going out with an individual, not a whole race. If you want to do something about discrimination, join an anti-racist organization instead.

The Ugly Duckling

The ugly duckling is a White woman who might not necessarily get billed as the Ugliest Woman in the World at the circus but who doesn’t turn heads either. In White circles, that is. As soon as she steps out of Fortress Caucasia, she’s the belle of the ball. Men of color shower her with attention. In some ways she’s the female heterosexual equivalent of Chinese-Canadian writer Richard Fung’s rice queen abroad, a gay White man considered unattractive at home but desired in poor Asian countries because of his economic and social status. But the ugly duckling’s greatest asset isn’t her money or social position. It’s her Whiteness, which in some communities of color is a precious commodity (just look at the number of Caucasian-looking movie stars in the Philippines, for example). In The Color Complex, a Black filmmaker humorously describes the allure of the ugly duckling: “Over the years a group of black boys grew up masturbating with the white girls in Penthouse... This caused them to go out and date any 250-pound greasy white woman they could find, whose only redeeming quality was that they had blond hair, blue eyes, and white skin.”

I’ve played the role of the ugly duckling more than once. While in my 95% Euro-American high school I only had one admirer - who didn’t interest me in any case – a trip to a Hispanic neighborhood one Saturday morning brought me requests for dates from two different men. In first-year college my cousin’s Anglo engineering buddies treated me like their little sister. Two years later my boyfriend was a South Asian engineer with a Master’s degree. Some lovers have informed me that my skin color made me desirable in their eyes. A Filipino boyfriend said that on our first night together he could not believe he had a White woman, not just any woman but a White woman, in his bed. A Mexican mestizo assured me that we’d make beautiful babies because they would be three-quarters White. My race probably wasn’t the only thing that attracted these men, but I’m sure it helped.

The flip side of the ugly duckling stereotype is the implication that she goes out with men of color because she’s not “good enough.” If she were, she could do better, i.e. catch a White man. But I’ve come to cherish my role as the ugly duckling. First, White men no longer attract me sexually (even in my White man phase, it was Italians and Greeks rather than WASP types who turned me on). Second, the sad thing about the ugly duckling stereotype is not so much that it reflects on the individual woman’s attractiveness or lack of it but that it shows how much the “White is right” mentality has taken hold of people of color.

As I mentioned above, these three pictures, like most stereotypes, are ways of simplifying complex behavior so that it’s easier to understand. Anti-miscegenists can explain away the White woman who consorts with men of color by saying that she’s immoral (the slut), that she’s caught up in hopelessly utopian ideals (the political activist), or that we don’t want her anyway (the ugly duckling). But in real life things aren’t so clear-cut. True, some White female partners of minority men might be seeking a sexual adventure, trying to fight racism, or turning to interracial romance for lack of any other choice. But most of these women have simply found the right person who, as one White woman interviewed in The Color Complex reported, happens to be of another color.

Which is basically the motive behind my relationships with non-White men. But I can still see each of the three stereotypes in myself. I’ve related the ugly duckling scenario to my situation. I’ll even admit that the slut archetype rings true in some ways; at this point in my life copulating with a man of color seems more exciting. And perhaps it’s the political activist in me who feels a certain elation at the thought that when I have a child with my current partner, I’ll be disrupting the patriarchy a little bit.

March 2000


Interracial Sex #2

 In a previous essay on interracial sex, I describe several stereotypes of White women who sleep with men of color. As the essay mentions, White female-minority male sex has always been more controversial than sex the other way around, at least in North America. Even in extremely racist societies, like the American Old South, White women who consorted with men of other races risked punishment ranging from ostracism to public whipping to indentured servitude, whereas the interracial dalliances of their White male peers, even if they amounted to rape, were more or less accepted. In fact, the mother of all racist organizations, the Ku Klux Klan, which was responsible for the lynching of countless Black men who looked at White females the wrong way, sometimes included the rape of African-American women among its terror tactics against the Black population, according to writer Dorothy Roberts.

But just as concern for women’s equality shouldn’t blind us to the various forms of oppression men have faced in society, the experience of White male partners of minority women should not be overlooked either. Some White men have suffered on account of their relationships - particularly marriages - with women of other races. A well-known example was Richard Loving, who with his Black wife Mildred successfully challenged the state of Virginia’s ban on mixed marriages (this case, it should be noted, led to the eradication of anti-miscegenation laws throughout the United States).

Like their Caucasian female (and minority male) counterparts, White men in mixed race unions have been subjected to stereotypes, most of which are not very flattering. Some of these stereotypes have grounds in current or historical reality. For example, the Sleazy White Male goes back to the days of slavery and colonialism, while the Political Activist emerged during the civil rights struggles of the 1960s and the GI Joe with the women’s movement of the 1970s and ‘80s. These stereotypes are more fiction than fact as far as the majority of miscegenous White males are concerned. However, in order to challenge and disprove them, it’s necessary to examine them. So here goes:

The Sleazy White Male

The Sleazy White Male (SWM) is a White man who goes after women of color for sex and nothing but. His behavior is frequently motivated by the belief that White women are naturally asexual and meant for marriage and motherhood, not unbridled sexual activity. With women of other races, though, he can give free rein to his baser instincts. In some ways the Sleazy White Male is the male equivalent of the Slut, the White woman who consorts with men of color. But like male fornicators, adulterers and other sexual transgressors, the SWM faces much less criticism than she does. As long as his relationships with minority women don’t get too serious, they’re usually tacitly tolerated and at times even encouraged. In the Old South, for instance, it was said that a boy did not become a real man until he had sex with a Black woman.

Sleazy White Males positively abounded during the age of European imperialism and the days of slavery in the United States. Several factors facilitated their emergence, not least of which was the enormous social, economic and political power they wielded. Black female slaves, for example, usually had no choice but to submit to the sexual demands of their White masters. At other times women of color seemingly chose to enter into unions with their conquerors in order to gain privileges for themselves and their resulting offspring. In colonial Latin America many Indian women sought to become pregnant by Spanish men because mestizo children were exempt from the taxes imposed on Indians and occasionally received other benefits for being half-White. But even in this case the woman’s “consent” to such relationships was somewhat dubious.

Nonetheless, Sleazy White Males often took a “devil made me do it” approach to their escapades. The devil in this case was the woman in question: she tempted him. Nineteenth-century commentator Sinibaldo de Mas used this theory to explain why so many Spanish priests in the Philippines broke their vows of celibacy: “the garb of the native women is very seductive and girls, far from being unattainable, regard themselves as lucky to attract the attention of the curate... what virtue and stoicism does not a friar need to possess!” (Curiously, in more recent times some Arab publications have attributed the rape of Filipina domestic workers in the Middle East to the women’s supposedly short skirts, even though by Western standards both Filipinas and their clothing are fairly conservative.) Closer to home, historian Deborah Gray White says that in the Old South “Black… women were thought to have such insatiable sexual appetites that they had to go beyond the boundary of their race to get satisfaction.”

One very famous Sleazy White Male was American President Thomas Jefferson, who had a long affair with his mixed-race Black slave Sally Hemings (actually a half-sister of his wife). Jefferson was a bit of a Jimmy Swaggart about his relationship, however. He once called miscegenation one of the most degrading things in which a White person could indulge. But Jefferson must have degraded himself, for recent DNA testing of one of Hemings’ descendants confirmed that Jefferson fathered at least one child by her. Still, Jefferson’s apparent hypocrisy was probably typical of many other White men of his era, who publicly condemned race mixing but engaged in it privately.

But the glory days of the Sleazy White Male are long gone. The abolition of slavery, the erosion of the sexual double standard for White women, and the growing social acceptance of interracial marriage have taken the SWM out of mainstream society. Today he’s by and large relegated to the realm of the sexual deviant, whether the criminal (such as Gary Heidnick, the Philadelphia serial killer of several Black women) or the kinky eccentric (like the Italian-American politician in San Francisco who had Black prostitutes give him oral sex and call him Daddy). Right now the closest equivalent of yesterday’s SWM is the North American, European or Middle Eastern man who engages in sexual tourism in Third World countries, even if unlike his predecessors he usually has to pay to assuage his carnal appetites.

The Political Activist

The Political Activist (PA) is the male equivalent of the female stereotype of the same name. Like her, he sees marriage to a minority, especially a Black, as a means of fighting racism. Such a union also helps him expiate his guilt over the privileges he enjoys on account of not only his skin color but his gender and, more often than not, social class (most PAs are middle and upper rather than lower class).

But the PA’s actions are greeted with uneasiness at best and hostility at worst by many people of color. Most rightly doubt that intermarriage is going to solve the problem of racial discrimination, given that five centuries of race mixing in places as diverse as the Philippines, the Caribbean, Latin America and even the good old U.S. of A. haven’t eliminated the advantages held by White or White-looking people vis-à-vis those with darker complexions. Carol Camper, an African-Canadian writer who was herself once married to a White man, suggests that under the Political Activist’s leftist, socially conscious exterior lurks a Sleazy White Male. Some Whites who married Blacks in the 1970s, she says, were motivated by the desire to experience a so-called “exotic” lifestyle.

Finally, as I’ve mentioned in previous articles, the very noble wish to eliminate racism just isn’t by itself a very solid basis for a relationship with an individual. Take the case of a White man I’ll call Ron. The minister of a liberal Protestant church, Ron married a Black woman named Marie in order to set an example of interracial harmony for his congregation. Ron and Marie, however, had nearly nothing in common with regards to anything from temperament to preferred leisure activities to childrearing philosophies. They divorced four years later. Their difference in skin color literally paled (pardon the pun) before those in other areas of life. Ron’s mistake lay in choosing a marriage partner on the basis of her membership in a group rather than her personal qualities. Of course some people who enter into “political statement” marriages find they share a good many qualities besides their commitment to racial equality, and their relationships stand the test of time. But as Ron’s story shows, a political statement alone isn’t the best grounds for a marriage.

The GI Joe

The GI Joe is a White man who seeks out minority women to recover the ideals of femininity, wifely devotion, and self-sacrifice that his own women have supposedly left by the wayside in their rush out of the home and into the workplace. Usually his targets are Asian women (thanks in part to movies such as The World of Suzie Wong and plays like Miss Saigon), although Latin American women are also sometimes portrayed as more “domestic” than the average White American woman. Interracial marriage gives the GI Joe a taste of the Father Knows Best lifestyle familiar to him only through re-runs of old sit-coms.

The GI Joe often tries to find his Madame Butterfly through the mail-order bride business, in which women from Asia, Latin America, and other places offer themselves as wives to men in industrialized countries. In her essay “Recipe” (featured in the book The Very Inside: An Anthology of Writing by Asian and Pacific Islander Lesbian and Bisexual Women), Chinese-Canadian writer C. Allyson Lee gives a humorous description of the GI Joe’s search of a submissive Asian woman: “Attractive Straight White Male, middle-aged business executive looking for that special little China Doll, preferably short, petite and obedient. Object: to fulfill typical fantasies of the stereotype of Oriental ladies anxious to marry a Canadian in order to get out of Hong Kong or the Philippines and willing to do anything to pamper and please her man.”

However, the vast majority of White men married to Asian or Latin American women did not meet their wives through a mail-order bride outlet (nor is the mail-order bride business an exclusively White male-minority female phenomenon, as many such brides are White women from Eastern Europe and some clients are Japanese men), and most aren’t necessarily looking for a Suzy Wong to lord over. A study in Hawaii found that White husbands of Asian women were actually less domineering than their counterparts with Caucasian wives and that Asian women who married outside their race weren’t any more or less submissive than their in-married sisters. Similarly, according to a study on interracial marriages in the US as a whole, Asian women married to White men were more likely than White women in same-race marriages to work outside the home, which challenges the notion that Caucasian men with Asian partners are looking for a June Cleaver incarnation. When faced with scientific studies, the GI Joe, like most stereotypes, falls flat on his face.

I’ll end the discussion by describing a real-life White man in an interracial relationship. My cousin Bill is engaged to a Korean woman. She’s an engineer with a thriving career, so if he’s looking for a geisha girl, he’s barking up the wrong tree. Nor does he seem to be making a political statement, especially as nowadays interracial marriage, especially Asian-White marriage, isn’t the hotbed of controversy it once was (in fact, a very conservative White woman I knew, a traditional Catholic woman who thought the local abortion provider was more evil than King Herod, told me she’d be delighted to see her daughter marry a Chinese man). And the fact that Bill is planning to marry his Korean fiancée disqualifies him as a Sleazy White Male, although most White men involved in interracial relationships that don’t lead to marriage aren’t necessarily SWMs either.

My feeling is that once interracial relationships become more commonplace and more accepted, stereotypes about people who engage in them will gradually disappear. This is kind of what’s happened with the Sleazy White Male. Now that White women aren’t confined by the same sexual straightjackets as they were in the past, a naturally sleazy White man can just as easily satisfy his urges with a White woman as with one of another race. The same goes for the Political Activist: with the growing public acceptance of interracial marriage, aspiring PAs of either sex will find, perhaps to their disappointment, that marriage to a minority won’t create a stir among anyone other than the extreme right (and even here there’s a big question mark; for example, Terry Nichols, Timothy McVeigh’s partner-in-crime in the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, was married to a Filipina).

Of course we don’t know how the future of interracial relationships and the stereotypes that accompany them is going to unfold. There’s even a chance that mixed-race unions could be stigmatized all over again. As a sociology professor once said, history is not an upward straight line of progress. In the early days of the Netherlands’ colonization of South Africa, for instance, relationships between Dutchmen and native women were socially accepted. Later, though, such unions were prohibited by law (until the abolition of apartheid, they fell under the so-called Immorality Act). But it seems that given current social trends, those who find stereotypes of interracial sex interesting, thought-provoking and even amusing should enjoy them while they can.

July 2000


Interracial Sex #3

In my previous articles Interracial Sex and Interracial Sex #2 I discuss stereotypes of white men and women who have sex with people of other races.  The articles touch only briefly, however, on popular images of minorities romantically linked with whites. Like most stereotypes, images of miscegenous non-whites are more fiction than fact. They also tend to be derogatory. I nonetheless think it’s important to address them because they teach us about the history of race relations in North America and elsewhere and show us how we construct our images of different races.

The Other Man

One of the most pervasive stock characters of American miscegenation lore is the Other Man, the man of color who preys lustfully on white women. The most famous Other Man was of course the black male in the Old South. Countless black men there were lynched for “looking” at white women the wrong way. Given the widely held notion that blacks had “such insatiable sexual appetites that they had to go beyond the boundaries of their race to get satisfaction,”1 there was no doubt in white society’s mind as to what intentions lay behind those looks. Filipino immigrants to the United States were similarly demonized in the 1920s and ‘30s for seducing presumably innocent white women. As a result of whites’ discomfort over these unions, several American states added Filipinos to the list of ethnic groups prohibited from marrying whites.

But the Other Man concept wasn’t limited to the United States or even to non-whites. Jewish men in Nazi Germany were often portrayed as lusting predatorily after Aryan women. In Mein Kampf, Hitler thundered about the “black-haired Jewish youth who lurks in wait [for the German girl]” (then again, Hitler’s rant about Jews’ purported sexual prowess may have been spurred by envy, as the Fuhrer himself was impotent). Even in Canada, a country that prides itself on being non-racist, anti-Semitic remarks like Hitler’s were not unheard of. One 1910 Canadian account from Quebec described Jewish immigrant men as “corrupters of our women” (i.e. of white Christian women). As well, Canada at one time had a law that forbade white women from working in stores owned by Chinese men.

The Other Man couldn’t have come into being, though, without a flip side stereotype: the lily-pure white female. According to this philosophy, white women were innately asexual. They saved any sexual feelings they did have for the white men they married and whose children they bore as part of their duty to reproduce Fortress Caucasia. The average white woman would be expected to shun sexual contact with men of any race but white (and even with white men other than her lawfully wedded husband), and so couplings between white females and minority males were in general assumed to be rape.

But such a woman trod a fine Madonna (Madonna in the sense of the Virgin Mary, not the modern-day songs tress)/Whore line. If she were sexually assaulted by a non-white man or, in the case of consensual intercourse, presumed to have been “of previously chaste character” and thus seduced, society would pity her as an innocent victim. On the other hand, women who refused to play the innocent victim or deny their involvement with minority men fell off their pedestal as fast as you could say “slut.” These women indeed descended to the level of the slut (described in the essay Interracial Sex), where, being considered beyond moral repair, they usually remained.

Lynchings, the castration of minority men involved with white women, and the demonization of entire ethnic groups as sexually deviant – it’s tempting to think of these things as relics of a distant past. Nonetheless, incidents such as the 1989 murder of a young black man accused of dating a white girl in Bensonhurst, New York remind us that perhaps we haven’t evolved as far as we’d like to think. Like the slut, the Other Man has faded but not gone the way of the Tyrannosaurus Rex.


In her informative book Ar’n’t I a Woman? Female Slaves in the Plantation South, Rutgers University professor Deborah Gray White explains that there were two principal stereotypes of black women in pre-bellum America: Mammy and Jezebel. While Mammy was a sort of black version of the Virgin Mary -- maternal, reliable and basically sexless, as depicted in the novel Gone With the Wind and the movie later made from the book -- Jezebel was her exact opposite: lascivious, hedonistic, and completely without morals. Like the Other Man, the Jezebel archetype stemmed from the belief that blacks were sexually insatiable. Whereas the Other Man was problematic, however, in that he posed a threat to white female sexual purity, Jezebel came in handy for white men. She served as an excuse for the white man’s rape of the black woman -- or for his infidelity to a white wife. Many Southern whites believed after all that black women couldn’t be raped and that on the contrary they welcomed advances from white males.

As with her male counterpart the Other Man, Jezebel wasn’t confined to the United States or to blacks. Filipina women, for instance, were blamed for causing Spanish priests to break their vows of celibacy in Philippine colonial times. In the words of chronicler Sinabaldo de Mas, “[the] garb of the native women is very seductive and girls, far from being unattainable, regard themselves as lucky to attract the attention of the curate, and their mothers and fathers share that sentiment. What virtue and stoicism does not the friar need to possess!” De Mas, like European explorers and colonizers in Africa, associated indigenous women’s wearing of light clothing -- a practical, not to mention hygienic, habit in the tropics -- with sexual immorality.

While Spanish-Filipina unions were probably more consensual than the outright rape of black female slaves in the American South, Filipinas’ supposed enthusiasm for coupling with Spaniards was undoubtedly facilitated by a racist and classist colonial structure. Like their native sisters in Spain’s American colonies, Filipina women -- and their family members -- understood that mixed-race children enjoyed greater social and economic status than their full-blooded brethren, so it was in their best interest to produce them.

Enthusiasm doesn’t appear to be a factor in modern-day relationships between Filipinas (and other Asian women such as Sri Lankans and Thais) and men of lighter color in the Middle East. Dozens of Asian female domestic workers in that region have reported being raped by their employers. The best-known example of such a woman is Sara Balabagan. A teenager from the Philippines working as a maid in the United Arab Emirates to support her family back home, she stabbed her eighty-four-year-old employer to death when he tried to rape her (talk about a dirty old man!). She was originally sentenced to death for the killing but later acquitted following international protest.

That the Jezebel role has been assigned to Asian domestic workers in the Middle East as it was to black slave women in the Southern United States is evident in a remark quoted in Saudi princess Sultana’s bestseller Princess. On explaining her sons’ rape of their Thai maid, one Arab woman stated that Oriental [sic] women didn’t care who they slept with. Whereas in the West Asian women are viewed as conservative compared to their Occidental counterparts (which may account in part for the former’s appeal to white men disturbed by their own women’s sexual freedom), in the Middle East Asians are seen as more “available” than the local women.  One man’s whore is literally another man’s virgin.

The Geisha

Unlike the Other Man and Jezebel, the Geisha archetype has generally been applied to a single ethnic group: East Asians. In addition, while the other two stereotypes have been promoted principally by white society, both whites and ironically Asians themselves have done their share to spread the Geisha image.

The Geisha refers to the Asian woman who does everything in her power to please her man. While Webster’s Dictionary defines the term, which stems from the Japanese words “gei” (art) and “-sha” (person), as “a Japanese girl who is trained to provide entertaining and lighthearted company esp. for a man or a group of men,” the Geisha as a stereotype has been expanded on one hand to include women from other Asian countries and narrowed on the other to mean entertainment provided to white men in particular. The Geisha was immortalized in movies like The World of Suzie Wong, plays such as Miss Saigon, and Puccini’s opera Madama Butterfly. The mail-order bride business too has made use of the Geisha, emphasizing the wifely devotion that Filipina and other Asian brides-to-be can bring to their Western husbands.

It’s easy to dismiss Suzy Wong, Madama Butterfly and the mail-order bride racket as examples of white racism and sexism. More difficult to understand is the perpetuation of the Geisha by some Asians themselves. In an essay published in Piece of My Heart: A Lesbian of Color Anthology, Filipina-American activist Karin Aguilar-San Juan describes Asian female partners of white men as “[splaying] themselves at the feet of white men - having rejected Asian men as too effeminate” -- a statement that essentially portrays such women the same way The World of Suzy Wong and Miss Saigon do. Aguilar-San Juan’s attitude is also puzzling (not to mention inconsistent, given that as a lesbian, she admits to having slept with white women) in that many other Asian-American activists have been up in arms over the Geisha’s appearance in mainstream works like Miss Saigon.

The Geisha’s major defect, though, is that she just doesn’t measure up to reality. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, scientific studies have found that Asian women who marry white men aren’t necessarily any more subservient or traditional than their sisters who marry within their race or than white women, for that matter. And far from “having rejected Asian men as too effeminate,” as Karin Aguilar-San Juan implies, some Asian women seek out white partners because they find them more egalitarian than men of their own race (whether this perception is correct is of course another matter). For example, one Filipina interviewed in the June/July 1998 of A. Magazine: Inside Asian America states that “when Filipino women of my generation date American men, it’s because they don’t want the spoiled, conservative Filipino… most of the American men treat you as an equal.” It therefore seems unlikely that Asian women are flocking to white men in search of an ideal of hypermasculinity.

Thus ends my series on miscegenation stereotypes. There are undoubtedly others I’m not aware of. All those I’ve covered deal with heterosexual relationships. It might be interesting to see whether the gay community has its own gallery of archetypes regarding interracial relationships. Arab-Canadian journalist Kamal Al-Solaylee reports in the Toronto weekly Xtra! that some white gay men have internalized the Geisha image in reference to Asian men. Since I’m not gay, however, I don’t feel I have the knowledge to comment on issues within that community. My articles have also largely focused on Western societies, with the exception of the portrayal of Asian women in the Middle East, though other cultures too must have their own ideas about interracial unions and the individuals who engage in them.

Stereotypes serve a variety of purposes. At the most basic level, they provide us with an easy way of categorizing people superficially rather than examining them as individuals. In addition, throughout history societies have used stereotypes to maintain the status quo. Jezebel, for instance, allowed white men to justify their dalliances with and even rape of colonized and/or enslaved women of other races. The Other Man on the other hand served as a tool to keep white women and non-white men apart, while the slut was used to punish women who consorted with men of color nonetheless.

In modern North America, the fading of past sexual and racial taboos has diminished the power of popular images of miscegenous men and women. Nonetheless, it is interesting and in some way socially useful to examine these stereotypes, because they tell us not only about our history and society but our psychology as well.

January 2001


Interracial Sex #4: The Black Woman’s Undoing?

In a previous column, I discussed the issue of reverse racism.  My conclusion: at least in terms of interracial relationships, it’s more fiction than reality.  Proponents of reverse racism have to explain why for example study after study shows blacks to be more accepting of intermarriage than whites.  To illustrate, a 1997 Gallup poll found that while majorities of both races approved of interracial marriage, the percentage among blacks exceeded that for whites by nearly twenty points (79% versus 61%).  A survey in Alabama revealed an even greater disparity, with two thirds of African Americans but only 31% of whites endorsing miscegenation.

Still, some blacks do oppose marriage with whites.  One group of African Americans who have expressed their misgivings about such unions are black women who feel that as the number of black male/white female relationships rises, they themselves are being shut out of the marriage market.

A glance at some statistics confirms their fears.  According to the US Bureau of the Census, in 1990 4.5% of married black men had non-black (primarily white) spouses, compared to 1.5% in 1970.  While intermarriage among black women also rose during this period - from 0.8% to just under 2% - it stood at less than half the rate for their male counterparts.  This despite the much-publicized black man shortage, the tendency for more African American women than men to enter institutions of higher learning (where they would have more contact with whites), and the stronger taboo against black male/white female relationships than the opposite combination.  As a result, more than a few black women are ending up mateless.

Cold hard statistics, though, don’t capture the actual feelings of individual black women.  In recent years, many have voiced their frustration at watching “their” men (especially the well-educated, financially successful ones) fall into the arms of white women.  This frustration can be seen in novels like Terry McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale, in which one character’s husband leaves her for his white bookkeeper, movies such as Jungle Fever, where the black protagonist deserts his mixed-race wife for an Italian secretary, and personal accounts by real-life black women.

An amusing yet informative example of the third appeared in a 1992 New York Times article.  Novelist Bebe Moore Campbell recalls sitting in a restaurant with some black female friends and seeing a handsome African American actor enter the establishment – accompanied by a blonde.  Instantly, Moore Campbell says, “we moaned, we groaned, we raised our eyes heavenward.  We gnashed our teeth in harmony and made ugly faces… then we all shook our heads.”

Some black women go even further than Moore Campbell and directly attack the white women in question.  In an article in Ms. Magazine, Angela Ards seethes at white female colleagues who want to “share their latest jungle-fever escapade while vacationing in the Caribbean or their lusty crushes on the new, rare black-male hire.”  Others appear to believe there is some kind of white female conspiracy to “steal” black men from women of their own kind.  For instance, one contributor to the book Miscegenation Blues: Voices of Mixed-Race Women speaks ominously of the ways in which white women attempt to undermine black male-female relationships.

Many people would be tempted to call these attacks an example of reverse racism.  To use an analogy, if I accused Thai and Filipina mail order brides of trying to sabotage white male-female relationships, I would immediately be branded a racist, and rightly so.  (Curiously, some black men say they choose white mates because they find them more docile and less outspoken than African American women – the same reason some white men give for preferring Asian over white women.)  But there’s no real equivalence here.  A few hundred or even thousand Asian women in the mail order bride industry wouldn’t affect my chances of finding a white husband or boyfriend.  And even if some white men might snub me for an Asian woman, I could easily replace them with a black or, for that matter, Asian or Latino partner.

In a strange way, as an Italian Canadian woman I can empathize with my African American sisters’ dismay over black male/white female pairings.  I remember that at my overwhelmingly white high school most of my crushes were Italian boys, whom I then regarded as the best thing since sliced bread.  But alas, they rarely returned the favor.  I can’t count the times my spirits came crashing downwards and my blood pressure went soaring upwards on seeing my latest flame walk hand in hand with some Nordic blonde.  I felt like Bebe Moore Campbell and her friends did at the restaurant.  Adding fuel to the fire was the fact that blondes - even if they attained that status with the help of a bottle - seemed to be the big thing in Italian beauty pageants, TV shows, and films (brunettes like Sophia Loren and Gina Lollobrigida may have won the hearts of Anglo-Saxon moviegoers, but when I was a teenager the most popular stars in Italy were actress Monica Vitti and variety show hostess Raffaella Carrà – both bleach blondes).

Black women also have to live with the reality that at least in the present era, white women represent the epitome of female beauty according to American standards.  This is true for both the black and white communities.  In their book The Color Complex, authors Kathy Russell, Midge Wilson and Ronald Hall describe how Caucasian features such as light skin and straight hair are idolized by many African Americans  – hence the booming business in products like hair straighteners.  It isn’t surprising therefore that marrying “out” – which in most cases means marrying white – is considered an achievement in some black families.  The authors cite the case of one African American man who gleefully remarked that “before long, there’ll be no more Black left in our family” when all his children married whites.

The situation isn’t much more heartwarming outside the United States.  In places like Brazil and the Caribbean, where race mixing has gone on for over half a millennium, terms like “good hair” (for straight and fine as opposed to kinky hair) abound.  Even in regions where miscegenation has involved whites and Asians or whites and American Indians rather than whites and blacks, the “white is right” mentality remains.  The Philippine movie industry, for instance, is full of actors and actresses who could easily be mistaken for Italians or Spaniards.  Such is what European imperialism has wrought, so to speak.

Nonetheless, I can’t completely condone African American women’s criticism of black male/white female relations.  While I personally am not offended by these criticisms, I sympathize with the many black men who love their mothers, sisters and other female relatives and feel great solidarity with their people but who happen to love white women.  At times these men are treated like traitors to the black community.  And just because some of them are not physically attracted to women of their own race does not necessarily mean they hate African American women or blacks in general.  I myself have received mail telling me the reason I date interracially is because I hate white men.  In response, I explain that just because I’m not sexually attracted to white men doesn’t mean I hate them, any more than the fact I’m not a lesbian means I dislike women.

I’m also skeptical of attempts to politicize sexual relationships.  For example, the popular ‘60s notion that miscegenation would put an end to racism turned out to be a dud.  In addition, how much control do we really have over our sexual attractions?  Many gays and lesbians, for instance, say no matter how hard they’ve tried and been pressured to become heterosexual, they can’t get rid of their feelings towards the same sex.  I myself can’t help the fact that I possess absolutely zero sexual attraction to Anglo-Saxon men, despite having grown up in their midst and having a plethora of WASP male platonic friends I love dearly.  So black men drawn to white women shouldn’t be faulted for acting on that attraction.

Black women who feel unable to find a mate of their own kind might look to males of other races.  Though white men are the most obvious example, given that whites form the majority of the American population at this point in time, other non-black males may be worth a try as well.  Author Steve Sailer suggests that black women team up with Asian men, who are experiencing a mate shortage of their own as more Asian women than men marry interracially.  Latinos too might be a consideration, especially since surveys show Hispanics to be more open to interracial marriage than whites.

The decision to date outside of one’s race or ethnic group isn’t always easy.  After all, to a certain extent we’re attracted to who and what seem familiar to us.  In high school I never thought I would be attracted to non-Italian men, but since “expanding my horizons” after that time, I’ve gotten to the point where Hispanic, Caribbean and Pacific Islander men are the ones who attract me.

Of course there’s no easy solution to black women’s “marriage squeeze.”  No matter how we as individuals feel about the issue of interracial relations and their effect on black women in particular, it’s important to understand the phenomenon and the feelings of everyone – black men, black women, white men and white women – involved.

March 2002


This page created May 20th, 2002. This page last updated on May 12th, 2002.
Copyright Laurent D. FAURE, Emily MONROY and NEUROMEDIA 2002.