I think my boyfriend is beautiful. I’m attracted to every part of him – his flawless golden-brown complexion, big brown eyes, straight black hair, and his delicate facial features, to name a few. Of course what has kept us together beyond our physical attraction for each other are shared interests and goals, however these physical features are what initially attracted me to him.
My boyfriend is asian (Vietnamese and Cambodian to be more specific), and I am white. Our physical features are far from similar, and these differences become especially apparent when we take pictures together, making my complexion appear almost pasty in whiteness.
Look at our track records
I do not consider myself a rice queen (a gay non-asian man who is exclusively into asian men), however it is hard to ignore the fact that my last four relationships have been with asian men. It is true that I am drawn to certain features, darker skin and brown eyes for example, that tend to be different than mine
My boyfriend, and the above mentioned men I dated before my current boyfriend, report finding themselves attracted to men who’s features contrast their own. Their intimate partners were usually lighter in complexion, and were most often from an eastern/western European background.
What about gay couples who look alike?
Think about those Buzzfeed articles and tumblr accounts that document gay couples that look like each other. They are usually of the same race, style their hair in similar ways, and dress like each other. In some cases it appears that these individuals are dating mirror images of themselves.
Now think about those couples who exist in contrast to each other, not just by dress and grooming tendencies, but by their race or ethnicity. Take me, for example, or any combination of black-white, hispanic-asian, you name it.
Gay couples are (obviously) different than straight couples
What I think is the most pivotal idea when thinking about racial/ethnic preference in gay relationships is the fact that as gay men, we are attracted to physical components of another body that we also possess. In straight relationships, for comparison, even if both individuals share the same racial background, they are endowed with different biological body parts. This, by default, makes them attracted (sexually/physically or otherwise) to characteristics that are different than their own.
In contrast, we as gay men can look in the mirror and take a different type of pride in what we see. We are (usually) attracted to our own features and body parts, psychologically separating us from straight people. We have a certain appreciation for our bodies because they share the same components that our sexual and intimate partners have.
Then why are certain gays attracted to certain races?
Growing up as a gay boy in a straight world I experienced a similar story that has been told time and time again. I knew something was different about me, had sexual experiences with partners of both sexes, and my sexuality and preference developed over time.
However, one thing has always remained static in my life – I have always tried to model my appearance to match features I find attractive in other people. Whether this be through fitness, diet, the way I cut and style my hair, or the spectrum of color I choose for my clothing, there are universal characteristics I have identified (both consciously and subconsciously, I’m sure), that I want for myself. We as gay men have the ability to do this, which in many ways puts enormous pressure on our community.
Why then not take it all the way and date someone that looks like me? This is something that has always puzzled me. It’s not that I find myself unattractive. On the contrary- I think that I am relatively good-looking, and I do what I can to keep myself in good shape and take care of my body. However, for some reason, I do not find myself attracted to lighter hair tones, the lighter complexion that I have, or the facial structure of someone who’s ancestors migrated from Germany, Russia, and England.
The argument for biodiversity
Most of you are familiar with the fact that greater biodiversity in a given population promotes better health. Families and communities that are segregated from larger populations that allow for cousins (or even siblings) to marry and reproduce are far more likely to see health problems in their offspring. Take select dog breeds for example – dogs that have went through generations of select breeding (humans select which dogs should reproduce to promote certain physical/social features) often experience more complications and die earlier than muts or even cross-breeds.
Is there an inherent psychology behind being attracted to others that clearly exhibit attributes that contrast your own?
Physical attractiveness and racial preference
Studies show that females exhibit stronger racial preference than males, however there is little evidence that suggests they exhibit stronger racial preference compared to gay men.
Researchers from Columbia, Stanford, and the University of Chicago collaborated on a research experiment titled Racial Preference in Dating. Although they only employed a heterosexual model (limiting the scope of application), they found that participants who were rated higher in physical attractiveness exhibited weaker same-race preferences. They also found statistical significance in the effects of the prevailing racial attitudes in a subject’s place of origin and the subject’s background on racial preference, among other factors.
“I’m attracted to features – hot is hot”
I hear this viewpoint almost as often as I hear one proclaiming a racially-exclusive preference. I don’t think we as animals have the ability to change our own preference, but we do have the conscience to recognize what our preferences mean. I have been with men who look like me and men who look drastically different. I personally try not to actively seek out men of certain races because I know this could obstruct my ability to find something special I’m not necessarily looking for. However, I am aware of my tendencies and I recognize that my preferences do play a role in who I have dated and who I will date in the future. I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with any viewpoint or preference, so long as it is not expressed in a racist way.
I am ending this article here because I know it is not a fully-developed thought. I hope to continue this discussion with you, my readers, and post continuations as we explore this topic (and other related topics) in further detail.