Actual dialogue between my white boyfriend and I yesterday night:
“Honey, when you look at me, do you feel colonial?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Am I a proxy for you to sexualize all Asian women?”
“Are you on the Internet again?”
Yes, I had been online again. A reader, frustrated with how I constantly deny that my white male/Asian female relationship follows certain “societal streams,” pointed me to an article which he believed would enlighten me on the nature of my relationship and others like mine.
The article summarizes a new study which is flat out absurd, insensitive, bigoted, and racist — but since it’s conducted under the dignified umbrella of academic research, it’s perfectly acceptable to put these ideas out there.
Two privileged white female academics get together and make powerful statements about women who they deem unprivileged. These nuggets of wisdom include the suggestion that unprivileged women exchange their bodies for the material benefits and social status associated with the privileged white men whom these academics feel are most suited to their own caste. At a minimum, their study “proves” that privileged white women (like themselves) wouldn’t jump into those white guys’ beds as quickly as those coloured hussies. After all, they have statistics to prove it.
Their hypotheses, quoted from their actual paper:
Hypothesis 1: The tempo of sex and cohabitation will be fastest for relationships involving white men and minority women and slowest for relationships involving white women and minority men.
Hypothesis 2: Interracial relationships will progress more slowly from sexual involvement to marriage than racially homogamous relationships.
Hypothesis 3: Some factors increase involvement in different types of relationships (e.g., interracial romances) and hasten sexual involvement and shared living, producing spurious effects.
Using data from two 2002 U.S. national surveys to analyze the heterosexual relationships of youths ages 18-24, the two white female academics responsible for this paper extrapolated enough evidence to suggest that white men and minority women:
- On average, had sex after one month of dating, almost twice as fast as white-white couples;
- Moved in together quicker than same-race partners;
- Persisted in “status-caste exchanges.” A quote from the actual paper: “…minority women partnered with white men received the highest values on interviewer-rated physical attractiveness, while white men with minority women reported the highest personal income.” Basically, the pretty minority women traded their looks for men with money.
Take away the polite academic jargon, and what the paper basically says is that minority females are sluts and gold-diggers.
According to the two authors’ interpretation of their data, the pace of sexual involvement and cohabitation for white women and minority men did not differ significantly by race of partner. I.e., white women are not as likely to be sluts and gold-diggers, and minority men are not creeps who let women use them sexually and financially.
Here’s how they turn human beings into automatons:
While “solidarity and affection and personal choice” no doubt remain important aspects of relationships (Rosenfeld 2005:1320), there is also strong evidence of status exchange.
I don’t understand why “status exchange” is presented as the particular domain of white men dating minority women. What man does not prefer a physically attractive woman as a partner, same-race or interracial? What woman does not prefer a financially viable man, same-race or interracial, especially if she is not well-off herself? Would a Chinese woman raised with the cultural expectation that her husband of whatever race must earn more than her (whether she pursues that sort of man or not), treat notions of status exchange as an epiphany? Until anyone can declare that white men rarely pursue attractive white women and minority women rarely care about the financial status of minority men, it is careless to make harmful, sweeping generalizations about how special sex and money are in minority women’s relationships with white men.
However, what I find most absurd about this study is that it looks at couples aged 18-24 (to be fair, the authors do acknowledge their age range is limited). The data consists of those barely out of college, many of whom had yet to start their careers. How do you significantly comment on the economic traits of people so young? And how much can these fledgling relationships built on little life experience accurately reflect the diverse circumstances in which interracial pairings come together?
In the end, this study is great ammunition to fuel the hatred of those who already think that white male/minority female relationships are unequal and unhealthy and rotten to the core. If I were trying to reverse anti-miscegenation laws, I would treat this paper as polite printed justification backed by the ivory tower. I would bask in the paper’s line of argument, that minority women and white men rush into relationships too quickly, have “less time to gather information on a prospective partner and ascertain whether goals and values are compatible,” have less support from family and friends, have higher chances of contraceptive failure and abortions. After all, “interracial relationships are not like all relationships; these couples generally perceive less acceptance and encouragement from family and friends (Vaquera and Kao 2005),” and thus have the highest chances of failure.
The results of this study brought back the nausea I felt for academia after years of social sciences. I always found it distasteful, the act of using quantitative data to meaningfully explain human motivations and actions, data manipulation and researcher bias often brushed aside in a footnote. I’m still flabbergasted that someone decided to send me this article to “teach” me something about myself and my choices, since apparently writing an academic paper makes one more qualified to talk about these issues than living each day as a minority woman in an interracial relationship.